Friday, April 07, 2006

Specifications for my Next Laptop

I've been running Windows 2000 and FreeBSD on my Thinkpad a20p for six years, and I've been considering replacements. That machine offered various features for which I had waited many months, such as a graphics card with 16 MB RAM, mini-PCI architecture for onboard Fast Ethernet, etc.

Now I find myself considering the features I would like to see in my next-generation laptop. While I don't have any specific vendor or model in mind, here are the features I want:

I don't see anything on Intel's roadmap which offers these capabilities yet, but The Register indicates units will ship around March 2007. Mike's Hardware and provide some tips on Merom models as well.

That should give enough time for vendors to include Windows Vista. I think I will run the 64 bit Enterprise version. I plan to dual-boot with FreeBSD, but I will also use some version of VMware. I might run the new, free VMware Server, as long as it supports the same snapshot features found in VMware Workstation.


Joe said...

What do you think of the new MacBook Pro laptops? You can now dual boot XP (now supported by Apple) right now.

It does not completey meet your requirements tho.

Chris Walsh said...

My sentiments exactly, Joe. My TP600E is getting a bit long in the tooth.

I'm going to buy the next-generation Apple laptop. My requirements differ from Rich's, but once Apple starts shipping a VMWare style virtualization product (which I predict will occur), I will be all set, and even if they don't do this, I probably won't be able to resist ;^).

Anonymous said...

I remember you having gone through this process not long ago, where some people came back with the Mac advice. You know that every couple of months new stuff will become available, so what you should ask yourself is if you really need it NOW, or just toying around with ideas of ... maybe ... perhaps ... not so sure ...

All in all - since you first posted your request, and after I have added my voice to the Mac choire, I have personally gone through two iterations of Macbook Pro (one PPC, one Intel), and still stand by them as recommended system (either one), vs. any laptop vendor, Windows or *nix Intel-based supported one. The point I am trying to make is that Apple seems to just take care of their hardware right, aside from the OSX being a delight for hard core BSD guys ;)

Richard Bejtlich said...

People suggest running OS X often. However, I have found cases where I have no option but to use a Windows app. Now I'm in a situation where I have to dual-boot (now a real option) Windows and OS X.

Others say "who needs BSD when you have OS X"? OS X to me does not provide a fraction of the packages I use on a regular basis. Look at the selection available in Fink. They pale in comparison with FreeBSD, just like OpenBSD's or NetBSD's packages pale in comparison.

So now I'm in a situation where OS X doesn't meet my BSD needs either.

I'm left with Windows and FreeBSD.

I'm also not impressed by the construction of Apple laptops. I prefer the build of my Thinkpads.

This is all just my opinion and preference, of course.

Anonymous said...

nvida doesn't seem to be `opensource driver` choose.
ATI seems to be best supported video adapter in os world.
infact, it is not good idea to support thoose who doesn't give out documentation.

Richard Bejtlich said...

Anonymous, nVidia provides much better support. Check out the search results for FreeBSD at ATI's Web site:

Search Results For: freebsd
First 0 results from 0 matching documents.

In comparison, nVida has drivers for FreeBSD on its Web site.

Richard Bejtlich said...

With regard to "if you really need it NOW," I don't need a new laptop today. That gives me the freedom to take a look at what is available now as well as what is coming in the next year or so.

That strategy works well every time I'm in this situation. My current laptop was designed to meet certain requirements and I waited until they were met in hardware.

I see the next "big things" in hardware being dual-core, 64 bit CPUs with Intel VT and 802.11n wireless. When that is available in a mainstream laptop (preferably a Thinkpad), I'll buy.

Dave Zatz said...

You could probably get pretty close to your specs now, and when 802.11n is more common you could purchase a mini-PCI card and replace the existing one. Conceivably you would also be able to find an ExpressCard for 802.11n at some point.

Anonymous said...

In response to all the people mentioning the MacBook Pro, I'd like to point you towards a piece of (beta) Mac OS X Software - Parallels Workstation.

They've beaten Microsoft to the punch of releasing a VirtualPC/VMWare style application for Mac OS X.

This app virtualises a PCs hardware, so you can run just about any x86 OS under Mac OS X. It leaverages the VT-x capabilities of Core to do very efficient virtualisation, and doesn't need any modification to the guest OS. You can now run DOS, Windows 3.1 - 95, 98 - NT, 2k, XP, Server 2003, OS/2, Linux, Solaris, BSD etc etc, all in a window on your Core based Mac, without having to reboot or anything inconvenient like that.

No, I'm not associated with the company, I just think it's very cool technology =)'


Anonymous said...

cmoon Richard! Thoose are binary NVIDA blob drivers.

DaKahuna said...

Richard - Have you looked at the Toshiba M400 tablet PC? Core Duo processors, 100GB 7200 RMP drives, etc.. not sure their wireless or video is up to your spec's.

As for the MAC's - if you are ever going to get a MAC, get a PowerBook and not one of the newer Intel based MAC's. In my opinion Apple made a huge mistake by not putting a PCMCIA slot on the Powerbooks.

Richard Bejtlich said...

DaKahuna -- that thing will bankrupt me! :

hdm said...

I have similar requirements, this is what I ended up with:

Sony Vaoi VGN-SZ120P
Duo Core 1.87ghz
100Gb 5400 RPM
13" screen, 1280x800, GeForce Go 7400/64Mb
Weight is right around 4lbs.

Total price, around $2200 with the new RAM and before ebaying the old.

As of mid-April, the GeForce card is supported by nVidia's driver, however the 'nv' driver in modular 7.0 works as well (but not 6.8's). I get about 80% of the 'john' performance compared to a 3.2Ghz P4 Prescott and it runs VMWare just fine. Getting all the shiny features working in Linux was somewhat annoying, but anything that doesn't work now, will work soon.