Advice Sought : Linux on a laptop

Mike Hewson
Mike Hewson
Moderator
Joined: 1 Dec 05
Posts: 6,075
Credit: 116,574,583
RAC: 48,787
Topic 197241

I thought I'd consider replacing an old Dell/Win-XP with a Linux machine. I wonder if anyone has any experience with Linux laptops, and would be so kind as to share any thoughts about same ? I've been browsing around and found a few interesting sites :

- Dell has an XPS 13 but worryingly the price is on application.

- the Linux Laptop Company have a Viper for sale which looks nice.

- then there's a mob called System 76 who have a range on offer.

- followed by Linux Certified who also have a selection.

- and Zareason have a suite as well.

I'll go for Ubuntu for preference ( familiarity ). My main issue is whether there are any huge boners to avoid. :-)

Cheers, Mike.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

joe areeda
joe areeda
Joined: 13 Dec 10
Posts: 285
Credit: 290,720,568
RAC: 33,691

Advice Sought : Linux on a laptop

Hi Mike,

I run Ubuntu 12.04 dual boot with Win7 on my Lenovo T510 that has served me well for a few years. I also run it under VMware on my MacBookPro which also has VMs for SL6.4, Debian Squeeze and Win7. I do a fair amount of cross platform testing.

I think you'll find Ubuntu has good hardware support for most modern systems, many people I work with have it on all kinds of laptop hardware.

I think if the machine has UEFI you still have to disable it to boot Linux.

Both my laptops have 8GB RAM which is fine for the dual boot and a bit skimpy for running VMs.

Oh and as you probably already know the LTS version of Ubuntu are they way to go unless you want to change OSes every year.

Joe

Gary Roberts
Gary Roberts
Moderator
Joined: 9 Feb 05
Posts: 5,035
Credit: 34,670,680,783
RAC: 34,729,782

Hi Mike, I don't use

Hi Mike,

I don't use laptops regularly and certainly not for crunching but I've installed Linux on a number of them over the years - mainly other people's cast-offs (Toshiba, HP Compaq, Asus, etc.) and all with Windows installations (XP and Vista mainly). I've never had any trouble with shrinking the original Windows installation and creating extra partitions for Linux and having a dual booting machine at the end of it.

I've never had a problem with hardware detection and (unless you choose something really quirky) I think you can expect to be able to choose whatever hardware suits you best and then install a mainstream distro like Ubuntu without problems. I don't think you would do any better by choosing any particular manufacturer/model that's supposedly "built for Linux". Choose the hardware on price/performance/suitability to your needs and then go install :-). If you choose mainstream hardware, google will probably find you examples of people's experiences running various distros on it.

Cheers,
Gary.

Jeroen
Jeroen
Joined: 25 Nov 05
Posts: 379
Credit: 738,419,435
RAC: 0

Hello Mike, I run Linux on

Hello Mike,

I run Linux on an older Thinkpad T61p. This has been a very reliable laptop that I use all the time. It has two cores. I have tried running Einstein apps on the Quadro 570M before but my card only has 256 MB of memory which last I checked was not quite enough. Crunching on the CPU works fine but does run a bit on the warm side. The kernel supports almost all devices via this laptop. I would recommend a laptop like this for the reliability. I believe I have had up to 1 year of uptime with generally very little stability issues. Sometimes I accidentally drain the battery too much and lose my long uptime run.

In my laptop, I bought an OCZ Vertex 2 60GB SSD and run customized Slackware64. The SSD makes a great amount of difference for all around load time of kernel and apps. If you buy a laptop, I would suggest dumping the hard disk and preinstalled Windows OS if applicable and pickup a low cost SSD with enough capacity to cover your Linux OS install and other needs. Linux does not need much space. The 60GB SSD has been more than sufficient for me. I run without a swap file since I have plenty of RAM and Linux does not need much in any case. For the SSD, try to get something with MLC or SLC flash for long term reliability. I recently picked up a pair of 64GB Intel X25-E SLC SSDs for low cost on E-Bay which run in my other crunching rigs. These SSDs perform great and so far have been reliable. The Vertex 2 in my laptop has worked flawlessly for me as well.

If you need cross platform support, Virtualbox works great in Linux for virtualization. You just need a bit more recent CPU with virtualization support and some extra memory. You could use Virtualbox with one of the LHC BOINC projects as well. :)

ExtraTerrestrial Apes
ExtraTerrestria...
Joined: 10 Nov 04
Posts: 758
Credit: 171,788,296
RAC: 23,153

If you want a discrete GPU

If you want a discrete GPU and the energy efficient, seamless switching between the discrte and the iGPU you may be in trouble. I'm not up to date with Linux, but at some point in the last year I read that nVidia Optimus was still broken on Linux, giving users with discrete GPUs far less battery life. And AMDs solution.. well, it doesn't even work right in Win, so forget about Linux.

Problems could also arise with SSD caching of HDDs (which in general can be a great compromise between capacity and performance), if they don't provide a Linux driver (don't know).

Regarding an SSD: I'd recommend the Samsung 840 Evo 120 GB. Exceptional value and really fast. Write endurance is not a concern in the real world.

