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Author Topic: How to choose the best Linux distro for laptops  (Read 7606 times)
zridling
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« on: January 03, 2011, 05:23:47 PM »



Mayank Sharma helps you pick which Linux distro is best for your notebook over at Techradar.  He covers gaming, movies, and office work and plays it safe among Ubuntu variants, Fedora, and openSUSE. I'd buy a laptop because they're so cheap these days, but I'd never take it anywhere. So I'll keep building my own little desktops on the cheap.
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2011, 05:45:04 PM »

I'll keep building my own little desktops on the cheap.

+1 Cool

And all this time I thought I was alone doing that. Thmbsup Grin
« Last Edit: January 03, 2011, 06:46:59 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Edvard
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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2011, 02:31:23 AM »

Actually, I've been looking very closely at some low-mid-range laptops for my ferry commute.
Looking at $600 limit doesn't leave me very much, but Dell and Toshiba seem to be offering the most at that price.
Most modern laptops can handle Xubuntu  Kiss pretty well, so it's not about distro.

I will say that Slitaz was pretty darn smooth on an old Dell Inspiron 7500, which clocked in at 400 MHz and 256MB RAM, and Puppy did OK too, though neither of them ran the wireless reliably.

I'll still be building desktops until they just don't make them anymore, as well... Thmbsup
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sword
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2011, 05:29:43 PM »

Thanks zridling. Thmbsup
I was using trial-and-error, mostly error. My Toshiba Satellite only likes Knoppix v511. I tried all the other Knoppix versions. Puppy pulp_002 is the only one that works, not v412PAW, v431, v500, v511 on the Toshiba. I think they don't like my Telus DSL modem.
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Josh
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« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2011, 05:36:43 PM »

I am using fedora 14 right now on my netbook, centos on my test server, and am contemplating gentoo for a spare system I have lying around.

On that note, I finally found

https://bugs.launchpad.ne...+source/linux/+bug/272247

which helped me solve that very issue. Gotta love netbooks! acpi_skip_timer_override + hpet=disable saved me this time. The OS not receiving system interrupts unless a key is pressed or trackpad touched is HIGHLY annoying as it halts ALL system I/O.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2011, 10:18:03 PM »

Can anyone recommend a nice, speedy distro for netbooks?

I've really only tried Ubuntu on my netbook (only 1GB RAM), and even the Netbook Edition of that feels slow and cumbersome.
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zridling
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2011, 01:07:10 AM »

@Deozaan:
You might consider Jolicloud:
http://www.jolicloud.com/

or if you want something slightly more robust, perhaps Arch Linux:
http://www.archlinux.org/
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Edvard
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2011, 01:45:22 AM »

There are several Netbook-specific distros like xPUD and MeeGo.
Here's a comparison with a bunch of links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w...ented_Linux_distributions
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Deozaan
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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2011, 03:23:59 AM »

@Deozaan:
You might consider Jolicloud:
http://www.jolicloud.com/

or if you want something slightly more robust, perhaps Arch Linux:
http://www.archlinux.org/

I tried out Jolicloud (and told you about it) almost exactly a year ago. I thought it was okay at the time, but it was basically Ubuntu Netbook Edition with "Web App" shortcuts. I wasn't going to try it again but wow! It sure has changed a lot in the past year! I guess I will after all. smiley

Here's a comparison with a bunch of links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w...ented_Linux_distributions

Thanks for the information. I'm currently downloading Jolicloud OS, Arch Linux, MeeGo, and xPUD. Thmbsup
« Last Edit: March 13, 2011, 03:26:12 AM by Deozaan » Logged

steeladept
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2011, 03:57:08 AM »

I'll keep building my own little desktops on the cheap.

