Q

Getting Fedora Core working on a laptop

A desktop expert recommends buying a laptop pre-loaded with Linux rather than messing around with device drivers.

I have a Toshiba Tecra A4 laptop with Intel Pro/wireless 2200BG NIC and a Marvel Yukon 88e8053 PCI-E Gigbit NIC. I have tried many times to get Fedora Core 4 and 5 working on my laptop. So far, I've had no success. Do you have any suggistions?

Laptops can be challenging for Linux non-experts. Because of the restricted space in a laptop, manufacturers often

use small non-standard peripherals which don't have Linux support. It is usually possible to install and boot Linux, but you will often find that, for example, wireless networking or the modem does not work.

The website http://www.linux-laptop.net is a clearing house of information about installing Linux on laptops. Reviewing the Toshiba part of the website, I see that while a couple of people have described their experiences installing onto a Tecra A2, no one has yet written the information for a Tecra A4.

There's some good news and some bad news. The good news is that a wider Web search finds a site, http://tuxmobil.org/toshiba_tecra_a4_linux.html, where a writer outlines how he installed Fedora Core 3 on a Toshiba Tecra A4 laptop. The bad news is that his conclusion is that it doesn't all work well out of the box. Specifically, that writer said that he needed to install Intel's Linux driver. That made wireless networking function. He also installed an Ethernet driver for the Marvel chip that it uses. The driver to search for is called "sk98lin."

But configuring and installing device drivers is really only for professional programmers. If you want to run Linux on a laptop, the best approach is to buy the laptop with Linux pre-installed on it. If you don't want to do that, choose a mainstream solid laptop which the linux-laptop.net site shows is compatible with Linux. For example, most of the Lenovo "Thinkpad" range. When I installed Linux on my Thinkpad T40, all the peripherals, including wired and wireless networking "just worked."

This was first published in November 2006

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