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Topic: Linux Laptop (Read 1887 times)

  • Frenzie
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Linux Laptop
Does anybody have any tips? Preferably with an ANSI layout and available in Europe.

Here's one place that looks potentially interesting:
https://www.alusa.org

  • Macallan
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #1
I'm still waiting for decent Loongson or ARM based laptops. The problem with the former ( well, one of them ) is that they tend to come with seriously outdated graphics hardware ( Silicon Motion SM502? Seriously? ) and the latter, if you can find them at all, tend to use un- or underdocumented SoCs so you're stuck with Android.

  • Frenzie
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #2
There'd also be the potential problem that while the vast majority of software I use is free and even precompiled for ARM in the Debian repositories,* that'd completely lock you out of proprietary software. For a netbook that might be acceptable, but I don't quite think it is for a proper laptop.

Regarding Loongson, I have to say that, as interesting as a little competition is, in terms of specs to price every Loongson product I've seen (like this) leaves me cold.

* Although I should add, I'm actually getting ideas for a new laptop for my wife. Then again, she does like both Debian and "outdated" software.

  • Macallan
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #3

There'd also be the potential problem that while the vast majority of software I use is free and even precompiled for ARM in the Debian repositories,* that'd completely lock you out of proprietary software. For a netbook that might be acceptable, but I don't quite think it is for a proper laptop.

Depends what you want to do with it. My main workhorse ( which I'm typing this on ) is a Sun Blade 2500, running NetBSD. It doesn't get much more non-x86-ghetto than that ( it does have plenty of RAM, CPU power, IO and expansion capability etc. though ). Yet there's not much that I actually miss. Sure, there's no flash. I consider that a feature, not a bug. Video playback tends to be sketchy since few codecs come with SPARC-specific optimizations ( then again, the UltraSPARC-IIIi is kind of a floatpoint monster ). Doesn't bother me much either. Software that doesn't try to play with architecture-specific features usually compiles out of the box and Just Works. Even the 64bit bugs started to get fewer and fewer in the last decade.


Regarding Loongson, I have to say that, as interesting as a little competition is, in terms of specs to price every Loongson product I've seen (like this) leaves me cold.

Exactly. I've got a Gdium - didn't pay for it myself, it was a donation for the promise of making NetBSD usable on it, which I did by writing a bunch of drivers ( the SM502 mentioned above, the microcontroller that manages the battery and so on ), adapting a bunch of drivers ( like adding support for the Fn and related keys, like brightness control ). Nice package but they cut a few corners that shouldn't have been cut - there's no (S)ATA interface, all storage is via USB, either a slow flash stick or an SD reader. Yet the built-in wifi controller is PCI. It can boot via ethernet but the firmware doesn't give you any information about things like which device it uses as console and how it's set up. There's no high-resolution timer that's running independent of the CPU clock ( there's just the standard MIPS cycle counter ) which makes keeping time while switching clock speed less reliable than it should be ( and switching is necessary - the thing gets warm. Not to the point of overheating but it's annoying and drains the battery ). Other CPUs have a separate clock input for their counters ( like PowerPC ), or added a second counter with its own clock ( like SPARC ).
There was a lot of hype around it which the machine didn't come close to living up to.
What's nice about them is their openness ( even the firmware is open source, some of it looks very familiar to a NetBSD kernel hacker ) and the availability of hardware docs.

  • Frenzie
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #4
Depends what you want to do with it.

The usual works. Run Firefox, Gimp, LibreOffice,* watch the occasional video (possibly in Flash), perhaps play the occasional game... on the one hand just about anything will do because even the lowliest Core i3 will probably (slightly) outperform the current Core 2 Duo processor, but some crappy Acer stuff that breaks after a year or two is hardly what she's looking for. Iirc she's got an AMD Phenom II x4 965 in her desktop, so it'd probably need to be at least an i5 to match that. Getting a new laptop after the old one served for over five years should probably represent a noticeable upgrade...

* She likes reasonably complex spreadsheets and she has a rather high-quality DSLR, so CPU power isn't completely unimportant.

