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Old 01-05-2004, 01:58 PM   #1
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Location: England
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Question UK based: Buying a laptop+printer with linux (Mandrake 9.2 PP) in mind

Overview: Need new laptop+mouse+printer, with working: XP/Mdk dual boot; graphics and sound; CDRW; DVD and BB.

Basically I've got about 4 weeks to pick out and set up a laptop+printer for my gf. She's not exactly computer litterate, and I'm at a different uni to her so it needs to just work between almost monthly visits, or updating should be a few clicks guided over the phone, hense linux.
Having used Mandrake 9.x for over a year, and previously used Windows98SE, I'm dreading having to figure out XP on a normal laptop. She needs it to:
  • Write Biochem notes (an easy one to start with).
  • Browse online (apparent BB connection to her room-I've only ever had 56k dialup).
  • Burn CDs (never got it working in linux yet, use dual boot+Nero).
  • View DVDs (never had a DVD drive-got home cinema).
  • Last 4 years.
We've discussed getting an iBook but the lack of compatability with x86 apps and difference from any uni library machines might be too much hastle. So I'm shopping for a good deal on a normal laptop which is compatable with linux+graphics acceleration+modem drivers+sound, etc. I'm thinking specs as being:
256Megs RAM
60Gigs+ HDD
nVidia graphics
Required network card. I'm almost certain it's ethernet/LAN BB.

My plan is to buy it asap (sales atm, bit short notice I know), and then set up a dual boot with WinXP and Mandrake 9.2 (PowerPack). I'm planning to dual boot XP just in case she needs it, so I dont have to reformat and repartition later down the line. A major problem with this might be vendors which supply those crappy 'rescue/restore' disks that just wipe the machine and re-install Windows. I really really just want a normal XP disk (I'd side-stepped the whole Home/Pro issue, but now it might be raised again) so I can do this without 'customer support'. An all linux install is not out of the question.
Also, as I've never had a laptop, I dunno about support for the battery power saving features they come with.

So by the end of this week I would like to have found a decent speced machine that's 100% compatable, and also find some hints about DVD playing, CD RWs, BB and XP+linux on only 1 drive (unless you can get laptops with 2). So any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Oh and printer suggestions are welcome too. Mdk+CUPS has served me well so far, but recommendations for which printer brand to (not) get would be great too.

PS: I'm going to need AV+Firewall+AntiSpyware app suggestions too (*kicks Windows*). Would a Norton Internet Security bundle in the deal be good to look for?

Last edited by Proud; 01-05-2004 at 04:11 PM.
Old 01-06-2004, 06:05 AM   #2
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Registered: Jul 2003
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If you haven't been here - - check it out. The expression '100% compatible' should be used with caution - some laptop stuff is unlikely to work 100% on linux - function keys, card readers, tablet pc functionality, ACPI - see the link above.

SuSE has worked well on my laptop for a long time - I got better results than with Redhat.

CD Burning shouldn't be an issue with Linux - try again!

You need VNC or similar for remote help.

and of course a built in ethernet port for the BB access. Presumably BB access is shared through a router and ADSL modem provided by the college. If not you need the ADSL modem and a microfilter.

NVidia cards need non-free drivers from NVidia - makes the X setup slightly more complex and if you are compiling your own kernel from sources you need to do the NVidia install last as the sources are not supplied. SuSE apparently will download and install the NVidia drivers if there is a WWW link available.

DVD playing - mplayer (what else?), compile it with --enable-gui to run in Xwindows. Do you want widescreen? there are 15" widescreens from Tosh and Dell which could be nice (Price wasn't a key issue was it?) or 17" but getting heavy 4+kg.

Printers - Epson C80 works well for me - good linux support form Epson - although not all printer utilities supported. The C80 (or later variant) goes quite quick in draft B&W, does good colour on cheap paper and slow hi-res photos are more than adequate.

Why dual boot? Why dual boot XP instead of W98? For bootloaders I have found BootitNG (shareware) useful for managing backups, partitions etc. Seems easier thatn Lilo/Grub. I have repartitioned many times with it to add and remove different OS's on the same drive. Currently I have two W98's and a SuSE 8.2 on the same harddrive (desktop) and W98 pluse SuSE 8.2 on the laptop.

Check the weight of the laptop - gf's notice this kind of thing and and over 3kg is a bit clunky these days!

Good luck!
Old 01-06-2004, 01:12 PM   #3
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Registered: Dec 2002
Location: England
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Update: an iBook has again been seriously considered as a less hassle option, as I'm really doubting any x86/Windows requirements for her course. However, good old 98+linux seems the most likely bet.

I dont have easy access to BB or other dstros, and Mandrake has served me well so far.

I wont need to do any remote desktop stuff. Good idea though.

The BB is apparently simply a connection on the wall, so I guess it's via their uni's network to the internet.

nVidia drivers not free? I know they're only a GPL wrapper around a binary driver, but I've never had to pay to use them with Mdk so far.

Weight is an issue, and price should be less than the 1000 for the student discounted iBook.

I was thinking 98 is starting to get old now, but as I dont think I need any new 'features' of XP, I think I might just stick with dual booting linux+98. I was thinking I might need Windows just incase the uni distributed some software as part of the course, or needed Office format electronic submissions. Thinking about it, I really doubt I need to consider this.

Lilo's always been fine for me.

Thanks for a printer suggestion.


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