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A Free-Software Only Laptop

Mark Shuttleworth asks if people are interested in a high-end free-software laptop (it seems that Linspire is leading in the low-end free-software laptop stakes).

I am interested in such things. My last couple of laptops have been Thinkpad T series. They are reasonably light (not really heavy), are reasonably fast, have full-size keyboards and reasonable size screens (currently got a 1400×1050 screen on a 3yo laptop). Unfortunately for Mark I’m planning on making my current Thinkpad last for another three years.

The idea makes a lot of sense because laptops are not re-purposed very often. It’s quite common for a desktop machine or a server to be re-installed several times over it’s life – and often having significant hardware changes during the process. Laptops are extremely difficult for hardware upgrades to the degree that by the time people desire an upgrade it often makes sense to buy a new one. So having a BIOS that only supports Linux and prevents the machine from ever being used to run a lesser OS is not likely to reduce the utility of the machine.

The benefit of better Linux integration is that the greater degree of hardware control would decrease the power use and extend battery life.

Maybe in three years time I’ll buy a LinuxBIOS machine second-hand from a Ubuntu user.

4 comments to A Free-Software Only Laptop

  • Corey Burger

    I seriously doubt those Linspire laptops are Free Software. However, you can buy good laptops with Ubuntu preinstalled from a little vendor called Dell, who are working to make all their laptops work with only Free software. Or you can try System76.

  • [...] Link to Article linux A Free-Software Only Laptop » Posted at etbe on Monday, July 16, 2007 [...]

  • [...] Russell argues (when talking about Mark’s proposed high-end Free Software-based laptop) that laptops are hard (or expensive) hardware to modify and repurpose – Maybe your laptop will one day go to your child or something like that, but it’s hard for it to be a server.I disagree.One of my most faithful and most beloved home servers was my old laptop, a Compaq Armada 4120 we originally got (used, for that matter) in 1998 and that was my main laptop until 2002, when I got my first Dell. 120MHz Pentium, 16 MB RAM (later upgraded to 32), 2GB hard disk.From 2002 and until around 2005, it was my home server – Think about it: A low-power, compact machine you can store anywhere, and that has (still today! Wish I could say that for ~2 year old machines…) a two hour battery with the LCD on. We swapped the hard disk for a 40GB one around 2003, and it was just perfect for DSL sharing, Samba file serving to our internal network, and simple, personal HTTP server. Of course, it started aching when Nadezhda and I started running our blogs – MySQL and Apache didn’t fit in the memory at the same time :)For some months, we had an old 1GHz Athlon as our server, but it was too noisy and ate too much electricity – We now have a nice Mac Mini, but share the UPS with Nadezhda’s main machine. Which is fine, but takes a bit off the coolness factor :) Oh, and -of course- it does not have a built-in screen anymore. Nadezhda uses an iMac, so whenever we need to directly use the server, I have to go find our clunky 17″ CRT and work sitting on the floor… gwolf | General, Life | 17 July, 10:10am | Comment on this On collaborative maintenance [...]

  • etbe

    Gunnar: You are correct that the laptop feature of a built-in UPS works well for a server.

    Pity that more than one hard drive (for RAID) is either impossible or unreasonably expensive and that expansion of any part of the hardware is also difficult.

    But I have considered making an old laptop into a router with a couple of PCMCIA Ethernet cards and a USB Ethernet device. Routing cable Internet speeds is not a challenge for old hardware and the inefficient USB Ethernet interface.