Dedicated Linux Machine

Leigh Honeywell leigh at
Sat Apr 2 02:38:04 UTC 2011

Ok, this got a little long - musings on far too much experience building
laptops and desktops to run Linux ahead:

On 11-04-01 09:52 PM, Phil Woodland wrote:
> Video cards (if you need 3D acceleration for games, modeling, or just
> fun effects.... there are really only two options AMD/ATI and Nvidia).

Compiz and other fun stuff run quite nicely on on-board Intel cards,
which have great Free driver support.  If you just want to play video
and fairly lightweight games, I've found these to be a great option.
Because the drivers are totally Free they tend to be stable.

I'd highly advice a newbie user against ATI cards.  They aren't worth
the pain.

> The problem with buying a lot of the pre-built computers (laptops and
> desktops, although more-so for laptops) is that the manufacturers tend
> to modify things or add odd-ball stuff just a little to make their model
> unique. Which is all fine and dandy if you use Windows because they have
> drivers and software to accommodate. Having said that, I have built my
> computer and have purchased my laptop.... I was just careful with my
> laptop purchase.

The particular thing to watch out for here: of late, a lot of
manufacturers are locking down their consumer hardware to only accept
certain PCI ID's of WiFi cards.  Which means: you can't replace the WiFi
card without serious hackery.

The big offenders here are HP, Lenovo, and ASUS - their CONSUMER, not
their BUSINESS lines.  I've never heard of a business laptop having a
locked bios, but it's entirely possible.

The trick there is just to make sure the card the laptop comes with is
supported on Linux.  My method for this is to take a Live-USB distro
into the store with me, boot into that, do lspci at the commandline to
get the model info, and look it up on my phone.  Simple, easy, and saves
a return.

> So, Mr. McDevitt:
> What do you want to use your computer for? What would you prefer, a
> laptop or a desktop? I don't recommend building a computer from scratch
> to just anyone... but it can be quite rewarding, especially if you have
> an interest in how things work. I'm sure I have enough spare parts
> around to make you a decent one even.

While I've built a bunch of computers in my day, if you're going for a
desktop I particularly like the off-the-shelf Nvidia ION / Atom-based
HTPC machines you can get these days - they are even sold without the
Windows tax.  I run a 40" HDTV off one, it plays full 1080p video,
Stepmania (Open Source clone of Dance Dance Revolution), and old games
on DOSBox.  While it won't play the latest-gen games it's all this geek


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