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looking for a low power laptop for linux mint

 
Trailboss
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About four months ago I made the leap to linux for my workstation. This is my ... sixth attempt. And this is the first time that I think I will stay with it.

But there is a problem.

This laptop has 8 gigs of memory and cannot be expanded beyond that. And chrome is a memory pig (I perpetually have lots of windows and tabs open). When I get up to 5.8 gigs of memory in use, the laptop will often get stuck for a minute and then everything will crawl until I can find a way to close some windows.

I want more memory.

At the same time, this particul laptop uses a i7-3537U CPU that takes only 13 watts. Most laptop i7 CPUs use 47 watts. Despite this being a 17 inch computer, the power supply is just 65 watts. My impression that the standard is 90 watts, although my previous laptop used a 120 watt power supply. In shopping, I have found laptops that needed a 240 watt power supply.

I write about off grid living and energy conservation, so the idea that this laptop uses so little power is a huge plus for me. In fact, I stuck a kill-a-watt on it, and it appears to draw about 15 to 35 watts through the day.

I would like a 17 inch, low power laptop with 32 gigs of memory. I am so keen on the low power angle that I am seriously considering SSD.

As I've looked around it seems I can have everything I want if I am willing to give up one thing. If I give up the 65 watt power supply for a 90 watt (complete with a cpu that takes 47 watts) - that seems the most common. Or get only 16g of memory. Or give up the 17 inch screen for 15 inch.

It used to be that there were people that built custom laptops. Whatever happened to those folks?

It seems like what I am looking for is not all THAT crazy. Plus, with linux mint, 32g of memory, low power and SSD, I am kinda hoping that this could be a recipe for a computer that will last five or more years. I once had a laptop that I used for four years and that was the best. I would have used it for eight years, but I was running stuff that needed more memory than it could hold.


At the moment, I have now spent about 30 hours looking and have now emailed a sixth person to see if their company can provide me with what I'm looking for.

Anybody know of a technical reason why what I am looking for is turning out to be so difficult?
 
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Can your OS even address 32G of memory? If you want performance you will be paying the price in power consumption. To reduce power you will need to slow down. Sorry I couldn't help Linux supports underclocking, which you should look into. There is negligible static power consumption. The power consumption happens when gates switch.

I suggest closing some windows. Make some concessions. Or make up for the power use some other way if you need a bad computer - wear an extra coat in winter. Not sure how far off the grid you are or are willing to go, but...
 
paul wheaton
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Here is my TED talk about saving energy:

 
Guillermo Ishi
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I had a close co-worker when I was in eastern MT who was from Kallispell. I heard lots of off the grid stories about western MT, so when "Whitefish" appeared on the screen I read off-grid instead. The heater looks interesting. I like the scalability. I like that you aren't focused on trading off comfort. If someone is willing (or forced) to do that they can go even further. One winter I was renting an old house and when I got my first $400 heating bill I turned off the central heat and lived in one small room wearing layers, with a space heater. My next bill was $40, and when I paid it the girl at the counter looked at me as if to say is it broken? Do we need to send somebody out? But giving up comfort is ultimately self-defeating, I theorize.

I worked for a company that made a gizmo that had a generator built in, instead of using batteries like the competitors. We would conserve every microwatt any way we could, for the purpose of making powering it up unobtrusive.

Power consumption in a computer is voltage squared times frequency times gate capacitance. They're using the lowest possible voltages on the board for the technology. They also try to minimize gate capacitance. You have frequency to play with. They are already trying to minimize power consumption, for technical and marketing reasons, while maintaing or improving computing power. They already gate the clocks off to sections that aren't being used at a point in time. What you might be able to do is lower the overall clock speed to a level that you are still comfortable with. Underclocking would probably not go far enough for you, so changing frequencies in hardware might be required. Speed is heat, so at some point you might be able to lose the fan and not have to turn a big mechanical thing. Alternatively lit screens might be worth investigating. You might also want to just live with the heat and consider it room heating, like with your light bulb.

