Linux

What's the best laptop for running Ubuntu Linux?

I want to find the best laptop to run Ubuntu Linux in a business setting. Check out my requirements and then post your best recommendation.

Ever since I wrote the article The market has rejected Linux desktops - Get over it, I've had a number of passionate requests asking me to reconsider the topic.

Keep in mind, that my primary argument in the article was not that there were technical problems with Linux. I was simply saying Linux has had its shot to win over businesses and consumers during the past decade and it has failed to grow beyond 1% to 2% of the market for desktop and laptop PCs.

Nevertheless, I've decided that it's time to give Linux another look by setting up a new laptop running Ubuntu and using it for daily work. I will be comparing it to the work I do on two similar systems, a ThinkPad T400 running Windows and a MacBook Pro running Mac OS X.

I've toyed with nearly every flavor of Linux in the past and I currently have Ubuntu installed on a couple netbooks. However, in order to be fair, I need to set it up on a laptop that is in the same class as the ThinkPad and the MacBook Pro. At the same time, I'd also like to run it on a current laptop, preferably a popular new model. That way, I can also do a review of the laptop as part of this test (in order to get an extra article out of the experiment).

With all of that in mind, I'm looking for recommendations on the best laptop for running Ubuntu. I've listed my basic requirements below, as well as a few of the systems I'm currently considering.

Requirements

  • Light: Under 5 pounds
  • Thin: Less than 1.5 inches thick
  • Dual core CPU
  • Large, functional touchpad
  • Bright display, at least 1366x768
  • CD/DVD drive (preferable, but not mandatory)
  • Budget: $800-$1200

Possibilities

Do you have experience with Ubuntu on any of these systems? If so, please post your feedback in the discussion below.

Which brand is best for Linux?

Your recommendation

Do you have a specific laptop series or model you'd recommend for running Ubuntu? Please post it in the discussion thread below.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

221 comments
drsevrin
drsevrin

Old thread, I know, but thought I'd post this for any who surf on in. Also, I'd be curious to know if you've done a follow-up piece after having made a selection. I run Ubuntu 10.04 on an HP Compaq nc8430 as a daily use machine (unless I'm away from AC power). It works seamlessly but for one problem - terrible battery life. I get 30 - 60 minutes max. I've tried multiple batteries and messing with the usual laptop power-saving tools in Ubuntu. For my next Ubuntu laptop I'm considering the Thinkpad, about which I've heard good things, or possibly the System76 machines. Love to hear your experience.

scott.deagan
scott.deagan

I have a Sony VPCF11S1E running Ubuntu 11.04. It did not come pre-installed (of course), and even though I did NOT agree to the Windows EULA, Sony refused to provide me with a refund with my Windows license (something I will NEVER use!!). Everything works well if you connect to the Internet at the start of the installation process, and click the 'update from Internet' checkbox (or whatever it's called, can't remember the name of it now). The only problem I have is I can't turn off the ALPS touchpad. I don't use touchpads, they get in the way. I always use an external mouse. I love the look, feel, responsiveness, usability of Ubuntu 11.04 on my Sony - looks fantastic on my 1080 matte display :).

alexrjr
alexrjr

I have used linux for the last 4 years. I will never go back to windows and will never be trapped with a mac either. I do heavy applications, graphics, 3d modeling and rendering, video edition, music, web design, web development, lots of spreadsheets and complex documents. Ubuntu has crashed only twice in 4 years. I use a computer very similar in specs to an alienware. A similar laptop would be one top of the line from system76.com I would recommend one of those. They already come with ubuntu ready to go. Honestly the only thing I regret from switching to linux is why I didn't do it before. I would had save countless of licenses for OS that half work and office suites that did half the job. Just try to embed a excel spread sheet on a word document and perform a couple of operations trying to format it, save it, open it a couple of times and you will see what happens! Maybe the latest version is able to do it. But for more than 10 years MS-office was not able to do it. So why the obsession to have those licenses? That is what I meditated one day and cold turkey switched to linux. One of the best decisions of my life. The reason why Linuxs not popular is because it does not have a marketing machine such as the other 2 popular operating systems behind it. Still, it has come a long way -without any publicity, to exist on the desktops of hundreds of thousands of people around the world already and growing fast. Now my company http://teksapiens.com runs entirely on linux flawlessly. Yes, in your mind it will look like a quantum leap bringing linux to the desktop, but after switching and learning to operate it for a couple of weeks, you will never want to go back. On the server side, Linux already rules.

