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Jolly Roger

Anybody Running Linux On A Laptop?

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I'm in the market for a laptop that is reasonably cheap and suited for Linux as I want to learn it a bit more and get rid of my desktop. As a lot of HPCers are of a thrifty, geeky and/or alternative persuasion there has to be a few of you on here running a laptop with a Linux distro.

I don't want to spend much more than £400. Main usage will be music and video, surfing HPC and light office apps. Maybe some low-end, undemanding games. I'd likely be starting with a lightweight variety of Ubuntu or Mint and dual-booting with an existing Windows image.

The first option is to buy new, which will involve Windows 8 and UEFI, but these seem to cause headaches with dual booting and getting Linux up and running. I'm not massively interested in using Win8 but would prefer to keep it as an option.

Another route is to buy a second hand Windows 7 laptop off the 'bay which has known good Linux compatibility (esp. for things like wireless drivers) and get dual-boot going much more easily.

If anyone has had any success in this area with hardware that isn't a clunky and ancient POS, I'd be grateful.

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I'm in the market for a laptop that is reasonably cheap and suited for Linux as I want to learn it a bit more and get rid of my desktop. As a lot of HPCers are of a thrifty, geeky and/or alternative persuasion there has to be a few of you on here running a laptop with a Linux distro.

I don't want to spend much more than £400. Main usage will be music and video, surfing HPC and light office apps. Maybe some low-end, undemanding games. I'd likely be starting with a lightweight variety of Ubuntu or Mint and dual-booting with an existing Windows image.

The first option is to buy new, which will involve Windows 8 and UEFI, but these seem to cause headaches with dual booting and getting Linux up and running. I'm not massively interested in using Win8 but would prefer to keep it as an option.

Another route is to buy a second hand Windows 7 laptop off the 'bay which has known good Linux compatibility (esp. for things like wireless drivers) and get dual-boot going much more easily.

If anyone has had any success in this area with hardware that isn't a clunky and ancient POS, I'd be grateful.

When you say main usage 'Music and Video', do you mean creation or listening/viewing? That will make a large difference to what I would recommend hardware wise. For viewing/listening pretty much anything will do. For creation, pretty much anything will do, but you'll want a good amount of RAM and either a machine that can take multiple disks or perhaps USB3 to run external drives. I will say there is a definite learning curve compared to using WIndows for doing content creation and I've found external sound cards etc made things easier to manage.

I run Mint 14 on two laptops, an ancient core 2 duo thinkpad X61s, and a i7 Dell XPS17 (L702x). One is a tiny 12" 4/3, and the other a 17 inch monster.

It runs terrifically on both - I use the XFCE edition of mint on the thinkpad, and the blingy KDE one on the Dell. The thinkpad is a 6/7 year old machine, and does everything I ask of it with the RAM upgraded to 4gb. Total cost ~100 quid (laptop and ram from ebay)! For the majority of tasks, we reached a point ages ago where hardware is more than capable. Low, undemanding gaming though probably exceeds that particular thinkpad's capabilities, unless you mean Mahjong or chess.

The Dell has an SSD and a spinning disk in it as it can take two. Dual boot win8 and Mint (primary OS). It is ridiculously fast with the SSD holding the OS's and the other the data. That said, the Thinkpad is more than rapid too. Amazing really. Modern linux's (recent mint) has (in my experience) extremely good compatibility with the majority of hardware I've found.

I haven't looked at it in a while, but Dell's Outlet site (refurbs) was always a good way to get a bargain.

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Steer clear of any variant of Ubuntu and Asus Eee PCs. I've tried several Eee PCs and about five different variants/forks of Ubuntu.

Everything works fine for about 10 minutes and then the left mouse button stops working.

This for me is the biggest problem with Desktop Linux as it currently stands. If you hit a snag like that - an average user has no hope of fixing it.

I have Android on them now - and everything works just fine. The Thinkpad X61s are well worth snapping up if you get a chance (Schtrade used to have a regular supply for around £60).

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I have put linux on to various PCs and Laptios with few issues (mainly Ubuntu or Debian). The main issues I've had have been with wifi cards and sometimes graphic drivers on cheaper machines, but mainly things have worked well.

