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Old 21st October 2008
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Default *BSD Laptops

Hello,

Still looking around at various laptops to see if one is viable for me. I looked at various alternate architectures, but I could find one that was affordable (i.e., SPARC Tadpole) or that wasn't a teensy netbook. So looking back at normal x86 consumer laptops.

Which x86 processor do you think is best currently - Intel, AMD, VIA? Any particular series or model?


What I am looking for is a laptop that is sturdy and rugged - both physically and in system stability. I will not be using this for multimedia purposes (aside from the occasional mp3 or ogg file or stream) so I don't need it tailored for dvd video playback or audio editing, etc. Don't want a webcam or microphone. I do want it to be able to crunch numbers and compile programs like nobodies business. If possible, non-widescreen. And I'd like it to be under $500 (I can upgrade to more RAM, better HD, etc. later on). Any suggestions?

I have heard that Thinkpads (currently owned by Lenovo) are rugged *nix machines. Anyone have any experience with them?
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Old 21st October 2008
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I've been rather fond of AMD processors for quite awhile now. All of the desktops which I am currently using have some some Athlon variant in them, and I've never had any real problems as far as they're concerned.

I don't have a laptop right now, so I can't be certain about which ones are currently good. I have heard a few good things about HP, so that might be worth checking out (I have seen a few good-looking machines for around $500). A friend of mine also raves about his Acer, although I am not sure about their BSD-friendliness.
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Old 21st October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMJ_coder View Post
Which x86 processor do you think is best currently - Intel, AMD, VIA? Any particular series or model?
AMD CPU are great and very well designed, but not for notebooks. For notebooks use Intel t8xxx(3M L2 cache) / t9xxx(6M L2 cache) / p7xxx(3M L2 cache) / p8xxx(3M L2 cache). They are all at 45nm so they use less power, especially at idle, but if you get cheap laptop woth t7xxx series then take it.

If you want battery life (and open source drivers for all OS there), then also get X3100 Intel GMA, if you want horsepower, then get some nVidia or Mobile Radeon.

If you do not like widescreen, then you should be able to get a T60/T61 or R60/R60 Thinkpad with non widescreen, but IMHO widescreen is a lot more comfortable (16:10), especially if you add a big resolution to it 1440x900(14") or 1680x1050(15") / 1920x1080(15").

If ou want good laptop, then go for Dell or IBM/Lenovo I would not look at others.

From Dell get D630(14") (I have one and would not change it for anything) or D830(15").

My exact specs are
Dell D630
Intel T7300
Intel X3100 GMA
2 x 1GB RAM
7200RPM HDD
1440x900(14") anti glare
DVD-RW
8+ hours of battery life with 9-cell + 6-cell MultiBay (or ModularBay)

It runs these OSes without any problems with hardware accelration for 3D:
FreeBSD
NetBSD
Mac OS X
OpenSolaris
Linux
... even Xen has drivers for X3100
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Old 21st October 2008
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Hmm... I remember going for a $500 laptop once, my sister wound up paying $750 + I paid $100 in restocking frees for another $650 laptop, in order to get FreeBSD working. There are some systems that are cheap in the $500 range, but as with any system -> try to make sure you will get working hardware. Heck, one buddy got a (high spec) vista machine for about $450 and couldn't even get XP running on it.


If you find a model you're going to by, check the hardware compatibility lists for it and then hit google -> make sure it's no paper weight before you buy. Do likewise with any important hardware you're not prepared to replace or live without (sound, networking, basic fn key combos).


For processors, it shouldn't really matter that much. Depending on /age/ of the laptop, you're basically looking at Pentium M, Core, Core 2, Celeron, Mobile Sempron, Mobile Athlon64, or Turion64. I'd an suggest Intel Core 2 chip where possible, but I doubt you would be disapointed with a (good model of) Turion 64 from AMD. And do not shop by clock rate alone.