rMatey
rMatey

Still using my Dell B120 with a celeron 1.4 GHz. Works great with 10.04. Been using it since 5.04

sgreen
sgreen

DELL PRECISION M6500 smokes the OS.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

The dual video card system -- there's been a lot of talk that nVidia is ditching Linux support. It's a shame as I like Asus' products... The Asus U50F was also a contender until I found out that, yet, no distro can handle the chipset. Some reported Ubuntu 10.4 beta 1 loading it okay but still having other problems. Dell has been a certified provider, which is great, and their Inspiron 1545 looks a good model (if not a tad pricey compared to competitors offering similar specs or at least the one I saw at Big Box store for $499), but a lot is said on the internet regarding their quality... Acer is far worse regarding quality, however... So I might be getting a Dell after all. :)

Bob-El
Bob-El

I'd like to see what's the best NETBOOK to run Ubuntu.

toolman52
toolman52

I run Ubuntu on a lenovo n200 and it runs very nicely. Is fast and even runs the virtual machines within Ubuntu and surfs the web quickly. Puts the stake in Windows heart for me. I wont go back to Windows for work applications.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

in the poll as I don't know what the current ones are like.

jhformosojr
jhformosojr

i've been using karmic koala since its release and before that, my asus x80le had been installed with previous versions of ubuntu linux. for me, this is the best laptop as i use it daily as i commute from home to my workplace and never had a single incident of downtime - except when i tried to install the beta release of karmic koala which was eventually resolved within the day through the ubuntu help forums. should i buy another laptop, the one that is on top of my list is asus, next would be msi. they're durable as well as reliable. mabuhay :)

jmbrasfield
jmbrasfield

I replaced Windows Home on my Asus EEE with Ubuntu NBR. The responsiveness of the netbook increased by 10 fold over the M$ OS that came with it and all the extra button functions still work. Plus, I have a desktop that looks like no other. People that are just passing by stop and ask "What's that?" and I get to explain about Linux and show off Ubuntu NBR. I've actually made a few converts. This is what a netbook OS should be.

chrisreich
chrisreich

Call me crazy, but I've done the homework on just this issue and I can only conclude that the best currently available laptop on which to run Ubuntu is a MacBook or MacBook Pro. Seriously. Check out the specs. Love or hate Apple as you wish but features per dollars they're top o' the heap. I'm going to look silly running PC-BSD on a MacBook Pro but that's my intention.

nrip.nihalani
nrip.nihalani

I have been running Ubuntu 8.04 for the past 3 years on a Sony Vaio, CR-12 to be exact... I prefer it for personal use to my windows boot...which I use only for work... -Nrip

garyelder.ii
garyelder.ii

Stay away from any laptop that has an Arthos WLAN as We have a Toshiba with and Arthos WLAN and we are having to build a driver for it. Not haveing great luck right now, so if you have any ideas it would be greatly appreciated.

SysAdminII
SysAdminII

I run LinuxMint 8 on a Lenovo T42 and had good luck with hardware recognition (wireless, etc). Also run Debian 5.0 Stable on that exact setup and had good luck with that as well. Only thing that was a little discouraging with Debian was that I could never get the font to look right in IceWeasel. I know they say its the same as Firefox but I would have to disagree. Firefox just works right out of the bag on that laptop.

Jremmy
Jremmy

LENOVO Y530 IdeaPad!!!! I run 9.04 on it everyday at work and love it. I had VirtualBox running Vista 64 but never really used it. Now we got new servers at work so I am changing over to a dual boot set-up. But try Lenovo, they run Ubuntu very well. The only problem I guess would be you're looking for something 1.5" or less and the IdeaPad is a little bit thicker than that.