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When you say main usage 'Music and Video', do you mean creation or listening/viewing? That will make a large difference to what I would recommend hardware wise. For viewing/listening pretty much anything will do.

Consuming music and video, definitely. I won't be editing HD video or recording studio-quality sound any time soon. So a machine that won't have a problem with a Winamp/XMMS style music player and Firefox with loads of tabs open, YouTube vids, OpenOffice etc. running concurrently.

A dual core proc, 4GB RAM, largeish SATA HDD and reasonable Linux-friendly graphics should be plenty. I quite like simple, minimalist desktops and software so would likely be using XFCE or similar. Don't really need all the modern gubbins like fingerprint readers, touchscreens, widgets and other such crap. I'd rather prioritise a decent keyboard, screen and sound.

Thanks for the replies so far, I'll check out some suggestions.

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I'm posting from a HP Pavilion, running Debian.

Unfortunately the hardware is crap: can't rest the front near the trackpad on anything, or the trackpad goes haywire. But no problems with the software.

Also screen and sound quality are not a patch on Mac hardware.

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I'm running Ubuntu 12.04 64 bit on a five year old Dell Inspiron - Dual "Intel® Core™2 Duo CPU T6400 @ 2.00GHz".

Runs fine, with wi-fi working, however the blue tooth mouse doesn't work, while with Ubuntu 10.04 the blue tooth mouse worked but the wi-fi didn't! Seems impossible to fix, which was the point StainlessSteelCat made earlier.

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Consuming music and video, definitely. I won't be editing HD video or recording studio-quality sound any time soon. So a machine that won't have a problem with a Winamp/XMMS style music player and Firefox with loads of tabs open, YouTube vids, OpenOffice etc. running concurrently.

A dual core proc, 4GB RAM, largeish SATA HDD and reasonable Linux-friendly graphics should be plenty. I quite like simple, minimalist desktops and software so would likely be using XFCE or similar. Don't really need all the modern gubbins like fingerprint readers, touchscreens, widgets and other such crap. I'd rather prioritise a decent keyboard, screen and sound.

Thanks for the replies so far, I'll check out some suggestions.

I find VLC to be the best media player, unless you want to watch TV, then Kaffeine does the job better. Most flavours of Linux come with their own pet media player, for example Amarok, but VLC seems to work across all platforms. I play a lot of music into my headphones, from tracks downloaded from Youtube with the Firefox DownLoadHelper add-on.

I only have one caveat. Support of laptop internal speakers can be a bit patchy - for example my MSI laptop had to be set up as an Acer to get the internal speakers working properly, although it was fine on the jacks. Most popular models have no problem, but who listens to music on a laptop speaker?

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Steer clear of any variant of Ubuntu and Asus Eee PCs. I've tried several Eee PCs and about five different variants/forks of Ubuntu.

Everything works fine for about 10 minutes and then the left mouse button stops working.

....

I've installed the latest stable build of ubuntu linux on 2 laptops, a 5 year old fujitsu and a 2 year old toshiba satellite pro 660. I've had no problems at all. On both machines I put the installation dvd in while they were connected to the net via an ethernet cable plugged into my sky router. It installed easily and found all the right drivers for the monitor and wifi etc. Vastly better than the last time I tried red hat linux 10 years ago, when getting drivers for peripherals was a friggin nightmare. And quicker than getting windows 7 onto the same tosh, and having to prostrate myself before MS to get it validated.

I'd go for it. It's free (unlike the ripoff win 8) and if you can burn an Iso file onto a dvd, pretty easy.

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(Today's) Linux (on the desktop) is sh1t!

Me: former Linux user 1999-2012, Mandrake, Debian, Red Hat, Slackware, Mint, Suse.

Today's Linux distros have nothing of the original simplicity and technical rigour of the '90's. They are bloated, complicated, keen on reinventing the wheel. technically inferior.

Pity that the BSD's have little modern hardware support. I wouldn't use Linux on a server, If I was still in the IT industry. I would definitely use Netbsd of Openbsd.

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(Today's) Linux (on the desktop) is sh1t!

Me: former Linux user 1999-2012, Mandrake, Debian, Red Hat, Slackware, Mint, Suse.

