BSD Laptops

Frank Shute frank at
Tue Jun 10 15:34:25 BST 2003

On Mon, Jun 09, 2003 at 12:35:01PM +0100, Paul Robinson wrote:
> On Sat, Jun 07, 2003 at 02:04:46PM +0100, MAWDSLEY, Adrian wrote:
> > So basically i'm wanting suggestions, horror stories and some good advise.
> > Before i spend my wad
> Over two years ago now, I bought my current laptop, an IBM Thinkpad 240 off 
> e-bay for about 400 quid. It's a sub-notebook really without a CD-drive, 
> external floppy, etc. and most people's first comments are "isn't it small" 
> even though it's only a little smaller than an A4 pad. 

I've got one of these too & am really happy with it. It's only got an
800x600 screen, so if you're the sort of person who goes in for Gnome
or KDE I would probably get something bigger.

> The only problems I've had with it is the battery sucks, the
> soundcard is a pain to get working (but possible with a custom
> kernel) and the Winmodem is something that didn't work back then,
> and I haven't tried since. 

Yes, the battery does suck & if I was in the market again I'd
seriously have a look at the 12" iBook as I gather their processors
use a lot less juice & it seems to be the nearest thing to a Thinkpad
240 now on the market (I want a laptop that's portable & doesn't weigh a

First I'd have to see what my chances were of running NetBSD on it
were though, as I'd want to run all the software I presently do & I
don't particularly want to muck around with OS X or Linux.

The one button mouse would be a bit of a blow but I guess you could
plug a proper mouse into it. You could probably pick one up on eBay
with a bit of luck; new I think they'd stretch your budget.

If I was going to mainly use the laptop at home/work then I'd get one with
a big screen but probably make it an x86 based one & probably an IBM
again (they seem more solidly built then the average laptop). 

A big screen on the road, then I'd look at the big iBook with the
`cinerama' type screen, again because of the battery life.

BTW Paul, with regards your 240. I got an external CD drive from which works well & I should think their CD-RW/DVDs
probably do too (they're advertised as working with Linux last time I
looked). Anyway, I'd recommend that firm for that sort of external
laptop stuff.

The Lucent Winmodem on the 240 works with:


You just have to:

set device /dev/cua10

in ppp.conf as far as I remember. There is a site on the 'net which
tells you which Lucent chipsets it works with, so it's worth checking
there if you buy a laptop with a Lucent winmodem.

The power management also works but I think it required a kernel

The sound I did have working with Linux but since I haven't got any
use for it ATM I haven't bothered trying to get it to work yet. (Sound
on FreeBSD still remains a dusty corner for me :)

> I'm looking at buying a new laptop in the next 6 months, and my likely 
> candidates are going to be thinkpads again. I'm looking at the X-Series at 
> the moment, but it's out of your budget and doesn't have a built-in CD or 
> DVD drive. You might find one cheap through the channels out there, and 
> perhaps a refurb if you're lucky.
> In my experience (I've never owned my own desktop PC, only ever laptops), 
> the bigger names are better supported, although korean/taiwanese re-badges 
> can be sorted out once you've got the FCC ID and the *real* manufacturer of 
> the machine.
> There is loads of other sutff to consider about laptops (I've never owned my 
> own desktop PC since I had an Amstrad 1512) but none of them are BSD 
> related. If you've never bought/owned one before, shout up and I'll write up 
> a checklist. 

I think there's a linux-laptop howto which gives good general advice
about choosing a laptop.

The best advice though is to decide whether you are going to use it
mainly at a desk plugged in? Are you mainly a terminal-type of person
(hence don't need a fancy big & expensive screen & latest whiz-bang
space-heater processor)?

And IMO, avoid laptops with built in CDs, modems, network cards etc.
They may not work with BSD & if they go wrong they could be
difficult/expensive to fix, although they seem to be the most
pervasive types on the market. I'm running 4.6-RELEASE on my laptop &
the pcmcia stuff seems to work fine. 

It's also worth a trip to Tottenham Court Road if you're near there.
They do a lot of new laptops there that are no longer being sold by
the manufacturers ie. surplus EOL stock. So you can get what would
have been the latest & greatest 6 months ago at close to secondhand

My laptop is 300MHz, 128Mb, 6GB HD & it does me just fine still & when
I'm not on the road I just plug it in and rsync/scp stuff across from
my desktop as a lazy man's backup. 

You could probably get a 1GHz, 256Mb, 20GB system at TCR for 5 or 6
hundred </guess>. Let us know what you buy. 



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