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Review: LinuxCertified LC2430 laptop

By Joe Barr on March 10, 2004 (8:00:00 AM)

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My first impression when sitting down in front of the LinuxCertified LC2430 laptop for the first time was, "Wow, look at the size of that screen!" After a few weeks of testing, I found the LC2430 comes up big in just about every respect.

LinuxCertified is now selling laptops preloaded with Linux. Unlike certain OEMs (like HP and IBM) who happily sell laptops preloaded with Linux overseas, but who shy away from doing the same here in the U.S., LinuxCertified actually puts Linux on the laptop for you. At the factory. Then they send it to you. No installation required. It's called "preloading." What a concept. I wonder why more operating systems don't do it.

Compared to the Sony VAIO PCG-XG700K I've used the past couple of years, the LC2430 is big. It's probably not the laptop the typical suit would want for styling in airport terminals and trading emails with his secretary. But it is exactly the powerhouse laptop a roving geek, a developer, or a reporter would want to have when they need to take their desktop/workstation with them on the road.

The LC2430 weighs in at 7.7 pounds. That's about 1.3 pounds heavier than the Sony. But the Sony is powered by a relatively puny 700MHz Pentium III, has only 128MB of RAM, and sports a 13-inch screen. The LC2430 has a firebreathing 2.8GHz Pentium 4, comes stock with 512MB of RAM, and features a big 15-inch LCD display. If your power needs on the road exceed the default offerings, you can beef it up with the optional 3.06GHz CPU and up to 2GB of RAM.

The keyboard

I don't have dainty little fingers. A lot of laptops and notebooks leave me feeling like I'm trying to type inside a shoebox that's just not quite big enough to hold both hands at once. By contrast, the keyboard on the LC2430 is especially to my liking. It spans just over 11 inches from the outside of the Caps Lock key on the left to the outside of the Enter key on the right. That's the same measurement as the full-size IBM keyboard on my desktop machine.

The LC2430 The extra real estate of the larger frame also gives me more than ample space to rest the heels of my palms while at the keyboard. All in all, it's the best laptop keyboard I've used.

The distributions

The LC2430 comes with your choice of Red Hat Professional or Debian, and as an option, either can be loaded to dual-boot with Windows XP. I chose Debian. The root password was on a page of documentation included in the box. Debian looks good on the laptop, but I experimented with other recent distributions on the LC2430 while I had the chance.

The screen

The 15-inch TFT display was set to a resolution of 1,400 by 1,050, which makes it crisp and clear. The video card is an ATI Radeon Mobility 9000 with 64MB of Integrated VGA RAM.

The modem

The LC2430 comes with a SmartLine 56Kbps internal modem. When you receive the laptop from LinuxCertified, it comes with the proper driver installed. But if you replace the distribution LinuxCertified installed with something else, you may run into problems. I did, but it was a problem of my own making.

Side view of the LC2430 In my case, after installing the latest LindowsOS Laptop Edition, I could not use the modem because of a "NO DIALTONE" error. LinuxCertified verified that the same combination of LindowsOS release and laptop worked at their end, so I tried a different phone jack. It worked perfectly.

The multi-function card reader

The LC2430 includes an "all-in-one" card reading unit that is compatible with a number of removable storage devices. On my last road trip, I carried an external Memory Stick reader with me to access photos I had taken with a Sony digital camera. I used Gphoto to read the contents of the Memory Stick via the serial port on the Sony VAIO.

If I had been carrying the LC2430, all I would have had to do would be to slip the Memory Stick into the reader and wait a couple of seconds for the USB storage device icon to appear. Well, that's not quite true. The first time I tried it nothing happened, because I inserted the Memory Stick with the copper teeth facing the wrong way. After inserting the Memory Stick correctly, and opening the image folder, all the photographs on the device were available to me.

