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Linux Business Hardware

Buying a Small, Light Linux Notebook Computer? 1048

Posted by Cliff
from the for-discerning-consumers dept.
metamatic asks: "I'm planning to buy a notebook computer in the near future. Currently I'm looking at an iBook; however, they're a bit larger and heavier than I'd like. PC users are always telling me that PCs are faster and cheaper, and I'd be happy enough running Linux for what I want the notebook for. So: I'm looking for PC notebook computers that outperform the iBook. Must have USB and Firewire, built-in ethernet, and 802.11b support somehow (via a PC card slot is OK). Small is important, lightweight is important, long battery life is important. I don't care about screen size so long as it can do 800x600. Performance isn't a major concern, as I'm not going to be playing 3D games on it. Sounds easy? Here's the catch: I will not purchase Windows!" After all that this industry has gone through in recent years? Does one still have to pay the Microsoft tax when purchasing a laptop?

"I have no Windows software and will not be running any, not even via WINE. I have no desire to go through the hassle of purchasing software I'm not going to use and then fighting to get a token rebate that doesn't actually equate to the cost of a Windows license. Nor am I interested in buying a machine that was purchased with a Windows license, and simply having Windows erased with no refund given.

So far I've found iDot Computers, who will sell laptops with no OS installed. Unfortunately, their lightest, smallest offering is a hefty 2.8kg brick, 3cm bigger than the iBook in width and depth. What I really want is something comparable to a Toshiba Libretto or Sony VAIO R505--except that neither of those companies want to sell me a machine without Windows.

I'm sure plenty of Slashdot readers have faced the same problem--what's the solution?"

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Buying a Small, Light Linux Notebook Computer?

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  • performance (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:22AM (#5317018)
    Always this emphasis on performance...

    a Jedi craves not these things, only affordability.
    • by Glonoinha (587375) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:21AM (#5317313) Journal
      Metamatic -
      Sounds like you want a used machine. I would suggest looking on ebay and/or the computer refurb houses for a machine that is maybe a year old, go with a high quality manufacturer and it could still be under warranty (I personally like Dell, I have three within arms reach of me, counting laptops and my server.)

      The only issue I see going with hardware that is a year+ old is the 1394 connection - but if it was top of the line a year ago it should have that connection (my last Latitude C800 did and it was a year and a half old.)

      Note that you should be able to find a one year old machine for about half of what it cost new, but remember that today's hardware costs less than top of the line gear did a year ago and is much faster. Based on what I remember, you should be able to get whatever was top of the line a year ago for the same price as the entry level stuff new, but the entry level stuff is going to be about 1.5x as fast as the one year old top of the line machine.

      I am not saying it will give you the best bang for the buck, but it will satisify your entire request. Personally I would buy a new entry level machine from Dell (or your favorite company) for about $750 delivered and then toss the XP CD / license in your closet. Add some aftermarket RAM and networking gear and you are all set - for about $900 including the 802.11b.

      I just checked, Dell has a laptop (the Inspiron 2650C) on sale for $700 after rebate (yes, rebates suck but I did get mine back ... so it worked for me) :

      14" screen XGA
      128M RAM (www.crucial.com)
      20G hd
      24x CD
      16MB DDR 4X AGP NVIDIA GeForce2 Go(TM)Vid
      Floppy
      Integrated 56k modem and NIC
      1 year warranty.

      If you didn't want to jack with the warranty ($150) you could get the 802.11b PCMCIA card and a 802.11b router (I didn't bother to read the details) instead. Brings the price of the system to $850.

      Upgrade to a 15" screen for $50.

      Nice.
    • the dumb answer... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nehril (115874) on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:33AM (#5317607)
      Must have USB and Firewire, built-in ethernet, and 802.11b support ... Small is important, lightweight is important, long battery life is important. I don't care about screen size ... Performance isn't a major concern... don't play games ... will not pay for windows

      uh, get an ibook? oh wait...

      seriously, ibook + osx + fink + apple X11 == everything you want in a linux laptop, except for the ugly fonts. If you're dying for more speed get the new 12" G4 Powerbook (~$1700), which is just like the ibook only smaller in every dimension, and faster.

      why exactly does your current ibook fail your requirements, anyway?

  • money back (Score:3, Funny)

    by mschoolbus (627182) <travisrileyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:23AM (#5317022)
    I know there is a Windows refund site somewhere, as long as you never click okay to a EULA you can get some money back...
    • Re:money back (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      http://zork.net/refund/ [zork.net]
      Google 'windows refund'--it's a work in progress with little result so far.
    • a slashdot orginal (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kajoob (62237)
      The guy [netcraft.com.au] who started the whole "windows refund" thing began the discussion right here [slashdot.org] on slashdot. LinuxMall's windows refund day site is down, but you can still find plenty of good info on Geoffrey's site and in the original slashdot article
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Folks, Adelaide is a city with a "small town"
        mindset... you know the one: "everybody knows
        everybody"

        I'd bet that G's dad's Cisco connections did
        more to get G the cheque from Toshiba than
        anything else, even if the dad in question
        didn't have to lift a finger to make it happen.

        I don't think that the not-so-well-connected
        (read: needy, eg, student of Linux) computer
        buyer would get the same hearing - let alone
        a similar refund.

        To test this: How many -other- Australians
        managed to win similar refunds, at about the
        same time (ie, even -after- G's [uncashed]
        refund cheque was photographed & published
        online)?

        Not too many...

        "Plenty of good info"...? Doubtful at best.
        How good depends on how many, who do similar
        footwork, will -ever- get -their- refunds,
        in future.

        Good means effective, not just -apparently- so.

        Now, if someone had complained (eg to Oz's
        ACCC), eg that vendor(s) were requiring them
        to buy unwanted product/license/software from
        another source, ie just to get the chance to
        buy the computer they wanted to purchase...
        -that- might have got a refund-right for every
        Linux user.

        But, no, that wasn't how G did it... He stopped
        when he could show (without cashing) the photo
        of his refund check... let the others do their
        own haggling...

        Read: Re-Invent the refund [paper-chase] wheel!

        Result: -Lots- have visited the online photo
        of the uncashed check but -few- have
        got a refund of their own.

        Com'on people, the only way to change this
        is to work a bit smarter... & together... ie,
        if you want to win, not just cheer-lead... ;-)
    • Re:money back (Score:3, Informative)

      by AntiNorm (155641)
      I know there is a Windows refund site somewhere, as long as you never click okay to a EULA you can get some money back...

