Linux on the laptop: present, future, and suggestions?

(Note to the moderators: I leave this topic uncategorized cause the last topic I wrote and put under “Bad Voltage Topic Suggestion” was savagely removed by a stressed @jonobacon)

TL;DR:

  1. The Bad Voltage team could talk about the status of Linux on the laptop in 2014: Easy to install? Easy to use? Still big flaws or issues?
  2. I want to buy a good laptop that works fine on Ubuntu Linux. Any recommendation?

Long version:

So right now, it looks like installing Linux on a server is a piece of cake, and installing a recent distro on a desktop works more or less like a charm. What about the laptop?

Two years ago, I wanted to get a new laptop, since my previous one was getting really old and nothing could be done to speed it up.
I wanted something nice that I could hack a bit, use to process my photos and play some games. I also wanted this piece of hardware to last for a bunch of years, and I was ready to pay the price.
I spent months looking for the perfect laptop, but two years ago, in Taiwan, there was nothing for me: it was either super cheap and crappy hardware, either totally Linux-incompatible hardware (I’m looking at you, nvidia opti-fucking-mus!).
I discussed with many people, and the conclusion was: get a MacBook Pro!

I was pretty reluctent (APPLE!?), but after some time, it looked like the only real option available close to me (there was an HP that looked very promising, but it ended up showing super late in Taiwan, and it was even more expensive than a MacBook Pro!). I would have a chance to try Mac OSX, and after all, Mac OSX being an UNIX-based system, installing Ubuntu Linux on it wouldn’t be so hard.

And here I am, 2 years after, selling the laptop. It’s impossible to install any distro on this machine unless you spend an amazing effort bypassing all the issues and living with a semi-working environment. As for Mac OSX, well… not my cup of tea. At all.

So I’m looking for a new laptop, and I would like to know what’s the status of Linux on this kind of machine in 2014.
Do we have laptop running smoothly on easy distros like Ubuntu with basic things like a good battery life (so good support of ACPI and sleep mode, opti-fucking-mus, etc.), supporting UEFI, HDMI output, WiFi…? Or is it still a pain in the ass, spending weeks to configure a workaround to support some features?

Any brand or model name you would recommend, knowing that I’m based in Taiwan, so models available in Europe or in the US may not exist, or might be slightly more expensive (and, cruel irony, Taiwanese brands like Acer or Asus are usually more expensive than in France for instance…)?

Thanks in advance for your help!

To be fair, I accidentally deleted a post. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

I’ve got a really crappy laptop that’s about 5 years old. This is it - PB TJ65.
I had to replace the battery as the one it came with ony lasted a year or so. I replaced it with the biggest replacement battery I could find so it sticks out the bottom but it’s fine. I started dual booting with Linux Mint and Windows and I may have had Ubuntu installed on it at one time (can’t remember).

I recently got a job programming .NET stuff so I installed Visual Studio, MSSQL, etc. on it. It completely ground to a halt. I got a new computer through work to do the Windows stuff and I put Linux Mint 16 back on my personal laptop. It works like a dream. Even with all the visual effects, the laptop does completely fine. I had to turn all those things off on Windows to try to make it work.

My battery lasts about 4 hours in Windows and about 5 hours in Linux. I wouldn’t hesitate to install Linux on a laptop. I don’t have any experience with the touch screen type stuff so you may want to consider that aspect as well.

System 76 comes with Ubuntu pre-installed. All the equipment is spec’d just for Linux machines. https://www.system76.com/

1 Like

Ahah :slight_smile: Thanks for the tip, but actually in the first version of my message, I was talking about System76. It’s a great choice if you live in the US, and that’s about it. I asked them if it was possible to ship it in Taiwan, and basically it would cost me more than a sapphire-encrusted retina MacBook Pro… :wink:

I’m going back to Europe in late June, maybe I should wait and see what options are available there… although I’m not sure System76 would deliver there either (unless you pay a high price for it).

Yeaaaaah righhhhht!

:wink:

Sorry that I led you astray. Dell also has the XPS Dev Edition that comes pre-loaded w/ Ubuntu. I’m not sure on Dell’s shipping practices but seeing they are a bigger company maybe they can ship your way. Good Luck and Good Hunting :smiley:

No worries mate!

Yes, Dell has nice machines, I’ve been looking at them recently… Plus, they have shops here. The Ubuntu edition does not exist in Taiwan, but I think I can discuss in the shop to get the Windows version removed. It takes time with my broken Chinese, but I managed to get Windows license costs removed from my first laptop, back in 2006 :smile:

I run Arch on my Eee, Suse on my HP and Mint XFCE on my Vaio UK. The first two are fine and the only problem I have with the UX is all the camera stuff. They all run much better than they did with Windows.