LC2430 running LindowsOS LE The DVD/CD-RW drive

I decided to exercise the CD-RW in a practical way. I downloaded the latest Knoppix ISO and burned it using K3B. I wasn't sure how fast the drive was at the time, so I selected an 8X burn speed. It booted perfectly and Knoppix had no problem recognizing anything on the laptop. Later I learned the CD-RW was rated at 24X for both reading and writing. I burned a second copy of Knoppix at full-bore, creating the LiveCD in a shade over 3 minutes. It worked just fine.

To test the DVD and the video system, I dropped a copy of Seabiscuit (a legal copy, of course) in the drive and started MPlayer. The movie played with acceptable quality. I noticed a little lip sync slippage now and then, but the video was certainly watchable.

Odds and ends

There are quite a few additional ports for connecting the LC2430 to a variety of devices: 15-pin CRT, S-Video Out, parallel printer, IEEE 1394, P/S 2, headphone, microphone, one PC Card slot, and four USB slots. An AC power adapter, battery, carrying case, and user's manual are also included. Regular price on the LC2430 is $1,849. Dual-booting is an available option.

Conclusion

This box is the nearest thing to a perfect match for my traveling needs as any laptop I've ever used. The keyboard and screen size are big pluses for me, as are the built-in all-in-one card reader for accessing digital photos and the built-in Linux-compatible modem and Ethernet adapter that replace the three PC Cards (modem, wireless, Ethernet) I travel with now. With the LC2430 I only need one, and I'd need none if I had chose the wireless option that's available. All in all, this is a very powerful, very attractive laptop.

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on Review: LinuxCertified LC2430 laptop

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could replace my desktop

Posted by: dukeinlondon on March 10, 2004 08:51 PM
I think I will get one of these in a couple of years to replace my desktop<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)

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Re: Great Machine

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 08:37 AM
I bought their LC2430 awhile ago with Red Hat 9. It was awesome. I love it. I took it to cafes and the wi fi works great. But I did plug it in as opposed to using battery.

Down side? a bit heavy but I love the screen. Overall, I give them a A for product and A+ for support service.

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laptop power for the few

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 10, 2004 08:54 PM
yep. sure is a great laptop. but with a price tag of 1750$ it is only good for those who can afford it: a minority. Those who need GNU/Linux most - the "under-priviledged" will have to wait, and that's too bad. It seems to me that a less fancy but much cheaper laptop would also have a nice niche and would empower more people (including students, kids at home, retirees, etc.).

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Re:laptop power for the few

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 10, 2004 09:42 PM
For circumstances where someone cannot afford a $1500+ price tag for a new Linux laptop, there is an incredible market for off-lease and 2nd-hand laptops out there. http://www.retrobox.com/ and http://www.used-pcs.com/ are two places I can immediately think of where you can get a fine Linux (and BSD) compatible laptop for a few hundred dollars. As these laptops are 2nd-hand (and thanks to the Windows OEM license agreements), they come without any OS installed and no "Windows tax". I've purchased equiptement from both of the vendors I listed and they are absoultely fantastic for buying laptop equiptment.

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Re:laptop power for the few

Posted by: Daniel Watkins on March 11, 2004 03:49 AM
Yeah, but they don't come with Linux pre-installed, which is the major barrier for most people...

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Re:laptop power for the few

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 05:55 AM
no, not since Mandrake happened. Installing is really a no-brainer. the one bad note is, of course, winmodems as most users are probably not comfortable choosing, getting and installing a linmodem hack... but for them an external modem is always an option

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Re:laptop power for the few

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 06:09 AM
thanks for the tip - I did not know these sites.


you know how I go my laptop? A guy told me that his laptop was "broken" and that he had send it to the shop twice to have it fixed. I asked him whether he could switch it on, he said that yes, he could, but that after it crashed. I asked to see this and he showed me. Sure enough, during the boot sequence frigging Windoze 2000 displayed a memory pagination error. It told him "its your OS", he refused to believe me (he thinks of M$ as the "bleeding edge") and told me that I could have the laptop for "spare parts" as he put it. I took it home, installed GNU/Linux and it worked *perfectly* ever since. In this case I can sincerely say: thank you so much, Micro$oft!<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;-)

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Re: New and refurbished

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 13, 2004 03:39 AM
I believe they do sell refurbished IBM thinkpad as well, for $700 with tech support. I don't about you but I think this is great...most stores don't do that.