      Maybe this has changed, but when you buy a new, prebuilt PC, do you have to click an EULA anyway? Your "acceptance" of the EULA comes not as a product of clicking a button marked 'I Agree', but as a mere result of your using the OEM product. Thus, most refund sites stress that in order to get a refund, you must not boot into the preinstalled copy of Windows, not even a single time. They will tell you in no uncertain terms not to turn the PC on until you have boot disks for Linux/*BSD/whatever inserted into it.
      • Re:money back (Score:4, Informative)

        by Afrosheen (42464) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:15AM (#5317286)
        Doesn't make any difference anyway. Who's to say that you didn't boot it up one time to make sure it works, then install Linux/bsd/whatever. The bottom line is, it makes no difference whether you boot into windows at all, because there's no way of knowing if you did or not from the OEM's perspective. The only one who knows that for sure is YOU.
    • Re:money back (Score:5, Informative)

      by Billly Gates (198444) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:54AM (#5317179) Journal
      Unfortunatly the EULA is for the OEM and not the consumer. Unless the consumer decides to re-install it.

      Technically the oem pays for Windows. This is why its hard to return it. Yes, I relize that most OEM's just pass the cost to the consumer but its not that much since OEM's buy in bulk.

      Dell, HP, and Toshiba also get massive bulk discounts in laptop parts which makes up for the price. Dell's are cheap because of this. Go to their website and look at entry level pc's for just $700. Its cheaper to buy a Windows based laptop from Dell and reformat the drive and install Linux then to buy from some small no name company that specialised in Linux but does not get bulk pricing.

      Just pay the extra $25 dollars. IBM only pays $15 per copy of Windows for each pc from what I read back in the anti trust trial when ms strong armed it to kill os/2. The price has gone up for Windows alot but its no big deal and its nothing compared to the amount Windows cost in a store. I am sure the money saved from buying from a big outlet is probably hundreds of dollars so more money is being saved.

      Or if you hate ms and refuse to support them go buy a powerbook from apple.

      They are pricy but have been known for over a decade to be supperior quality. Apple invented alot of the cool stuff in laptops today. The finger pads on laptops for mouse movements is an example of apple's inventions. You can run Linux on a mac as well as have a big selection of software to choose from with MacOSX. Adobe photoshop, IE, MS-Office, games, etc. Another benefit of the mac is that the linux distro's will work better and be less buggy then intel ones because of the limited hardware. They don't need to support 3,000 peripherals from god knows where. They are less buggy and standard configurations are heavily tested by the mac-linux community. This is one of the arguements still used for Unix over Linux. It is heavily integrated with the hardware.

      • Re:money back (Score:5, Insightful)

        by catbutt (469582) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:49AM (#5317446)
        Just pay the extra $25 dollars.

        Is there something wrong with someone standing up for principles? I think you should be able to buy hardware without buying software (and iBooks don't accomplish this) , regardless of how little it turns out to be when you work out the math. I'm told that MS makes most of their windows-license money from new PC's, so it certainly is not an insignificant amount ($25 is much less than I have heard from other sources)
      • by isorox (205688) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:53AM (#5317462) Homepage Journal
        today. The finger pads on laptops for mouse movements is an example of apple's inventions.

        Personally I prefer nipples
        • by FueledByRamen (581784) <sabretooth@gmail.com> on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:04AM (#5317498)
          ARRGGGHHH!!! How can you stand massaging the pointer-clit in the center of the keyboard to try and USE a computer!? So many hours I wasted, struggling with that eraser. It is the object of all of my hate and bitterness towards this world. Whoever developed that pointing device shall be doomed to eternal suffering in front of a Toshiba Satellite 486/25 with Windows 3.1, my first encounter with the damned nipple-mouse.

          </rant>
          I prefer the touch pads, personally, and Apple does make the best! Far superior to any I've used on a PC laptop (even some really nice ones [defined as whatever Orifice Depot has out for me to screw with when I'm in there, and that I cannot afford]).
          • by jshare (6557) on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:13AM (#5317531) Homepage
            How can you stand massaging the pointer-clit...

            I feel sorry for your girlfriend.

            For some of us, it's no effort at all...

            :-P


            • You have forgotten your place. In Slashdot-land, there are no girlfriends, only clit-mice. (mouses? meese?)

              I'd bet that you wouldn't stand using the eraser-mouse either when it started to burn the skin from your fingertips after a heated gaming session (well, for the only computer I bought with one, more like a heated Solitare session, but that's still a game). Touchpads won't do that to you.
      • by ebyrob (165903) on Monday February 17, 2003 @03:52AM (#5317888) Homepage
        Just pay the extra $25 dollars.

        That sounds like the kind of thing that started a certain tea party in Boston...
  • Emperor Linux (Score:4, Informative)

    by dsb3 (129585) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:24AM (#5317036) Homepage Journal
    http://emperorlinux.com/

    The benefit? You get laptops with full knowledge of exactly what does and what doesn't work under linux.

    The catch? You pay the same (or more) as you would in the high street and don't get the shiny Windows CD.

    Frankly ... I say you just buy the machine you want. Don't want windows? Throw the disc out ... you want a computer right? Don't turn everything into a political statement.

    • Don't want windows? Throw the disc out ... you want a computer right? Don't turn everything into a political statement.

      That disc isn't free. The vendor (should have) paid Microsoft for bundling it with the machine. That cost is passed on to the buyer.

      Also referred to as "the Microsoft tax".

      • Re:Emperor Linux (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AmigaAvenger (210519)
        ahh, but the big guys still are cheaper with the windows tax than a smaller company that sells without it. I was in the same position a while back, and just decided it would be much easier and cheaper to go with a toshiba.
    • Re:Emperor Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interiot (50685) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:33AM (#5317091) Homepage
      It's not JUST a political statement. You're also inadvertantly funding MS's efforts to ensnare you, so it's understandable how one might not want to do that.
      • by Kamel Jockey (409856) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:20AM (#5317311) Homepage
        Microsoft site licenses usually require companies to pay for machines which don't have Windows on them. I can only imagine that Microsoft makes the same requirements on computer vendors when they sell machines without Windows, or with some other OS. So even if you buy a new machine without Windows, you will probably still be lining Microsoft's pockets buying such a machine.

        And as another poster mentioned, you will probably spend way more money buying such a machine from some no-name vendor (and still pay the Microsoft tax) compared to the cheaper price of a name-brand laptop with Windows pre-installed.

        One alternative for the poster is to sell a $50 pen with a free copy of Windows included :)
        • by Steve Hamlin (29353) on Monday February 17, 2003 @03:53AM (#5317896) Homepage

          Microsoft site licenses usually require companies to pay for machines which don't have Windows on them.

          Depends on the license that companies have, but not generally true.

          ----- -----

          I can only imagine that Microsoft makes the same requirements on computer vendors when they sell machines without Windows, or with some other OS. So even if you buy a new machine without Windows, you will probably still be lining Microsoft's pockets buying such a machine.

          Not true anymore. Microsoft USED to force OEMs to pay OS licenses for every PC shipped, regardless of whether every PC actually has Windows installed on it.

          Microsoft and the U.S. DOJ signed a consent decree in 1994 that halted this 'per processor' license fee (among other practices alleged to be improper).