username010
username010

Ubuntu 9.10 runs well on my dell xps m1330

satyendrainbhopal
satyendrainbhopal

I need to add my input as well. Ubuntu is an effort which is community driven like other Linux-based communities. It has become a stable OS since last 4-5 years and before that who knew about it when the market was pre-dominated by Fedora/BSD/RED-HAT which was almost impossible to be installed by a novice. Ubuntu has diverted the trend of commercial approach being followed by this open-source community. I am in love with UBUNTU because I am able to install it in my scrap PC running with Intel Pentium - I. Windows XP was not allowing itself to be installed in it and with some tricks, I was able to succeed but it crashed like plane-crash. And irony is that I was able to recover my data (For testing purposes, though) effortlessly. Similarly, I installed other versions of UBUNTU (KUBUNTU) on this old system. Coming to the Notebook section, I have COMPAQ CQ45 which needs Windows Vista or further version of OS. It is a AMD Athlon/ATI Graphics based notebook. HP's says that XP would crash in this laptop. Then I purchased Windows XP to give it a try. It required a SATA based driver and a floppy diskette containing them. I wonder as to why it would require an obselete technology. By anyway I had to go the retailer and ask for this usb floppy drive and to my horror no-one had it. Then I had to ask my friend to check it in his local market. At the end, I was able to get the drive and tried installing Win XP, which was a painful experience. I tried Ubuntu on my laptop as usual when I did it in my test PCs. To my surprise, installation was done smoothly and when I connected to my DSL, it did not even ask for connection settings and started prompting for new updates etc. Since then I have been uninstalling,installing,moving many flavors/versions of Ubuntu and without failing to recover my data. I even corrupted my GRUB, and when I installed Studio Ubuntu in another free partition, it recovered the corrupted GRUB and added this additional OS in its list. The best part is that you can choose from the following options: - Kununtu (A strong KDE Based Ubuntu) - Studio Ubuntu (MultiMedia based Ubuntu) - Ubuntu - Xubuntu ( Very complicated for beginners and meant for Servers). Moreover, I have SUNs Virtual Box and I can smartly use Windows if required. No wonder that Ubuntu would fill the GAP for Multimedia and Office based softwares (based on client-server technology). I feel that it is universal right of every ITzen to demand for the portability of the software that he/she has purchased. I mean to say that one should be given an option to either purchase the software in Ubuntu/Linux or in Windows flavor. In summry - Ubuntu has saved many older laptops, PCs to die down. I am not a Pro-Ubuntu Volunteer - rather prefer Windows when not in home ( Reason is simple, I found no one with Ubuntu based systems on their PCs) I personally feel that this is an effort and it is very easy to compare it with something being nourished by Money and corporate Demand. If we cannot donate or shell out money ( even for the sake of donation) then we should not blame these OS and even efforts.

chucksmailbin
chucksmailbin

I installed it on a HP Pavilion dv6215US and it works very well. I had to do a little quirky stuff to install the Windows Nvidia display drivers, but after that, it worked fine.

robdls
robdls

acer is a good brand and I like them alot aspire ao751h

aruzsi
aruzsi

I use Ubuntu 9.10 64 bit. It works almost perfectly except Bluetooth and power consumption is higher than W7. I've never used the fingerprint reader under Linux. Sometimes I found some strange behaviours when WLAN+Bluetooth are working

dbennett
dbennett

I run 9.10 remix on a Dell mini and everything works without issues. I have always been a Linux fan but there have always been a few shortcomings. A friend recommended Ubuntu and it is pretty damn close to being there. There are some minor issues but they are issues that in the most part can be worked through. I did have not driver issues on an ACER mini.

lfstlutz
lfstlutz

I have had great results with both the Acer and the Dell. The Acer seems to run a little smoother from my experience. Costs less to. All hardware works out of the box.

Synthetic
Synthetic

While these systems don't fit all of the needs Jason request, we use HP for all of our 20,000+ US systems and I always have one of each current variant with Ubunutu installed to test hardware, to show off to coworkers, for better network utility use, and for simple old fun and I can say I haven't had any issues installing and running Ubunutu on the HP Elitebook 6930, the 6910, the 6400 (though first installs with 6.4 had some initial Intel video driver issues), or the Compaq/HP 610C. The most fun is showing folks just how easy an installation and running of most primary apps on the system are. My 2 cents, cheers!

alberto.guerra
alberto.guerra

Lenovo G550. runmning Ubuntu 9.10, all the devices work perfectly + syspend and hybernate. Excelent!

gregoryluther
gregoryluther

I've been running Ubuntu (currently 9.10) on a Dell Inspirion E1705 for a couple of years now. I use it daily for my business, and it was easy to set-up and configure. Everything worked right out of the box.

wolsonjr
wolsonjr

Why not Toshiba? I've had fine results. Currently quad boot XP, Debian, Kubuntu, and Mint.

