November 13, 2000

Running Linux on your laptop

Author: JT Smith

- by Dan Berkes -
When Linus first whipped up Linux, it's probably safe to assume that he didn't have laptops in mind as his target hardware platform. This operating system was initially destined for workstations and servers, not portable computing devices.What might have been a roadblock for certain other operating systems was viewed as something of a challenge in the Linux user community. After years of dedicated trial, error, and success, you can now find Linux on everything from laptops to handhelds to microwave ovens.

Much of the collective wisdom for portable computing can be found on Kenneth E. Harker's Linux on Laptops Web page. The core of the site is a list of hundreds of Web pages dedicated to getting Linux up and running on specific notebook brands and models. From Acer to Zenith, most notebooks popular over the last five years are represented in this list.

What happens if your notebook isn't listed? In the time-honored tradition of Linux gurus everywhere, it's time for you to experiment. Start with the Linux Laptop HOWTO, containing almost everything you need to know about running Linux on your laptop. If you haven't yet purchased a notebook computer, the section on how to choose the right hardware for Linux is a must-read.

Sometimes documentation just isn't enough -- you need some real and (almost) live help with a unique problem. Waiting in the wings are the Linux Notebook HQ Discussion Forum, a Web discussion for Linux laptop issues, and comp.os.linux.portable, a Usenet newsgroup discussing many of the same issues.

Before sending your plea for help through the ether, be sure to make your way back to the Linux on Laptops site. A collection of Linux kernel patches, utilities, and other files to help you with your notebook endeavors are available here. The answers to many common laptop issues are just a download away.

Getting Linux running on your laptop is one thing; getting the X Window System operating may be quite another. Once again, the Linux on Laptops site saves the day: a half-dozen pointers to alternate X servers and documentation are available for all of your graphical user interface desires.

Laptops are anything but the last Linux frontier; for the time being, handheld devices hold that distinction. There's a special distribution -- uClinux -- designed to work with the processors contained in many of today's most popular palmtops, including the PalmPilot.

As with desktop computers, everything old can be new again when touched by Linux. If there's an Apple Newton handheld lurking in your closet, haul it out of retirement and head on over to the Newton and Linux Mini-HOWTO. Just like yesterday's 486, the Newton is perfectly capable of handling everything Linux has to offer.

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