          OEMs pay licenses only for machines shipped.

          Now, between volume rates, advertising allowances, joint marketing & partnering arrangements, licenses for other products, etc, etc,. MS still has incredible licensing flexibiliy, and due to its market control, massive power over those OEMs. But no licenses for every machine shipped.

          • Are you sure? (Score:5, Informative)

            by edxwelch (600979) on Monday February 17, 2003 @05:36AM (#5318125)
            According to Gateway's testomany in the MS court case : "Gateway also faulted another provision of the new licensing agreement, which requires PC makers to pay a Windows royalty on every PC shipped, even if it didn't include Windows. To top it off, to qualify for market development funds, PC makers have to put a Microsoft OS on every PC. As a result, trying to sell non-Windows PCs, or even PCs without software, is a financial loser for computer makers." http://news.com.com/2100-1001-868413.html
    • by g4dget (579145) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:33AM (#5317096)
      I seriously doubt that those machines are "Microsoft Free": Emperor Linux most likely doesn't have the purchasing power to force Sony and other vendors to sell them machines without Windows licenses. Most likely, all they do is erase the Windows partition for you.
      • by Landaras (159892) <neil@wehnemaWELTYn.com minus author> on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:22AM (#5317323) Homepage
        You're right. As this page [emperorlinux.com] points out, their machines come with WinXP Home Edition from the OEM. They just happen to blow it away and ensure that all of the hardware works very well with Linux, and your choice of distro is installed for you out of the box. They also provide a year of tech support, hence the markup.

        Note: I have no problem with Emporer Linux's business model, and wish them success. However, I don't think they'll meet the submitter's requirement to never pay for Windows.
    • Re:Emperor Linux (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ATMAvatar (648864)
      Don't turn everything into a political statement. This is more a consumer statement. Whenever you buy a product, you are in effect "voting for" it. You tell the market that you wanted that particular product and allow company X to produce more of their product Y. If you knowingly buy Windows, you are telling the market "I like Windows!" Whether or not you actually like the OS is irrelevant - you are voting with your money. When you can no longer buy computers without Windows, you have lost the most basic right of a consumer - the ability to choose what product you spend your money on. I would have hoped in a "Democratic" society, this idea would be abhorrent at best. The loss of the basic freedom to buy what you like should anger you. Heil Microsoft, I guess.
      • Re:Emperor Linux (Score:4, Interesting)

        by grammar nazi (197303) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:56AM (#5317473) Journal
        "If you knowingly buy Windows, you are telling the market "I like Windows!" Whether or not you actually like the OS is irrelevant - you are voting with your money."

        Although I agree that you are voting with your money, your assumption, ATMAvatar, isn't exactly correct. You are telling the market, "either I like Windows, or, I like the hardware and care about hardware more than software." The difference between my statement and your statment is the reason that Microsoft spends so much to insure 100% OEM compliance.

        "When you can no longer buy computers without Windows, you have lost the most basic right of a consumer - the ability to choose what product you spend your money on."

        I would argue differently: When you can no longer buy computers without Windows, the market for computers without Windows is too small/unprofitable for a company to take advantage of. I love it when people say, "Microshit is junk/sucks/etc." I always respond that Microsoft must be doing something right, because 90%+ of desktop computers around the world run Windows. There's a obviously a *market* for Windows software and with 90%+ of market penetration, I'd say that Windows is excellent (there's not many products and industries with marketshare like that).


        In a "Democratic" society, the citizens should be making the laws. I get scared when the RIAA, BSA, MPAA has so much lobbying power, because by changing the laws, these companies can make our markets innefficient. However, I'm happy with our capitalist society as it is right now. Even though Microsoft commands a vulgar profit margin on each copy of WindowsXP that it sells (a sign of an inefficient market), I understand that software is a commodity and in the long run (10 years? 5 years?), Microsoft is royally screwed with respect to operating system software. The same holds true for office/productivity software. I kind of feel sorry for them, since the best they can come up with is "XBox".

        • Re:Emperor Linux (Score:4, Insightful)

          by AdrianG (57465) <adrian@nerds.org> on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:28AM (#5317580) Homepage
          • "When you can no longer buy computers without Windows, you have lost the most basic right of a consumer - the ability to choose what product you spend your money on."

          I would argue differently: When you can no longer buy computers without Windows, the market for computers without Windows is too small/unprofitable for a company to take advantage of. I love it when people say, "Microshit is junk/sucks/etc." I always respond that Microsoft must be doing something right, because 90%+ of desktop computers around the world run Windows. There's a obviously a *market* for Windows software and with 90%+ of market penetration, I'd say that Windows is excellent (there's not many products and industries with marketshare like that).

          Nonsense. MicroSoft has been engaged in conduct that violates anti-trust laws, and much of their financial success is based on their predatory conduct, not on the merits of their products.

          To me (and apparently to the author of this topic article) paying money to MicroSoft is like supporting organized crime. I'm not going to admire organized crime for its financial success and conceed that it "must be doing something right," even if I am trapped into having to deal with them, somehow.

          When MicroSoft plays fair (or at least plays legal) and makes a big profit, I'll be impressed. As long as they continue their criminal conspiracy to violate antitrust laws, I'm going to continue to feel soiled every time I'm touched in any way by their lousy software.

          Adrian

    • by Corpus_Callosum (617295) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:05AM (#5317244) Homepage
      Buy a Used Laptop. Someone else may already have consumed a MS license on that hardware, true, but you will not be consuming one yourself. None of your money will be heading to Redmond (unless you account for the effect of resale value of hardware that was originally sold with a MS license).

      eBay is a great place to start looking :-)
    • Re:Emperor Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fnkmaster (89084) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:12AM (#5317276)
      Actually, you are paying a hell of a lot more. For example, check this out: Ibex [emperorlinux.com]. This is a Sony Vaio VX-89 with Linux pre-installed. EmperorLinux charges $2050 for it. Here [mpsuperstore.com] on the other hand, we have the same product available for $1399. That's right, it's $650 cheaper.


      If that's not a fuck job, I don't know what is. I mean, the evidence here clearly supports that A) when you buy an EmperorLinux laptop, you are clearly still paying the Microsoft tax - they are just wiping Windows XP off of it (or you can still get it dual boot if you want it as such). And B) you are paying a shit price. The worst retail price online I found for the VX-89 was around 1700 dollars. So why not just suck it up and accept that the MS tax is unavoidable for laptops, and buy a decent laptop you like?


      I understand the idea of voting with your dollars, but it doesn't get through to the shitheads at Sony corporate since they are still shipping a Vaio with Windows license to some schlocky overpriced "Linux" reseller. Or find a source of laptops that truly doesn't include the MS tax (they do exist, but I don't know of any super lightweight ones).