MSST8DOG
MSST8DOG

I use Ubuntu on a Fujitsu Lifebood T Series Tablet and I love it. I have been running it for about 6 months. It is not a new or super powerful PC but it works flawlessly. I have even dropped it once while running and had it knocked out of my hands once while running (which broke the corner of the case in front, but had no effect at all on the operation of the tablet. The only thing that I haven't gotten working after converting is the screen rotation. It will not automatically rotate from landscape to letter display when I spin the screen around to use the stylus to take notes in class.

ron.connal
ron.connal

Absolutely the best is running Ubuntu in a Parallels VM on a MacBook Pro ...

miguelcubeles
miguelcubeles

I've been running Ubuntu 9.10 on Compaq CQ50 for 2 months, used for a daily work very reliable.

dbaldwin
dbaldwin

I am running Karmic on a T400 and am having no problems what so ever - I actually consistently find things that I love that I can't do in Windows! Admittedly I have done some tweaking, but only 'cause I want to, not 'cause I have had to.

triwireit
triwireit

Personally, I would love to read your comments on Linux on a netbook? which do you prefer in a netbook?

rayary
rayary

can't say your not looking for the latest and greatest tech equipment to try it out your looking for a price rang if you try the other way around you might get suprised bob

tehpea
tehpea

Though I am running Ubuntu 9.10 on: Intel Mobile Pentium Dual-Core T3200 @ 2GHz 250GB HDD (Ubuntu works perfectly on my 10GB partition without any swap partitions) 3GB RAM ATi Mobility Radeon HD 3470 256mb Realtek HD Audio Atheros AR5007EG Wireless Adapter (I don't use it though) SiS 191 Ethernet Controller 10/100/1000 (This is what I use unless I want to lie down on the couch) Works brilliantly, even with Compiz with all special effects enabled.

driftair
driftair

Sad and lazy question. Where is the valid comparison? It seems everyone fails to provide substance in information these days. It used to be that one could read an article and it provided enough accurate information to make a good and reasonable choice. This is no longer the case. It seems all information provided these days is censored to protect the flawed, the incompetent, and criminals. That would include all who provide false and/or misleading information. Those who provide no useful information simply waste the time of many who seem to have insufficient intelligence to recognize how they are being abused. But then we are told "Ignorance is no excuse." All seem to be held accountable for themselves alone, however this comes with conditions and controls. Few are wise,clear or free enough to give real, valuable and useful information. Censorship and silencing seems to be the rule.

johnitguy
johnitguy

Dells have given me the best experiences. Easy installs and drivers. I run all my EdUbuntu 9.04 clients for my schools either on Dell Inspiron or Latitude laptops and desktops. Old underpowered P4s runs great compared to choking on Vista. I run Ubuntu Server 8.04LTS on XPS Workstations. The Dell Minis (Vostro) run the Netbook Remix Ubuntu 9.10 very well. Personally I run Ubuntu 10.04beta and Windows7 as VMware sessions on my MacBook Pro.

joerocket!
joerocket!

Replace the hard drive with a new one that has more capacity and perfoms better. Load your Windows OS, then load Ubuntu (it walks you through partiion options). I work from Windows on some days, and from Ubuntu on others. I did this six months ago on my Dell Latitude and I'm really impressed with Ubuntu.

brandonban6
brandonban6

Good luck with ATI in your T400, fine if you are only using single display from the laptop, but the minute you go to use dual monitors... bring on the gray hair!

sajanant
sajanant

What's the point, if configuring wireless on the laptop is such a challenge ? i mean really! ive scoured the web for suggestions and found none that really work. anybody on this forum have any luck?

