VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org
[Newsletter Index]
[Previous Page] [Next Page]
[Features Index]

September 1999

Choosing a Laptop for OS/2

By: Mark Dodel (madodel@ptd.net)

As my wife says "You never go anywhere, why do you need a laptop?". Well because I just do :-) Every once in a while we get the burning desire to do something different, something new. my wife buys clothes, I buy computers. Warpstock was coming up and I am not going to miss it this year, so it was a perfect excuse to get a travel toy. Since I only use OS/2, this took some research, since I wanted to make sure my new laptop would work with my choice of operating system.

There was a time when this was a complete gamble. Even IBM Thinkpads are somewhat questionable since IBM is making some of their lower end models as windows only. But where can you find out what brands/models are good to run OS/2 on? There use to be a site dedicated to information about running OS/2 on IBM Thinkpads called "The Unofficial Warped Thinkpad Page". Unfortunately the site maintainer decided to move on to other things and the person that took over the site had no interest in OS/2, so it has stagnated. It is now "The Unofficial Thinkpad Page" - http://Dragon-Master.dragonfire.net/ and only offers information on loading NT on the newer TP models. There is however a lot of information still there on older models, but it was last updated in July 1998.

If you are considering an IBM ThinkPad then check the IBM ThinkPad Device Driver matrix http://www.pc.ibm.com/us/support/thinkpad/tpopsys.html. Here there are individual pages for each model with drivers listed by device type and operating system supported. If you want to make certain that OS/2 will be supported on a model you are considering, and you can't find one preloaded, then make sure you check this site. A source for older, refurbished ThinkPads is http://refurbishedpcs.financing.ibm.com, where you can pick up a 486 or Pentium unit for as little as $500US. Refurbished Thinkpads and other brands can be found elsewhere on the net as well (ie. http://www.surplusdirect.com is one source)

Like PC's in general, it is very difficult if not nearly impossible to purchase a laptop computer without paying for some flavor of windows. Indelible Blue - http://www.indelible-blue.com will install OS/2(and OS/2 applications) on some models for additional cost, but you are still paying the microsoft tax since the microsoft lackeys, ah computer manufacturers will only load windows at the factory. There are persistent rumours that some manufacturers will sell a pc, even a laptop without an OS or with Linux, but these are few and far between. I did find a laptop with Linux installed at Onsale.com - http://www.onsale.com/category/inv/00050606/01835695.htm, but this doesn't tell me about OS/2 compatibility and it no longer appears to be there when I try it. Has anyone actually seen a desktop or laptop from a major vendor with Linux preloaded? Or is this just a ploy to help microsoft claim that they have competition?

In my case I had some requirements for my notebook computer. I wanted at least a Pentium class cpu, preferably an AMD K6-2, a decent size harddrive (>2Gig) and a big screen, preferably 14.1' but a 12-13" would do fine. I also wanted a track-point, rather then a touch pad for pointing purposes. Those requirements eliminated a lot. But since my CPU requirements were modest, an older unit would be acceptable, assuming it came with a good size screen.

So where to find what I want and be reasonably assured that it would work with OS/2? Well there is a place on the web that can help. The NoteBook/2 site - http://www.os2ss.com/users/DrMartinus/Notebook.htm

The Notebook/2 site allows you to browse laptop models by manufacturer and lists what if any success there is with installing OS/2 on them. The site relies entirely on OS/2 users to submit their experiences with installing/running OS/2 on their own laptop computers. So all information is anecdotal. But the site lists drivers for models where they exist, and some folks have there email addresses posted with their information so you can ask additional questions if needed. The site itself is crowded, and takes some getting used to, as well as a frames-capable browser to navigate it. They have

The primary concerns with installing OS/2 are the Graphics Display driver, the Sound chipset and the PCMCIA drivers. All three of these areas are covered on the NoteBook/2 site. For each listed laptop model, there is an entry for the video driver support, audio driver support, PCMCIA support, and CDROM support. There are links to a device driver repository with links to the actual drivers. If you have a laptop with OS/2 installed or one which you couldn't successfully install OS/2 on, please help other OS/2 users by entering your information into Dr. Martinus's data entry form page. There is also a form for entering information on PCMCIA cards as well.

There are also Installation Guides for PCMCIA, Sound, Video and Infrared support. these seem to mostly be focused on ThinkPad units, but the information can be useful for non-IBM models as well. If you prefer a laptop with OS/2 pre-loaded, there is also a small list of dealers that will sell you one.

Another concern as I recently discovered is USB support. IBM wrote USB drivers, but only for the protocol supported by Intel and VIA chipsets. So if you have plans to hook up a USB device to your laptop, make sure that it has a supported chipset.

Finally for more support there are a couple of mailing lists you can subscribe to at the NoteBook/2 site. There is both a discussion list and an announcement list. Both are very low volume.

After researching what was documented on the NoteBook/2 site, I found a Toshiba 2545CDXT laptop on http://www.surplusauction.com. This unit had a good user rating from Yi-Hua Edward Yang on the NoteBook/2 site. This laptop met all of my requirements, so I bid on it and ended up getting one for about $1400US. It has an AMD 333 K-2, 64Meg RAM, 14.1" TFT display, S3 virge MX video with 2Meg RAM, a 4.1 Gig hard drive, 24X CDROM, floppy disk drive and a built in Lucent win-modem.

In a future article I will outline my experiences installing Warp4 and Warp Server e-business on this laptop, with emphasis on the PCMCIA devices and install.

[Previous Page ] [ Index] [Next Page
VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org