  • by elysian1 (533581) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:25AM (#5317043)
    Small, lightweight, runs Unix, nice GUI, long battery life, etc...
    • they're smaller (Score:5, Insightful)

      by simpl3x (238301) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:43AM (#5317135)
      than the ibook, though i must say i've carried around my son's ibook, and it feels great sizewise. and, they are pretty darn reasonable now. of course, the advantage of booting into osx for itunes and such makes it an even better buy. the g4 powerbook is larger than some of the supersmall x86 machines, but how many of those have slot loading dvd recorders?
  • Powerbook? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThorGod (456163) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:25AM (#5317045) Journal
    I'm in a similar situation, only I've never owned a Mac. Anyway, I think I've decided upon buying a 12" powerbook (and yes, I read the reviews of them). Not sure if that's too rich for your blood but it sounds like a good deal to me.
  • buy used. (Score:5, Informative)

    by morgajel (568462) <slashreader@noSPAM.morgajel.com> on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:26AM (#5317047) Homepage
    that's what I did. it did come with win98, but I deleted it right off.
    just be careful when buying used- I made the mistake of buying from a tradeshow [homelinux.net] and it took 2 months before I could get a usable one.

    I did end up with a gateway solo2150 which is working pretty well.

    if you're not playing games, a 600 mhz will work fine. I have kde 3.1 and openoffice on debian and it runs with little lag.
  • powernotebooks.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by da007 (242994) <dynamicdna@@@gmail...com> on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:26AM (#5317049) Homepage
    www.powernotebooks.com

    windows tax not required. was in a slashdot article awhile back.
  • Knoppix. (Score:5, Informative)

    by conner_bw (120497) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:26AM (#5317052) Homepage Journal
    Here's a suggestion, bring the Knoppix Boot CD [knopper.net] to the store you want to purchase a laptop from. If the CD Boots with sound, graphics, network, etc... then the laptop is linux certified (so to speak)
    • Re:Knoppix. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by inflex (123318) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:37AM (#5317110) Homepage Journal
      Be prepared for a lot of sales people to go "Sorry, we cannot allow you to boot that CD".

      Kind of ironic that you're not permitted to 'test' the machine you're about to fork out several thousand dollars for.

      When I was last searching for a laptop I encountered this brick-wall mentality, consequently I ended up telling them "Oh, in that case, no sale, goodbye" ( Commissions obviously doesn't exist in sales any more ).

      As for the reasoning behind the no-fiddle mentality, it's because they're afraid that you'll install some sort of hacker software.
  • Fujitsu P2000 Series (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YokuYakuYoukai (570645) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:26AM (#5317055)
    These are great cursoe based laptops and becides the software based modem everything is linux compatible.

    here is a Link [fujitsupc.com] to the fujitsu website for it.

    i have an older version with a slower 800mhz processor and 4 megs of video ram. it struggles with the latest divx encodes unplugged, but plugged in they display fine. The best feature is its real life 8-10 hour battery life. i could never go back to a 2 hour laptop.
  • apple (Score:5, Funny)

    by captainstupid (247628) <dmv@ua k r on.edu> on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:27AM (#5317057) Journal
    It's called a power book.

    Yao and mini-me use 'em, why can't you?
  • HP is not the way (Score:5, Informative)

    by Papa Legba (192550) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:27AM (#5317061)
    Called them today looking at laptops. Told her I did not want to pay for XP , she told me that removing it would void the waranty on the laptop! She suggested that I buy a bigger drive and do a split partion. I was disgusted that I Was going to be charged even more just to run linux. I am not even sure how software can void a hardware warranty. The call ended with them still having a laptop and me still looking.

    • Re:HP is not the way (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blakestah (91866)
      I have an HP linux laptop. I blew away Windows NT about 3 years ago, and installed linux. It was light for the time (4 lbs), and had the right range of compromises I was looking for. But, HP laptops are, I think, just relabeled Dell laptops.

      Anyway, $0.02. HP is really oriented towards corporate sales and not personal sales, and it is dern near impossible trying to get decent specs from them. But, the machine has worked like a charm so far, and its been through a lot.

      Back to the original poster. If you want Firewire built in, you gotta buy a MAC or a SONY. If you won't pay for Windows, you will get a MAC. End of story. However, I dislike the SONY laptop keyboards, and the Macs run like crippled pigs (even if they look beautiful and have sweet user interfaces).

      I am not sure what I would get now. The built-in Firewire is much more limiting than you would think, due to licensing issues. In laptop use I have come to value battery life more and more, as well as a decent keyboard. I'd probably look at Crusoe powered laptops to get good battery life, and then look for one with a good keyboard.
  • Quick links (Score:3, Informative)

    by GreyWolf3000 (468618) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:28AM (#5317064) Journal
    All of these are taken from linux.org [linux.org]
  • I have an answer. (Score:4, Informative)

    by disconnectedsmile (617166) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:28AM (#5317065) Homepage
    Try http://www.powernotebooks.com I bought my laptop from there and am very pleased. I did not buy windows with it because they give you the option. It runs linux great and they have a wide selection to choose from. From light to mobile workstation. Check it out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:28AM (#5317069)
    I recently switched to a new 12 inch iBook running yellow dog linux, and I have to say its great. Although it may not be as portable some windows superslims, its battery life, and performance make it a superb choice. Also, i have had zero driver issues with my iBook, which is a lot more than I can say about install redhat on my old thinkpad.

    maybe you could find some usful info here too http://www.linux-laptop.net/
  • Buy used. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ktakki (64573) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:30AM (#5317079) Homepage Journal

    Since you've ruled out the iBook, I'd suggest that you look for a laptop that meets your requirements on the used market (eBay, local want ads, computer resellers, outlets that deal in refurbished and formerly leased equipment). Someone else will have already paid the Windows Tax for you, and the money you save will more than compensate for the time you'll have to spend scraping Windows off the hard drive and installing your operating system of choice.

    k.

  • by jon_c (100593) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:32AM (#5317088) Homepage
    I've seen this laptop [ebay.com] on half.com [ebay.com], it's one hell of a deal:

    P4 2.4Ghz/512mb DR/40GB/DVD/CDRW/USB 2.0/FireWire/56K/LAN/15" TFT for ~1200
    No OS, no brand name. I have no idea if they are good are not, but they look decent.

    -Jon
  • by Kiwi (5214) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:34AM (#5317099) Homepage Journal
    We recently had a thread [google.com] about this in comp.os.linux.misc. Basically, at this point, it is just about impossible to buy a notebook without the "Windows tax". Also, Linux has a harder time with some of the ultra-small notebooks; they use weird proprietary drivers which Linux does not support a lot of the time.

