recommendations for a mini laptop

Paul Boddie paul at
Wed Jul 17 11:30:49 UTC 2019

On Tuesday 16. July 2019 17.07.25 Michel Roche wrote:
> Hello,
> I've used to be quite fan of eeePcs but in the long run they appeared to
> be not powerfull enough, even for basic usage with lighweight desktops
> (lxde is he limit).

The amount of memory in various devices is now a significant problem for 
anyone wanting to run a "modern" GNU/Linux distribution. Or rather, the 
general accretion of bloat [1] in those distributions is a problem when trying 
to keep machines usable which once had rather generous amounts of memory.

Also, "modern" desktop environments seem to want copious graphical effects and 
the hardware to support them. So, when evaluating the MIPS Creator CI20 
without its PowerVR-based GPU enabled, I found that MATE [2] was the most 
usable lightweight environment.

And obviously, with everybody loading up the "modern" Web with superfluous 
gadgetry, Firefox will gladly saturate the CPU, I/O channels and take lots of 
RAM. Unfortunately, more lightweight browsers like NetSurf [3] are likely to 
struggle with today's mainstream sites infused with surveillance capitalism, 
reaching out to dozens of other sites serving their own JavaScript payloads on 
every page load.

> Finally I prefer getting old X200 or X2[2-4]0 Thinkpads, maybe a little
> bigger, slightly more expensive, but way more usable in the long run,
> even on holidays. And top of all they are quite tough for travelling,
> and finding spare parts is not that difficult.

The netbook era produced some interesting models in the size range that was 
requested. As mentioned before, the Letux 400 Minibook is about 21cm across, 
25cm diagonal, even though the hardware can only run what would be regarded as 
an embedded distribution today. The Efika Smartbook is maybe slightly bigger 
but its 512MB is not sufficient for "modern" Web usage.

> So, while hey aren't totally free hardware, since it's really well
> supported on linux based distros that's the type of hardware I would
> recommend.

Vendors do sell reconditioned Thinkpads with Libreboot as the BIOS, meaning 
that Free Software does run at most levels in the device. Some of these 
vendors are mentioned in the wiki page that was previously maintained:

Obviously, that page is now likely to be rather out-of-date, as well as being 
difficult to find on the reorganised wiki unless you know it is there.

And obviously, whilst the low-effort approach that might get up-to-date 
answers is the one that involves asking for recommendations as and when they 
are needed, the more sustainable approach is to identify reliable vendors and 
maybe even cultivate relationships where hardware properly supporting Free 
Software can be continuously produced and sold. [4]


[1] Why the KDE mail client needs its badly-optimised MySQL-based Akonadi 
stack running underneath it is but one example of the phenomenon.



[4] Rather than it become an exercise to see which vendors are still in 
business and which ones had to give up because everyone just decided to buy 
something from Dell or HP or whoever and install over the bundled Windows 

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