What about Clevo http://www.clevo.com.tw/?
They are the master of linux laptop. Basically Clevo=System76=Sager, it’s just a matter of reference.

System76 is well known in north america and so google is full of information about it.

In France (thanks for bearing with my accent) it’s Clevo which is well known. There is a good online shop for it with a dedicated section to Linux Laptop: http://www.clevo.fr/shop/portables-clevo/portables-pour-linux.html. I still have mine from there since years. They even managed to find me a QWERTY replacement keyboard when I moved in Canada.
It doesn’t seem to have an english version though you might just have a look to figure out clevo’s cross reference.

I’m sure you’ll find clevo’s information and shop around you.

The XPS 13 Developer Edition is stunning: http://www.ubuntu.com/partners/dell/dellxps

The current edition is 4th Intel Generation with HD4400 and touch screen.

it’s replacing my good old Clevo which still work flawlessly (is for sale), I just felt like something more sexy to catch more girls :wink:

Clevo is a Taiwanese company. However, I didn’t find any option to buy their laptops in Taiwan… I will go to the computer market sometimes next week, but I think I won’t find anything.

The Dell laptops look really nice. Of course, the XPS you mention cannot be bought in Taiwan, but I found another laptop that looks pretty nice… Price in France: 899 EUR. Price in Taiwan: 1060 EUR. What. The. Fuck!!!

One could think it’s because Dell is an imported brand, etc. But no! Asus and Acer laptops are usually the same price that in France… Just for the record, Taiwan’s base salary is something around 550 EUR per month, twice less as in France, yet all the electronic devices are more expensive than in France… Ah, a last thing: VTA in Taiwan is around 5% (whereas in France it’s more than 20% now, right?).

So… I guess I’ll have to wait until my next trip to good ol’ Europe to get a laptop! :’(

Wow that’s weird!
I definitely hate those kind of stupid business rules.
So I guess you can also ask someone to buy for you and to mail it to you.

I’ve bought used few year old thinkpads and been very happy with them. For example my T410 works out of the box with Arch. I haven’t tried Ubuntu yet though, but I guess it’ll work fine. If you want new machine they will cost, but at least in Finland T410 is relatively cheap at the moment and even T420 can be found quite cheaply.

I have an 5 year old hp which works fine although battery isn’t as long as it used to be. Although it has bad broadcom wireless which I could get working had ot plug in and the open source b43 doesn’t see the 5ghz spectrum or use the STA driver. Still works well enough.

@ianorlin I have an HP Pavilion g6 w/ i3-2350M and 8GB RAM It is a great machine and it is my daily driver. Now I would love to get a System 76 Ultra Pro but if it ain’t broke dont fix it.

Yeah, the Lenovo laptops look really cool.
I will check what are the options and prices here in Taipei. The T540 looks great on paper, but has pretty bad reviews on lenovo.com website itself, so I’m not sure.

Thank you all for your replies by the way!

I’ve been staring at laptop specs for a while now, and I think more or less all the brands should be OK, except for one thing: graphic cards.

It looks like I have two options: buying an ultrabook with an Intel HD graphical chip (either series 4000 or 5000), or going crazy with Nvidia’s optimus.

The situation with Optimus does’t look really clear: Nvidia provides initial support, and there are tools (Bumblebee and Primus, for instance), that allow using the Nvidia GPU… so I guess it’s just a matter of time before getting a real nice support for this kind of graphic card? So I guess I should be able to buy anything, no matter if it has Nvidia in it or not?

I will go to the computer market tomorrow anyway, and see what are my options :slight_smile:

People have given lots of advice here. I’d only add one thing: buy a machine with Ubuntu on it. Don’t buy some other machine and then try to put Ubuntu on it. Manufacturers will never, ever, ever change to make all their machines better for us if we continue to take all the stress of doing that on ourselves. Buying a machine with Ubuntu on it will limit your market quite a bit, I admit, but then the same thing applies to OS X. I’ve certainly heard good stuff about the Dell Sputnik (although I have a desktop machine now, as you’ll have heard in the most recent episode). Dell also have a few hundred Ubuntu shops in China and India. http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/desktop/ lists machines certified by Canonical for Ubuntu, which means they’ll all work.

That pretty heavily assumes that increased use of Linux is something you specifically want to get out of your laptop, and that you value this higher than you do some other feature that’s not supported by anyone shipping Linux (like, for example, my fondness for nipples).

As an aside, Ubuntu certification does not mean that it’s guaranteed to work under Ubuntu, it means that Canonical has tested it and presumably noted down any failings; here’s my certified laptop, for example, which cannot do bluetooth audio:

http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/hardware/201102-7305/

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