    For more information about Linux on laptops, go to the web page about Linux on laptops [linux-on-laptops.com]; help can be found in the Usenet newsgroups comp.os.linux.misc [google.com] or comp.os.linux.hardware [google.com]

    - Sam

  • hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by StandardDeviant (122674) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:37AM (#5317109) Homepage Journal
    i don't know about linux compatibility, but it sounds like in terms of HARDWARE you're looking for something like Fujitsu P-series or so. Fujitsu P-Series page [fujitsupc.com]. it doesn't have firewire, but it has everything else you want. here's a page talking about putting linux (debian) on it [greenfly.org] i think i've seen firewire pcmcia cards, so that might be the solution. I don't know about getting it without windows, but that's the breaks... Like another poster said, not *everything* has to be a political statement. You could just video tape yourself burning or shitting on your windows CD in front of a linux flag or something. ;)
    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by belloc (37430) <belloc&latinmail,com> on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:25AM (#5317339) Homepage
      You could just video tape yourself burning or shitting on your windows CD in front of a linux flag or something.

      Winner, Most Disturbing Image of the Day.
    • The Fujitsu P2000 laptop does indeed come equipped with a firewire port, as well as USB2, as can be observed in the specifications page which is linked from the very url mentioned in the parent post.

      Here's a direct link [fujitsupc.com].

      Also, here is a very good user discussion forum concerning the P2000 laptop, which actually has a seperate forum for the linux users, so you can check up on what you can expect:
      http://www.leog.net/fujp_forum/ [leog.net]

      On a sidenote, I can say that Fijutsu will *not* ship any laptop without the windows license. In fact, when you send in the system for repair and they need to replace the hard drive (which contains the repair image), you have to pay for a new license.

  • by Xafloc (48004) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:38AM (#5317115) Homepage
    Now this could probably be considered a switch story..but I still use Windows/Linux, so it's more that I have just added one more to the list.

    I recently acquired the last model of the PowerBook series. 15"/G4/1G RAM. I must say I am very impressed with the hardware, the size, the layout, etc. I'm still trying to get used to the Operating System.

    I do a lot of Java Development, and have gotten my favorite IDE to work (Eclipse), and have gotten JBoss to run semi-succesfully. There are a lot of things to get used to though. The built in mouse has but one button, so you must ctrl->click to do a right click...that is annoying as heck. So, purchase an external mouse whatever you do.

    being able to drop to the shell and be in a familiar place is very nice. Install Fink and you can apt-get your favorite software. There are a lot of apps out there...more than I thought there was (www.versiontracker.com).

    All in all...I'd say get a PowerBook and leave OS X on it, and install your favorite Open-source software.

    If you choose to wipe it clean and install a version of Linux...it is still very impressive hardware, so you should be in a win-win situation.

    My two cents...
    • by MyHair (589485) on Monday February 17, 2003 @04:32AM (#5317998) Journal
      The built in mouse has but one button, so you must ctrl->click to do a right click...that is annoying as heck. So, purchase an external mouse whatever you do.

      The "mouse" is a touchpad, isn't it? Many PC touchpad drivers have a feature that tapping in the upper-right corner is a right click. Hasn't somebody made such a driver for Macs or for Linux on Mac?

      I don't own a Mac or Powerbook, but I wish I did.
  • Neocomputers (Score:5, Informative)

    by charlie763 (529636) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:39AM (#5317117) Homepage
    Neocomputers.com [neocomputers.com] will sell you a custom laptop. You can also purchase it without Windows on it.

    Here is a link to the custom laptop page. [neocomputers.com]
  • Are you a troll. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jericho4.0 (565125) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:39AM (#5317119)
    With those requirements this could almost be a plant by Apple.

    If there's one place where Apple kicks ass (and I'm of the opinion there are more), it's in full-featured notebooks.

    Dude! You're getting an Apple!

  • Fujitsu Lifebook (Score:3, Informative)

    by g4dget (579145) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:41AM (#5317125)
    For my next notebook, I'm considering the Fujitsu Lifebook [fujitsupc.com]: they are very small and claim to have great battery life. If people have more experience with Linux on those, perhaps they can share it.

    There are also a number of 2-4 pound laptops from Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.; that's what I have right now. They are considerably lighter than the iBooks, have comparable or better battery life, and are much, much faster. They often don't include the CD/DVD in the main laptop, but frankly, I prefer that choice; it's easy to plug a bus-powered CD/DVD into the USB2 or FW port.

    You will effectively not find a notebook where you don't pay the Windows tax: the big manufacturers just bundle it that way, and if anything goes wrong with the machine, they will have you run stuff under Windows before even accepting it for warranty return (I have been there). Apple is no better: you can't get their HW without their OS, and they won't even support their laptops connecting to a non-Apple wireless access point.

    • by b17bmbr (608864) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:54AM (#5317180)
      they won't even support their laptops connecting to a non-Apple wireless access point.

      oh really. i bought an ibook and called them up when i couldn't connect to my linksys WAP. the guy told me exactly what i needed to do. very helpful. if you want to bash apple, at least know wtf you're talking about.
      • Re:Fujitsu Lifebook (Score:4, Informative)

        by g4dget (579145) on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:48AM (#5317672)
        very helpful. if you want to bash apple, at least know wtf you're talking about.

        I own two Macintoshes. One of them didn't work with my non-Apple AP. Everything else did (Windows, Linux). Apple tech support told me there was nothing they could do--"We don't support connecting to non-Apple 802.11b access points, it may or may not work. You could bring it in to a dealer that has an airport set up to see whether it's a hardware problem."

        Yes, Apple tech support is generally good and helpful. Their folks seem to be smarter than those at PC companies. But there are limits to what they support (and what they can support). And they will almost certainly not support Linux on an iBook either.

        So, if you want to bash me, at least know WTF you are talking about.

  • by romanval (556418) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:43AM (#5317133)
    Notebooks are different in that they tend to be all-in-one solutions, so they tend to include the OS whether you like it or not.

    The only way to assemble one is if there's a commodity hardware standard for notebooks or subnotebooks... but there's little chance of that happening since much of the size advantages of subnotebooks is a result of the tight intergration that an all-in-one solution affords.

    So you're pretty much stuck buying something OEM.

    Personally I can't see why you shy from an iBook. With an iBook, you're paying for Mac OS X anyways.. Although nothing is stopping you from installing Linux on it- once you give OS X a shot you'll probrobly won't need to.
  • by 1000101 (584896) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:43AM (#5317134)
    Ok, so I understand the whole Microsoft Tax idea, but I think the same thing could be said for Apple. Why purchase a Mac just to wipe out the drive and install Linux? The higher cost associated with Macs is partly contributed to Mac OS X. I have an XP box, a Red Hat box, and an iBook so I get my daily dose of multi-OS use, and I can't figure out why anyone would pay more money for an iBook just for the hardware. There are plenty of laptop manufacturers out there that provide just as high quality laptops as Apple. Soooo, back to my point: If you don't plan on using OS X, don't buy a Mac!
    • There are plenty of laptop manufacturers out there that provide just as high quality laptops as Apple.