Today's Linux distros have nothing of the original simplicity and technical rigour of the '90's. They are bloated, complicated, keen on reinventing the wheel. technically inferior.

Pity that the BSD's have little modern hardware support. I wouldn't use Linux on a server, If I was still in the IT industry. I would definitely use Netbsd of Openbsd.

Now here is a man who probably who probably recompiles his own kernel! That's not rude BTW! ;)

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Steer clear of any variant of Ubuntu and Asus Eee PCs. I've tried several Eee PCs and about five different variants/forks of Ubuntu.

Whereas we have Ubuntu on an Asus Eee PC and it's flawless. We did have a problem with the mouse buttons stopping working, but it happened when the keyboard started sending false keypresses. It's been fine since we replaced the keyboard.

This for me is the biggest problem with Desktop Linux as it currently stands. If you hit a snag like that - an average user has no hope of fixing it.

Because if they hit a snag like that in Windows, they would be able to fix it? Nope.

The other Linux laptop here has an i5 CPU and Nvidia GPU, and also works flawlessly, but it was made before Nvidia created their GPU-switching technology that really screwed things up. If you buy a cheapie that's all Intel and doesn't have the 'Secure Boot' crap in the BIOS, you should be fine.

Oh, and forget Ubuntu, it was a good distro until it caught a bad case of tablet envy. Use Mint, and install the MATE desktop version so you don't have to use a UI that's designed for touchscreens.

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Most popular models have no problem, but who listens to music on a laptop speaker?

Uh, me? I'm doing that right now.

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Oh, and forget Ubuntu, it was a good distro until it caught a bad case of tablet envy. Use Mint, and install the MATE desktop version so you don't have to use a UI that's designed for touchscreens.

I am posting this from Ubuntu 10.04! I never got on with the later versions! ;)

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Whereas we have Ubuntu on an Asus Eee PC and it's flawless. We did have a problem with the mouse buttons stopping working, but it happened when the keyboard started sending false keypresses. It's been fine since we replaced the keyboard.

Because if they hit a snag like that in Windows, they would be able to fix it? Nope.

While Windows isn't great, the general level of compatibility is a breeze when compared to Linux.

Every time I have tried Linux there has been such a snag to the point of it not being 100% usable. I'm not your average user, spend all day at work connected to a unix terminal at work, but I just don't have the time to be jumping through hoops to do something I can do out of the box or by clicking a link.

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While Windows isn't great, the general level of compatibility is a breeze when compared to Linux.

Every time I have tried Linux there has been such a snag to the point of it not being 100% usable. I'm not your average user, spend all day at work connected to a unix terminal at work, but I just don't have the time to be jumping through hoops to do something I can do out of the box or by clicking a link.

i suspect what holds linux back is that its maintainers and developers (geeks) enjoy "jumping through hoops" to do simple stuff, resulting in a subliminal drive to keep it arcane and exclusive.

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I've been using Suse Linux for over 10 years now, mostly on laptops; my current machine is a Toshiba Satellite L500-1XC. Every now and then I try out another distro, but I've grown very familiar with Suse and have always returned to it. However, I have recently switched desktops form KDE to XFCE after I got fed up with KDE's bloat.

The Suse setup is much slicker nowadays, with no problems recognising my printer/scanner and wireless connection. The laptop is normally used with an external monitor and a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse, also without problems. It also acts as a printer server for other devices in the house.

The machine is set up to dual boot Windows 7 or Suse Linux, though I only ever use the Windows partition for gaming. Most of my work (and Minecrafting!) is done under Linux, but I also run a copy of Windows XP in VirtualBox under Linux for some specialist software that is only available for Windows. This lets me copy and paste between Windows and Linux applications.

Main advantage of Linux: No virus worries or hassles.

Main disadvantage: Some device drivers not as polished as Windows drivers.

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I run the new Ubuntu dist (13.04) on two laptops - one about 4 years old and the other about 2. No problems with any hardware apart from the HP Laserjet where the HPLIP drivers (HP Linux Imaging and Printing) can be a bit fiddly to install.

What, I should give my money to Apple or MS? Ha!

