[H-GEN] Looking for a linux laptop

Russell Stuart russell-humbug at stuart.id.au
Mon May 25 19:53:50 EDT 2009

On Mon, 2009-05-25 at 21:07 +1000, David Seikel wrote:
> I might be going on a business trip soon, and will need a laptop.
> Pretty much just need something roughly the equivalent of my current
> desktop, which is a few years old.  I don''t want to spend a fortune,
> with the sort of specs I need, something cheap will probably work.

My way of attacking this has been:

1.  Go to Dell Web site, spec out what you need, get price, 
    print it out.

2.  Armed with the Dell quote go looking at other sites and/or 
    brands.  Be sure to verify what is on the Dell quote matches
    what you are being sold.  Eg MIMO Wifi antenna?  Firewire?
    9 cell battery?  5400 RPM Drive?  1 year warranty?  Accidental
    damage insurance?  The important point is to compare like with

My most recent experience with this was my neighbour, who brought
in whole pile of junk mail ads for laptops - all amazingly cheap.
It wasn't until I had a Dell quote in front of me and ticked off
each and every feature that I realised where the difference in
price came from.  At that particular time, in each and every case
it was because of a difference in features.  When the laptop had
the same features the Dell always cost less.  That of course made
my neighbour think about what features were important.  That, in
the end, was the most important part of the exercise.

Interestingly you didn't list the two most important aspects of
a laptop in your criteria.  They are screen size and battery

If the thing is mostly tethered to a desk you want a large screen, 
and don't care about the battery.  The interesting side effect of 
this is since the battery life doesn't matter the engineer who 
designed it will have a large power budget.  This makes the thing 
dammed fast compared to its smaller brethren - regardless of what 
the specs might say.

On the other hand if you are carrying it around, you want a small
screen and huge battery life.  A laptop optimised for this style
of usage will last at least 9 hours on a single charge.  A 13"
screen will sit nicely on your lap in a plane, train or bus, and
because of its small power budget won't burn a hole in your pants,
whereas there is a very good chance you would not be able to use
a larger laptop at all.  That said, I find the tiny screens a
huge compromise - almost unusable on a day to day basis on a

You can also do what you propose - hook up a screen, keyboard and
mouse to a small machine.  However, you still get hit with the
speed issue - a kernel compile on a machine optimised for a small
power budget will take twice as long.

You also didn't mention the CPU being able to do hardware
vitalisation.  Intel's cheaper CPU's can't.  I regard it as a
must now.  It has got me out of trouble on numerous occasions.

Finally, as for 32 applications running on a 64 bit machine -
I have not found one I have not been able to make work.  Any
Debian based 64-bit distribution comes with a full complement 
of 32 libraries which "just work", once you know to install
them.  Even if they didn't, just copying a missing 32 bit 
library and putting it on the LD_LIBRARY_PATH also works.  On
the other hand, I am not sure why you would want to use 64
bit on a machine with 3G of memory or less.

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