      Except that oddly enough, when people compare the price of PC laptops to the price of Apple laptops, they almost invariably compare the lowest-priced PCs they can find to the Apple laptop.

      When you compare solid, reliable, long-lasting PC laptops to their Apple equivalents, the "Apple Tax" disappears. If you want to buy a cheap Dell and replace it in 18 months, that's fine, but if you want 3+ years out of your laptop, you'll have a tough time beating an Apple laptop for durability and reliability.

  • Powerbook 12" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hagmonk (201689) <luke@burton.e[ ]dna.id.au ['chi' in gap]> on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:44AM (#5317138) Homepage
    These are a stunning laptop. I love mine. Only criticism is that it gets hot. They're small, light, firewire, 2x USB, DVD burner, good battery life, monitor spanning support, built in ethernet and modem ... the list goes on.

    The catch is always software. With Mac OS X, you get great software. Better by far than any Linux configuration on the desktop. Want to burn a CD? Insert the bank CD, drag the files onto it, and then eject it ("do you wish to burn this CD?")

    How easy is that? I don't have time to fsck around with cdrecord and mkisofs anymore. I just want to burn a goddamned CD. I just want to connect to a wireless network. I just want to watch a DVD. I just want to fire up emacs and write some code. I don't want to tinker and stuff around all day making things work.

    So remember, hardware is half the story. Software is the other. If you can take the mac premium price, you get the best of both worlds.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:45AM (#5317142)
    I bought a Dell Inspiron and finally got a Linux refund($125) but it took me hours on the phone and educating them. Two of my friends have also bought Inspirons lately and got their refunds with less hassle so things seem to be changing. However, when you call Dell the first time you probably still get a confident "no" from several people until you get to the right person -- just call back, talk to someone else, and be persistent until you succeed.
  • Couple links... (Score:3, Informative)

    by gregfortune (313889) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:46AM (#5317151)
    You might contact a Micron PC [micronpc.com] sales rep and see if they'll provide a laptop with a version of Linux installed. If I remember correctly, I was able to arrange such a deal for a client... I don't see any option on their website so I might just be crazy :)

    You might also take a look at Los Alamos Computers [laclinux.com]. They aren't as light as you want, but they might be an option.

    QLI [qlilinuxpc.com] is also an option, but weight is an issue again.

    Finally, Emperor Linux [emperorlinux.com] has some very light looking machines :) They are as light as 2 lbs, but you'll have to sacrifice a little speed. (2lbs is around 1 kg..)

    Good luck.. I don't have any experience with any of these companies except for Micron PC.. You might do a quick search on google next time...
  • I smell a rat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Papa Legba (192550) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:48AM (#5317160)
    Here is something odd. As people have been posting links I have been eagerly following them. I am noticing a disturbing trend. Every link has led to a place that had laptops on average $500 to $1000 more than the same laptop from a major vendor with windows on it. I am starting to think that we linux lovers may be taking it up the butt the same way that vegetarians get reamed for "Organic" produce..
    See a market , exploit that market and I think we may being exploited here.

    • Re:I smell a rat (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Landaras (159892) <neil@wehnemaWELTYn.com minus author> on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:31AM (#5317372) Homepage
      I don't think we're being exploited by a markup, as long as the vendor provides the following:
      • Your preferred distro installed and fully tested. I would expect all hardware to work as well or better than it would under Windows
      • Popular software (possibly some non-gratis stuff like StarOffice or Loki game ports thrown in) installed and configured. Even automated installs can take time, and fixing dependencies can be a pain in the rear
      • Professional tech support on par with the major Wintel OEMs

      You don't always get that by buying a notebook off the shelf and installing Linux yourself. For some people and/or businesses, it might be worth the markup to receive the hardware and know that it's already set up, everything works, and help is just a phone call away.
    • Re:I smell a rat (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MarcQuadra (129430)
      That's evidence that the system has broken down. It costs more to buy a product WITHOUT the monopoly OS than with it. You have to pay a premium to get a machine with Linux (a free OS) or no OS at all. The ill effects of a monopoly are starting to really show through now, and we're all just sitting here TAKING it and SUPPORTING it with every x86 PC purchase.

      I'm moving to PPC/Linux.
  • by His name cannot be s (16831) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:54AM (#5317183) Journal
    I decided against saying something terribly insightful about the "Microsoft Tax".

    I *do* find it F*cking hillarious that you would buy and Apple notebook computer, and load linux onto it, and be just as happy.

    OHMYGOD: Apple won't sell a laptop without an OS either. THE BASTARDS!

    It's quite odd that the /. populace will ram shit and vinegar down the throats of the companies that build PC laptops because they preload Windows on them, but it seems fine and dandy to pay for a notebook from another supplier, and get the OS you don't want there either. Why?

    You feel better about paying the "Apple Tax"?

    Now, Merits of Mac OS X aside, if the poster wants *Linux* on the desktop, buying an iBook hardly fixes the problem, as a matter of fact, it does just encourages Apple, 'Cause no-one complains.

    In an Ideal world, you could buy that notebook Windows free. Trouble is, welcome to earth. Suppliers like companies that build millions a year vs thousands a year. They get cheaper access to the components to build laptops. Even if you find a distributor that ships and OS-free laptop, the added cost for that distributor to build laptops in small quantity would drive up the price, most likely past the point of buying one with Windows included.

    Buy the laptop based on what you want it to have, suck it up and chuck away the Windows or MacOS license. Or resell it on ebay.

    Now, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
    • by mchappee (22897) on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:34AM (#5317608)
      You're comparing apples to oranges (no pun intended). If Microsoft made the laptop we would all expect to receive a Microsoft OS upon purchase. An "OS tax" would be a given. The situation is true of Apple. Apple brands the laptop as their own, thus it's acceptable to bundle it with their OS. The question is regarding the hardware that has no tie to the OS. Should I have to give a little of the overall cost of the hardware to Microsoft even though I'm not doing business with them? If so, that would be a tax. If there were a plethora of PPC laptop vendors out there, and none of them would sell a laptop without MacOS, then you would have a point. As it is, however, your example is flawed.
  • by Jimithing DMB (29796) <dfe@tg w b d . org> on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:01AM (#5317215) Homepage

    It's been said, but not like this.

    Look, what you really want is a PowerBook. You know it, everyone here knows it. You just won't admit it.

    So let's compare features. The Apple certainly has no potential whatsoever of running Microsoft Windows except through some complete emulation/virtualization software. Score one for Apple. The Apple comes with an actual GUI far superior to Microsoft Windows (not even a contest) and much more polished than your typical UNIX GUI. Score another (or a couple) for Apple.

