Last week, my house was broken into and one of our laptops was stolen. Not too much of a big deal, since there wasn’t much data on there (thank goodness for Cloud computing!), and once the insurance assessor visited, I went out and bought a new machine. Since this was for my wife, I left her using my Toshiba Portege M800 which runs Linux Mint 8 x64, just to see what she thought of it and whether she could move from Vista to Linux.
After a few days of it, she was mightily impressed – there are some nice features of Mint that she liked over Vista, so asked if the replacement could be one that ran Linux. No problems – might be a bit cheaper, after all! – so I hunted down a Foehn & Hirsch laptop on eBuyer.com which was cheap, and came with no OS. Here’s the detailed spec:
- Intel T3000 Celeron Dual Core Processor 1.8Ghz,
- 1MB Cache
- SIS M672 + 968 Graphics Chipset
- 4GB DDR2 667MHz
- 2 x SO DIMM
- Expandable to 4GB
- 320GB SATA 2.5″
- DVD+/-RW Supermulti
- Operating System: No Operating System
- 15.6” HD TFT
- Resolution: 1366 x 768
- SiS M672 Integrated
- Shared Memory Architecture 256MB
- High Preference 3D/2D graphic Accelerator
- Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Compatible
- Super Vertex Shader 2.0 and Pixel Shader 2.0
- High Definition Audio
- Compliant With Microsoft UAA
- Direct Sound 3D
- 2 x Built in Speaker
- Built in Mic
- Multi Language Keyboard
- Touchpad with Scroll zone
- 56K Fax Modem
- Built in 10/100MB Base-TX Ethernet LAN
- WLAN: 802.11 b/g
- Full Range AC Adapter 65W
- AC in 100~240V, 50~60Hz
- DC Out 19V, 3.42A / 18.5V, 3.5A
- 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
- up to 2.5 hour battery life
- Width 374mm
- Depth 256mm
- Height 25~37mm
- Weight 2.7kg
- 3 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x VGA port
- 1 x Headphone port
- 1 x Microphone port
- 1 x S/PDIF output port
- 1 x RJ-11 port
- 1 x RJ45 LAN port
- 1 x DC-in jack
- 7 in 1 Card Reader (MMC / RSMMC / SD / Mini SD / MS / MS Pro / MS Duo)
- 1 x Express Card Slot
Warranty / Miscellaneous
- 1 Year Manufacturer Warranty
- 1.3mp Webcam
That should be fine, I thought – keep her in laptops for a while, good spec and should be fine for Linux. There was nothing anywhere that I could find that said otherwise, apart from a line that said “Please note that this Laptops does not have an Operating System installed, Ebuyer recommends Genuine Microsoft Software”
Then, it arrived, and things started to go badly wrong.
I burned a new copy of Mint onto a CD, using the same ISO that I built this laptop with. Started the laptop up and it looked OK – I changed the BIOS so that it said that the OS was Linux, inserted the CD and rebooted. Mint started OK, but had a poor screen resolution – nowhere near the started 1366×768, it was 800×600!! So, I started to install Mint to see if it would change once the newest and best updates were completed. First time I tried the installation, I left it to it – came back in the room after a bit to find that the machine had switched itself off.
After that, every time I switched it on, it just kept error beeping for a minute (flashing lights as well) and then switched off. This included just trying to change the BIOS Settings – crashed while trying to change them, so it was nothing to do with the OS being installed, or the hard drive or anything like that. Eventually, I gave up, switched it off and left it for 15 minutes or so.
After a break, it switched on fine, so I installed Mint again from scratch. Interestingly, when I did the install, it told me that Ubuntu was already installed on the partition, but I scrapped it and started again. CD-ROM was incredibly slow getting to that stage – no idea why, but the performance was abysmal. Anyway – it got there in the end, I rebooted, logged in and started to configure the network.
Every time the machine reboots, the wireless needs to be manually enabled again, which is a minor thing (compared with the rest of the faults of the machine!), but I managed to get it setup with our wireless network and set it downloading the 218 updates that were required. Rebooted again once they were all installed, to see if there was any better resolution – nope, it’s 800×600 or 600×480 (doesn’t even recognize that it’s widescreen!). There is nothing better than that, which renders the machine practically useless.
When I spoke to eBuyer technical support this morning, they told me that this was a Linux problem, nothing to do with the laptop. I explained that the same CD had built my Toshiba and was told “yeah, that’s a Toshiba, this isn’t”. Well, thanks, I am aware of that – but I was then told that if I was using Windows it would be fine. Well, if it was using Windows, it would already be setup, wouldn’t it – it would be a decent laptop, I wouldn’t be wasting my time with it, and it would run. But, it would run Windows, which is crap.
Anyway, I left it switched off for a bit longer, restarted it, and all I got was an error message saying “Error loading Operating System”. The suggestion from eBuyer was that the laptop clearly isn’t faulty, clearly is fit for purpose, it’s just that it needs to be reformatted and have Windows installed on it.
The laptop is back in its box, waiting to be collected by a courier, and we will see whether eBuyer accept that it is faulty or not when it arrives there. I obviously think that there is something wrong with it (the hard drive fault and the beeping on startup yesterday), they seem to think that Windows is the answer. Either way, it’s not staying here – I’m off to a computer shop this afternoon to buy a new laptop – hopefully that one will run Linux!
Edit – a few more tries at using the laptop returned it to the status of beeping and erroring on start up. Here’s two videos which show me attempting to edit the BIOS before the machine switches itself off.