Laptops for Linux!
laptop n: a computer in graceful, self-contained form. Laptops are small, wireless, resource-minimal and portable. You can take them wherever you go and hide them when not in use—no ugly computer to occupy space. The LCD flat screen displays are clearer and cleaner than cathode ray tube monitors (with less brain-wave-zeroing effect), and the keyboards are small and quiet. Even without portability, laptops have many advantages over desktop machines.
Laptops also have their shortcomings, the most obvious of which is price. Laptops are very expensive and difficult to repair or upgrade, although it can be done. They also offer inferior performance compared to desktop machines, specifically in disk access, processor speed and hardware support. Hard disks on laptops spin slowly and are loathe to accelerate or decelerate; hence, disk operations can be very slow, especially random accesses. Take a look at the Bonnie benchmarks (see Table 2) to see just how slow. Processors are also slower and more expensive. One reason is laptops have relatively poor ventilation (making them quiet), so if you have too many megahertz/gates/volts on the chip/CPU, it will get too hot. (Notice the popularity of StrongARM processors in machines without powerful fans, for example the NetWinder and Empeg.) Also, laptop processors are physically different from standard processors because they must be small and low-profile, although smaller chips require less voltage so they don't generate as much heat.
Entirely free software
Superb console mode
Highly tuned, fast
14.1" LCD screen is clear, flicker-free
GNOME/Enlightment is a tad slow, sometimes problematic
Too much swap
Missing some software
At the time of this writing, the two Linux-specific laptop providers are LinuxLaptops and ASL Workstations. LinuxLaptops is a specialty shop run by Nathan Myers, which deals exclusively in laptops for Linux and has three models at the moment. It is highly focused on optimization and tuning, working within the interesting limitations of laptop hardware, to maximize Linux performance. ASL Workstations, on the other hand, is a successful Linux workstation builder which provides many excellent workstations and makes its AS-LT300 laptop as a logical component in a complete product line of high-powered, server-oriented machines. Penguin Computing is also developing a laptop, but it is still in beta and was not available for review. VA Linux Systems, the best-known Linux machine maker, has discontinued laptops for the time being.
Since only enormous firms have their own laptop factories, laptop providers for Linux buy standard laptops and configure them for Linux. Incidentally, the AS-LT300 and Attache are both ChemBook 7400s. Internally, they have slightly different configurations, but the most significant difference is between their respective Linux setups. Table 1 shows the more relevant features of the laptops sent to LJ, but keep in mind that you have much flexibility in configuration if you order a laptop for yourself.
Pentium II 333 MHz
Pentium II 366MHz
32K / 256K
32K / 256K
6.4GB Ultra DMA/33
6.4GB Ultra DMA/33
Debian GNU/Linux 2.1
Red Hat 6.0
Accelerated X-Server 5.0
KDE or GNOME
ATI 3D Rage Pro LT 4MB
ATI 3D Rage Pro LT 8MB
Open Sound System
2.2.11 / 715K
2.2.12 / 636K
- Papa's Got a Brand New NAS
- Applied Expert Systems, Inc.'s CleverView for TCP/IP on Linux
- Panther MPC, Inc.'s Panther Alpha
- Simplenote, Simply Awesome!
- GENIVI Alliance's GENIVI Vehicle Simulator
- The Tiny Internet Project, Part III
- Rogue Wave Software's TotalView for HPC and CodeDynamics
- NethServer: Linux without All That Linux Stuff
- Jetico's BestCrypt Container Encryption for Linux
- Sometimes My Office Goes with Me