    Want more? Well, your Mac is actually capable of running Microsoft Office should you later find yourself in a bind and be REQUIRED to deal with it to put food on the table. On the plus side, you can always pirate it and you don't need Windows or Windows emulation software to run it. That's worth about a half a point (MS Office isn't that great in my book). Your Mac will also be able to run just about any open source program you want. Furthermore, Apple has now even decided to provide an official version of X11 which they have even extended to allow full access to the OpenGL extensions. That means that you can create "lickable" GUIs using the X Window System.

    But even if you don't want to run Mac OS X (and trust me, you will), you can always run Linux on it. There are several very good quality PowerPC distros available. Furthermore, even if you go this route, it still doesn't preclude you from running MacOS X (or 7 8 or 9 for that matter) using the mac on linux software.

    And on top of all of that you'll be supporting a company who actually understands that it is customers that drive the bottom line; a company that creates GUIs that even your mom can understand, GUIs that actually make sense and help you get on with what you are trying to do-- especially if you are a hard-core geek.

    So please at least consider the Powerbook. It's a sleek machine, it's extremely solidly built (well, the 12" model I hear leaves something to be desired, but the rest are excellent). It comes with a good OS. You can run Linux on it. And you're not supporting a company that supports Microsoft. In fact, you are supporting a company that actually competes with Microsoft (on some small level). A company whose CEO made a little deal with Microsoft and got a lot of gain for very little (putting MS IE in as the default browser, BFD).

    In short: you know you want it dude!

  • ibooks are fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b17bmbr (608864) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:05AM (#5317243)
    i have a 12", 700mhz/256mb ibook. all my linux apps that i need are there. especially a nice vim port. i run X with gimp, and it runs great, while i am testing mysql/php on apache, have mail open, mozilla, and assorted other stuff. and it doesn't lag at all. i don't know what all the bitching about speed is about. of course i can't "compile a kernel in 5 minutes...", but i have all the power i need. no, i'm not playing UT2K3.

    and, the best part, i get 3.5-4 hours battery, plus, the it truly is a laptop. i can leave it my lap for hours. everything just works. usb, firewire, cd-rw, etc. yes, i have gotten all to work fine in linux. i use linux in my classroom. have for a few years. i was thinking seriously about a dell, or powernotebook.com laptop. but i ended up with the ibook simply because it is a sub 5 pound unix laptop and i didn't want to pay the m$ tax either. if you measure the price, you're not giving up too much with an ibook compared to a PC laptop. and you're getting a ton more. just get minimum 256mb, preferrably 384mb.
  • IBM (Score:3, Informative)

    by NetJunkie (56134) <jason.nash@gm a i l.com> on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:11AM (#5317275)
    Check out an IBM X series ThinkPad. It's their ultralite series. Very nice. Many of the current Thinkpads can be ordered with 802.11b on a mini-pci card with integrated antennas.

    They also sell the Thinkpads with Linux.
  • by nurd68 (235535) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:25AM (#5317343) Homepage
    They basically ignored me until I told them that I would never buy a Dell again. (Which has more to do with poor design (who puts the hard disk and cdrw on the same ide controller?) and poorer customer service (they refused to sell me a replacement video card, so I bought one from ebay). Piggybacked on to this was the "whom do I email about returning this bundled software", and they completely ignored that question.

    So, this is what I did.
    1.) Don't boot the software.
    2.) Don't open the software.
    3.) Since you have not agreed to these licenses, the "thou shalt not resell this" does not apply to you.
    4.) So, I resold the license to a guy at work for $50. (There was no real OS CD, just a recovery disk. However, he had one already, so I just sold him a license).
    5.) In theory, you could sell this on ebay, but I've heard of MS using its' clout to pull those ads.

    Of course, there is another reason to actually fight with the OEM - MS can no longer publish those "we run on 95% of all consumer PC's sold", when what really happens is that many people wipe the disk and install another OS. (I'd call it perhaps 25% dual boot, and maybe another 10% just do 1 OS.)
    • So, I resold the license to a guy at work for $50. (There was no real OS CD, just a recovery disk. However, he had one already, so I just sold him a license).

      You might want to re-read that EULA. OEM licenses are not only not for resale, they're tied to the hardware. It doesn't matter if you booted it or not - your co-worker did, and he's running an unlicensed copy. It sounds like you got the better of the deal. :)

      "Software as a Component of the Computer - Transfer. THIS LICENSE MAY NOT BE SHARED, TRANSFERRED TO OR USED CONCURRENTLY ON DIFFERENT COMPUTERS. The SOFTWARE is licensed with the HARDWARE as a single integrated product and may only be used with the HARDWARE. If the SOFTWARE is not accompanied by new HARDWARE, you may not use the SOFTWARE."
  • IBM ThinkPads (Score:4, Informative)

    by hendridm (302246) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:27AM (#5317351) Homepage
    IBM ThinkPads [elinux.com] work well with Linux. You might have to sell the farm to afford one, but they're quality.
  • try this (Score:3, Informative)

    by sootman (158191) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:30AM (#5317364) Homepage Journal
    Visit http://store.apple.com/ [apple.com] then click the 'special deals' red tag in the lower-left corner. Bang, Apple-refurbed products, most notably the $800, 600 MHz iBook. It might be heavier than you want, but the screen goes to 1024x768, and at that price, it might be worth looking at again. Also, 22" flat panels for $1349. woo hoo! Otherwise, hit eBay for a used VAIO.
  • by BigDish (636009) on Monday February 17, 2003 @01:52AM (#5317459)
    Just wondering-the author was looking to buy an iBook, but is blantantly opposed to paying the M$ tax. What about the Apple tax that come with Apple hardware? Apple won't sell hardware without an OS.
    The iBook is cute, but, IMHO overpriced. Moreso, the lack of a PC Card slot and the lack of IR means I won't be getting one.
    The author is going out of his way to avoid giving MS any money for something he won't use, but seemed to have no problem paying apple for software he won't use. My point is perhaps he should not be outright opposed to buying windows if he gets a better machine. Windows "only" adds maybe $30 to the cost of a PC.
  • by xmnemonic (603000) <xmnemonic&softhome,net> on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:38AM (#5317628) Journal
    If you've decided to acquiesce on the "no-Windows" stance, I'd suggest looking at the CNET Notebook section [cnet.com] for info. There are sections are for value as well as thin and light notebooks, among others, and looking through those sections is a lot quicker than navigating through the separate laptop sections on each manufacturer's website.

    My take on notebooks (currently); wait. Banias [tomshardware.com] is around the corner (March 12 last I heard) bringing +3 hour battery time coupled with excellent performance (it's easy to find slower laptops with significantly longer battery times though). Cost will be an issue (if you're looking at sub-$1500), so I'd suggest waiting even longer after Banias. Having performance, price and portability all in one laptop is about to become possible though; all you need to do is hold off from purchasing for a bit more.
  • Japan Rush (Score:3, Informative)

    by ConsumedByTV (243497) on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:43AM (#5317649) Homepage
    japanrush.com has nice slick sony viaos imported from japan and they CHARGE EXTRA for windows.