dcolbert
dcolbert

Why not run it on equipment that matches what you already have? That seems like the most realistic, real-world example of how someone is going to "convert" to Linux. They're going to take the machine they already have and install Linux on it. How many people go out and buy or build a new PC, desktop or laptop, specifically to try to convert to Linux? The vast majority are repurposing machines that already exist. I'd track the following things: Installation. How difficult was it to get a full fledged install of Ubuntu running, with everything required to meet Win7 or Mac OS X toe-to-toe. To be fair, you should install Compiz and the Cube - because Win 7 is going to have Aero enabled and a Mac is going to have Spaces and Expose enabled. Once you get the machine configured with all the additionals required to be Win7 or OS X competitive, how big is the base install? How long did it take? Did you have to hit the web for additional information to troubleshoot issues? Any trouble with components? Try and relate what you're doing to someone with "average user" Windows or OS X experience - not someone who is a pro on either platform, let alone Linux. Are problems on Linux probably easier, or harder, for the typical Joe to solve when they're encountered? 2) Day to day integration issues: Compared to OS X and Win32/64, how easy is it to get Ubuntu to get along with heterogenous environments? What was involved in getting it into your workgroup or domain? How effective and efficient was authentication and permissions mapping? 4) Speed. Apples to Apples, this is why repurposing hardware is a better idea to accurately compare Linux. Is Linux actually faster, leaner, and more efficient than Windows? Are the apps more reliable and robust? Do things run better? Or, do things seem a little clunky, apps crashing, behaving in an erratic manner, graphic glitches, and just generally feeling unpolished? 5: Usability - beyond the cloud. How well do the apps compare to commercial alternatives? How well supported are the necessary peripherals and other devices that interface with your PC on a regular basis? You've really got to think this one through. It is somewhat ironic, but I find myself going, "I'll just hook up this device I very rarely use to my Linux box and... oh, *snap*... denied..." :) OS X is sometimes guilty of this too. It could be something very small, trying to hook up my CF reader to transfer pictures from my wife's DSLR. Little aggravations. 6: User experience. Look and Feel. If money is no object and you remove all other issues, which platform is nicest to look at for 8 hours a day? Does it matter to you? Does it matter to other people? Your original article is right - and there are *reasons* why Linux, even Ubuntu, which is a very nice distro indeed, have failed to gain significant market-share on the desktop. I suppose it is obvious I have opinions on where Ubuntu stacks up on the bullet points above - and to be honest, 9.10 has improved a lot of these things tremendously in some cases. I recently had a very pleasant distro upgrade from 8.04 to 9.10 on my EEE PC 701 that not only went flawlessly, but fixed significant problems with WiFi. On the other hand, on a Dimension desktop rebuild with FX5600 Nvidia GPU and a Dell 17" monitor, I found myself in xorg.conf editing by hand to add vertical and horizontal refresh to get the machine to go beyond 800x600. To me, the guy with an old P4 Dimension with a low end Nvidia GPU lying around is the *most* likely candidate to convert to Ubuntu, so this troubles me. And XP runs faster on this particular machine with the same resources (RAM, CPU), as well. (XP compared to Ubuntu 8.04).

Slayer_
Slayer_

It was related to the stupid video drivers *nvidia provided* they insisted on constantly switching between high and low power mode every time an effect was played on the desktop. (even just moving your mouse, it would switch several times every few seconds). This eventually killed the graphics chip in the laptop. But before it did, it caused serious decline in battery power. With Windows and in the lowest power modes I would get 1.5 hours, in Ubuntu (and Mint) I was lucky to get 30 minutes, usually less. Try checking if your system is doing the same thing, switching back and forth from low and high power modes. If so, I suggest not using Linux, or it might wreck your system like it did mine.

DesertJim
DesertJim

I use a dell 6400 with 9.10 and find it far better than XP. Only comment would be to use the INTEL WiFi as I could not get good results with the Broadcom board. Performance is great and suspend/hibernate works which gave a BSOD with XP.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For the writers needs, a VM doesn't really involve the OS/hardware compatability. For some users needs, the OS directly against hardware makes a difference; speed or specific hardware bits. For generic platform use, VMs are awsome though. It goes the same the other way; unless the Windows app needs direct hardware access or something not provided by the VM environment then it's perfectly happy as a VM.

psmc
psmc

What censorship and silence? All that is being asked for is an opinion, nothing more. There is no comparison being made.

adamhorner
adamhorner

I agree - with self-interest I admit - my ageing Dell Inspiron - Celeron M 1.4 768Mb Ram 40Gb HD - is currently running Win7 RC which is soon to go into nag/expire mode. I am intending to install Ubuntu 10.4 on it when it is released. What experience have others had installing Ubuntu 9 etc to such aged (!) hardware? I am not expecting the visual experience W7 or OSX can provide (this is typed on my 2Ghz white MacBook) but just a machine that will browse wirelessly and talk to my NAS drive, play MP3s, play DVDs, talk to my cameras/cards in a USB card-reader and ideally run my USB WinTV stick (although I realise there the problem may well lie in the name!) In the end it is just going to be a bedroom pc/light media-centre. How have others got on and/or have they found any flavours of Ubuntu work better than others? I was impressed with an earlier dalliance with Mint - and the tiny UIs like Flexbox etc are also worth exploring.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've seen short battery life with Intel video drivers on Windows systems. I've also seen it on Dell's laptops; the D6x0 series were notorious for it. I think it's just that the major laptop builders install cheap-@$$ batteries, and a lot of them buy from the same battery vendor. Most of them will only warrant the battery for 6 to 12 months and specifically excluded it from any extended warranties. It's the same thing auto manufacturers do; most cars come with cheap batteries with short warranties. And we never did find out what model laptop Jason selected, or what became of this project.