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That's all well and good...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 10, 2004 10:48 PM
As a daily "mobile Linux" user, I must admit that I was chuckling quite a bit as I read through your article. The only bit that really seemed worth talking about was the modem -- which is generally an issue for Linux on laptops.



While you did talk about the keyboard (which, I'm very glad works well) you failed to mention an issue that is near and dear to my heart: Power Management. Does this notebook fully support ACPI? APM? Did you put it through the paces S1 and S3 suspends/sleeps? If not, what's the hangup? The buggy BIOS? Would the Intel disassembler help any?



It's great to see Linux moving into the desktop/mobile spotlight, however battery life monitoring and management are very important to every mobile user I know.

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Re:That's all well and good...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 10, 2004 11:04 PM
Indeed. Power management support from the vendor is a pain in the ass. I still can't get my shiny new Inspiron 8600 to suspend to RAM or disk (though I think the disk bit is my own doing; I have to work with it some more. I am using Gentoo, so I have to do things The Hard Way; I think SuSE might be better for ease of use. It seems to support APM/ACPI pretty well)

That said, the battery-life stuff is coming along quite nicely, imho. There are several excellent CPU governors available. I personally recommend that you wait for me to officially release the Vilsack Governor and Absolute Power (VSGovernor is the CPU governor; AP is an applet that sets policies for it). VSGovernor is already running on here and saving me a boatload of battery (I can get about 6-7 hours of battery when idle; 3.5-4 if I'm doing something).

After that, I'm setting up a butt-kicking profiles system, since I'm tired of having to dink with scripts all the time (I want a gnome applet I can point-n-click on).

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Re:That's all well and good...

Posted by: Joe Barr on March 10, 2004 11:31 PM
I didn't write about APM for two reasons.


First, it isn't an issue with me. I've been using Linux on a laptop for several years now. Since 1999, actually.


Second, not only do I not know much about APM, I haven't any basis for comparison of APM on Linux because I don't use Windows on my desktop or laptop.


I guess you don't know anyone that uses a laptop the same way I do. As I note in the story, my usage is not about styling at Starbucks or elsewhere. I use it for work when I am on the road. Motel rooms have power outlets and I just plug it in. Ditto for press rooms.


Obviously it is important to you. Why don't you write about APM on Linux laptops and submit the story to NF?


Joe Barr

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Re:That's all well and good...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 12:08 AM
I didn't mean to offend, I was mearly saying that for most mobile users battery life is a concern.



I also don't run Windows on my desktop or laptop, but that doesn't mean I style it at Starbucks and talk about what an awesome geek I am. I'm a student, I got to class with my notebook for the day. Battery life is a concern, and I'd hoped that a review of a mobile computer would make some mention of the battery. I don't have this laptop to play with to test it out myself.

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Re:That's all well and good...

Posted by: Joe Barr on March 11, 2004 12:53 AM
No offense taken. I'm sure your concern is valid to many.

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Re:That's all well and good...

Posted by: Corba the Geek on March 11, 2004 03:36 PM
Hang on! The question is quite legitimate - and certainly not a spiteful critiscm.

I've got an old Fuji Life book. Works great with SuSE 8.0 on it. It has a small form factor and is quite slow so all I use it for is web/mail access via a wireless network.

Because it is old it uses APM. This works well. I can simply close the lid and it goes into suspend mode. The I press the button to have "instant on". The only thing that doesn't recover correctly is the sound card - this needs to be reinitialised by unloading the driver and reloading.

