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Darren's laptop(s)


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I searched and haven't found much on laptops. My laptop is old and showing its age and I'm looking for a new laptop, probably 15", but maybe 14". I see Darren's Hacker box but can't tell what kind or model it is, then saw another episode he had a new Lenovo, but couldn't tell model. Really like to have something I can upgrade the hard drive and memory myself.

Any info or suggestions would be appreciated.

Edited by docbop
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I happen to use a Dell Mini 910 myself i know alot of people are also fans of the IBM Thinkpad laptops.

I've heard people saying you should try and stay away from laptops with a Nvidia GPU possibly due to driver issues.

I have no idea what model laptop darren uses i only know from laptops i've used and laptops i've seen other people use.

Sorry if im not much help just figured i'd add my thoughts.

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I'm using a Asus eee 1015PE running kali linux, upgraded to harddrive to SSD and more RAM's

Works like a dream. I like it a lot especially because of the 7 hour battery life. Screen is a bit too small.

I do like my laptops small and lightweight, easier to carry around.

I'm considering getting a netbook with 13" screen.
Heard good stuff about the System76 guys :)

Edited by spazi
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Possibly get a T61 i guess it all depends on you're budget.

As stated above the small laptops 13 inches and under are light weight and easy to carry around don't take up much room better then having a big bulky laptop.

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I currently use a T520 at home and T430 at work. I've been a ThinkPad fan for a very very long time and have used every generation of ThinkPad since the T23.

I don't know if it's Lenovo's fault, or just the way the market is today, but I am not a fan of the changes between the T*20 and T*30 lines. It puts me in a bind, too, because now I'll have to look elsewhere when it comes time to replace my T520.

The ThinkPads are still a solid choice in comparison to the other machines they are typically reviewed against. However I feel like in an attempt to broaden their appeal to a widening market, they are losing the their cred as a machine that is designed by engineers for other engineers, and especially their appeal among the old guard of Unix greybeards.

If there was one feature that was most responsible for the cult-like following ThinkPads enjoyed among a certain group of engineers and Unix admins it was the keyboard. With each generation Lenovo has been "tweaking" the classic ThinkPad keyboard further and further away from what the fans had fallen in love with. A keyboard with a heritage which could be traced back to the Model M. Now it feels like the same generic crap you see on other laptops. (Not to mention they've remapped several keys, including the Fn keys.) At work I stick my T430 in a dock and type on a Deck keyboard instead.

They have also been messing around with other core features like the ThinkLight. It used to be that you could control the LED from /proc, but now it's somehow linked to the keyboard backlight (yea, another new feature) and it's inaccessible to the OS.

I could go on complaining about other changes which I don't like, and it would probably sound petty and whiny considering that many of the things I'd be complaining about are features which still don't even exist on any competing laptops. But in principle, it just feels like ThinkPads have lost their soul compared to what they once were.

At least the TrackPoint hasn't been ruined (yet) in the T*30 so there may yet be hope. I still haven't found anything in the latest crop of laptops that I could recommend as better than a ThinkPad T-series, but I'm really hoping the choices will get better and not worse by the time I retire the T520.

I've had very limited exposure to the System 76 laptops, but from what I've seen of them they are decent machines. You might also want to browse the options at emperorlinux.com and thinkpenguin.com. There's also Dell's entry, the XPS 13 Developer edition.


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Dang them System 76 computers are in my view as over priced as buying any other computer big deal so it comes with Ubuntu Linux heck you can download it for free and wipe Windows right off of a laptop with the same hardware specs if not better for more or less give or take.

I seen nothing special about their laptops that you couldn't get from say like Dell or something. I'm sure if you looked on like ebay or craigslist you could possibly find a used computer that cheaper and will work just as good me i don't have $1,000 to spend on a laptop when i can buy a $200 laptop that will run all the stuff i need just fine.

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Does the old adage of "you get what you pay for" apply here? If this is so, is it better to define a custom machine to your purpose and negotiate a pre price comparison with the vender?

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Does the old adage of "you get what you pay for" apply here? If this is so, is it better to define a custom machine to your purpose and negotiate a pre price comparison with the vender?

It does and it doesn't. If you want a premium quality machine you need to be willing to pay a premium price. A cheap laptop is usually cheap for a reason. That said, if you know what you're looking for you can still find good deals. I used to buy ThinkPads at deep discounts through the Lenovo Outlet and never had a bad experience.

