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

Of course, the key is to select a laptop in the peripherals have been selected on the basis of the availability of Debian drivers.

In the entire world, there are only about a half-dozen manufacturers (two of them being Clevo and Asus) of the bare-bones chassis (which consists of little more than frame, motherboard, display, and keyboard). Other components generally come from other sources, being selected, purchased, and installed by the custom builder. A good builder shops on the basis of software compatibility rather than on the basis of price, and consequently may offer only one or two video drivers, only one or two wifi interfaces, only one bluetooth mouse, etc.

An fairly-easy way to learn which chassis and which components work with Debian is to seek out the web site of a builder who builds Debian-compatible machines, and look over the detailed list of components which he uses. So do a search on "debian laptop" and start going down the list.

The last time I helped an associate search for a Debian-compatible machine, I discovered an outfit called "Red Barn Computers" in New York state [www.redbarncomputers.com] which specializes in Linux-compatible custom-build laptops. Red Barn even offered to install Debian on the system, so that the machine is running Debian with all the peripherals (network, wifi, webcam, etc.) working properly as soon as you open the box and turn on the machine.

Take care when choosing the chassis. If you have opportunity, remove the drive and look inside. Notice carefully the mounting of the drive. Even such a limited inspection can give you a good idea regarding mechanical ruggedness.

Beware that, in order to fit a keyboard into a limited chassis width, some manufacturers use half-width keys on each row to the right of the last alphabetic key (p, l, m). Of course, this makes the machine useless to anyone who is a skilled touch-typist, unless an external full-size keyboard is used. Regrettably, many of the best "techies" type with only two fingers, and consequently are oblivious to the huge barrier which a compromised keyboard layout presents to a touch-typist.

The Clevo chassis (which is used by Sager) appears to be of high quality (as of six or eight months ago).


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