The Linux Letter for July 5, 1999
Last weekend was a busy one for those of us in North America.
July 1st was Canada Day and July 4th was Independence Day in the
US. So, I spent some time off in the mountains of central Idaho,
getting away from it all.
Of course, I'm never without some kind of a computer, and in
this case, I had an old Micron notebook along with me. This
computer runs RedHat Linux 6.0. In fact, Linux works very well
on many notebook computers. Most Linux distributions contain
drivers for almost all popular notebooks, and with a little bit
of work, even unpopular notebooks can find support.
Of course, one of the issues facing Linux on a notebook computer
is the computer itself. Most notebooks are very proprietary,
from motherboard to hard drives. Part of the problem of fitting
all of the components of a high-powered desktop system into a
box small enough to be carry on luggage is that some compromises
must be made. Usually this means that much of what we usually
expect to see as peripheral cards becomes integrated onto the
motherboard. And normally, that's not a bad thing.
My Micron notebook is a good case in point of a proprietary
system. It's aging now, but when it was new, it was the hottest
thing out there. But to get that way, Micron elected to make
some compromises, and the most serious was that the video system
that they selected was used by only one or two other
manufacturers. That meant that to get X to run correctly, I had
to actually hand edit the configuration file.
Fortunately, everything else works correctly, including the
PCMCIA slots. My 3Com network card is supported, as is the flash
card that I use with my digital camera. APM works well, giving
me an average battery life of about an hour or so. That's about
on a par with its performance under Windows 98...remember, it's
an old notebook.
But what about newer notebooks? Well, the notebook computer that
I rely on for most of my work is a Compaq Presario 1675. It runs
Windows 98 because it has too many gadgets that just aren't
supported by Linux. And they probably never will be, because
they are proprietary to Compaq notebooks. But Linux would work
on this system, because although much of the hardware is
integrated onto the motherboard, it is standard PC hardware,
from PCI IDE controllers to AGP graphics.
There are resources for you to turn to if you want to run Linux
on your Notebook computer. One of the best is Linux
on Laptops. You'll find tips and suggestions, as well as
links to dozens of success stories about specific models of
If your aim is to use Linux on your notebook computer without
the pain of trying to configure it, several companies sell
notebook computers with Linux pre-installed. The Linux on
Laptops page makes several recommendations.
If you plan to purchase a notebook, then install Linux, do your
homework. Take a look at the web page and read about others'
successes and failures. Make sure that you order your computer
using the model number, not just its name. Remember, IBM makes a
lot of different Thinkpads, and Compaq has more Presarios than
you can shake a stick at. And remember that most computer
manufacturers will not support Linux on their computers. Once
you remove Windows and install Linux, you've crossed a
significant bridge. Of course, you can always depend on the
Internet and its legions of Linux supporters to help you resolve
Finally, you've sent some great questions to me at LinuxLetter@nospin.org.
Keep them coming! Although I can't answer all of them, I'll pick
some of the best and feature them in an upcoming Letter.
Next week, we'll talk about RAID for your Linux system. A
hint...it's not bug spray!
Linux on Laptops: