Laptop recommendation

Valeri Galtsev galtsev at
Sun Feb 19 03:21:37 UTC 2017

On Sat, February 18, 2017 7:39 pm, Warren Block wrote:
> On Sat, 18 Feb 2017, Sergei Akhmatdinov wrote:
>>> When I bought my laptop back in 2007, I blew it -- it has a wireless
>>> networking card with a Broadcom chipset that is not FOSS-friendly.
>>> Debian
>>> has a work-around using proprietary firmware, but I would prefer a
>>> laptop
>>> with 100% FOSS-supported hardware.
>> Perhaps I am going off on a tangent, but most of the time you can buy
>> an Aetheros card online and replace it.
> Yes.  I have used replacement Atheros wireless cards in my most recent
> notebooks: Dell Latitude E7240 and E7440, small ultrabooks with Haswell
> processors and graphics.
> Some vendors only allow particular wireless cards of their own choosing,
> which makes replacing the stock one with a particular chipset expensive,
> challenging, or impossible.  This includes Lenovo and HP.  If you are
> dead-set on one of those and feel lucky with their security or quality
> issues, it might be easier to use a low-profile USB wireless adapter.

I added HP and compaq to my NO-NO list: I had one with BIOS listing
"allowed" PCI vendor hardware IDs. That laptop was with 64 bit CPU, and
with internally 32 bit crappy Broadcom 43xx WiFi adapter. Intel was banned
(not listed) in their BIOS. I had to disassemble laptop, unsolder BIOS
PROM chip, dump BIOS off it, and edit it with hex editor by replacing one
of allowed IDs with my Intel ID, and another to keep the checksum the
same, then I flashed that on separately purchased PROM chip, soldered in
socket so I can easily swap PROM chips... I made it work with good card
with 64 bit internals. What infuriated me most was that that was the same
compaq that in the past legally created "IBM compatible" BIOS using clean
room approach... which let them get 100 time more revenues than they
invested in making IBM compatible during the very first year.

<more rant>
Lenovo I observed during long time after this Chinese company bought IBM
laptop line... but after quite some time when I started recommending them,
they made it into my "bad" list by selling laptops with malware
</more rant>
Since then I recommend Dell mostly even though I disliked them for
changing chipsets almost on daily basis. Still, if you stay with their
enterprise lines, you quite likely will be safe. Get Linux certified
laptop, try to avoid latest Intel (avoid 7xxx, with everything below 62xx
or maybe even lower: 60xx you should be OK - somebody chime in, please).
Worst comes to worst, you will get separately older Intel, or better
though Atheros WiFi card, and will be happy.

Mine is Fijitsu Ulrabook U904, but I don't put it on top of
recommendations just on account of how much effort I had to put in to
ultimately happily run FreeBSD 10.3, then 11.0 (RELEASE both) on it.

Good luck!


> The entry on the wiki for the Dell E7240 has everything I wished I could
> ask before buying it.  The E7440 is essentially the same thing with a
> 14-inch screen.  Both can be had with 1920x1080 screens, which I
> strongly recommend because the lower-res screen is not IPS.
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Valeri Galtsev
Sr System Administrator
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics
University of Chicago
Phone: 773-702-4247

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