+1 Cool

And all this time I thought I was alone doing that. Thmbsup Grin
Nope, I do too - for the entire family.  Same reason too.... Thmbsup
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4wd
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2011, 05:19:08 AM »

Linpus Lite as came standard on the Acer Aspire One AOA110 was fairly speedy even on the dog of a SSD they had in them.
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iphigenie
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2011, 05:30:45 AM »

Some less known distributions I have liked on netbooks and old laptops:

- Slitaz. Although it takes a little hack to install from a USB key if you have no CD. Very well done slick distro (wireless not so robust without work at getting drivers, eg: broadcom. note: this happens on all ubuntu, redhat and debian based distros too, on my hardware. none pick up the wifi)

- PClinuxOS has several light/minimal versions with openbox, lxde, xfce (even a basic kde or gnome but you'd have to pick-and-add tools)

- Salix is very beginner friendly and has a LXDE and an XFCE version - this is one distro that comes with a nice "how to start"

- Trisquel - amazingly resilient with working wifi out of the box on many machines where other more mainstream distros fail to work


PS: Meego is top on my list to try to use and like, because they I can get a N900 and have the same stuff on my computers and my phone and that is a very attractive thought smiley
« Last Edit: March 13, 2011, 05:32:26 AM by iphigenie » Logged
Deozaan
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2011, 06:48:32 AM »

I gave the first four I mentioned a try. Here are my impressions:

xPUD: I ran it from USB thumb drive which was fast and easy but I couldn't figure out how to get my wifi to work. It also seemed to forget everything when I rebooted, losing all settings and customization. thumb down

Arch Linux: Won't install from USB. I used UNetbootin to transfer the ISO onto a bootable USB drive, but installation failed and kicked me out to the command line. The error message sounded like it couldn't find my hard drive. Sad

Joli OS: I used the .exe file to install alongside Windows. It works as advertised. Even the WiFi works from the get-go. An interesting Cloud OS. It does have a couple of strange problems installing or uninstalling a few programs. I think I still don't want it as my main OS on my netbook.

MeeGo works really well off a USB drive and boots fast! It's pretty cool, too. I need to play around with it some more, but it still seems to be missing something(s).


I can't speak for Arch Linux, since I couldn't even get it to work, but the other three make me feel limited. I feel like I don't have the freedom to install whatever I want and tinker around with stuff. They feel restricted and limited in that sense.

I don't necessarily want a Cloud OS. Is there an OS that has all the abilities of something like Ubuntu but is really light on resources? Like a vLite for Ubuntu. :-D Maybe I need to look into Tiny/MicroCore and DSL...

I just want my machine to feel snappy. This thing is exponentially more powerful than my old 386/66. Why does it feel slower?

I'll look into Linpus Lite and a few of the ones you mentioned, iphigenie. Thanks for the suggestions!

I noticed I have 22 GiB of Linux Distro ISOs in my download folder...  embarassed
« Last Edit: March 13, 2011, 06:53:00 AM by Deozaan » Logged

Edvard
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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2011, 07:33:07 AM »

To be fair, a Netbook is by design a rather limited machine, and the various distros targeted for the platform are doing their best to fit in the smaller package, and so some things do end up more or less missing.  Sad

Actually, this post says Debian proper works pretty well, and then you'll have the benefit of the APT package management system and the vast Debian repositories:
http://duopetalflower.blo...on-netbook-uses-less.html

You could also use the magical "alternative-to-kernel-patch" speedup hack and see how she goes:
http://www.donationcoder....m/index.php?topic=24650.0
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iphigenie
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2011, 08:22:38 AM »

To be fair, a Netbook is by design a rather limited machine, and the various distros targeted for the platform are doing their best to fit in the smaller package, and so some things do end up more or less missing.  Sad

Actually, this post says Debian proper works pretty well, and then you'll have the benefit of the APT package management system and the vast Debian repositories:
http://duopetalflower.blo...on-netbook-uses-less.html

If you know a distribution well, then just about any distribution that allows you to build up from a minimal install will work, and is a worthy approach since you already know the distro and the community. Gentoo, arch, Debian, Slackware (being a contrarian that is what I tend to use cheesy ) (I would not try this with any of redhat, suse or fedora as I have never had any luck getting any of these to give me what i would consider a minimal install)

The big challenge with that approach is figuring out
- the windowing/desktop environment
- a good mix of apps that fit well together and with the libraries of your chosen environment (qt, gtk, etc.)

that is a lot of research and figuring out (and I always end up giving up after I realise I have just messed up the mix by picking an app that has added half of KDE or Gnome or both!)

