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Don’t feel like screwing around to get your laptop working with Linux? Get a 100.

laptop working with Linux

Want more than what Dell and System76 have to offer, but don’t feel like screwing around to get your system working with Linux? You’ll be wanting a 100.

I use Linux because it lets me use the computer how I want to. Because I like the apps installed out of the box on Linux – Evolution, Firefox, GAIM, Banshee, evince, F-Spot, and Bittornado. Because I like the speed of Gnome. Because I like choosing a wireless LAN from Network Manager with a single click. And because I’d rather not run 4 separate apps hovering around waiting to find out if my media player, PDF viewer, JRE, and firewall need updating.

don’t use Linux because I like messing around to get my computer working. At work I can happily script an app to document a server, or add a few hundred users and mail them their randomly set passwords. But that’s at work, with someone paying me.

So at home, do I want a laptop that can work with Linux?

No. You probably don’t either.

I want one that does. Flawlessly. I.e.:

  • Sound (including multiple apps simultaneously)
  • Widescreen video
  • 3D acceleration
  • Wireless and wired networking
  • Suspend / resume
  • Multimedia keys
  • Media readers (for SD cards and so on)
  • Inbuilt camera
  • Bluetooth
  • Modem (apparently some people use these)
  • All other advertised hardware functionality…

work without…

  • any configuration editing
  • any terminal usage
  • any software not provided by the install CD and default repositories
  • any non-prompted configuration

At all.

Introducing the 100

To shorten the above description, and to distinguish such machines from those that require any sort of messing to work, I’d like to propose such laptops be called a 100. I.e.,a laptop where 100% of the above conditions are true on a given variant of Linux. No config editing, no terminal usage, no software not provided by the install media, no non-prompted configuration.

Laptop work fine if you ‘Open a terminal and….’? Not a 100. Work fine if you ‘just add this repository’? Nope. Not a 100 either.

This doesn’t exclude laptops which require proprietary firmware or drivers. Since Ubuntu 7.04, an NVIDIA card can be installed by simply following the prompts after logging in.

You could get a 100 from a Linux OEM. System76 has shipped Ubuntu 100’s for a while. Dell recently announced laptops that shipped with Ubuntu too.

But maybe you want more than just a CPU and video card. In 2007, after a solid decade of interest in Linux on the desktop, decent companies paying people to write open source drivers, there quite a few systems you can buy off the shelf that aren’t designed to work Linux, but which, when you pop a Linux distro on, reveal themselves as 100s.

I just bought one.

HP DV2000 and Ubuntu Studio

I recently decided to ditch my old Dell Inspiron 8500. It’s a Pentium 4, Intel’s blazingly slow CPU with typoon quiet fans. It’s also a works-with-Linux laptop, since that was what you could expect in 2003.

The replacement had to be a dual core, lightweight laptop, with a wide screen for Evolution’s vertical mail view and the odd movie, and good looks for my narcissism (hey, I don’t have to justify myself to you, OK).

It also had to be a 100.

The laptop was an HP DV2000, specifically a DV2305. The distro was the recently released Ubuntu Studio – Ubuntu with a few extra tweaks for creative folk (including some video stuff). After reading a fascinating piece of paper supplied by HP that post-install setup of Windows Vista (which it ships with) may take up to 25 minutes, and involve an unresponsive machine, I decided it may be best to cancel, and not allow, Vista. I then installed the Ubuntu Studio DVD. Let’s run through the 100 check:

  • Widescreen video – yup, resolution included in the Ubuntu Studio installer
  • 3D acceleration – fire up Google Earth or Doom 3 and see.
  • Sound – Banshee wails out Eagles of Death Metal while I marvel at the surprisingly non-annoying sound theme installed with Ubuntu Studio. Should I need to replace these noises with my own amateurish efforts, the inbuilt microphone works fine in Sound Recorder on its default settings.
  • Wireless and wired networking – pick a wireless network from Network Manager’s list and click it.
  • Suspend – yup. Resume too – that’s important.
  • Webcam – installed Ekiga. The inbuilt camera detected automatically as a V4L2 device during the startup wizard, and suddenly people all over the world who listed themselves in the Ekiga phone book were being harassed by random Australians. A little blue light and a panel app let you know that now isn’t the right time to get changed in front of your computer.
  • Media reader (for SD cards and so on). Just pop ‘em in and they appear on the desktop.
  • Bluetooth – Yup. Installed gnome-bluetooth. A tray icon pops up. My Nokia N95 phone can pair with the laptop, cunningly called ‘pavillion-0′ by HP. I can send Eagles of Death Metal songs to my phone by right clicking them and hitting ‘Send To’, or receive camera pictures to add to F-Spot when sent from my phone.
  • Touch Sensitive Multimedia pad. Touch a function, it works.
  • Modem – Yep, even that. Maybe I can call an ISP who cares?

Oh yeah, there’s a remote control that comes with the laptop too. It’s infrared. I only know this because it doesn’t work if I point it in the wrong direction. I have no idea what driver it’s using, because I don’t care, because it works. I can start the laptop, and scroll around web pages, and everything works just fine thank you very much.

Is a 100 something great? No. It’s what you should expect in 2007. But there’s a few reasons why I like the DV2000: it has the same casing as the DV6000, which HP is about to collect an prize for at the 2007 Red Dot Design Awards: a black exterior and metallic keyboard, with a swirl of subtle pinstripes in the surface. It’s very smart and businesslike, even though HP sell the DV series as Entertainment PCs.

And on the outside:

It looks very smart, except at night where the blue LEDs on the keyboard make it look a little 2-Fast -2-Furious. Oh well.

It’s also incredibly reasonably priced: about 1400 bucks Australian, which in US dollars amounts to a chocolate coin.

Have I had any hassles at all with the DV2000? Yeah, wireless didn’t work this morning when I turned on the machine. Googling for answers revealed the pertinent question: ‘do you have a button that turns off wireless?‘

Yes I do. And it seems to have caught in my bag. Switched Wireless button to ‘on’, and wireless networks magically appear, and the bluetooth item in my panel is there.

After years in the hardware wilderness, these are the kind of problems we deserve in 2007.

Mike MacCana

Addenda: since writing the original article, people have pointed out the following 100s:

  • Apple: Current MacBooks & Mac Mini with UbuntuStudio 7.04

How to use Apple Remote Desktop from Ubuntu

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