 
Greenhorn
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Hi! I just signed up here after finding my way via Permies. I can't give enough thanks to you, Paul, and all of the people who make these sites extremely helpful and informative! I read this thread without looking at names, and then saw it was the 'man' himself! Did you ever find a suitable solution for your laptop issue? I can think of a few ideas, including underclocking/undervolting (I'm on an undervolted G1850 Celeron running Mint currently) as well as perhaps finding a laptop that would support a lower wattage i7. You could then perhaps talk to salespersons about making the downgrade (or upgrade depending on perspective) or perhaps find someone looking to upgrade their CPU and sell off the high wattage unit to be replaced by what you want. Another Idea that I employ with Firefox is to enable browserShowQuitWarning in about:config (allows to save tabs and quit when you try to close) and set tabs not to load until selected. This way I can close the browser and open it back up with all background tabs unloaded, meaning RAM is freed up and this is especially important when you have a lot of flash items doing things in background tabs. I can only imagine that there must be some similar options (or add-ons) for other browsers.

I was glad to hear about your most recent jump to Mint. I made the switch last year after upgrading my PC and installed Mint on the old PC. Eventually I realized I was using the old PC and hadn't touched Windows in 2 solid months! Mint - Cinnamon Edition and LXLE (lubuntu respin) are my favorite distros.

One last thought for anyone looking to upgrade, I believe the new line of Broadwell based chips came out a month ago, and Skylake is slated to release before the end of the year after having some delays. This means better performance, notably with the integrated graphics, and better power consumption. Laptop and desktop chips should hit the market at roughly the same time when Skylake does get released. Not to mention DDR 4, USB 3.1, USB type C connectors (either side up) and wireless charging should all be the status quo for new devices. I think it is definitely worth the wait for anyone looking to buy new if they can hold out a few more months. You have likely already worked out a suitable situation, but hopefully these ideas will help someone who happens upon this thread.

Between Permies and this place I have a lifetimes worth of information in front of me to absorb. Thanks everyone!

 
paul wheaton
Trailboss
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Hi daniel!

I'm glad you like my stuff! Of course, it is all about a thousand times bigger than just me.

In an effort to fix stuff, I bought a lenovo w541. So far, here are the two showstoppers:

1) the new laptop does not have an hdmi port. It has "thunderbolt". But my external monitor has a thunderbolt port too - so all is well. I buy a thunderbolt cable. Linux seems to not be aware of thunderbolt. ?? So no external monitor?

2) Linux comes with firefox. But I have oodles of stuff set up wtih chrome. So I wanna run chrome. No chrome for mint? I did install chromium. I want to run chrome and chromium just like I am already doing.




 
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paul wheaton wrote:...No chrome for mint?


Use the Debian/Ubuntu version of Chrome if you want Chrome specifically rather than Chromium. If you browse to https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/ from your Mint laptop it should offer you the right download. If not, just Google for it. Once you've downloaded the .deb file from Google, you should be able to install it using the package installer on your Mint machine (Menu --> System Tools --> GDebi Package Installer, or try double-clicking on the .deb file directly). I'm using Chrome on Mint right now, so "it works for me", as the old developer's saying goes!

More generally, Mint is built on top of Ubuntu (as are many other distributions), so you can usually find pretty much any package you want in the Ubuntu repositories, and install them using "sudo apt-get install ...", or download a .deb file from some other location if it's not in the standard repositories. Occasionally, some installation scripts will try to be a bit too clever by inspecting your machine to work out which version of Ubuntu you're on, then rush off fetch the Ubuntu package based on your Mint version info (e.g. Mint 17 Qiana) rather than the underlying Ubuntu version (Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty). This will fall over because the Ubuntu repos won't know anything about "Qiana", but you can usually just download the relevant .deb file from the repo manually, then install it using the package installer on your Mint machine.
 
paul wheaton
Trailboss
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2) My friend Ernie stopped by a couple of weeks ago. He's a linux guy. He said the same thing about ubuntu and got chrome installed.

1) The "thunderbolt" problem is still a problem. We noticed that the laptop has a USB 3 port and the monitor has a usb 3 port. And I read that that is a possibility. So I bought a usb 3 cable and ... apparently the monitor is willing to do stuff with the usb3 port, but not video in. So the thunderbolt problem is still a problem.

3) the touchpad buttons don't work.

Any suggestions for problems #1 and #3?
 
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