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What laptop to buy?

Gary Marshall
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Joined: Feb 19, 2007
Posts: 121


I am now working for a company that has me learning things by the hour. Great! Seriously, I like it. I find that in my quest for all the technical knowledge I need to accumulate I am spending time at home during the evening hours working on things.

This is all well and good except for the fact that my 4GB Windows Vista machine is now cramping up on me as I get deep into the software I am playing with. So I'm thinking about buying a new laptop that has the horsepower and memory that I need to do the work that I need to do. And, by the way I can be a real little piggy when I'm at work. I will have JBoss open, Eclipse AND NetBeans open, one or two command line windows (or terminal sessions), not to mention at least one FireFox browser session running. I'll be starting and stopping servers, writing and saving program code, googling all around the world for solutions to problems I'm having or answers to questions I have, and who knows what else. Of course, while all this is going on, I'll need to view a Youtube video on installing something or other.

So anyway, I would like to get a laptop because I want the portability. Obviously this laptop has to have the maximum memory it can hold and I would like it to have either a 750GB or 1TB hard drive. And I want a screaming processor. I want a laptop that will not cramp up whatever the load I put on it.

I've been considering several Windows type laptops that I would just wipe the hard drive and load up Red Hat Fedora (I'm learning that also). I've found a HP machine that comes with what appears to be a good Intel processor and 16 GB memory and 1TB hard drive. But I also found a MAC Book Pro that also has 16GB memory and a speedy 750GB hybrid SSD drive that costs twice as much as the windows machines. Hmm....Mac....

Any suggestions?
Thank you for your time and suggestions.

Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63052

I love my MacBook Pro.

Aside from simply being a great machine, it's capable of running any of the Big-3 operating systems to meet your needs. I run OS X for day-to-day development, but fire up Windows in a virtual machine for IE testing, and Linux as well to hook into the build system at my office.

[Asking smart questions] [Bear's FrontMan] [About Bear] [Books by Bear]
Gary Marshall
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 19, 2007
Posts: 121

Thank your Mr. Bear, for your suggestion concerning the Mac.

As I mentioned, among many other things, I am learning Linux. My question concerning the Mac: will I be able to learn the commands as well as how to administer a Linux OS on a MAC just as well as I could if I were to be running a true Linux system on some other (non Mac) machine?

Thank you again, sir
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63052

Yes. Running Linux in a virtual machine is pretty much the same as in a real machine.
Campbell Ritchie

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 43350
Gary Marshall wrote: . . . And I want a screaming processor. . . . I would just wipe the hard drive and load up Red Hat Fedora . . .
You might need a “screaming” processor for YouTube and similar, but for simple software development and analysis, the least expensive laptop available will do just as well.
Don’t wipe the hard drive. Shrink the Windows® partition and use it as a dual-boot machine. You can run Linux from a “live” CD to try it before installing it.

I suggest you want to format your hard drive like this:
Red = Windows® partition. There might be a tiny partition to its left which you can’t see, used to contain the bootloader.
Black = mount as /boot, size approx 0.5GB, format as ext3 (probably; see installation guide as below).
Green = mount as / and format as most recent type, probably ext4. Suggested size 10GB to 20GB
Yellow = mount as /home and format as most recent type, too, and encrypt.
Blue = don’t mount, but format as swap or Linux swap. Suggested size 2GB or very slightly bigger than your RAM, whichever is larger.
I won’t suggest sizes for the Windows® and /home partitions. Remember you can gain access to the Windows® MyDocuments, etc., from a Linux partition but not vice versa.
If you need to reinstall Linux, you can mount the partitions as before. Format your old /boot and / partitions, but don’t format your /home partition. That way you can (probably) retain all your old work in that partition.

When you install Linux, the system clock should be set to use UTC if you don’t have Windows® running too. At least I think it’s that way round. There is an installation guide here. You will need four passwords, to encrypt the /home partition, to log on, for root, and for Grub (bootloader). There is no rule saying they have to be different from each other. It takes something like half an hour to install Fedora from the CD, and a bit longer from the DVD if you select lots of options. You would probably do well to add yourself to the administrators group when you create your user name.
If you use the Gnome desktop, a lot of us think you need to enhance it with shell extensions, e.g. alternative status menu, traditional dropdown menu, favourites menu, recent documents, places menu, etc. Start looking for them here.
You may have problems with media players: VLC is the most versatile. There are also special installation instructions for Adobe Flash.
gurpeet singh
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 04, 2012
Posts: 924

there are many options of monster machines in terms of hardware. now choosing between windows and mac i will go for windows. mac hardware is great and costly too but mac in itself is not near to windows. windows is more user-friendly than mac , though lovers of mac will say otherwise. but windows is far superior than mac. also these days ultrabooks are on the rise which has got some great hardware features too to match the mac hardware. also the maintainence factors comes in . have seen lots of mac users having trouble in repairing there macs/ipads/iphones.
I agree. Here's the link:
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