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Whereas we have Ubuntu on an Asus Eee PC and it's flawless. We did have a problem with the mouse buttons stopping working, but it happened when the keyboard started sending false keypresses. It's been fine since we replaced the keyboard.

Lucky you. On mine, keyboard and mouse work fine in Windows and Android - but not Ubuntu.

Because if they hit a snag like that in Windows, they would be able to fix it? Nope.

Actually, there's a better than fair chance that the problem wouldn't occur - and if it did and you Googled it, you find reliable fix (even from the manufacturer). Windows is crap in a lot of ways, but hardware compatibility is often pretty sound.

There was a time when I'd have been happy to tinker all day to get a driver to finally work. Nowadays, I can't be bothered - I'd rather be writing or programming than messing about with that kind of thing.

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While Windows isn't great, the general level of compatibility is a breeze when compared to Linux.

Windows certainly isn't great but I'm not too impressed by compatibility either.

I recently set up two machines. A Linux Mint KDE base system from bits bought off the interwebs. Time to install Linux Mint, about 45 minutes... but 10 days after the install something went wrong and the KDE subsystem got trashed and it took me a morning to diagnose the problem and reinstall. (If I'd known what was wrong I could have fixed it in 15 minutes - so 3h45 was spent on a learning curve). Apart from that it occasionally loses the mouse driver needing said mouse to be unplugged and replugged and the graphics driver (Nvidia) sucks a bit. Linux will still crash running XP in VirtualBox, haven't found the problem.

I moved a Ubuntu machine to Windows 7 as I needed a test system and had a license. 1.5 days to install. Totally impossible to install off the CD, it seemed to be in perfect condition but I kept getting windows errors and the install crashing. Searched google, this seems to be a common problem, some people said it was related to memory and that Windows 7 is very fussy about the install. Replaced all the memory but still problems. Copied the install CD to a USB key but because my PC won't boot a USB image had to boot from CD then switch to the USB key to get it to install. Various device drivers missing so had to either get these from the Windows update or download them. This on hardware that Ubuntu had 100% recognized out of the box. I then put back in original memory which may have been causing problems and Windows ran fine. A few days after the install nightmare I had to validate the license by phone which took about 45 minutes in the end. Other than that Windows 7 has been running fine, more or less, apart from some updates blocking during download. I don't have a very good impression of their install process though. Much flakier than with XP.

The big issue for Linux is a bewildering array of choice for end users. Windows tries to muddy the waters with Home edition, Home Premium etc etc but at the end of the day you are getting good old shitty Windows that everyone knows and hates. With Linux there are hundreds of permutations to chose from.

Back to the original question. I used to run Ubuntu 10 on my Dell core i5. Considering the i5 is a good processor the laptop was as slow as crap, I don't know if this was the case with Windows as I never tried it. Main issue was Ubuntu freezing at times as it was trying to access something over the Web and my firm's connectivity was flaky. Also at some point the file manager crapped out and would never run again without SigSegV. I eventually installed Mint as I was unable to fix the problem.

So both Windows and Linux are a bit of a mixed bag on the desktop. A bit too much fratricide in the Linux domain to produce a really good desktop OS. I have some servers running Linux though and some have uptimes in the 4 year area they are that stable.

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Lucky you. On mine, keyboard and mouse work fine in Windows and Android - but not Ubuntu.

Actually, there's a better than fair chance that the problem wouldn't occur - and if it did and you Googled it, you find reliable fix (even from the manufacturer). Windows is crap in a lot of ways, but hardware compatibility is often pretty sound.

There was a time when I'd have been happy to tinker all day to get a driver to finally work. Nowadays, I can't be bothered - I'd rather be writing or programming than messing about with that kind of thing.

At least sorting the drivers, if necessary, is a one-off problem with a new bit of hardware. Viruses (and virus checkers!), on the other hand, seem to be a never-ending cause of frustration and expense on Windows machines.

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At least sorting the drivers, if necessary, is a one-off problem with a new bit of hardware. Viruses (and virus checkers!), on the other hand, seem to be a never-ending cause of frustration and expense on Windows machines.

I don't know if you surf somewhere I don't, but I find the prevalence of viruses to be one of the biggest urban myths in the history of computing. I don't think I've ever had one and I don't go that far out of my way to avoid them.

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