This is where I think that slitaz, pclinux0S and salix, for example, have "pre-made" a set of choices. Salix has access to everything in slackbuilds, and pclinuxos has a very large repository. Slitaz has "recipes" for a lot less, but it is easy to create one for a lot of software (even I managed) once you understand the process.
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4wd
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« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2011, 02:10:40 PM »

xPUD: I ran it from USB thumb drive which was fast and easy but I couldn't figure out how to get my wifi to work. It also seemed to forget everything when I rebooted, losing all settings and customization. thumb down

Regarding xPUD, it is not designed to be a full always used OS, it's designed to be an 'instant on' OS, (as you find, eg. in ASUS BIOS'), for netbooks for when you're travelling and you don't want to boot into the full OS.
As such there's really no need to store WiFi settings as they're going to be changing as you move around.

xPUD WiFi works fine on my AAO with the standard hardware: type in SSID and network password and it connects.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2011, 04:57:30 PM »

xPUD: I ran it from USB thumb drive which was fast and easy but I couldn't figure out how to get my wifi to work. It also seemed to forget everything when I rebooted, losing all settings and customization. thumb down

Regarding xPUD, it is not designed to be a full always used OS, it's designed to be an 'instant on' OS, (as you find, eg. in ASUS BIOS'), for netbooks for when you're travelling and you don't want to boot into the full OS.
As such there's really no need to store WiFi settings as they're going to be changing as you move around.

Sure, WiFi settings might change all the time, but it should remember that I already ran Dropbox for the first time and associated my account with it. As for WiFi, it didn't appear to give me an option to type in the SSID. It showed a (blank) list with a refresh button and a textbox to type in the password. Methinks it didn't recognize my wireless card.

I also just tried the Linpus Lite Windows Installer to install Linpus alongside Windows. It won't boot. I have the option to boot into Windows or Linpus and when I select Linpus it flashes two lines on the screen real fast and then goes back to the screen where I choose to boot into Windows or Linpus. thumb down

Actually, this post says Debian proper works pretty well, and then you'll have the benefit of the APT package management system and the vast Debian repositories:
http://duopetalflower.blo...on-netbook-uses-less.html

I was actually just considering this idea myself. I'm most familiar with Ubuntu, so I know some commands using apt-get to download and install the packages I want/need. Debian may be just the thing I'm looking for!

Though the download pages for Debian confuse me. Do I really need to download/burn 52 CDs to install it? Does it seriously require 8 DVDs? huh
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« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2011, 05:26:40 PM »

It's a silly question I know but....other than being a 'netbook', exactly what is it?

And the reason I ask is: Some manufacturers shipped them with a Linux distro, (the AAO AOA110 being a case in point), ie. have you checked the manufacturers site to see if they have one?
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Deozaan
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« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2011, 03:49:51 AM »

It's a silly question I know but....other than being a 'netbook', exactly what is it?

It's an MSI Wind U120-024US.
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Edvard
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« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2011, 06:37:10 AM »

...

Though the download pages for Debian confuse me. Do I really need to download/burn 52 CDs to install it? Does it seriously require 8 DVDs? huh

Nope, just the first CD.
Even better, try the "Live" images first; they're more desktop-oriented as far as included packages.
Everything else can be installed via APT.
In fact, I would recommend the XFCE/LXDE versions (which may run faster), scroll down to the bottom of the download pages, you'll find it.

