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Old 04-01-2014, 05:58 AM   #1
Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Distribution: Ubuntu
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laptop recommendations

I am a high school teacher in search of cheap laptops for my students. They must be cheap because I plan buy them with my own money. The laptops would have the following mission critical duties:
1. Program in Java
2. Surf internet
3. Use Gimp
I could probably convince my wife to donate $1000 to the cause. However, in an ideal world, I would like to buy ten laptops. My students do not have the money to buy this for themselves.

Do you have any recommendations for a distro and laptop combination?
Old 04-01-2014, 09:46 PM   #2
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Maybe reconditioned Windows 7 laptops?

My girlfriend has had such good results from TigerDirect that it has become her go-to place for computer stuff. Alternatively, if there is a reliable used computer store in your area, it might be able to work with you.

For a distro, any major Linux distro should meet those requirements. GIMP comes with almost all distros; if it's not in the initial install, it's in the distro's repositories and can be easily installed. You will likely need to install the Java SDK.

You might want to take a look at Mint, Mageia, or Lubuntu (though I personally would not use a *buntu because, as my first wife would say, Canonical has plucked my last nerve). If the laptops you get are relatively low-powered by today's standards (say, one GB RAM), I'd recommend LXDE (default in Lubuntu) for a desktop environment.

Last edited by frankbell; 04-01-2014 at 09:51 PM.
Old 04-02-2014, 12:11 AM   #3
Registered: Sep 2013
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I am typing this reply on a Gazelle Professional I purchased from system76 about a week ago. The hardware is great and it is blazing fast after I ordered a base system (with the i7-4810 upgrade) and paid 848 out the door. I had some ram and bought an mSata SSD and have this thing blazing fast! It would run any distribution on the market I believe due to the open nature of the hardware. Best screen I ever seen, very happy.

Last edited by LinBox2013; 04-02-2014 at 12:13 AM.
Old 04-02-2014, 01:34 AM   #4
Registered: Apr 2013
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If you don't mind a slightly older model that is a little heavy, CPU clock under 2 GHz, 1 GB RAM, including a hard drive and AC power adapter, of course, you should be able to find good laptops under $100 on ebay. That's where I shop for computers. Typically ebay sellers offer no tech support and minimal warranty (look for at least a "DOA" warranty, or better still, an unconditional 14-day return policy).

I currently have two inexpensive Dell laptops running Debian with the GNOME desktop environment. The installations went smoothly and the laptops are working fine. Why Debian, and why GNOME? I don't know, I just like it, and it seems to work for me.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend the models I have - they are fine, but nothing special, and you can probably do better - but just for your information, one is Dell Latitude D800 with 1.8 GHz Pentium M, 1 GB RAM, and 20 GB ATA hard drive, and the other is Dell Inspiron 1000 with 2.2 GHz Celeron, 512 MB RAM, and 60 GB ATA hard drive.

If you are thinking about acquiring 10 laptops, I would recommend that you get all the same model, if possible. This will make maintenance a lot easier, since they will all have the same user manual, and you can swap parts if the need arises.

Last edited by Beryllos; 04-02-2014 at 01:48 AM.
Old 04-02-2014, 08:46 AM   #5
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Well for laptops there is many you can use . I am sure you will find most linux distro's can or will fit the needs of most laptops with in 5 years of age. or even older. What I would look for is the wifi hardware if wifi will be used. I tend to want to stay away from the b43 chipset of broadcom. do to the hassle of hit and miss of the generic drivers and the firmware.
Old 04-02-2014, 04:48 PM   #6
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At the menu bar at the top, there's a link marked "HCL." It stands for "Hardware Compatibility List." There's a whole section devoted to laptops. I would look around for a laptop that sounds interesting, then look it up in the HCL.

As for where to start, I've heard good things about HP. Maybe take a look at this thread:
Old 04-03-2014, 06:47 AM   #7
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you basically cannot go wrong. Ubuntu if you re familiar with it, Debian, Fedora. Once you install kde or gnome they will all look and feel the same on the surface.
If you want to try something new consider FreeBSD.

Regarding new PCs:

The cheapest laptop that comes to mind is the eeepc i m using right now.
1.66GHz 1Gb RAM 512Kb cache. Nothing fancy but allows to do everything you mentioned and more (if you do not want to use Gimp on gigapixel photographs that is)
I bought it at 180$ a few years ago. similar models sell at 200$ on amazon.

Toshiba usually sells decent computers at low prices (~300$). I ve been told from acquaintances they are somewhat dependable as well.

A warning about Acer. I owned 3 acer laptops in the last 10 years or so. the firs one is still working (>10 year old model) the other two both died of the same problem after ~2 years: a fried motherboard component connected to the power unit.

Installed linux and/or freebsd on all of the above and never had issues i couldn't solve (the occasional wireless driver problem was the most annoying).

Regarding used PCs:

If your needs allow it (i.e. the students can leave it at school), try to consider going for desktops. You might spend a little more (or not) but maintainance will be much easier and cheaper, since you ll be able to substitute components one by one by yourself. Components you can find for cheap on ebay or used at local shops.

Last edited by Kowalski; 04-03-2014 at 06:48 AM.
Old 04-03-2014, 01:11 PM   #8
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I would check locally for Electronic/computer recyclers that do have systems that are dumped from Corporate, Educational along with private users. You could check with major manufactures for educational support programs. That way you could possibly get some useful hardware.

Recyclers Systems will not be current hardware but could be used for the specifications you listed. You may need to update memory, storage media and do some minor clean-up. Select a distribution that will be light load on the older hardware.

Hope this helps.


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