{August 20, 2008}   dear lazyweb

so I guess I really do need to buy a new computer now. and on short notice, too; school starts in a couple of weeks, and I’m not sure what it would be like to not have a computer at school, but I’m pretty sure it would be a PITA, especially with half the classes having the homework online.

I was looking at a toshiba… something. the model number was in one of my notepads. u400 maybe? anyways, I want something relatively small and light, but not as small as the eee. maybe just a little bigger than my old asus m5n. obviously it has to have good linux support; intel drivers preferable. I don’t need the ability to play flashy games, but I need enough power to compile stuff, and I want kwin’s shiny compositing. having a screen that’s not completely unreadable in daylight would be nice, suspend-to-disk should work, volume/brightness/etc keys should work in linux… so, any suggestions?

I guess I’ll have to pick a distro for it, too. I’m leaning towards trying debian again; rpms continue to frustrate me, I’m tired of kubuntu, and I don’t have time for gentoo.

I’d suggest HP’s business line of notebooks. They’re pretty fast and well supported by modern distros if you pay attention to the hardware. I have this one
(roughly at least), it’s a great laptop and pretty easy to get a cheaper one just by getting one with a lower resolution screen (I splurged for the high resolution). Running Kubuntu 8.04 on it and it works great.

Tom says:


here in germany you can buy used X Series IBM business notebooks for few hundred bucks. They are way faster than the new Atom based netbooks and a little bit bigger (12.1 inch). They have great screens, a handy trackpoint and awesome keyboards.

Disto-wise I can recommend Sidux. It is a “stablized” Debian Sid. They have their own update tool that warns in case something is broken. Works like a charme. You can run it forever and you will get rid of all the 6-monthly update pains.

I hope that helps ..

Mathias Kraus says:

how about the dell vostron. seems pretty good for the price.

Med says:

I have a Dell Latitude D630, everything works fine with linux and i could not be more happy (except i had to get a nvidia card but that was because i got it from university and i could not choose). They have just renewed the series, so there is the risk that it is too new though.

wadejolson says:

Asking about hardware options and distro options. Chani is set to break the record for the number of comments to a blog entry.

Hint: Next time you might want to mention emacs.

okso says:

Maybe you should try Arch. if you feel that your learning curve is steady.

Barry says:

I recommend Dell, as you can get all-Intel parts. Kde4.1 works fine on my D620 and my X300 laptops, using the packages from Debian experimental. You can even upgrade the bios in linux if you install libsmbios-bin.

I recommend the small-business line because the customer support and warranty are better. Always get the extended coverage, and you can get your laptop replaced with a new one if you destroy it at the right time.

Sune says:

Debian is always a wise choice (said one of the debian kde packagers)

for kwin special effects, you do not need too much power, just a proper graphics card. My Eee 7xx series at least works nicely with the effects.

Jos says:

Dell Inspiron 910 will ship with Ubuntu. Screen is 8.9″ though.

Volta says:

I consider to by a Dell XPS in the 13″ variant (from $699-1500 or so). They get rather good critics, seem to have a long battery life (9 cell battery at least), good performance (low noise), well and appealing designed case and what not else. Moreover they are known to run Debian, Ubuntu, … . perfectly (seems all drivers are supported).

it-s says:

What’s there to think about? HP + SuSE = happy user. They use all the standard hardware and everything is supported out of the box. Look for Pavilion dv2xxx models. they are small enough.

Hub says:

I’m all for ThinkPads. I have a X60 and I love it. Today it would be X61. Full-Intel chipset, suspend/resume, wifi, etc. And light.

For the distro, well I have to say openSUSE 11.0

Zypper in OpenSUSE 11 is good stuff.

I guess since your a Plasma dev (so, shortly a kdelibs dev) the fact that you can easily install KDE 4.1 isn’t as much as a plus as for an application dev like me. But the OpenSUSE Build Service and one-click-install feature makes being a power-user on OpenSUSE quite easy. (eg I could install Qt 4.4.1 about two days after it was released).

lp says:

What’s so frustrating with rpms?

Those that are in openSUSE 11.0 are faster to install than debs because they use lzma compression.

But I don’t think there are a big difference anyway. The biggest difference comes with the “repository-aware” package manager, e.g. yum, zypper, smart, apt-rpm, and urpmi.

