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New Linux Lappy


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#1 themuntdregger

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 07:50 PM

I'm a fuss-arse when it comes to lappies and not easy to please.

For starters, i'm not keen on Windows and am not about to start using it for anything mission-critical. Hence, I need a lappy that will run Linux and all the open-source tools that I use for coding and development work.

Whilst most lappies will run Linux to some extent, you don't want to be spending a fortune on one only to find out that important bits don't quite work as you want. Hence, if you are intent on spending serious $$$, it pays to go to a Linux specialist retailer. However, if you've ever tried looking for them, they're rarer than hens teeth.

Until recently, my main machine has been an aged Lenovo Ideapad 580. Strangely (for an optimus based lappy) it handles Linux nicely. However, credit for that must (in large part) go to the specialist Linux retailer from which I purchased it (now sadly defunct).  Tbh, I couldn't be arsed to change it were it not for the fact that it's steadily wearing out. So with that in mind, last year I purchased one of the fabled Dell Linux Developer Edition lappies.

It's as pretty as a peach, light as feather and runs Linux amazingly well, right down to the touchscreen. Alas, I hate it with a vengeance. Problems for me are the 13inch screen and high resolution requires perfect eyesight or reading glasses. It also has one of those trackpads that you press, rather than having separate buttons (I just can't get on with it). Finally, for all its speed and power, it has one of those shitty Intel GPU's that struggle to play OL in any kind of reasonable quality. Hence, it's been donated to Mrs Munt who, oblivious of all that power and expense, uses it for her extensive online shopping, facebooking and porn surfing needs.

I was toying with the idea of buying one of Dell's new Precision's which you can buy preloaded with Linux. Nice though they are, the higher models are beset by the same shitty trackpad as my current Dell, and the shitty memory/GPU configurations don't warrant the sky high price. Then I came across a company called Entroware.

Entroware are a UK company lappy retailer that create llinux lappies from rebadged Clevo's (as per most other linux lappy retailers). They've offered a 15inch model for some time, but the memory/gpu config was less than I wanted. Hence, imagine my surprise when I contacted them and, having suggested they create a machine with a better spec, they actually contacted me back and said we're just about to launch one.

So, having immediately placed an order, I received my new lappy last week (yay). The model name is 'Athena' and you can see it here https://www.entrowar.../laptops/athena

The spec is :

i7 6820 CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads
32gb of DDR4 ram
500gb 7200rpm hard drive
Nvidia GTX 980 with 8gb ram
Matte IPS 1920x1080 screen
Soundblaster XF5 card
pre-loaded with Ubuntu Xenial Xerus (16.04)
No Optimus switching

So the bits that I like so far are:
  • Really well packed.

  • Good build quality. Feels very solid and reassuringly heavy.

  • Very discrete. No weird logo's, teenage backlighting or alienware styling. You can easily take it to a corporate event without peeps thinking you've had a mid-life crisis and are now desperately trying to rediscover your teenage self.

  • Nice screen - Big, clear, easy for the elderly to read (even without glasses).

  • Great keyboard - good sized keys and precise action, plus separate number pad (alleluja).

  • Great trackpad with separate buttons - accurate, precise, a real pleasure to use.

  • Plays OL really well.

  • Very quiet

  • Runs ridiculously cool
  • Runs Linux really well (everything works really nicely and very fast).

  • No touch screen (I really hate those things).
So here are the bits that I don't like:
  • Power cable plugs in the back rather than the side, and has a tendency to pop out.

  • Back lighting is useless as the keys are completely opaque

  • Tinny crappy speakers

  • No instruction manual

  • Limited battery life (which should pretty much be expected given the spec).l
What I haven't yet sorted out is:
  • Windows, which I need in order to have a working cross platform dev environment. Alas, nowadays I won't trust Windows on a hard disk partition as it can't be trusted to play nicely with Linux bootloaders (or pretty much anything that isn't Micro$oft). The plan is to try and run it under a VM (virtual machine) so that all the Microsoft shitware and stupidity can be safely confined.

  • There's a thing in between the trackpad buttons that looks like a finger print reader, but I haven't a clue how it works.

  • Version 16 of Ubuntu? Well it looks ok and it seems to run ok. Tbh, it doesn't seem much different from 14. Let's face it, Ubuntu LTS releases are never going to be awe inspiring. I guess their best point is that they are just boringly easy and reliable. Am pretty sure the machine could reliably run any distro, even Arch and Gentoo (omfg), however, i'm going to resist the temptation to try.
I'm guessing that, in time, there might be more that I decide I don't like. However, at the moment, i'm fairly satisfied that the plusses outweigh the few (relatively minor) minuses. Hence, atm, I'd certainly recommend the Athena to any UK/Europe peeps wanting a high spec Linux lappy.

#2 Annraoi

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 07:59 PM

FWIW, I've used mingw-w64 to cross compile OL for Windows from Linux before. How much actual Windows do you really need these days?

#3 Kiwi06

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 10:56 PM

I have the same track pad issues with my craptop, but I did discover that tapping with two fingers is a right click, and dragging with two fingers will allow you to scroll. Double tap to grab and drag things -  a lot more convenient than trying to use a separate finger (or hand) to click and drag.

Oddly enough it didn't work in Windows, but does in Linux (Debian). Might be the distro specifically creating those commands, not sure, but I'm much happier with the track pad because of it :)

#4 Kiwi06

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 10:56 PM

I have the same track pad issues with my craptop, but I did discover that tapping with two fingers is a right click, and dragging with two fingers will allow you to scroll. Double tap to grab and drag things -  a lot more convenient than trying to use a separate finger (or hand) to click and drag.

Oddly enough it didn't work in Windows, but does in Linux (Debian). Might be the distro specifically creating those commands, not sure, but I'm much happier with the track pad because of it :)




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