The new one in town

VirtualBox for OpenSolaris hosts available - FreeBSD soon?
Sometimes old ones have to be replaced – with something fresh and new. I’ve got a new laptop.

The old one

I’ve had my old laptop now for over three years. Back then it was state of the art: A Cebop T900 (the company doesn’t exist anymore, but the series is comparable to Siemens Amilo series of that time) with fresh 1,8 GHz Centrino (Pentium M 745, Dothan core) with – at that time quite large – 1 GB RAM and a 80 GB Hard disk. The graphics card was an ATI 9600 mobile with 256 MB RAM which actually was more of a desktop graphics card then a laptop card. The wireless card was an Intel ipw2200, and there was even a card reader installed, though I never got that one working. The screen was a 1280×800 15.4″ wide screen. Some benchmarks can be found here

The old one – called Perricum, btw. – served me well. However, due to the ridiculous oversized graphics card (and probably due to the entire construction at all) the fan never stopped working. And the fan was really, really noisy. Additionally, the entire chassis was not very stable. Still, the laptop accompanied me during the last years (and to several countries, btw.). For the distribution interested person: I started back then with a pre-release version of Mandrake/Mandriva (because it was the only one which started on that machine at that time due to kernel problems), later on Fedora and also for some time OpenSuse followed. The virtual machines started inside of the system run almost everything, from Ubuntu over the already mentioned distributions to even some BSD versions I gave a try. Also, for some time a virtual machine contained a Windows copy.
Speaking about Windows: besides the virtual machine that computer never saw a a Windows Kernel. The machine came along without a preinstalled operating system, and I was already in a state where I didn’t need any Windows. The need came later up for some months due to some specialized Windows-only program, but that was all.

The new one

In 10 years my mobile phone will most likely have more power than my new laptop – but today it is state of the art: A Dell Latitude D630 with a Intel T9300 with 2.5 GHz Dual Core (6 MB Cache, btw) – yes, that’s the new Penryn, Intel’s new 45nm processor series. Again, the RAM is quite high even for today: 4 GB. The hard disk is comparable small, just 160 GB, but for me power consumption was more important than size. And I do have an external hard disk.
But I also from the problems with my old machine: the graphics card is not a desktop card this time, but a Nvidia NVS 135M, a business card from Nvidia’s Quadro series. I could have also taken the laptop with Intel’s X3100, but since this machine is supposed to serve me for a longer time I wanted to have at least a bit more power. The wireless card is a 4965, and the screen is a 14.1″ with a resolution of 1440×900. Some benchmarks can be found here.

Additionally, this is a business notebook: so there are less fancy things (no card reader for example, no TV out, etc.), higher costs, but also more reliability: a much, much better and more stable chassis, high quality hardware (the speakers for example), and so on. And it has docking station support, which I plan to use quite often in the near future.

The operating system choice was a lit more difficult in this case, however. Dell doesn’t sell its flagships with Linux – at least not to usual customers. Additionally, since I am an author for technical magazines sometimes I am asked if I could do a story on some Windows related topics – like “Connect Windows to Linux” or “Compare xyz on Windows against abc on Linux”. Since I didn’t have a Windows copy in the past I had to pass on these tasks. Also, having a look at Vista once in a while makes me able to compare it against Linux distributions.

So I payed money for a Windows Vista copy. The disadvantages are now that that Microsoft earned some money and that my hard disk is littered with a lot of crap – almost two GB are taken by the problem that I only got a “Recovery DVD”. Sigh…


As a result I will publish more posts about the new computer – for example the task of installing Linux on it was much more difficult than I have thought! Also I will install a more recent KDE on this machine – one way or the other. But for now I’m just happy to have a new computer which is strong enough to do all the things I would like it to do but is not too noisy to work with or to heavy to carry around. 🙂


16 thoughts on “The new one in town”

  1. What is stopping me from replacing my laptop (three year old veterain which still runs beautifully with similar specs to your old one) is simply Linux support for a lot of hardware lags behind at least a few months… Keep us upto date with how it goes 🙂

  2. Sorry, but humans like you are the reason why Linux will not dominate on the desktop in the next three to four years.

    Instead of carefully looking for a high end laptop which is (nearly) compatible with any popular Linux, you have chosen to spend money for an OS which is not worth a dime! Unbelievable!

    Anyway, have fun with your new laptop and Vista.

  3. pity you got a nvidia card … i used nvidia on linux until 3 years ago (got an ATI card then) the nvidia binary driver worked very well at that time. Now i got a brand new laptop (macbook pro C2D) with a nvidia card and i’m very disappointed with the current state of nvidia in linux (and i’m not the only one – see the nvidia forums)

  4. ————————–
    Instead of carefully looking for a high end laptop which is (nearly) compatible with any popular Linux, you have chosen to spend money for an OS which is not worth a dime! Unbelievable!