One of the key things to keep in mind is that a laptop is more than the "specs". Those condensed metrics like CPU, RAM, GPU, etc. that you would use to compare desktops are still important, but they only tell a fraction of the story.

Size and weight. The point of a laptop is portability, so it has to strike a careful balance of being small and light enough to travel with you, but big enough to still be useful. Finding that balance point is something you'll have to do for yourself, as it's different for everyone depending on their preference and lifestyle.

Battery life. Part of portability is power. If you want to use your laptop without being tethered to an outlet you should pay close attention to the type and size of battery as well as the power efficiency of the components.

Screen. It's expensive and non-trivial to upgrade a laptop screen, so chances are you'll probably never do it. Make sure you get a good one from the start. Viewing angles are becoming less and less of an issue, but color, contrast, brightness, and resolution are still factors in choosing a good display.

Keyboard and pointer device. Again, not something you'll be able to change. Most people take it for granted, but if you spend your days using the keyboard (as most programmers, sysadmins, and hackers do) then you'll want to make sure you have a good keyboard that is comfortable to type on. Lots of personal preference here too. Personally, I prefer full-size keyboards (or as close to it as possible). For the pointer device, I have a personal preference for TrackPoints or similar pointers, they allow you to use the mouse without lifting your hands off the home-row. I prefer the TrackPoint in particular because it has three discrete mouse buttons and the middle-button can be configured as scroll-modifier. However, even with touchpads there is a lot variety. Placement of the touchpad is especially important, since few things are more annoying than losing focus while you're typing because you accidentally palmed the touchpad. Some touchpads will be more prone to palming than others, some will have a better feel than others, some will have better support for gestures than others. Older ThinkPads had a recessed touchpad which was fantastic for several reasons. It was harder to accidentally palm it, and you could feel where the edges were for edge-scrolling. Newer ThinkPad models have a flush touchpad which is easier to palm, harder to feel where the edges are, and they distinguish it by giving it a texture which just does't feel very good to me. I've noticed that flush-mounted touchpads are becoming and industry trend, as is making them so large that it's impossible not to palm them. Something to watch out for if it affects you.

Durability. Since it's portable and it will probably travel around with you, it's important for a laptop to be durable enough to handle the wear and tear of normal travel and use. One of the reasons I turned to ThinkPads in the first place was because of their durability features. At the time (T42 era) they had a well-earned reputation for durability due to features like a stronger case material, spill-proof (drain-through) keyboards with snap-off keys for easy cleaning, solid metal hinges, shock-mounted hard drives with an accelerometer to detect drops, roll-cage design to protect the display panel. Newer models appear to have dropped several of those features, in some cases because they are no longer necessary, in other cases it appears to be for aesthetic or cost reasons. Whatever laptops you consider, take a close look at the case materials and if you can get hands on a representative model so you can feel it and evaluate how well it will hold up to daily abuse.

Longevity. Another reason why I used to strongly favor ThinkPads was availability of OEM replacement parts even long after the warranty had expired. For a few years I used to buy broken ThinkPads on CraigsList and refurbish them. I never had trouble finding parts, even for models which hadn't been sold for over a decade. As hackers tend to take pride in voiding warranties, it never hurts to have a supply of replacement parts available to you. It will also save you money if you skip the support contract and do the repairs yourself (if ever you should need to repair your machine). IBM/Lenovo made it easy by releasing the full techicians manual for each laptop as a PDF. Going along with longevity is extensibility. Laptops generally aren't known for being extensible, but there are things that a manufacturer can do to ensure that. For example, if the hard-drive isn't a standard form-factor it will be difficult or impossible to upgrade or replace it if you should ever need to. Or if the daughter cards (like the wireless adapter) is a non-standard size you will have similar trouble. These days the Linux kernel supports most wireless chipsets well enough, but just a few years ago those of us hacking WiFi had to be very picky about which laptops we bought so it either had a well-supported chipset or it could be replaced with one. Or, for those who were really ambitious, you could install two WiFi adapters (the T- and W- series ThinkPads were good for that).

Linux. A laptop with standards-compliant, name-brand components and chipsets will often have better Linux support than a cheap laptop with some unknown Chinese components or chipsets. Also, a laptop model that is popular with the type of people who contribute code to the Linux kernel is more likely to be well-supported and enjoy regular driver updates in the kernel than an uncommon laptop with obscure hardware.

Damn, another wall of text. I spend entirely way too much time thinking about this crap.

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