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Medium to High end notebook/laptop suitable for FBSD

Malcolm Kay wrote:

> Hi,
> I'm looking to purchase a new notebook computer to be used primarily with
> FreeBSD. (On the odd occasions that I'm forced to work with a windoze
> operating system I quickly become irritable and bad tempered).

Me too. I just replaced my household Win 98 SE box with a FreeBSD 5.2-RC2
box and I couldn't be happier.

> It would be rediculous to claim that price doesn't matter, but it is true
> to say that I'm not looking for a cheap solution nor at the bottom end of
> the market.
> What I want is a machine which can run FreeBSD without too many problems.
> The wish list includes:
>   UXGA display (1600x1200) on a reasonably large display capable of
>   resolving
>       most of this.
>   Minimum 256Mb memory -- 512 would be nice.
>   FBSD supported LAN connection -- preferably via wireless.
>   Plenty of disk space, but prepared to settle for 40Gb or so.
>   Internal Dialup modem that can be utilised through FBSD.
>   Some method of connecting an optical mouse.
>   (A connection for a conventional keyboard might also be attractive.)
>   CDROM/R/RW. (DVD play would be an attracive bonus.)
>   USB
>   Reasonably quick -- in the 2Ghz to 3 Ghz range

Well, with the exception of the processor speed and the cd-rw, you've just described
my IBM Thinkpad A30p:

UXGA Display (1600x1200)
384M PC133 SDRAM (1 128M SODIMM, 1 256M SODIMM, 2 slots total, both used)
Intel 10/100 built in LAN (fxp driver under FreeBSD, eth under Linux)
48G 5400RPM ATA 100 HDD
miniPCI internal 802.11b wireless (wi0)
2 USB 1.1 ports (but no PS/2)
1 parallel port connector
1 VGA connector
1 RS232 serial connector
2 pccard slots
S-VID IN and OUT, but AFAIK they don't work under FreeBSD.
internal winmodem (does NOT work, but I added a $20 3Com X-Jack 56K pcmcia hardware
   modem to make up for it)
4 pin firewire port (working, as far as I can tell, but the 4 pin ports don't offer
   bus power and I don't have any non-bus-powered firewire devices to test with)
2 removable drive bays. Mine are stuffed with a floppy drive and a CD-ROM/DVD-ROM. Can
   be hot swapped if you suspend, swap the drive, then resume.
32M ATI Radeon Mobility LY graphics chipset. Full OpenGL 3D acceleration under X11 on
   FreeBSD using the DRI/DRM kernel module.
IrDA (works, AFAIK, but nothing to test with)
AC'97 Sound chipset (fully supported by Linux and FreeBSD)
Reasonably quick -- 1.3 Ghz

Works great with FreeBSD 5.1-RELEASE and modern Linux distributions (requires an X Server
   version of 4.3.0 or greater for video to work well). Works with FreeBSD 4.8-RELEASE
   (and therefore assumedly 4.9-RELEASE), but I couldn't get the APM suspend/resume working
   under 4.x, so I upgraded to 5.x. suspend/resume works well in 5.1-RELEASE (APM _and_ ACPI,
   with a few snags under ACPI), but due to the many changes introduced between 5.1 and 5.2
   it is temporarily broken in 5.2-RC2, and probably will still be broken when 5.2-RELEASE
   becomes available. However, I DO have work-arounds, and the situation is likely to be

Some models of the A30p come with internal Bluetooth too. Mine didn't.

> The following aspects I don't see as being of much importance to me:
> (But of course it is possible that I'm overlooking some important aspect)
>   Long period of battery use; I imagine power will be mostly be available.

With a 1600x1200 screen you probably shouldn't expect much more than 1hr 30 minutes with
a P3, but you might get better life out of a P4...

>   Fancy power management.
>   Floppy drive.

Well, this model has those anyway. Floppy drives are really handy. Saved me a number
of times when I was configuring my dual boot for WinXP and FreeBSD.

I think the two major cons to the A30p are the battery life and the size. This thing
isn't quite the 4 inch brick of the early 90s, but it isn't skinny either. I personally
couldn't care less, but some people do...

> The Toshiba satellite P20 seems to mostly have the hardware features
> I'd like to have (and is just about affordable); but I'm led to believe
> that there are extreme difficulties in getting FreeBSD operational on any
> late model Toshiba notebooks/laptops.
> Are there any suggestions as to where I might start looking?

I highly recommend ebay.com. I bought my Thinkpad A30p on ebay this past summer for
$1350. Great deal compared to the $3000+ asking price for a new model from IBM.

A22p and A21p models are fairly nice too, but slightly slower.

I like IBM laptops a lot. They're a good bit more expensive than the competition, but
when you consider that a friend of mine just bought a brand new Dell Inspiron last week
and is already experiencing stuck keyboard keys and other oddities under Windows XP (I
can't imagine trying to install FreeBSD on that thing), you can appreciate the asking

Also, it's probably worth noting that IBM Thinkpads ship from the factory with a Warranty
that is attached to the MACHINE, not the owner. So if you buy a Thinkpad on Ebay,
chances are good that you can find one that is still under warranty. Mine wasn't because
it was refurbished, but many are.

Jesse Guardiani, Systems Administrator
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