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Off The Shelf And Onto Your Lap(top) - page 3

Marketing 102

  • March 4, 2004
  • By Rob Reilly

Networking

I was very excited to see how the Centrino chipsets worked in a Linux laptop. Everyone knows Intel is "developing" drivers for the wireless chips. As a consequence, LinuxCertified had to use a Prism 2.5 based mini-pci card for wi-fi connectivity. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't test the built-in Centrino wireless capabilities. The Prism-based solution worked flawlessly and made using Kismet possible. As a freelancer, I spend quite a bit of time "out and about" following up on and writing stories. Kismet helps me sort out new access points and really works well with Prism cards.

Actually, it was a little strange to power up the laptop in a downtown park and find that my home page magically appeared in Mozilla, seemingly out of the blue. I'm used to patiently watching the link light on my SMC 2632W 802.11b card, in my laptop, to see if I've been successfully associated with an access point.

Where was the access point at the park? Who knows. Typing "/sbin/iwconfig" in an Xterm, told me the SSID, which really didn't help identify my unknowingly benevolent wireless host.

I did a quick scan of a couple of Linux news sites and then just went on to working in OpenOffice.org. For the user that simply buys a new Linux laptop and isn't familiar with how 802.11b networking works, it might be a little confusing that their web connectivity is sometimes there and sometimes not. Fortunately, a little wi-fi status indicator is visible on the toolbar as a replacement for the link light.

I plugged a CAT5 cable into RJ-45 jack (wired LAN connection) on the left side of the laptop and connected it to my network. It worked fine.

What would a Linux laptop be without dialup? When you are out of range of wi-fi and not on a wired LAN, it's still nice to be able to get to the 'Net. This machine has an onboard 56K modem. I plugged in the phone cable. I then ran "/etc/rc.d/init.d/network stop" to shut down the wireless and ethernet cards. Next, I put my local ISP number into KPPP and clicked connect. I was happy to see that the traditional modem/Linux dialup problem had been solved. The modem dialed and after a few seconds I was back on the net and connected at 48K. Since everything is built-in, again, it was a pleasant respite from the old PCMCIA modem, network card shuffle. The new drill: plug in the appropriate cable and connect.

When I was done testing the modem, I quit KPPP, ran "/etc/rc.d/init.d/network start" and was back up on the wi-fi link. Easy!

Linux has always had problems with the so-called WinModems I don't know if this was a WinModem or not...and I didn't particularly care. The modem just worked and that's the way it should be for a complete Linux laptop solution.

Running On Batteries

I was impressed with the performance of the Centrino chipset. A noted feature of Centrino is modest power consumption in relation to the performance. Although this model had ONLY a 1.4 Ghz clockspeed, it had ample computing power and stamina, even with the mini-pci Prism wireless card turned on. Here is a rundown (pardon the pun) on how the machine worked, performing a couple of different functions, while on the battery.

  • On its way to a low power warning (at 15% capacity) the machine ran for 3 hrs. and 5 min. with the Prism card connected, the LCD screen lit, and an occasional clicking to a new web site in Mozilla.
  • I watched the entire "Pink Panther Strikes Again" DVD movie (1 hr. and 45 min.), with the built-in speakers at full volume, the Prism card connected and still had 27% left on the battery.
  • Charging the battery back up to full power required 3 hrs. and 50 min. from the 15% warning mark.

Overall, I thought that battery performance was good. It would be completely usable for the average road warrior. An optional extra battery is also available.

Experiences Of A Young Linux User

At one point during testing I turned my eight-year-old daughter loose on the machine. She typed a few sentences into OpenOffice.org Writer and looked at a couple of web sites on Mozilla. She said that it looked just like OpenOffice.org on her machine. Her computer is the lone Windows 98 box on my network and is kept around because it runs her games. But, even still she navigated around without any problem.

Another thing that caught my daughter's eye was the tried and true Tuxracer. The graphics are great on the LC2210 with no lags or stopping of the action. Tux smoothly flies down the slopes, grabbing herring, without a problem. My daughter really enjoyed Tuxracer.

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