Alex says:

Here’s my summary on chosing a notebook without Windows:

So, Dell 13 inch XPS might be a candidate. Comes with Ubuntu.


I would second the suggestion of going for a HP Compaq laptop – with reservations. I have a nc2400 which is a nice machine, but I’ve had a few issues with things breaking (battery misreports power time remaining even when recalibrated, power supply died). Still, by and large it is a pleasure to use, and Kubuntu works well on it.

I’d suggest Arch as a possible distro to consider.

It’s not so labour intensive as Gentoo (no compiling anything that is in the core repositories, no wondering why the compiling won’t work), but gives a hell of a lot of control. It expects you to be willing to dive into the configuration yourself, which you may or may not consider a drawback (I don’t). It doesn’t try to do arcane magic (packages are as close to vanilla as possible), and rolling your own packages (such as your own kernel) is a breeze, and sharing them is as easy as posting them at Building and installing the shared packages is a doddle with yaourt (although you’ll need to do a little bit of fiddling to install that in the first place).

They have rolling updates, which means no sudden updates that break everything, and you’re close to the edge of software without bleeding (unless you insist on using the [testing] repository). Which is handy with developing KDE, since a lot of the packages are already available in the right versions. And most of the prerequisites are in the main repositories, since KDE 4.1 is.

Alex says:

I have an HP dv2500t that works quite nicely with Kubuntu (and so presumably Debian). The downside is that it was infected with Windows Vista when it arrived. Plus, it has a BIOS whitelist for mini-PCI cards, so I can’t freely swap out the wireless chipset. A Dell with Ubuntu preinstalled would probably be the safest option. I have a friend who has an XPS M1330, which seems like a pretty nice machine.

Michael "NO!" Howell says:

I’m using a Gateway, which I don’t really recommend. Everything works (ATI graphics, intel everything else) except for the optical disk drive (put a disk in and after a while the whole system freezes up. Weird.)

Dani says:

I recommend the Outlet store at You can get new notebooks for good prices, because they sell things like just discontinued models. I got my last notebook from there.

I love the Trackpoint on Thinkpads. I think it’s great for touch typists, the mouse pointer is right in the middle of where you type.

I run OpenSUSE 11.0 on my Thinkpad.

Thomas Georgiou says:

Thinkpads are awesome.
They even have linux certification on most of their laptops (not yet on the brand new ones).
The X series is small and you should be able to get the old x61 cheap or the new x200 comes with a led backlit bright screen.

Since you were asking for Toshiba: I’m typing this from a Toshiba Satelite Pro. Intel gfx, suspend-to-disk aka hibernate works as do the other stuff you mentioned. It’s not powerful enough for wobbly windows, but other than that it is fine. Don’t know about daylight, I live in Denmark ;)

Running Debian. Brghtness keys does not work, though I’m sure they would in Kubuntu.

Manuel Schmid says:

As some people already have written, I’d recommend a Thinkpad, as they are top quality, the trackpoint is nice, Linux support is good and you can even get used ones for a really good price. I have a T41 and it runs KDE 4.1 with composite enabled. Suspend/resume seems to work as well, but I don’t use it often.

T. J. Brumfield says:

Let me second the recommendations for an HP laptop, and openSUSE 11.

I recommend the macbook. Seriously. That plus Ubuntu + self compiled kde. Or Arch, although I’m not sure of the status of mac support in Arch…

Chani says:

I read up on the thinkpad x61… I’m not so sure about it. sounds quite powerful and linux-friendly, but there are reports of the screen not being very good, the “full-size keyboard” is actually a bad thing for me because I have small hands, and I find it hard to believe that little nipple is actually a usable mouse replacement. besides, I just find those laptops… ugly. very ugly.

I haven’t read much on any others yet, though.

Chani says:

I’ve decided I want a 13.3″ screen; the 12.1″ on my old laptop was a bit cramped, but I don’t want something huge that won’t fit in any of my backpacks. that should narrow down my choices a bit.

I’ve found two laptops that look okay so far: and looks interesting too, except that it has half the processor power and a much smaller hard drive. and I’m not sure if those SSD drives are a good or bad thing; lack of moving parts is nice, but how long will they last?

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