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

My experiences with Ubuntu 9.04 & 9.10 on old hardware: Slowest CPU: 800 MHz Pentium III (Runs great on OC'd 1.4GHz P-IIIs systems for all but 3D games) Smallest RAM: 250 MB (w/swap), 384 MB (no swap partition) Smallest HD: 9GB SCSI (2940-U2 or -U2W card); 12.7GB 5-1/4" ATA-33 IDE; a 4GB CompactFlash card in an IDE adaptor Least capable VGA: Nvidia TNT2/M64 (32MB AGPx4); Matrox G400MAX (32MB AGPx2); Intel 815G integrated VGA Most of the above configurations will play Flash videos in Firefox from faster P3 CPUs at watchable quality... I also had Win98SE playing videos on Windows Media Player v6 in VMware Player running under Ubuntu 9.04 on an ABIT BX6r2 with an 1.1GHz Celeron Slot1 CPU in 512MB system RAM (using the Matrox VGA). It was also watchable. So no one need worry that their hardware is too old or slow to run Linux -- which you can't say for Vista or in many cases, Windows 7 as well.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I'm running on a Dell Dimension 8200 with RamBUS ram, a 1.7ghz P4, and a Nvidia 3D card. (On one of my Ubuntu machines at the office). For basic web browsing, web, and the like, it is fine. But my feeling is you're really pushing the limits on what you can expect Ubuntu to deliver. playing DVDs, talking to cameras, cards and usb card-readers and running the USB WinTV stick are where you're most likely to encounter problems with your rig, if you're going to. That and if you have either an ATI video card or select models of Nvidia cards. (That narrows it down, doesn't it? :) ) I'd give it a shot, with regular Ubuntu... you might want to either add more RAM or try using the Alt-CD to install rather than the graphical GUI based install/boot CD. Your self interest is a great example, though. You're probably the typical *nix adopter at this point, and your hardware rig is typical as well.

