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Re: what laptop to buy - suggestion for Debian project developers

On Tue, 9 Feb 2010, Bret Busby wrote:

On Mon, 8 Feb 2010, António PT wrote:

I agree with Jason. I have an HP laptop. Its wireless card is supported
(ath5k) and so is the graphic board (ATI - with open source drivers).

2010/2/6 Jason Filippou <jason.filippou@gmail.com>

On Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 2:22 AM, Daniel Dalton <d.dalton@iinet.net.au>
Hi all,

I'm having great difficulty in finding a laptop suitable for my
needs. I'm vision impaired and a student, so primarily will use the
machine for
school, and at home.

Here is what I'm looking for: good debian linux support, including wifi,
ethernet, sound, and the general hardware of the machine.
I'm looking for something fairly recent, so I've got half a chance at
locating one in Australia, but any suggested models would be greatly
appreciated. I'm looking for  something with a core 2 duro around 1.6
ghz or more, and I want something with really good battery life, perhaps
5 hours or more. I have about $1,000 to spend give or take. Finally, I'm
going to be carrying it around school every day, so portability is
important to me.

So basically it must have:
- Good debian support including wiffi
- core 2 duro 1.6 ghz or more
- Good battery life 5 hours or more.

I've been looking mainly at lenovo, hp, del, acer and maybe tosheba.

Any suggested models would be greatly appreciated.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.10 (GNU/Linux)



When it comes to good Linux support, I always advise looking towards
the acquisition of an hp laptop, perhaps with an Intel GMA or other
sorts of Intel onboard GPU, (for people like yourself wo are not
interested in heavy duty graphics support) primarily because you will
virtually never have any problems with closed source graphic card
drivers (Intel's drivers are free software and are henceforth included
by the official Debian distribution). I have been especially pleased
by my 4-year old Pavillion laptop, which runs Debian smoothly @ 1GB of
ram and with a Centrino processor. It's construction is also pretty
solid and ergonomic, albeit based on PVC, which is not the healthiest
of materials (like most of today's laptops). HP is also very dedicated
to receiving and processing complaints about faulty hardware, and the
company has frequently made public announcements regarding free
substitutions of battery models that have been known to overheat, for
example. By buying an HP laptop you're also helping a company that
sponsors free software to an extent, they were among the main
contributors to the most recent DebConf ( http://debconf9.debconf.org/

There are a few downsides to my proposal, of course, the most notable
of which being that I'm not very sure what vision support you'd like
from a laptop's screen in order to assist you in your work. Perhaps
you're looking into a specialised system, with a 19'' screen at least.
Also, my HP pavillion has an integrated GMA graphics card which, even
though very helpful in the sense that I've never had to care about
drivers (for the reasons I've mentioned earlier in this mail), is also
quite weak. I can't run the KDE 4 effects from my laptop, but I used
to run some Compiz Fusion effects when I was running Ubuntu (desktop
cube, mainly). Of course this isn't a real problem, you can always get
an HP laptop with a strong graphics card. Nvidia cards work well with
Linux and the company provides well-functioning proprietary drivers,
I'd look into that after a friend of mine had serious trouble with the
discontinuation of ATI's support for his Radeon. I also noted your
need for a strong battery, yet I don't think any out-of-the-box HP
laptop (not any I have come across, at least) has such a strong
battery, you'd need to order a larger one yourself. This last
observation is very prone to error, though, due to my limited
knowledge of different battery types.

I see you've increased your budget, this could help you look into one
of those new pavillions with an i7 processor (if you REALLY want to
step it up) but you don't need such a strong machine for office work

All in all, I'd go for an HP laptop both because of the high-quality
of their pavillion laptops and because of their support of open source
and Linux, both financially and technically.


After all of that, here is a simple, quick suggestion (that would probably be quite complex and require much work to implement).

I have a Debian 5 Live CD.

Why do Linux Live CD's not include a package, that could be run from the System menu; something like "System Compatibility Analysis" (as a suggested name), so that a user boots a computer with the CD, then runs the application, which displays on the screen, a list of the (major) system components, such as CPU, RAM, graphics card, sound card, ethernet adaptor, wiffle adaptor (WhyFie), HDD, etc, with the brand, model number, capacity/memory, and compatibility, perhaps running demonstration tests, eg to test the sound card, playing a recorded message like "if you can hear me, then the sound card is working", with a dialogue box requiring "Click <Okay> if you heard a recorded message, and <Not Okay> if you did not"?

Such an application, included on Live CD's, such as the Debian 5 LiveCD, would enable users to take the CD to a retailer, boot a prospective computer (laptop or otherwise) using the CD, and then determine the compatibility of the system and its components, with the particular Linux distribution and version (what might work with Ubuntu 9.10, might not work with Debian 5).

I suggest that this is something worth the Debian project developers considering, to assist users to investigate prospective laptops for purchase on the basis of compatibility, and, even, such an application (I believe that somthing similar, but, not exactly what I have described, "Hardware4Linux", already exists as an RPM, for Red Hat based distributions, but is not included on Debian LiveCD's) could generate a report, which, when a user runs the application on a computer owned by the person, and generates the report, could be sent (via email) to a repository, for publication for other prospective buyers of the particular computer configuration.

Bret Busby
West Australia

Maybe it would simply be a waste of time, including an application to test for hardware compatibility, in Linux Live CD's, when computer manufacturers design their computers to prevent them running anything other than MS Windows.

I today went to a computer retailer, and attempted to boot an HP Compaq CQ61-412AX into Linux, using first a Debian 5 Live CD, then a Ubuntu 8.04 Live CD, both of which I have easily used on my HP Compaq NX5000, which has WinXP, Debian 5, and Ubuntu 8.04 installed, and with the ability to selectively boot into any one of them.

A staff member at the computer retailer, when I unsuccessfully simply tried to reboot unsuccessfully with each disk in the drive, at my request, reset (or, tried to reset) the BIOS, to boot from the DVD drive first, rather than the HDD.

However, the computer ignored the BIOS setting, and went straight to the HDD, to boot into MS Winows, with no other booting allowed.

Thus, it appears that HP/Compaq has turned against Linux, and now prohibits Linux from being run on its new computers.

Bret Busby
West Australia

"So once you do know what the question actually is,
 you'll know what the answer means."
- Deep Thought,
  Chapter 28 of Book 1 of
  "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
  A Trilogy In Four Parts",
  written by Douglas Adams,
  published by Pan Books, 1992


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