Via, I can't speak for their processors, having never used them on PCs period, let along notebooks.
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Old 21st October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden View Post
If ou want good laptop, then go for Dell or IBM/Lenovo I would not look at others.
Wow, Dell! I've never worked with their laptops, but the desktops of their that I've worked with are so doggedly slow, it is ridiculous. I just assumed that their laptops are the same way.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMJ_coder View Post
Wow, Dell! I've never worked with their laptops, but the desktops of their that I've worked with are so doggedly slow, it is ridiculous. I just assumed that their laptops are the same way.
Heh, I have never used their desktops, but I have used 3 of their laptops, listed here:
http://daemonforums.org/showthread.php?t=1881

Performance was that as it shoud be according to the installed hardware (which means good), both Windows and FreeBSD run good there.

About these Dell desktops you run, what OS they were running, a Dell preinstalled Windows?
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Old 21st October 2008
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Quote:
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About these Dell desktops you run, what OS they were running, a Dell preinstalled Windows?
The first time I used a Dell, it was one I bought for my grandmother. She just needed internet/email and her Hoyle games - so I bought a relatively low-end Dell (I don't think I went as low as a Celeron, but I can't remember). When it came, it was soooo slooooow. I tried to lose some of the excess baggage, but it still was slow. When it booted up, you could go for coffee, catch a matinee, and still make it home in time to see everything finish up.

At my work, it is a Dell environment (at least the workstations). We have numerous labs and offices with various Dell setups. They are all slow (even the suped up multimedia lab machines). They all run XP. Usually, they perform adequately, but any sort of load chokes it down instantly. The worse is when you go to a machine you haven't been on before - it goes to create your user profile on the machine (all this via zenworks). This process of all the settings takes a good 5-10 minutes to complete.
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When it came, it was soooo slooooow. I tried to lose some of the excess baggage, but it still was slow. When it booted up, you could go for coffee, catch a matinee, and still make it home in time to see everything finish up.
That depends only on the hardware that it had, not on the brand, it could be named IBM, Dell or even Ferrari, but its only about hardware.

The other case is bloated preinstalled Windows with many apps started by default, but that can be very easy fixed with reinstall, as always with Windows.

Also as you use Windows it slows down because of all shit being installed and added, DLLs services and so.

The only workable sollution for that is using this trio:
GoBack (or similar)
Sandboxie (does most work)
Trust-no-EXE
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Old 21st October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden View Post
That depends only on the hardware that it had, not on the brand, it could be named IBM, Dell or even Ferrari, but its only about hardware.

The other case is bloated preinstalled Windows with many apps started by default, but that can be very easy fixed with reinstall, as always with Windows.

Also as you use Windows it slows down because of all shit being installed and added, DLLs services and so.

The only workable sollution for that is using this trio:
GoBack (or similar)
Sandboxie (does most work)
Trust-no-EXE
I know that this is going to sound subjective (and it probably is) but Dells just feel slower to me.

As for preinstalled software, at work we ghost the machines periodically, so any added on software is managed. We use Symantec's Ghost for this.
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Old 21st October 2008
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Does anyone have any experience with the Lenovo Thinkpad T61? I've heard it is a good machine.
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Old 22nd October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMJ_coder View Post
I know that this is going to sound subjective (and it probably is) but Dells just feel slower to me.

As for preinstalled software, at work we ghost the machines periodically, so any added on software is managed. We use Symantec's Ghost for this.
Ghost is like GoBack, but GoBack is more automated, you can have clean system after every reboot, but for manual "goback" its stil very good tool.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JMJ_coder View Post
Does anyone have any experience with the Lenovo Thinkpad T61? I've heard it is a good machine.
Yes, they are good machines.

I would also suggest checking reviews from here:
http://www.notebookreview.com/
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Old 22nd October 2008
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Ghost is like GoBack, but GoBack is more automated, you can have clean system after every reboot, but for manual "goback" its stil very good tool.
Well, since I am in no position to suggest software policy, I guess I'm stuck with Ghost.
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Old 24th October 2008
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So I just bought a new laptop. A Lenovo T61!

I am spending so much time at the University, that I needed a computer that I can take with me so I have more than an hour or two to work on my assignments when I get home.