    So don't pay!

  • by SensitiveMale (155605) on Monday February 17, 2003 @02:50AM (#5317677)
    Who would of thought that over half the people answering this question suggested iBooks or Powerbooks?

    Think this would of happened 2 years ago?
  • by call -151 (230520) on Monday February 17, 2003 @03:05AM (#5317726) Homepage
    As has been pointed out, you pay a premium of $500-$1000 over commodity laptops for the privledge of not buying Windows. This stems from the different rates MS charges different size retailers. If you do buy a "Windows- free" machine from a Linux laptop specialist, probably they bought the laptops from HP or Toshiba and already paid their $15-50 to MS anyway, so it's not like you are keeping any money from going to MS.

    If you want to make a statement by spending an extra $500- $1000 just to not have Windows, fine. I suggest you can make a more effective statement by just getting the commodity laptop and giving the $500+ you save over an allegedy "Windows-free" machine to GNU, BSD, and/or EFF, depending upon the particular point you are trying to make.

    If you truly want to avoid money going to MS, just get an iBook ( or Powerbook if you can swing it.) Those are great, sturdy, well-arranged machines. Actually, I'm not sure how sturdy the Powerbooks are but the iBooks are unbelievable and really are made for 12-year olds as far as being tossed in backpacks and so on.

  • by jasonla (211640) on Monday February 17, 2003 @04:45AM (#5318028)
    When you buy online, most companies such as Dell, IBM, Compaq, etc. will force you to buy some software package.

    If you, however, call them on the phone and talk to one of their sales reps, you can have the bundled software removed (including the OS).

    I would recommend a Dell, or if you have the money for it, an IBM Thinkpad. I love my ThinkPad.

    You just have to talk to a real person, which I understand is sometimes difficult for some computer literate people, but you have to work to get what you want in life. :)
  • by stecker (263711) on Monday February 17, 2003 @05:20AM (#5318094) Homepage
    You mentioned that you were looking at a VAIO R505. Stop. Stay away. Go no further.

    I just replaced a R505 with a 12" PowerBook. In every respect, the Apple is the superior machine:

    • The R505 series of Vaio feel very very cheap. The nice metal cover that had been on the older series Vaios has been replaced by a run-of-the-mill piece of plastic. After a year, the screen hinge barely works, and the power adapter socket will only make an adequate connection when I hold it just right.

    • On paper, the R505 is smaller, but it doesn't feel any smaller. The way the 12"PB is hinged makes it open in a very compact way - unlike the R505 which seems to need a great deal more room to fully open. On a train or plane, the 12" PB can be held on the tray table with the screen at a reasonable angle even with the seat reclined in front of you. No chance of doing this with the Vaio.

    • Finally, the PB12" is much much smaller when you consider its relative size with the DVD drive installed. On the Vaio, you need to plug the unit into its base to get the DVD drive - doubling the size and weight of the thing. With the Apple, it's just there, and just works.

    • You say you're fine with a PCMCIA 802.11 solution, but have you really used one of these for any length of time? The antenna portion of the card makes for an awkward fit - especially compared with the elegance of the Mac's built-in airport.


    Don't get me started on OSX. You want to run Linux why? Honestly, with X11 installed within OSX, I'm finding it hard to find reasons to run Linux.
  • TransMeta (Score:5, Informative)

    by archiDORK (598460) on Monday February 17, 2003 @07:46AM (#5318367)
    Sounds like a Transmeta device would be right on target. You can then avoid both windows and intel.

    http://www.antelopetech.com

    http://www.transmeta.com
  • by Lumpish Scholar (17107) on Monday February 17, 2003 @10:40AM (#5319025) Homepage Journal
    If you go to www.dfsdirectsales.com [dfsdirectsales.com] -- not the Dell outlet site, but the Dell Financial Services direct sales site -- you'll find systems that Dell leased out, and has since taken back. Because Windows was "licensed" to the original user and cannot be transferred, these systems are all sold without operating systems! (The Microsoft tax has already been paid; you don't have to pay it again.)

    I don't think you're to beat a 12 inch iBook or Powerbook for small and light, though, and if "[p]erformance isn't a major concern," why are you worried about it enough to rule out a Mac?
  • Qli Linux PCs (Score:5, Informative)

    by srussell (39342) on Monday February 17, 2003 @10:59AM (#5319142) Homepage Journal
    Someone else has mentioned Qli Linux PCs, and I thought I'd post a personal anecdote.

    Qli [qlilinuxpc.com] sells new laptops with Linux preinstalled. Their prices range from one thousand to over two, for a fully loaded machine. They don't sell any that are tiny, like the Vaio, but there are other [laclinux.com] companies [emperorlinux.com] that do sell refurbished laptops and small form factor [emperorlinux.com] laptops with no Windows tax. I chose Qli because I was looking for a particular feature set, and because one of their installation options is Gentoo [gentoo.org], which is my current favorite distribution.

    I got an 1800MHz, 512MB (2GB max), 15.1" LCD, 20Gb, DVD/CDRW laptop for a shade over $1800. It has onboard ethernet, three USB (one of which is USB 2.0), onboard firewire, and a single CardBus slot. It was, practically, the perfect configuration I was looking for; the price was reasonable, and (as I said) they offered Gentoo as an install option.

    My experience with Qli has been good. I agreed that they would install Gentoo 1.4, which is technically still beta, and this was Qli's first 1.4 laptop, so I had to do some work after the machine arrived to get it fully configured. I would expect that if you chose Gentoo 1.2, Mandrake, or Redhat, it would arrive fully configured. Qli provides a large number of installation options, and money you pay for the distribution of your choice (which varies) goes to the distribution.

    The best thing about Qli, IME, was the customer service. The staff are extremely knowledgable and helpful, and are good about responding to support requests. They have a good understanding of kernel configurations, from which kernel modules are required to support which features to various configuration options.

    I'm also very happy with the hardware. Although it isn't yet supported by Linux, I was pleasantly surprised that the laptop came with an unadvertised MMC/SD slot.

    There are a couple of hangups with my particular hardware, but none of it is Qli's fault. The laptop is entirely ACPI, and ACPI support in Linux is immature. Consequently, I can't suspend the laptop (!) -- yet. OpenGL is proved to be a bear to get working, but this is due to my choice of distributions; apparently, Redhat on this laptop has full accellerated GL support out of the box. There is an onboard WinModem, but we know about those.

    In summary, I can recommend Qli. You need to evaluate your own requirements, and then send them an email before you buy. They'll give you status reports on various configurations and recommend a system for you.

    [Disclaimer] I do not work for Qli, and I don't receive any compensation for recommending them. My only relationship with Qli is that I've recently purchased a laptop from them.

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