Laptops for Linux!

At the time of this writing, the two Linux-specific laptop providers are LinuxLaptops and ASL Workstations.
File System Notes

Each laptop partitioned its drive differently, and the Attache even includes a tiny DOS partition for the emulator, but included neither the correct file-system module for the new kernel nor an entry in fstab or mtab. I think both laptops have a slightly odd partition setup, with too much swap (256MB on the Attache, 128MB on the AS-LT300). Table 3 is a short file-system table so you can see how they're set up for Linux, a bit systematic for what is presumably a single-user system.

Table 3. Laptop File Systems

 

File System

1024-blocks

Used

Available

Capacity

Mounted on

/dev/hda2

204945

50155

144206

26%

/

/dev/hda6

1492311

436562

978639

31%

/usr

/dev/hda8

2901830

5228

2746538

0%

/home

/dev/hda9

965801

13

915894

0%

/other

      

File System

1024-blocks

Used

Available

Capacity

Mounted on

/dev/hda2

161027

75501

77210

49%

/

/dev/hda3

1565171

1228067

256212

83%

/usr

/dev/hda5

4054179

64890

3779501

2%

/home

/dev/hda6

117087

13

111028

0%

/tmp

Linux Specialty

It is difficult to put together a top-quality laptop for Linux. There are too many peculiarities and quirks of the hardware, and drivers are hard to come by. The best anyone can hope for in the near future is that everything will work after a bit of fixing. I would expect LinuxLaptops to lead the way, with ASL and the others adopting those ideas which turn out well. We don't have Linux-specific laptop factories, and we don't have perfect support for all the hardware. Laptops for Linux are coming, and hopefully some day they will be as completely functional as desktop boxes. Right now, they lack audio and some video support (svgalib, for example). These laptops do have PCMCIA slots, infrared ports, disk and CD-ROM (optional DVD) drives, and some potential for expansion. Check the web sites for the full technical details.

Now that players have entered the Linux laptop market, we're going to see quality go up and price go down, though there are many options to buying a Linux laptop. If you need just a portable machine with little computing power, you could get an inexpensive or used laptop and install Linux. If you want the flat screen monitor, you could buy one (I think they are worth the reduced eye strain and radiation); Xi Graphics already has some drivers available. If you want a small computer, pair your flat panel display with a NetWinder and Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite. If you need a laptop but don't like either of these, you could try one of LinuxLaptops' other models (the Paquet looks exceedingly cute). Also, you could wait until we move on to 64-bit RISC technology (one x86 is enough, eh?). If you are buying only one computer, and you live in an apartment which you'd like to look nice (i.e., no ugly CRTs), or if you travel and need your computer, these laptops have much to offer. The choice between our review subjects should be easy. By now, you must know if you're a Red Hat (AS-LT300) person or a Debian (Attache) person, although realistically, LinuxLaptops has made a more highly tuned machine for the price. Either way, how can you go wrong putting Linux on a computer, especially one as cool as a laptop?

Jason Kroll (hyena@ssc.com) is Technical Editor of Linux Journal; he gets a new bio and photo each month. He likes animals, though sometimes cats remind him of misfiring computer programs.

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