[Techtalk] Laptop recommendations? (was: Random: MS problem, Linux solution...)

Michael Carson mikecarson at usa.net
Wed Jan 23 14:04:14 EST 2002

Raven, corporate courtesan wrote

>	In other news -- I will be getting a new laptop with my tax
>return this year, and putting Debian on it.  Does anyone have
>recommendations for laptops that they particularly like, or have worked
>particularly well with Linux?  I'm trying to do some research in
>advance.  I've had generally good luck in the past with Dells or with
>IBM ThinkPads, but I've only helped friends with their installs.  I've
>never gotten to keep the laptop, so I don't know what they're like to
>actually run.
>	A good network card is the most essential thing.  (90% of what
>I'll be doing with it is remote administration, network pen testing, and
>such.)  I don't much care about a nice graphics card (though it has to
>be able to run 1024x768 X) or super-quality sound card.  Playing MP3s
>would be good, but I can't even tell the difference between tape quality
>and CD quality, so I'm not an audio snob.  Lots of hard drive space so I
>can do forensics on the go would be nice, and lots of memory because I
>generally have ten million xterms open at any one time.
>	Any recommendations, horror stories, things to get, things to

    Oh, laptops - one of my favorite things.  I've been a ThinkPad fan 
for as long as I've had a portable.  They're well designed, meaning they 
often perform better than their specs would indicate, durable and tend 
to support Linux well.  In fact, I think IBM may well install RH on at 
least one TP model currently.
    That said, I've developed a real aversion to heavy machines lately, 
and I demand an internal optical drive, since an external, especially an 
external IDE, drive can be a real PITA.  So I went and bought a Fujitsu 
S-4546.  It has also proven durable and is a good performer.  RH Linux 
7.1 installed on it smoothly.  The internal Ethernet works fine, and 
1024x768 under X was brainless.  The DVD drive works including movie 
playback.  The external USB floppy works, although I find I barely use 
it.  In short, everything works, except the Winmodem, which I haven't 
tried.  Sound is a little spotty, since the sound chip is supported only 
a 48KHz, 16 bit (the DVD sound spec, evidently).  Sox translates, but 
the version of esd I have has poor sound quality.  Occasionally, the 
sound hardware hangs, so nothing plays back until I suspend/resume the 
machine.  Yeah, suspend/resume works, but I couldn't get hibernate to 
work.  The machine can warm swap batteries, but the individual battery 
life is only about two hours, depending on what's going on.  If you want 
to watch a movie on battery, get a spare, they aren't that expensive 
(US$130).  The partioning was weird, I had to blow the Windows partition 
away, along with the "software recovery" partition and reinstall Windows 
from a Win98 disk I had and the drivers CD Fujitsu sent.  
    So I'm all happy.  That's nice.  You, on the other hand, hate 
touchpads and this one has one.  I won't say I never hit it by mistake, 
but it's rare.  You might like the P-series from Fujitsu better.  The 
URL is 
.  This is a 3.3 pound machine running a Crusoe at 800MHz.  20 GB HD, 
256MB RAM max.  It uses an eraser mouse since there is no room for a 
touchpad.  It's barely wider than it's built-in DVD/CD-RW drive and 
costs US$1800 for the loaded version.  This is a different machine, so 
what works or doesn't may be different, but nothing I see in the specs 
gives me pause.  I've never seen a built-in Ethernet module not work on 
a recent notebook (they all seem to be Intel EtherPros) but if by some 
mischance this one doesn't work, there is a PC Card slot for something 
that will work.  Yes, I'm in lust with this thing.
    A great resource is the Linux Laptops home page, at 
http://www.linux-laptop.net/ where you can find installation reports 
from all sorts of machines.  I've noticed that the reports are sometimes 
kinda old, and newer versions of software fix a lot of the "sort of 
working" type problems.  No mention of the P-series yet - it's too new. 
 The listing for my machine is old, but still pretty reliable.
    The thing about laptops is that they are extremely personal.  The 
models I've babbled about are ones I like.  I think I've answered your 
stated concerns, but if there are any more details that need to be 
ironed out, let me know, and I'll see what I can find.  I keep half an 
eye on this space, due to my unfortunate gear addiction.
    And if you're going to be at BlackHat in a couple of weeks, let me 
know.  With luck both I and my laptop will be there.


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