[clug] linux on laptops

Ben shadroth at gmail.com
Wed Sep 6 05:01:07 GMT 2006

On 9/5/06, Adrian Blake <adrian.blake at ieee.org> wrote:
> Any other suggestions are welcome.

I recently bought a couple of Dell 640m notebooks (they had a very
good deal on a while ago, but unfortunately are $600-700 dearer for
the same setup now). I went with the Dell because it had excellent
battery life, a decent warranty, it should be upgradeable to Core 2
Duo, t's also reasonable light @ 2.65Kg with the extended battery and
it was cheap.

Linux results:

Kubuntu 6.06: Live DVD and install both froze before getting much of
the way through (media check was OK, so not sure what the problem

FC5: didn't detect resolution properly, screen would not come back on
after I closed lid. a few other problems (no sound, IIRC)

openSUSE 10.1 non-OSS DVD install: almost everything OK, I have had
XGL working on this, but switched it off because of the video playback
problems. CPU scaling works on both cores, screen comes back on when
opening the lid again. The only things that aren't working are:
 * modem - probably will work with bought driver from http://www.linuxant.com
 * ieee1394 - untested
 * card reader - apparently will work with newest linux kernel
(2.6.17/2.6.18), which is supposed to be part of openSUSE 10.2
 * dell media buttons - there is a fix for this, but I haven't bothered
 * some of the functions keys (eg. audio volume - this needs to be setup)

overall I'm very happy. BT and WiFi work fine. battery life is
excellent, screen resolution is good and weight is acceptable.

apparently Dell are notorious for funny USB controllers and low power
to USB (so you can't get the full 500mA out of the USB ports). I just
bought a 'Thecus' external 2.5" HDD case with these issues in mind. It
has 3 power source options: usb data cable, usb data cable + usb power
cable, or 4x AA battery pack. It works fine on just the single USB
data cable and it connected without any dramas, so maybe Dell finally
go their act together.

The 640m should be drop in upgradeable to Core 2 Duo, but I haven't
seen confirmation of this. If you get one, don't forget that Dell spec
the 667 CPU models with 533 RAM and charge you for the upgrade (even
though market is the same or lower for 667 RAM). Don't upgrade the RAM
in the notebook, just get some cheaper at any online dealer. I'm
running 2x 1GB 667 corsair now from auspcmarket.com.au and glxgears
improved 110% compared to their performance on a single 1GB 533.

For reference, the deal I got was:
Core Duo 1.83
1440x900 screen
DVD dual layer read writer
100GB SATA HDD (Seagate Momentus 5400.2)
1GB Hynix 533 RAM
Bluetooth upgrade
HD audio upgrade
Belkin wireless router
MS Office SBE 2003
upgrade battery (6 cell -> 9 cell)
spare battery (9 cell)
3 year onsite NBD warranty (international)
accidental damage and theft cover.

Don't forget the EPP discount if you're eligible (I wasn't) dell.com.au/epp


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