Now I also have my "work" laptop. This is a shiny new Dell Inspiron 8600. The problem here is that it uses ACPI - and this doesn't really work well at all. So I can't use the suspend (I could probably try to get it working with a newer kernel - and the various whacks for the Dell BIOS). This means that I have to shut the machine down and then restart it. Which takes an age.

So I still find myself using the little slow laptop - simply because it is so easy to use.

Nothing to do with battery life (the battery is actually useless on the fuji) - but the simple matter of having "instant on".

I think it is reasonable to run through *all* the features of the hardware - and see which works and which doesn't - even if you don't intending use that feature.

What happens when you press the suspend button or shut the lid? Just say if it works or not? What happens if you unplug the mains? Does it run down really quickly? Simply tests that don't require a lot of fiddling or testing. Just say "I did these quick tests - but as I don't use the features I've not investigated them any more thoroughly".

Here you are present a review of a "Linux Certified" notebook. This is the significant point. I want to know the extent of this certification. What does it really mean? Can I use that as a guide to purchase - will I have confidence that the certified label really means that the laptop works? The review has only skimmed over some of the issues. I still don't know what Linux certified really means - in practice - beyond the claims of the adverts on the website.

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Almost identical specs to sager 4080

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 01:20 AM
But more expensive. You can get the same thing (w/o windows tax) over at pctorq (I'm not affiliated)

<A HREF="http://pctorque.com/4080.php" TITLE="pctorque.com">http://pctorque.com/4080.php</a pctorque.com>

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Re:Almost identical specs to sager 4080

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 01:58 AM
Yeah - Have you heard of the horror stories about Sager support. I think there used to be a website dedicated to that.

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Re:Almost identical specs to sager 4080

Posted by: Chris on March 11, 2004 02:02 AM
Its not a bad laptop, I recently just got the Toshiba P20-8PW Satellite, its extremly nice, and has alot of things built in. I havent seen a laptop nicer than the p20-8pw. Of course its pre-loaded with Windows XP Media Centre Edition, but for a Linux laptop this one is nice.

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Slow laptops

Posted by: opteron_user on March 11, 2004 02:27 AM
"firebrething 2.8GHZ Pentium 4"

Wow, that must be really fast (I am being sarcastic).

I know that this is a very high-end notebook computer, but in my opinion all current notebook computers are unbearably slow. I rarely use mine, but a few days ago, I was configuring and testing my dad's new notebook with a 3GHZ Pentium 4 and 2GB of RAM, and StarOffice took a unusable 2 seconds to load.

Any one planning to replace their desktop with a laptop or just use their notebook for anything more than some light web browsing should seriously reconsider.

I am used to at least two, very powerfull CPUs and no less than 8 GB of RAM, preferebly 12 and 16 GB, with applications loading instantly. I expect all of this in a desktop.

All of you in a few years will remember this comment and wonder how on earth you could have survived with only 1 GB of Ram or less than two, very powerfull CPUs or equivalent.

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Re:Slow laptops

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 06:17 AM
"StarOffice took a unusable 2 seconds to load"


the true mark of the technosnob. U sure u ain't using Windows? (you got plenty of money and you seem to think that the power of a computer comes from its hardware - so it would make sense for you).

real people load OpenOffice in 6 sec. on a old 850 proc while they think<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)

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Re:Slow laptops

Posted by: opteron_user on March 11, 2004 06:42 AM
Yes, I am sure that I am not using Windows. I use SuSE Linux, Trusted Solaris, and Solaris.

I am aware that application performance varries under different operating systems and I do not think that the power of a computer comes from its hardware.

"real people load OpenOffice in 6 sec. on a old 850 proc while they think<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)"

*unable to comprehend logic and syntax*

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Re:Slow laptops

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 08:38 AM
*unable to comprehend logic and syntax*

that figures. i am not too surprised.