Specs:

Intel T9300 processor (2.5 GHz; 6MB L2 cache; 800 MHz FSB)
4 GB PC-5300 667 MHz RAM (2 DIMM)
160 GB 7200 RPM HD
DVD 8x Recordable Slimdrive
15.4" WXGA TFT
Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG
Intel GMA X3100 GM965 Graphics
9 Cell Li-Ion Battery


It is coming with SUSE Enterprise Desktop 10, which I may toy around with for half a day (though, I do hope they ship me the discs), but I'll be putting NetBSD on it.
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Old 24th October 2008
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Good choice mate.
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Old 24th October 2008
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Good choice mate.
I ended up buying it from their outlet store, because it appears they just dropped offering the X3100 integrated graphics in the T61 (though it's still offered in the T400 & T500) - the only option now is the discrete nVidia video card.
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I ended up buying it from their outlet store, because it appears they just dropped offering the X3100 integrated graphics in the T61 (though it's still offered in the T400 & T500) - the only option now is the discrete nVidia video card.
T400/T500/R400/R500 offer X4500 intel GMA, not X3100, its a lot better and uses even less power, but it will be supported on FreeBSD at about year or so propably, while X3100 support is avialable evenrywhere.
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Old 24th October 2008
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The Fujitsu Lifebooks utilize very tried and true chip sets for everything -- sata, video, LAN, WAN, et cetera. I've had very good success with them as non-Windows, i.e. *BSD, O/S hardware targets.

/S
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Old 25th October 2008
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The Fujitsu Lifebooks utilize very tried and true chip sets for everything -- sata, video, LAN, WAN, et cetera. I've had very good success with them as non-Windows, i.e. *BSD, O/S hardware targets.
That tells exacly ... nothing mate.

Tell what chipsets, what NICs, WiFis, models, manufacturers, Jujitsu models and so.
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Old 1st November 2008
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So my laptop finally came. I am slowly making my way through configuring it and trying to get everything working. Much to my delight, many things "just work" in a way that is pleasing to me.

For instance, the touchpad/trackpoint/wireless_usb_notebook_mouse automatically are recognized and function properly. And I was easily able to disable the touchpad via the BIOS and the trackpoint and wireless mouse still work as expected. The reason I disabled the touchpad is because when I type, my palms have a tendency to move the cursor via the touchpad - and I don't like using it anyway. But the trackpoint is a nice feature, so it stays. And the wireless mouse is instantly and automatically recognized when I plug and unplug it. And I'm using /dev/wsmouse.


One thing that has been a bear is configuring X. I first tried just plain XFree86 that ships with NetBSD. That didn't work - and I can't blame it, the 'intel' driver is too new to have been compiled for it. So, I installed modular X.org. Everything compiled smoothly, but when I tried to startx, nothing. The two main errors I received was that the glx module didn't exist and that agpgart wasn't configured (or didn't exist - I can't remember). I fought with it for about two days. Many people mentioned a similar problem, but their solutions didn't work for me. So, I finally went back to plain old XFree86, used the 'vesa' driver - and all is peachy. I really don't need 3D acceleration, so a basic driver will work. The only reason I have X installed is to use programs like Firefox, OpenOffice, GIMP, and maybe watch a DVD.

- speaking of graphical needs, does anyone know if NetBSD ships with an image viewer? I thought that X would come with xv, but it's not there. -


There is still a bit to configure - installing programs, getting wireless setup, possibly mapping the special function keys (does any know where I can find the key event codes for those special keys?), etc. I'll keep you guys updated and give a full review at the end.



The only thing that I don't like about this computer so far is the placement of the F1 and the Function keys. F1 interferes with Escape and Function interferes with left-Control. I guess my fingers will adapt, and I may switch the Caps Lock and Escape if I can figure how to do it in the console (I can do it in X), but it is an inconvenience.
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Old 1st November 2008
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Quote:
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The reason I disabled the touchpad is because when I type, my palms have a tendency to move the cursor via the touchpad - and I don't like using it anyway.
I know what you mean... First time I started working with a laptop, I'd be typing in vim or mozilla and my cursor would randomly 'jump' to another position in the text. It's 'push to click' feature would trick a click from my thumbs gliding over it, before my hands got "trained" to my laptops keyboard -- it really made for very aggravating coding sessions!

But I've found learning to use the touchpad better then variable rat-surfaces. A laptop can take a bit of time to get used to, either a new one, or a first one.
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