MrS

Scanning for our furry friends since Jan 2002

robl
robl
Joined: 2 Jan 13
Posts: 1,517
Credit: 1,003,740,412
RAC: 774,618

I am running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

I am running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Linux only no win) on a Dell Inspiron 3520. This particular model requires wireless drivers that support the Broadcom BCM4312. Support for this driver is not packaged with the distro so a wired network is required to "get" this support (some licensing issue I believe). It not difficult and I have posted a procedure here. Depending on which Dell you have your driver support of wireless might be different in that not all Dell's require Broadcom support.

This laptop is in the $400 price range and I have been satisfied with Ubuntu's performance and ease of maintenance.
[edit] Ubuntu 12.04 LT will be supported until April of 2017. This is a major consideration for me.

I do not crunch on this laptop however because I have concerns with heating.

tullio
tullio
Joined: 22 Jan 05
Posts: 1,994
Credit: 32,283,599
RAC: 607

I have bought a HP laptop 635

I have bought a HP laptop 635 with an AMD APU E-450 and SuSE SLES 11 sp1 for 269 euros. It had a 320 GB hard disk at 5400 rpm. I then upped its RAM from 2 GB to 8 GB and bought an OCZ Vertex Plus SSD with 120 GB. Satisfied with SSD I then bought a Samsung 840 with 250 GB and transferred the OCZ to my SUN WS as second disk with mainly swap usage. The HP is working 24/7 with SuSE Linux 12.3 running 3 BOINC projects including Test4Theory@home which needs a Virtual Box installation.
Tullio

Mike Hewson
Mike Hewson
Moderator
Joined: 1 Dec 05
Posts: 6,075
Credit: 116,574,583
RAC: 48,787

Thank you all very much for

Thank you all very much for your thoughtful feedback. You have been most kind. :-)

You could probably guess that Xmas is coming up ... :-)

I reckon I'll go for Linux de novo ( ie. no dual boot ) and Ubuntu.

@Tullio - There are some great bargains out there. I'm trying to decide whether pre or post Xmas will be the time to strike ....

@robl - Thanks for those pointers on wireless ( nice site BTW ) as I do have a home wireless LAN, and I agree about Ubuntu support.

@MrS - Personally I like SSD's primarily for archive only, but maybe it's time to trust them more. It may as well be a big one.

@Jeroen - I've always run laptops on a suitable fan assisted cooler plate, but I have to remember to blow it and the laptop radiator regularly ( especially in a household with a fine haired Golden Retriever ).

@Gary - I think you're right Gary, that 'built for Linux' is more marketing than reality. Plus I won't be going for any esoteric hardware.

@Joe - Agreed, that LTS 12.04 is the Ubuntu to select. I once tried 12.10 and wished I never did, couldn't roll back and had to re-install from clean!

Cheers, Mike.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

ExtraTerrestrial Apes
ExtraTerrestria...
Joined: 10 Nov 04
Posts: 758
Credit: 171,788,296
RAC: 23,153

RE: @MrS - Personally I

Quote:
@MrS - Personally I like SSD's primarily for archive only, but maybe it's time to trust them more. It may as well be a big one.


Well, archiving is IMO what SSDs are the least suitable for - their capacity is comparably expensive, and you can't use their speed bonus if you just use them seldomly. Ideally the flash memory would be used as an additional buffer or cache between main memory and HDD - that's where it would make the most sense, technically. That we're at a point where we can even think about using them as primary storage is a great accomplishment :)

Anyway, I recommend you try the Samsung as system drive (media can be put elsewhere). These drives (830 and 840 series) have a really good track record. So you wouldn't give any reliabilty up in comparison to HDDs: any drive can fail, so important stuff needs a backup anyway.

Regarding buying a big one: if you want to, sure. Personally I don't like spending big on SSDs, so I prefer to use storage in a smart way. Put big/large/huge files elsewhere and you should be fine with affordable 120 / 240 GB. And won't regret the purchase once the next generation of SSDs arrives ;)

MrS

Scanning for our furry friends since Jan 2002

tullio
tullio
Joined: 22 Jan 05
Posts: 1,994
Credit: 32,283,599
RAC: 607

I've been running a SUN

I've been running a SUN workstation 24/7 since January 2008. I only upgraded its RAM and hard disks, including a 120 GB SSD as second disk. Its main disk is a 500 GB Seagate Barracuda recovered from a Telecom Italia set top box (Cubovision). All the rest is original, including its Opteron 1210. I think its main virtue is in the front panel, which is a mesh like that of on old Lancia Aprilia radiator, permitting a good airflow.
Tullio

ML1
ML1
Joined: 20 Feb 05
Posts: 336
Credit: 55,205,646
RAC: 121

OK, so I can't beat Tulio's

OK, so I can't beat Tulio's old Sun! For their time, they were excellent kit. I remember the sys admin people having an unsupported "leaning tower of Pisa" of Sun desktop server boxes stacked reaching up to the ceiling. Why? Because they could and it "looked pretty". It also nicely gathered all the cables together behind the column.

Until that is, they were asked two questions:

How much does all that cost?

And what happens when someone accidentally walks into them and topples the stack?...

Ouch!

Happy fast crunchin',
Martin

Powered by: Mageia5
See & try out your OS Freedom! Linux Voice
The Future is what We all make IT [url=http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html](GPLv3

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.