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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).


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Old 03-08-2011, 10:16 AM   #1
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Looking for a netbook... what are the best ones? Any news about those ARM ones?

What are some of the best netbooks? Basically I am looking for those with the most power, optional features and battery life for the buck, and most importantly, full Linux compatibility. $350-$450 is what I'd like to spend--preferrably no more than $400 if I can help it, but I wouldn't hesitate to go over.

I'm looking for something like the following:

10" screen; the higher the res, the better
Dual-core Atom processor (*not* single core with HyperThreading)
2GB memory
250GB hard drive (even though that is probably overkill and anything 120+ will probably do)
No optical drive needed; they add too much extra to the price, at least on System76's site.
Decent working webcam and mic because, well... why not?
Fully working audio and video without screwing around with drivers. Preferrably with decent 3D acceleration because I would like to run Stellarium and Celestia, and possibly others.
ESPECIALLY fully working Wi-Fi, because that crap can be a nightmare to get working and I do not want to deal with it, especially on something I get *for* such functionality.
Bluetooth - Although I currently have no other Bluetooth-enabled computers, looking into the future I expect to possibly change this, since its features do seem promising. No big deal though, I can do without by setting up a file server. and copying files between machines within the LAN.

I've been looking all over various manufacturers' sites for info, and they all lack in some way or another. The price of System76's Starling Netbook gets pretty high when you add a secondary battery (or even just "upgrade" to 6-cell) and I heard bad things about its battery life, and less importantly, it doesn't have Bluetooth. According to an article I read, ZaReason's Teo Pro Netbook's processor (Atom N450) is a single-core hyper-threaded processor. Dell, HP, Acer, etc. are all Windows-only, so who knows if their hardware will work with Linux, and really, I don't want to give Microsoft any more money than I already have over the years, especially for such a crippled OS that won't even allow you to change the wallpaper and I refuse to use.

Has anyone tried System76's Starling? How actually is its battery life, as well as its support of other Linux distributions (besides Ubuntu)? Does System76 use fully open drivers and contribute back upstream, ie., will most other distributions run flawlessly on their machines with no trouble as well? Do, for example, plan Slackware and Debian support all of its hardware by default? Does 3-cell vs. 6-cell battery make much of a difference--I heard that 6 is bigger and bulkier, but I've seen no images for comparison of the Starling with each one installed. Only thing I know is that the 6-cell is expensive, and I don't know if it's worth it.

And ARM netbooks, has anything ever come of them? If they come out any time soon I'd consider one of those instead of an Atom. The energy efficiency/battery life and potential for cool-running, slim design sounds just too good to pass up.
Old 03-08-2011, 10:34 AM   #2
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Have a look at this:

For about 400 dollars, and it is not an all bad computer. Honestly, you just have to look around and find the best one suitable for you. I personally do not like netbooks, but when I came across that one, it caught my eye. Good luck man,

Old 03-08-2011, 11:18 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by corp769 View Post
Have a look at this:

For about 400 dollars, and it is not an all bad computer. Honestly, you just have to look around and find the best one suitable for you. I personally do not like netbooks, but when I came across that one, it caught my eye. Good luck man,

Hmm... that's a regular laptop. Normally I wouldn't complain about screen size (it's a 15.6"), but what I want the system for is extreme portability. I would like to take it in stores with "to-get" lists, reminders of things to look at and compare, and even read reviews of products online (assuming there is an open WiFi access point nearby) before deciding on what to buy. This is the primary reason I want a netbook, instead of a more full-sized and comfortable laptop.

Basically, my usage would primarily consist of:
-Viewing and editing text files and transferring them back and forth between computers at home. Probably with SSH or NFS/Samba. No problem there, any system would be able to handle that.
-Using a calculator, for doing price calculations mostly. Again, no problem.
-Using a Web browser for reviews and maybe occasional price comparisons. With 2GB of memory, again, no problem.
-On nice summer nights, sitting outside listening to music, playing around with Stellarium and looking at the sky. The only potential problem, having decent 3D hardware acceleration.
-Distro hopping. Half the time I just can't help myself, I get tons of enjoyment trying out new distros and new versions of them. This is the one part that may be the most spotty, since every distro has a different set of drivers, and every computer has a different set of hardware...

I'm really considering that System76 Starling. It sounds quite good. The major downside I see is its high-priced batteries, and not knowing whether it is as compatible with all the *other* major Linux distros as it is with their preloaded Ubuntu (which it is highly likely that I will *not* use).

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: A working sleep mode is important, because I will likely use it quite a bit while walking in a store. Good battery time, as I mentioned, is one of the major things I'm looking for.

