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4. Laptop Distribution

4.1 Requirements

From the Battery-HOWTO I got this recommendation (modified by WH):

A Message to Linux Distributors

If you happen to be a Linux distributor, thank you for reading all this. Laptops are becoming more and more popular, but still most Linux distributions are not very well prepared for portable computing. Please make this section of this document obsolete, and make a few changes in your distribution.

The installation routine should include a configuration, optimized for laptops. The minimal install is often not lean enough. There are a lot of things that a laptop user does not need on the road. Just a few examples. There is no need for three different versions of vi (as found in Suse Linux). Most portable systems do not need printing support (they will never be connected to a printer, printing is usually done with the desktop system at home). Quite a few laptops do not need any network support at all.

Don't forget to describe laptop-specific installation problems, e. g. how to install your distribution without a cd-rom drive or how to setup the plip network driver.

Add better power management and seamless PCMCIA support to your distribution. Add a recompiled kernel and an alternative set of PCMCIA drivers with apm support that the user can install on demand. Include a precompiled apmd package with your distribution.

Add support for dynamically switching network configurations. Most Linux laptops travel between locations with different network settings (e. g. the network at home, the network at the office and the network at the university) and have to change the network ID very often. Changing a Linux system's network ID is a pain with most distributions.

Add a convenient PPP dialer with an address book, that does not try to start multiple copies of the PPP daemon if you click on the button twice (e.g., the RedHat usernet tool). It would be nice to have the PPP dialer also display the connection speed and some statistics. One nice command line dialer that autodetects modems and PPP services is wvdial from Worldvisions

4.2 Recommendation

The Debian/GNU Linux has most of the desired features for a laptop installation. The distribution has a quite flexible installation tool. The installation process is well documented, especially concerning the methods which are useful at laptops. All the binaries are tiny, because they are stripped. A mailing list debian-laptop including a searchable archiv is provided. And Debian/GNU Linux is free.

At the end of August 1999 the Debian Laptop Distribution - Proposal was issued. And some more laptop related packages and a Debian meta-package dedicated to laptops are on the way.

Note: I know other Linux distributions work well with laptops, too. I even tried some of them, see my pages about certain laptops mentioned above.

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