  • Macallan
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #5
Hmm, I never checked if the flash player for linux on ARM is available for download just like the x86 version. Otherwise I don't see much that would require x86, although she'd probably want more than 2GB of RAM which would be problematic with 32bit CPUs ( like almost all available ARM hardware for now ).

  • Frenzie
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #6
Yeah, 4GB is pretty much a minimum. But isn't most ARM hardware poorly documented and therefore poorly supported? (Outside of junk like Android.)

  • Macallan
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #7

Yeah, 4GB is pretty much a minimum. But isn't most ARM hardware poorly documented and therefore poorly supported? (Outside of junk like Android.)

Yes and no. Many SoCs come with decent documentation for the CPU, clock generation, power management, peripherals like USB, ethernet, SATA, SPI etc. but most of the time the graphics part is proprietary. Sometimes it's only the drawing engine, sometimes the whole thing. ( Like with the OMAP family - the video output circuitry is documented but the SGX is not. We can still get simple acceleration by abusing the DMA controller, which is what RISC OS and NetBSD ( yes, we stole that idea wholesale ) do. )
Linux ( and therefore Android ) support usually comes in the shape of binary blobs that talks to the hardware and a just as closed source OpenGL library sitting on top of that.
One problem with those SoCs is that it's much harder to write portable drivers than with buses like PCI - you can't really probe peripherals, your kernel has to know which SoC it's running on and from that information deduce what's where.
It would be awfully nice if some company made a mainboard with an ARM SoC ( preferrably 64bit ARM ) that just contains a CPU ( or more than one... ), interrupt, clock, memory controller, a PCIe host and maybe USB, SATA and ethernet, with a Radeon hooked up via PCIe, a handful DIMM slots and maybe some PCIe slot(s). That would get around the proprietary on-chip graphics controllers and add a whole lot of flexibility.

  • Frenzie
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #8
Well, suffice it to say that even if my wife or I had the expertise, neither of us would want to spend the time writing a driver just to make things work. :P

http://www.bto.eu has some potentially interesting products, but they have no specific experience or guarantee for Linux.

Lenovo is generally well-supported. I wonder if you can buy those without the Windows tax somewhere.

  • ersi
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #9
Here's some from my country http://www.euronics.ee/t/56458/sulearvutid/sulearvuti-easynote-te69kb-packard-bell/nx-c2cel-005 This is probably with Ubuntu.

This says it's with Suse http://www.klick.ee/sulearvutid/hp-probook-450.html

And here "Linux Command Line Interface", some faceless minimal installation on a good machine  http://www.klick.ee/sulearvutid/acer-aspire-v3-772g-linux.html


  • Macallan
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #10

Well, suffice it to say that even if my wife or I had the expertise, neither of us would want to spend the time writing a driver just to make things work. :P

Well, for Linux you wouldn't have to.
It's just deviants like me who want to do something else ;)

  • Frenzie
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #11
http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=3597

This might be worth keeping an eye on, albeit primarily for general interest.

  • ersi
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #12
Ha, I could have posted the new Manjaro laptop in this thread. Here it is again https://manjaro.org/2017/09/11/hardware-laptop-spitfire-manjaro-special-edition/

  • Frenzie
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Re: Linux Laptop
Reply #13
My ASUS UX305C works very well with Linux (Xubuntu). It's a great device, but be advised that depending on your use case you might have to acquire some accessories like a USB network port, a USB DVD player and a mini-HDMI to VGA adapter. I emphasize those last points because the Manjaro laptop looks very similar to mine in many ways (except a little faster in ways that do matter and with a useless backlit keyboard).

I note that they emphasize thinness:
Quote
Ultra thin: just 17.8mm!
However, thickness doesn't matter.[1] It's weight that does.
Although if we're going for bragging rights mine is 1.23 cm. Unless they're saying it's about the thinnest laptop ever made that includes, say, an ethernet port? Because that would be hard under 2 cm, but perhaps not impossible 1.78 cm. Except if they were then they'd include it in their list of features...