Buying a Linux Laptop
Hello, this is my first post here and I'm glad I found this place. It was getting surprisingly difficult to just find a place to chat with PEOPLE about Linux issues.
I am entering my senior year of college (Computer Science, w00t!) and have felt it's finally time I buy a laptop. My only issue is that rather than running WinXP like I have to at home (I'm a gamer, must have windows for that) I'd really like to run Linux. Also my only bad experience with Linux has been in the set up and that was because certain hardware was incompatible at the time. I figured a laptop, due to their fairly-closed architecture, would be loads easier to set up.
Do you all have any suggestions on distributions or possibly laptops to look for that might meet my needs and why? I've taken a look at www.linux-laptop.net and that has helped some but it's a little overwhelming.
I was looking to spend around $1200 or less 'cause I don't need anything too fast (this isn't a game box). Connectivity was the primary thing as well as possibly being able to play DVDs when hooked up to a TV. Just a nice idea, not really essential. Wireless ethernet, standard CAT-5 ethernet, and possibly a modem (just in case) were things I was definitely going to be needing. I'll be using it to interface with Linux, UNIX, OS X, and WinXP so I figured Linux would be the best choice of OS.
This will be primarily used for portable programming. I do quite a bit of C++ though I will be branching into Java as well as several game-specific languages. Since coding I've found over the years isn't REALLY that intensive it doesn't need to be too beefy on the hardware. For a benchmark I figured if it can run Warcraft III at a good clip then it's just fine in the performance department.
Being able to run WineX nicely would definitely be a plus, I think, for not only games but for other various windows applications that simply aren't duplicated.
Any recommendations? I heard Toshiba made good laptops for a fair price with my kind of needs but I don't know how well Linux runs on them. Would HP or Dell be good choices maybe? What distribution would you all recommend for my needs? I'm not too terribly familiar with Linux though I have some good Solaris and HPUX experience (not in configuration, though, which was my weak point in Linux). I heard RedHat 9 doesn't like WineX too well so maybe Mandrake?
Also, last time I checked-in optical mice weren't supported. Are they supported now? It's one of the few USB devices I actually would use with the laptop (I won't be using my Nostromo n50 speedpad with it).
I know this is a heavy amount of questions, it's just what's on my mind right now. I am fairly computer savvy but most of my experience has been on the Windows platform. Due to my setup problems with Linux before I was never able to really use it.
Thanks for all your help and opinions. I appreciate it greatly.
Laptops are usually far more difficult to get to work properly than "normal" computers, since many brands use a lot of proprietary hardware without supplying Linux drivers.
However, I can recommend a Dell laptop. I don't think that they use any proprietary hardware, and Linux works find on my old Dell Latitude. Right now, you save $100 by buying a Dell laptop online, so you can get one for less than $1100, that still has good performance. The one I'm looking at right now has a 2.4 GHz P4, 384 MB RAM (266 MHz FSB), 30 GB HDD, internal modem and NIC (and you can add an internal 54 Mibps 802.11b interface for $49) and 15" SXGA. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, and I'm fairly sure that Linux will work on it. Of course, it has an ATi video card, which isn't too good if you want to run 3D stuff in Linux, but it will work in 2D modes (and if it doesn't, just use the vesa driver and it will).
I have no idea about WineX; I don't do anything that is Winbloze related anymore, and I'm more than happy about that.
Optical mice are and have always been supported. In terms of host interface, they don't differ a bit from normal mice. Possibly you had a distro without USB support the last time (yes, that would have been an _old_ distro, but still).
I wouldn't think that RH9 would have any trouble with WineX, but then again I haven't used WineX, so I can't tell for sure. RH9 is a nice distro, but if you really want to learn something in the process, then try Gentoo. It's better anyway, although harder to set up.
"My only issue is that rather than running WinXP like I have to at home (I'm a gamer, must have windows for that)"
Im not really answering your question but: what games do you play primarily? there are now a number of games fully ported to linux ie UT, UT2003, RTCW and any other QuakeIII based games, Never Winter Nights and others. I hear reports that with some of these games there are also substancial performance increases under linux! Also if you map for your faveorite games then the tools have probably been ported too (GTKRadiant, Worldcraft)
Games and Such
I typically run mostly newer games like Unreal Tournament 2003 and Warcraft III but I still have a couple of older games like Fallout 1 & 2 that I love.
Also it's not that the newer games are not supported on Linux since many of the more popular ones are, it's the drivers. From what I've seen getting ATI and nVidia graphics card drivers for Linux takes longer than it does with Windows so performance is hindered for longer. Also at last time I checked sound cards were a bit of an issue overall. But again, I haven't used Linux in a long time.
Gentroo? I heard about Slackware a long time ago, how does that do? Or better yet is there somewhere I can go to see a good comparison of the available distros? The only thing I've really got straight is that I probably wouldn't have a good time with FreeBSD or Debain due to user unfriendliness.
I havent checked but maby a lot of older games have been ported by now too.. if not they are more likely to run in wine anyway and being older games you wont get any real performance damage from useing wine on them.
I play Unreal Tournament 2003 in linux althouhg admitedly i have had problems runnning it (i am increasingly blameing my hardware for it though) I also play rtcw/americas army online under linux and have no problems connecting to servers even punkbuster servers in rtcw.
i have a nice nvidia card and the drivers for that are awsome (not open sourcethough and i did have to download them from nvidia.com) I also have a creative sblive5.1 sound card with EAX and stuff- it works no problem with my surround sound speakers and the lot:D anyway.. i just want you to be aware that just because you like modern, 3D games doesnt mean you have to use windows
Thanks, I just checked up on TransGaming, looks like they support all of the games I want to run and the one or two (Diablo II primarily) the wife wants to run.
I must admit, it'd be really nice if I could get my Nostromo n50 Speedpad working. Until you use one you've got no idea how much of an improvement over the keyboard it is.
Thanks for the tip about nVidia. Looks like any laptops with ATI cards I'll have to discard. Oh well.
You know, in looking around it's very difficult to find a laptop with an nVidia graphics card and not an ATI card. What brands or models would you recommend I look into as Dell, HP, Desknotes, and such all seem to use ATI or worse, integrated.
I know that some Dell laptops come with nVidia cards. I don't know just which ones, though.
I used gentoo on a dell insprion 8100 and 8200. All the hardware in those laptops have good support under linux so there should be no install problems at all. They use the nvidia geforce go chipset and nvidia's linux drivers are great.
Heh, of course they only have the 8500 on their site and for what I want it's around $1.8k. Figures. Well, at least I'm now pointed in the right direction, thanks.