warpuck
warpuck

I still use puppy ver 4.0 on a PIII 1ghz prostar without a hard drive and store session info on 4gb usb drive. I do email, ebay & face with it. I could put in long sessions on battery power. But now I just dont feel like replacing the battery. A netbook would make a nice replacement if it has a internal dvd drive.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For Ubuntu's HCL, I'd actually just hit Debian's and check it but this is due to my understanding the relationship between the two. When I started with Linux based systems, the alternative choices where winNT or Win98 and the draw for Red Hat was better networking support and some "interesting" things I wanted to run as an IRC cowboy. The HCL has been my first visit with any hardware purchase since discovering it though. HCL Specifically: Mandriva provided more of a "search the database" type aproach and always felt like it was lacking outside of some major hardware and brands. Debian's provides a browsable list or "run this and paste results" form. Backtrack provides a nice list in wiki style which remains my first visit when contemplating a NIC purchase. But I'd love nothing more than to assume hardware support by default like I can with Win installs. I care about market share only so far as it convinces hardware vendors like Broadcom to pull there heads out of there.. well, I have strong opinions about the issue. I've yet to hear a justification that didn't have an alternative hardware solution easily available yet the reality remains; check your HCLs before purchase. http://kmuto.jp/debian/hcl/ http://www.ubuntuhcl.org/ I'm a fork snob so I'd go with the first in prefering the parent distribution where there is no clear benefit to a child fork. Ubuntu has a .org behind it's hcl which does present it more officially. I don't know which is kept more up to date. It would be interesting to get a representative survey of how people got into and comfortable with alternative OS (why limit it to a single OS family or brand name within it). This falls in the same category as "accurate market share" data though I fear. I was far from an IT professional at the time but not an average user either having previously discovered the mysteries of the BBs and door games. In terms of posted solutions; I've found convoluted crap regardless of platform. It's far from a platform differentiating metric. I've had games dumping me out; is it gpu driver glitches, game glitches, limited hardware or heat? What does an average user do if the game they are playing keeps crashing out? At least it's only under load now; before it was crashing out randomly in general. In that case, I followed a long list of forum posts through multiple sites; bad ram. The memory tested clean but Win+mobo+ran=crap and I only found that after getting help from someone on Asus forums then taking the risk of a second 100$ expense for a different brand of ram. Where's my easy five step website for that? Right now the D600 wifi install isn't going as clean as I'd hoped. I've used b43-wfcutter before and it was clean "aptitude install b43-wfcutter", it grabs the correct NIC firmware off the web and your rocking the airwaves. The simple howto directions say "use b43-fwcutter" while the conveluted ones walk through ndiswrapper setups and such. By contrast, I've seen "I can't get wifi to work" completely solved with "did you install network-manager-kde?" This is equivalent to "did you install the windows network card driver?" (it usually including some horrid network manager instead of just using the Windows one; coughThinkvantage.. cough..) If one is familiar with Windows then the easy howto are easy. If one is familiar with *nix then the easy howto are easy. What I will give it is that you'll find more verriety of howto for *nix simply by result of different distributions and ways to accomplish the same thing. But one can find a wealth of crap recommendations for any platform. (sadly, most users will try the first and second google result and call it a failure) What examples I do have are the mentioned b43-fwcutter which has generally worked as advertised. If you've a thinkpad with intel wifi then firmware-iwlwifi and your golden. Nvidia; the driver install is essentially a download and click "yes" until installed. Mandriva didn't have a driver for my wifi but "use Windows driver" It does depend on the distribution and how negligent the vendor has chosen to be. But true, the IT professionals day being primarily trouble shooting and working through howto documents. In similar fashion, the professional football player is probably better suited to running distances and bulk strength than the average armchair quarterback. I still think the reasons for desktop adoption involve more than a single family of OS. It is interesting comiseration but a little off topic from the user choosing hardware to install on or the user choosing to tackle existing hardware here. Bugger I'd like to see more effort to deliver cross platform hardware though. Companies like AMD and Nvidia should be commended for what they do provide and encouraged to continue it. I know I'll encourage any cross platform hardware vendor with a purchase.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I see your point, and it is fair enough. I'm not necessarily advocating that we tailor a configuration that is certain to cause the most trouble possible... But you also brought up another valid point. Does Ubuntu maintain some sort of HCL type of document? I'd never even considered that. But, along those lines... how many *end-users* read the Microsoft HCLs before installing their consumer versions of Windows? One thing I've noticed, a lot - is that part of what clouds these debates is a muddy line between home user and IT user. Between desktop OS and Server. I often find myself using an argument that is based on a home user, desktop OS approach for one point, then using an argument that is "IT user, Server Based" for a different point, and that isn't exactly fair. This is where I am leading with this. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that a larger group of Linux users are IT professionals and/or professional Linux Server users *first* - and that many of these users are far more *likely* to consult an HCL when deciding to migrate a machine, to do their research *first*. Which is all well-and-good. But home users, Linux or Windows, probably just jump in and respond reactively to issues they encounter. And with Windows, generally, this is pretty do-able. The majority of times, you won't have problems, and the times you do, the solutions are probably going to be well documented, easy to find, and easy to implement. Whereas on Linux, I think the opposite is the case. When it doesn't work, it'll be a pretty difficult issue, documentation may be very hard to find, and the odds are the fix isn't going to be downloading something and clicking "YES" a dozen times while it installs. Ironically, the IT users who are probably generally better perpared proactively are also probably generally better equipped to respond reactively, especially to Linux challenges. The regular home users, unprepared proactively, are less well equipped to respond reactively, and the MOST likely to be turned off by the challenges encountered - sending them off to either OS X or a Windows product. I mean, you've heard this argument from me a dozen times, and it is why I agree with Jason's post (I actually tend to think of Jason as coming around to my way of seeing it). Linux struggles with desktop OS adotpion because of these challenges, and until those are overcome, Linux isn't going to see inroads into the desktop OS. It is going to remain a 2% player (mostly IT professionals and just technically inclined individuals). Do you see my point?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Well, both are worth keeping up with if this visitor returns with progress updates. In general, I think these are two different cases. The first is starting with hardware selection and a call for opinions on what hardware vendors are delivering best cross platform support. Arguably, any OS choice should start with hardware selection. The second is an existing user who's re-purposing old hardware. This may be the more accurate transitional user example. Since hardware selection is done, they don't have the luxury of that stage. I would suggest starting from comparability checks against the existing hardware though. We'll get to see Ubuntu installed on hardware specifically selected for it's use though by a consumer rather than a pre-built distributor. We may also get to see Ubuntu installed on adhoc hardware with all the possibilities for success and failure that that brings. Two very similar but different experiments. I just didn't see it as justification for starting a "see! Linux breaks when you do it like that!" finger pointing debate. I'm more interested in how the two different installs go and what information can be offered to help either one.