I agree Debian's website has NEVER been the friendliest, and prevented me from trying it for many years.
The '8 DVD' option is apparently for those without a constant internet connection.
Quite archaic, IMO, but might be useful for someone on a desert island with FedEx service.  tongue
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Edvard
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« Reply #20 on: March 14, 2011, 07:17:37 AM »

...
If you know a distribution well, then just about any distribution that allows you to build up from a minimal install will work, and is a worthy approach since you already know the distro and the community. Gentoo, arch, Debian, Slackware (being a contrarian that is what I tend to use cheesy ) (I would not try this with any of redhat, suse or fedora as I have never had any luck getting any of these to give me what i would consider a minimal install)
I too ran slackware for a few years and learned much from the experience, but hand-installing lib after lib just to get one application that wasn't pre-installed running grated on my nerves.
I hear they fixed that...
Quote
The big challenge with that approach is figuring out
- the windowing/desktop environment
- a good mix of apps that fit well together and with the libraries of your chosen environment (qt, gtk, etc.)

that is a lot of research and figuring out (and I always end up giving up after I realise I have just messed up the mix by picking an app that has added half of KDE or Gnome or both!)
Which is why I like the APT system of Ubuntu/Debian.
It tells me what the dependencies are and if I suddenly have to download 100 megs of dependency to run a note-taking application, I know to look elsewhere.
Many strides have been made lately to further separate applications from their intended Desktop Environment.
It's not perfect yet, but better.
I also prefer the Xfce desktop for it's relative agnosticity toward toolkits.
OK, it leans pretty heavy on GTK, but it doesn't complain when I want to run a Qt app, either.
Quote
This is where I think that slitaz, pclinux0S and salix, for example, have "pre-made" a set of choices. Salix has access to everything in slackbuilds, and pclinuxos has a very large repository. Slitaz has "recipes" for a lot less, but it is easy to create one for a lot of software (even I managed) once you understand the process.
+1 for Slitaz, although it looks as if the website is down: http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/slitaz.org  huh
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« Reply #21 on: March 14, 2011, 09:41:57 AM »

I noticed PCLinuxOS mentioned here and in a couple of other posts on the forum.  In looking for information on different live cd's I came across this PCLinuxOS site: http://www.pclinuxos.com/
There is also a link on this site to a monthly PCLinuxOS magazine: http://pclosmag.com/
The magazine is available in html or PDF versions.  The PDF versions I've downloaded so far are 40-60 pages and cover a variety of topics.  Reviews, tutorials, configurations...

Searched the forums here and didn't see either of these sites mentioned before and thought I'd pass them along.  Might be of some help.
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Edvard
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« Reply #22 on: March 14, 2011, 03:22:31 PM »

I'm one of those that th PCLOS folks would find intolerable: I REALLY WANT a 64-bit version.
I understand it's a solid OS, nothing gets in an official release that threatens to be too unstable.
"It's ready when it's ready" is a fine motto for most things, but golly-gee-whillikers, folks... 64-bit has been a viable option for more than a few years now.  huh

That said, I've heard over and over that PCLinuxOS is a wonderful distro; lightweight, friendly, and stable.
Give that one a shot as well, Deo.
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40hz
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« Reply #23 on: March 14, 2011, 04:32:18 PM »

I've used PCLinuxOS in the past and had generally favorable experiences with it. Very user friendly community behind it.

If you're feeling adventurous, my current fav for laptop use is CrunchBang Linux. It's based on the Debian repositories and  uses Openbox as it's primary window manager.

Fluid, fast, darkly themed, and sometimes just a little too leading edge (in places) for its own good.  Grin

If you're a fan of Conky you'll feel right at home.



Not to say it has to stay dark...



Dynamite distro, although it may not be the best choice for your first foray into Linux on a laptop. But we're a fairly knowledgeable and clever crew here - so then again, maybe it might.

There's a live CD available which makes it easy to try out without making a commitment.

Good review (older version) here.

The latest release is reviewed here.

 Cool
« Last Edit: March 14, 2011, 04:37:06 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Edvard
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« Reply #24 on: March 14, 2011, 04:39:38 PM »

Ooh... forgot about #!

It was touted as the forthcoming OS of choice for a Linux "pad" computer.
Remember the CrunchPad?
Sad story, but the OS is none too shabby.
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