    The Dell Latitude series (at least this current generation 630 & 830) are remarkably Linux compatible so long as you have a recent kernel (2.6.22+) We own an 830 and the review above is spot on with regards to the structural sturdiness of the Latitudes, which in my opinion is worth a big chunk of money. Also, Dell’s SMB division has much better overall customer service than their consumer Home section. If getting a latitude without windows is your thing, you can, at least in the US here:

  5. hyamistilltyping, the hardware makes almost no problems here. The CPU and GPU are supported pretty well, the WLAN is Intel so it is fully supported as well. And since this is a business model there is not too much fancy hardware included, so there are hardly any problems expected.

    Dieter, it would help if you actually would read the article before commenting. I’ve bought a machine excluding Windows years ago. I am definitely not the reason for the current development. So keep your false accusations. Also, the current machine is highly Linux compatible, I don’t see how you can claim the opposite.
    Additionally, while I am aware that this time I had to spend money on the OS (had to – there is no comparable machine out there) I am still one of the more recognized Open Source bloggers. I am actually the reason that many people do know about Open Source, and that some even switched.
    Last but not least: your idea that spending money for the OS is the reason that Linux haven’t spread everywhere is quite naive. It ignores the current tight monopoly of MS, the fact that income by OS licences is only a small share of MS’ income, and it also masks shortcomings of Linux.
    So next you should better: first read, then think – and then comment, if still necessary.

    Kervel, at the moment it looks good running the nvidia card. But since I know there are currently problems I didn’t update to the newest (still Beta) driver. However, I am a bit disappointed that the current drivers don’t support RandR fully atm.

  6. “Instead of carefully looking for a high end laptop which is (nearly) compatible with any popular Linux, you have chosen to spend money for an OS which is not worth a dime! Unbelievable!”

    And how exactly would that have helped in doing the comparative articles he talked about? One way or another he would need a Windows license to do that. Besides, Vista is good for one thing. Everytime I have to use it I appreciate Linux and KDE even more.

    And Dell may not officially support Linux on that particular model, but I would be very surprised if it doesn’t work.

  7. How is the battery life with Linux? And does suspend/resume work well? I’ve been considering the 620 since it’s got great specs and the battery is supposed to be good. Thanks for the article, I’ve been wondering how Linux-compatible it is.

  8. Andrew: the battery life seems to be ok. Probably not entirely the same as with Vista, but I haven’t tested that much. Others reported a power consumption of 1 W more under Linux.
    But suspend/resume works without a problem.

    In general I’m very pleased with the new machine.

    Btw.: if you wait some more months (3 or 4) there will be a new line of Latitude models, maybe they fit better with your needs. They will for sure come along with the new Intel graphic chips which would be a reason to wait for them!

  9. Your graphics card is not compatible with Fedora 9 at all, the proprietary drivers don’t support the version of X.Org X11 in F9. Buying NVidia is a big mistake! Excuses like “I could have also taken the laptop with Intel’s X3100, but since this machine is supposed to serve me for a longer time I wanted to have at least a bit more power.” really hurt Free Software, there are no valid excuses for knowingly buying a graphics card with no (working – I know about the Nouveau project, but I also know it’s not quite there for 3D) Free drivers, especially if you were given the choice. Intel’s graphics department helps Free Software in all the ways they can, they develop Free drivers and these days also publish freely redistributable specifications, NVidia does nothing, why do you think the latter deserve your money? 😦

  10. Well, the graphics card is compatible – but the proprietary drivers are not. However, there is already a beta driver which can be installed and at least works.
    And about the reason or possible excuses: the Intel card was no option, it simply isn’t powerful enough. And that is indeed a valid reason: I have certain needs, and the Intel card isn’t able to fulfil these needs. The only option for me would have been to wait until the new Intel machines are out with the new chipset. I actually thought about it, but since I’m in Germany that would have meant to wait probably more than four months from now on.
    I would have preferred to buy an ATI/AMD, but there is no comparable model out there with such a graphics card – the Thinkpad T61 (which can be compared against the D630) also comes along with a NVIDIA card.

    Still, while I agree that NVIDIA should publish freely redistributable specs I still think they are not the worst people on earth: NVIDIA provides Linux support now for more than five years now. They also participate in all important meetings and had quite an influence in the development of the AIGLX extension (although in the end they provided there own solution). So just blaming them doesn’t satisfy the reality.
    Additionally, I still hope that some rumors about the near future of NVIDIA’s drivers turn out to be right.

  11. Good choice, we have some D630. The hardware and specs are very close to the MacBook minus some things like webcam. Dell’s Linux support for the hardware is very good, if you have questions try for (mostly community) help.

    Please note that the version of Windows on Dell’s recovery DVD cannot be loaded in a VM–it has to see Dell hardware. However, your sticker has a code that can be used with a full retail Windows DVD (well, that is true for XP I have not needed to try with Vista… maybe I will though).

  12. I’m just curious as to why your reason for the 160GB hdd was that it consumed less power… Wouldn’t your choice of discrete graphics and higher-end CPU make more of a difference with power consumption?

  13. umiwangu, I needed a CPU power machine. And the only graphics alternative would have been the Intel X3100 – and since the machine is supposed to be around for the next years, that is definitely not enough.
    So I switched the hard drive, because it was the only option left.

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