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Re:Slow laptops

Posted by: mindglow on March 24, 2004 11:40 PM
I currently work on a Thinkpad A21m clocking at a whopping 800MHz (poor thing's a PIII, imagine...) and I seem to be able to accomplish all my work very efficiently. My current environment forces me to work with w2k, so I run vmware over Debian for 50% of my work. A slow environment reminds me of what my users are facing everyday, forcing me to program better. I can appreciate you need for speed, but I think you in the wrong forum, most people don't need that kind of raw power...

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looks great!!!

Posted by: linux-addict on March 11, 2004 02:27 AM

Ah, this would have been a perfect Christmas present. I looked through the specs - 3D performance seems awesome. Supported with Debian - finally somebody is getting a clue....

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Re: Support for multiple Distros is key

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 10:01 AM
After reading this, I went to their website. I like the support for multiple distros. I agree it is about time companies are offering a choice of support for rpm-based and debpkg based distros.
I use both at my school... http://linuxcertified.com/linux-laptop-lc2430.htm<nobr>l<wbr></nobr>

LC2430 has been certified with following distributions:

Fedora Core 1
Red Hat 9
Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS
Debian (Woody)
SuSE 9.0
Lindows Laptop Edition 4.5

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a biggie is missing though

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 12:42 PM
THREE RH variants, and even that pseudo-linux ripoff of Lindows, but no Mandrake?! That's pretty crazy... at least Debian is here!

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Re: I agreed

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2004 03:42 PM
Yeah, I agreed with you about Lindows. What a rip off. But at least there are Suse, Fedora and debian. Hope they will support Gentoo or Slackware as well.

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Lack of reviews

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 20, 2004 10:55 AM
My biggest concern is that I could not locate any
other reviews for this laptop, and only one other
review for a different LinuxCertified brand model.
This makes me wonder how many units they have shipped, and how happy people are with them.


I am willing to sacrafice on look, feel
(eg: keyboard and touchpad, case design) and other
issues to support a small vendor, particularly one specializing in Linux services. At the moment though, there is not enough information on the
web from other customers for me to trust LinuxCertified. Sigh.

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Re:Lack of reviews

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 03, 2004 03:59 PM
We just got two units for work pre-loaded with Suse 9 Pro. I think the biggest difference compared to a desktop is that the disk isn't spinning nearly as fast. Otherwise, I'm getting about 90% of the floating-point performance of a 1.7 GHz Xeon with RAMBUS memory. Best I've ever seen in a laptop and comparable to a ~2.4 GHz P4 with dual DDR memory.
We're running 2 GB of memory and with the DVD writer.

So far, pretty impressive. I'll be trying the Firewire port with disks to see just how far the Linux compatibility really goes<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;). The network card worked fine. It's nice to have a Linux laptop ready to go out of the box.

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TV Out

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2004 08:56 AM
TV Out is provided by the s-video connector in the back, but I want to know if this is accomplished via fn-f7 (or whatever) or is it via atitvout, in which case I would have to turn off my computer, attach the cable to the tv, then reboot to get the tv out to work? Also, if atitvout is used, is there a problem with the screen "whiting out" if you move the mouse?

Truthfully, I have been eyeballing this laptop for some time, but would only consider buying one if I could play dvd's easily. My new HP is a piece of crap in that I have to use atitvout and then the screen doesnt align properly. With my old toshiba and it's SIS chip I could fn-f7 my way through lcd, crd, tv.. no problem. This is a sorely missed feature.

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Re:TV Out

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2004 03:28 PM
Got my LC2430 yesterday. Playing my Seven Samurai DVD on it just great!

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Re:TV Out

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 30, 2004 10:14 PM
what magic did you invoke to make it work? did you have to turn it off, connect the tv, turn it back on, xhost+, run atitvout, and then not touch anything for fear of the picture freaking out? or did you cycle through the lcd, crt, tv output with appropriate keypresses?

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