In Ubuntu 10.10 on the Lenovo Thinkpad T401s, I wrote about my new work laptop and how happy I was to have it. Oh, how times have changed!
There seem to be some funky kernel/driver issues in recent kernels that have caused me performance degradation at times, loss of wireless now and then, and a general frustration. I no longer believe that Linux is a good idea on laptops (for me) unless I want to spend A LOT of time messing around with tweaks and updates to make things that should Just Work actually work.
I’ve owned many Thinkpads in my day. In order, I’ve had a 380D, 600E, T21, T23, T43P, T61, and now the T410s (wanted the X301 but opted for the T410s instead). I’ve long believed that from a hardware point of view, IBM/Lenovo had consistently made some of the best machines out there. And I’ve run Linux on all of them.
It used to be that a Thinkpad was a fantastic laptop for running Linux. But sometime in the last few years, all that changed. There are a lot more variations in little components that REALLY MATTER when it comes to good Linux drivers and support. Notably I see issues with wireless cards and video drivers.
I believe that this laptop is simply “too new” for Linux. There are a lot of issues that still need to be worked out before things just work out of the box. But I’ve already invested a few days worth of effort into that (trying new kernels, reproducing the problems, etc) and am finding it hard to justify any more. For the same price my employer paid for this machine, I can get something that’s probably almost as good that will run Linux well. Or I can reinstall the Windows 7 that I removed and run a Linux virtual machine on it.
It’s all maddening, really. It seems like I’m faced with choosing two of these three options:
- modern hardware
- great hardware
- the operating system I want
The hard part is deciding which I’m willing to omit. For the last week, I’ve mostly been computing on my personal Asus UL30A-X5 running Windows 7. And while it has one of the worst trackpads I’ve ever used and a glossy screen that I’m not fond of, it’ll run forever on battery and the keyboard is pretty comfortable. It’s nowhere near as fast as my T410s (much slower CPU and no SSD) but that’s okay for a lot of what I do. And, honestly, Windows 7 isn’t hard to get along with at all. I mostly use Google Chrome, Firefox, and PuTTY anyway.
Part of me thinks I should just put the T410s in a drawer and bring it back out when Ubuntu 11.04 comes out and magically fixes everything. But that part of me needs to deal with the part that says, “this is f’ing nuts! It’s almost 2011 and I can’t believe I’m still dealing with this crap! I don’t want to support vendors that make stuff that doesn’t work 100% right with Linux!”
Ultimately, I’m sick of wasting my time. I’m no longer puzzling over why so many of my coworkers have Mac notebooks these days. I guess there’s something to be said for having tight control over the hardware and the operating system. But I already know Windows pretty well too.
Decisions, decisions. Ugh.
I guess I should remind myself of something I said back in 2002:
Linux may be headed to the desktop someday, but it’s not there yet. Maybe in a few years. Linux is great on the server. So is FreeBSD. I can only see limited reasons for ever running a Windows server. The same has become true of a Linux desktop.
Some things haven’t changed as much as I thought… Maybe I should give a System76 machine a shot.