Last edited by UZ64; 03-08-2011 at 11:21 AM.
Old 03-08-2011, 11:24 AM   #4
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Haven't tried it yet, but I've got my eye on the Dell M101z. Netbook form factor, but a "real" CPU. (No offense to the Atom--I have 3 of them including one dual-core--but it is a very, very slow chip.)
Old 03-08-2011, 11:25 AM   #5
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Got ya. I know you are looking for an actual net book, but I couldn't help post that link.

Have you checked out any of the Eee netbooks?
Old 03-08-2011, 11:26 AM   #6
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I have the Acer Asspire One with Fedora 14 on it. Works good. Wireless fine. Decent speed.
Old 03-09-2011, 04:53 PM   #7
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Yesterday, I decided to call System76 and ask them questions about their Starling netbook. I asked which WiFi chip it comes with, and the guy said it is either a Realtek RTL8191b or RTL8192b (he's not sure). Since I have read comments through Google searches of Starlings being a PITA to get wireless on non-Debian/Ubuntu-based distros, I asked him if there is any chance that they will change it to a chip that is more Linux-friendly in general, instead of Ubuntu-only--to which he replied, probably not, because they have already built a reputation.

But he said something interesting. He said that the Realtek drivers are open source, and it is purely up to the distribution whether to include them or not. Are they really? Because if so, unless there are other restrictions, I can't imagine why any distros would be difficult to get wireless running... but many of the posts I read over the Internet stated just that. Problem is, maybe that's because they are a year or more old? He also said that a base Ubuntu install supports these drivers by default, on the disc.

Anyway... I just read a post in another topic on this forum saying that the Realtek RTL8192 "was not supported by the kernel until 2.6.31". The current version of Debian, 6.0, uses kernel 2.6.32, but the base install is completely "free" and does not include any binary blobs in the kernel. So... does anyone have a recent (or any revision, really) Starling with the latest Debian on it? Was it a smooth install, or better yet, something that just worked? And if not... anyone have a Starling and a Debian Squeeze Live CD/USB to do a quick test? The Starling does seem to have some real potential to me. I'm seriously considering it.

Last edited by UZ64; 03-09-2011 at 05:01 PM.
Old 04-03-2011, 02:34 PM   #8
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I bought a Zareason Terra HD and have been happy with it. A bit more pricey, but comes with your choice of Linux right off the production line.
Old 04-03-2011, 03:01 PM   #9
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I'm always suprised at the number of System76 fans there are out there. Not that they make bad computers, but as far as the laptops/netbooks go they just rebrand someones elses hardware (normally lonovo IIRC). BTW, thats why the wont change the chip to something more linux-friendly...they dont make the hardware. Also, as far as the RTL8192 goes the drivers might be free, but the firmware isnt. (I'm sure I'm forgetting something here, but my brain just isnt working right tonight)

It seems funny to spend more to avoid windows, than the same machine would cost with windows...

I'll make life even more difficult for you- there is another option aside from Atom. AMD E-350 systems, like the Asus Eee PC 1215B. I cant say for sure if that model in particular will work with linux, as is typical of laptops/netbooks asus dont list the actual wireless adapter they are using (thats so they can change brands if prices change, etc.).
Old 04-03-2011, 05:28 PM   #10
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The ARM platform may at some point be a contender but I wouldn't spend too much on one today. It may end up with my Betamax, VHS tape, 8 track, various pda's and collection of phones that I keep for no reason. But we can guess any atom will end up in that pile too.

You are in a pinch with a different platform. The only saving part of x86 is that it is mostly the same as it has been for the last 20 years.
Old 04-03-2011, 06:27 PM   #11
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I just bought an Asus 1215T, which on Newegg is $350 right now. It isn't dual core, but it has one faster core, which generally gives a similar experience. I wanted dual core too but can't say I'm missing it much for this kind of device. I use mine similarly to what you describe.

It runs Stellarium just fine! No problems. I'd advise using the ATI proprietary drivers, which work better for 3D apps and also give much better battery life. I get almost 7 hours from mine in 2D desktop without 802.11. It might go down to 1.5-2 hours if you run Stellarium nonstop. I'm guessing text editing at min brightness would be 5-6 hours.

Wireless was fine. I had to install the custom driver in Ubuntu from the driver manager, but it was just a click, and then it worked flawlessly.

It's not perfect, but for the price it isn't a bad little netbook.

Old 04-03-2011, 06:35 PM   #12
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The Gateway LT3103u, while an older model, exceeded the specifications allowed by MS to put XP on it (it came with Vista). It has an AMD64 low power chip. I don't know if it is still sold.


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