Thinking Laptops

by chromatic

In the past two years, most of my work has been done in XFree86, with several terminal windows holding bash or vim sessions. I also like a virtual desktop setup with a web browser, terminals, and my mailer in separate viewports. (This is so important, I even hacked Fluxbox to lay things out the way I like them.

My GNU/Linux desktop works the way I want. That's not a problem.

As I'm doing some travelling (and my buddy Rael wants to work together in wireless downtown Portland), I've borrowed a graphite iBook from the ever-pleasant Allison. It's an older, slightly slower model, limited to 800x600, but it's an opportunity to get used to Mac OS X and wireless networking.

Having secure X11 clients forwarding from my desktop to other rooms is very handy, and I've enjoyed that. My work habits are such that I haven't adapted to the OS X side of things yet.

I miss my virtual desktops. Though Space fits the bill somewhat, it doesn't have edge flipping. (I looked at the source code, but don't have it figured out yet.) The screen size is a bit too small for four readable terminal windows, but upgrading to a newer iBook will alleviate that.

I like the idea of having a nice laptop with decent hardware support and Unixy goodness, and I know Gentoo and Yellow Dog Linux run here. Maybe I should dual boot. That would give me free software on a laptop, with decent hardware and the option to continue working with Mac OS X. (It's also non-x86 hardware, which has advantages for testing my software's portability.)

Of course, there are also x86 and compatible laptops, though I'm less than thrilled with my experiences with cheap and weird hardware. I'm also highly unlikely to enjoy paying a Windows tax -- I won't use MS Windows. I'm just not productive there. I do hear nice things about some of the Vaio line, and other Linux distributions do run there...

I have at least a couple of weeks to decide.

Have strong feelings one way or the other? I'd like your advice.


2002-09-05 10:42:25
iBook's Da Bomb
Here's your fellow oreilly friend Steve Mallett's experience getting a new iBook. I know I love my iBook.

2002-09-05 15:50:55
Why limit yourself to an iBook? The PowerBook line has a fabulous 15.2" screen, not to mention the better overall spec. $2499 gets a lot of computer these days. Plus, you get the ability to operate in dual-monitor mode when you're near a desk. After getting the TiBook, I use it as my only computer, desktop and portable.
2002-09-06 00:36:50
Virtual Desktops
If you're not completely averse to paying for software ($20 in this case) CodeTek have a very decent implementation of virtual desktops for MacOS X: have a search on

Aah, here it is:

Paul (happy user only, etc etc)

2002-09-06 05:46:58
iBook's Da Bomb
This is Steve. Who are you? I dont' recognize the nick.
2002-10-30 19:16:29
Linux Laptops .. sans MS tax

Laptops with Linux pre-installed, most with WiFi already working for you, among some of the other tricky thing to get enabled on laptops.

Personally I like the SilverComet, only because of the lightweight-ness of it. But hey, look, they have one called BlackPerl .. sounds like a nice laptop for a PerlMonk, eh?

But seriously, the BlackPerl is quite a nice laptop (1133-1200 PIII-M, 256-768 MB RAM, 30-60 GB hard drive, 12.1" Active TFT w/ X@1024x768, FireWire and Memory stick support already setup and ready for you).

Now, if only I can get my employer to buy the one I want.

2002-11-24 13:29:08
vaios are fragile
vaious are fragile. the ti laptops are not hardened like the ibooks either, but they do not break by themselves like the vaios.