dcolbert
dcolbert

From my perspective, Jason said, "I said Linux is dead on the desktop, and lots of users said I should give it another look, so I'm going to try it out on my desktop, as my "sole" PC, to see if I could switch. Which laptop is the best choice for this". I said, "Do it on what you already have, which best replicates the experience most Linux "switchers" will have. At which this point, this guy came in and agreed with me, saying "I agree, but perhaps selfishly, because I'm contemplating almost exactly the kind of switch you guys are talking about". Which illustrates my point. Not only is the guy considering a switch to Linux, he'll be repurposing hardware, and his quick description of his goals and the hardware he has illustrates he is almost guaranteed to run into troubles with Ubuntu. So, I think the points all nicely tie in to one another. We can certainly offer him help to try and guide him toward success. I'm not opposed to that at all. But I think the odds are stacked against him. And I think this is why Jason should repurpose a machine, and describe the challenges he experiences doing so. Instead of "what is the best/most ideal laptop for Ubuntu", a better question is, "what is the WORST". :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Windows certainly benefits from being the first pick when developing drivers. I didn't think this was another "why X dosn't work for me by Y does" thread. The user expressed intent to install a single OS on given hardware so I was focusing on what tips may make that easier rather than the unrelated topic of personal platform preference. Mind you, if the topic had been "what OS should I be using for a media center ..." then I probably wouldn't be recommending Ubuntu either.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Do you see how this ties into my attitude about the limitations of Linux? Someone who is thinking about adopting Linux, on a low end machine, is *bound* to run into deal-breaking frustration trying to achieve what you outline above. "You should probably get a USB dongle PVR card, and media might depend on what Codecs are available, and you probably should pick a custom Windows Manager other than the defaults for your hardware". Those aren't *trivial" things. Ubuntu is big on the "purity of a completely free-beer OS", so for custom drivers, apps that aren't completely open source, and things like CODECs that may run afoul of things like the DMCA, you've got to know to change to the restricted repos. If you're not pretty familiar with Linux, that whole last sentence is going to be a big "what did he just say"... The whole Linux philosophy sometimes works against Linux. Whereas the machine the guy is talking about will run Windows 7 with Media Center decently (he probably doesn't even need the extra RAM), and it'll address all of these concerns. (And Windows Media Center constantly gets rated higher than MythTV as a PVR/Digital Media front end). The Codecs on Ubuntu suck, too. I run on a number of machines, and video playback is often choppy and badly synced to audio... this includes Flash, other web based video, and local video through various media players. I'm not sure how much horse power you would need to correct this, or if it'll be a problem no matter what machine you throw at it - but I've experienced it on a number of machines. I don't know if this would also impact video on PVR apps. I'd love to hear back from this guy if he gives Ubuntu a try and see how far he gets and what his experience is like.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

When last I looked, the Hauppauge USB dongles seemed to be the prefered tv tuner versus my slotted card. Playing DVDs is mostly a codec issue. I'm not sure if Ubuntu includes DVD codecs along with the other multimedia codecs Cononical has been able to redistribute. VLC and Kaffiene have been running solid on my Debian box though. USB card readers. My sandisk single SD USB and slotted multi-reader both work fine. A more obscure brand may cause issues but in general, card readers stick to industry standards like floppy or cd readers. My two personal SD and the SD slot in my work issued notebook all behave and auto-mount under KDE. Of the three hardware areas. The TV Tuner is probably the biggest variable. MythTV is probably the desirable app for it and the rest of the media center features. DVDs shouldn't be an issue or one that can be solved with the personal choice of the system owner. Disk readers should just pickup like any other removable media reader(fancy logic should be within the reader not an OS driver). Actually, given the hardware limitations, I'd look for a KDE3 or low resource desktop like Fluxbox or XFCE. I'd see the big hulking desktops like KDE4 as a resource strain.

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