Tag Archives: Hardware

Readers' Choice Awards 2014

It’s time for another Readers’ Choice issue of Linux
! The format
last year was well received, so we’ve followed suit making your voices
heard loud again. I couldn’t help but add some commentary in a few places,
but for the most part, we just reported results. Please enjoy this year’s
Readers’ Choice Awards!

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Sager NP2740 Review – A Linux Powerhouse

When I buy a piece of hardware I generally use it until it becomes completely non-functional. Because of this, my old Sager laptop I bought five years ago was finally needing an upgrade so I set about doing research trying to find a replacement.

I was looking for something powerful to stream some games on, but also light enough that it was not going to feel like a brick next to my Chromebook. Since Linux is my OS of choice, having reasonable Linux support is also on my list of desires. Because of this I wanted to stay away from ATI graphics cards and nVidia cards with optimus.

The winner you ask? After a good deal of research it ended up being the Sager NP2740:

The Hardware

The NP2740 ended up being one of the few pieces of hardware out there that met all my specifications. At 4.2 pounds the NP2740 is just a small bit heavier than my HP14 Chromebook. When ordering from PowerNotebooks.com the hardware also came with a no-OS option.

One of the things that draws me to Sager laptops is how customizable they tend to be compared to other laptops. The few pieces of hardware on the NP2740 that have to stay as is are:

That leaves us the memory and storage space to customize. The memory comes stock at 8gigs, but for my system I opt’d to push the memory to the maximum 16gigs as I knew I would be running virtual machines on my system.

Storage space is the one place where the NP2740 really comes out ahead of other laptops in this form factor. In addition to have a standard 2.5″ mobile drive, the NP2740 also has an mSATA slot that you can add an SSD to. Personally I have a 240gig, Intel 530 SSD in my unit.

The Performance

On a system this powerful I never expect a reasonable battery life, so I was fairly surprised with the NP2740. When under a constant heavy load (virtual machines running, code compiling, audio going) the battery in the NP2740 lasts for just under three hours. While doing light office work that life extends to around five hours.

In terms graphics performance I must say I have been thoroughly impressed with the Intel Iris 5200. For specifics on performance you should see the benchmarks here, but I will say this little card has handled everything I have thrown at it – including streaming some of those games using OBS.

Most importantly – the cooling on the laptop is excellent. I can use the device on my lap for hours without any discomfort from heat discharge.

The Linux Support

Starting with Ubuntu 14.04.1, all of the hardware on the Sager NP2740 is functional by default. If you are using an older Linux distro the RTL8723BE wireless chipset might give you some trouble, but there are workarounds. Because the graphics chip is Intel based you should have full 3D support with the open source drivers present on most Linux distros.

Best of all is that I was able to get the hardware with no OS pre-loaded, so I did not have to pay a premium to get a copy of Windows with my new laptop.

The Wrap Up and Price Point

I always do a lot of research before making a large purchase and I must say that even after days of research the NP2740 blows all the other competition away. Even with my wife’s company discounts, other brands such as Dell, Toshiba, and Lenovo could not come close to the $1,300 I ended up paying for the NP2740. You can configure your own starting just under $1,000.

All in all I have been very happy with my Sager NP2740. If you are in the market for a Linux PC that is portable, but does not sacrifice performance – this might just be the laptop for you.

~Jeff Hoogland

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sysdig: Information overload

I have seen several sites and software lists that include sysdig, usually with high praise for providing an unmatched level of insight into the inner workings of a system.

And that, I cannot dispute. I can’t think of a tool that spools quite the volume of raw data — and I do mean volume and I do mean raw — as sysdig can.


That was just a smidgin — a smidgin, I tell you — of what sysdig started piping to my terminal. Vast volumes of internal clock checks, software requests, hardware reports … you name it. Everything stamped and logged, and open for scrutiny.

In that sense, sysdig does a terrific job of giving you the aforementioned unmatched level of insight into the inner workings of your system.

My problem is, there is so much raw data and so much detail in the information, I honestly don’t know what to do with it.

Seriously: Barely 30 seconds or so of sysdig’s output, piped into a plain text file, resulted in 20 megabytes — and I spelled that out as megabytes so there wouldn’t be any confusion — of raw text data. And that’s on a 12-year-old desktop system running a smattering of desktop applications. I can’t imagine what kind of volume would appear in a proper, high-end system doing real work, like a web server.

On top of that, sysdig itself is a rather taxing application … or at least it is on the hardware I run. While sysdig is doing its thing, I get lags while typing, skipping music playback, etc., etc. It’s obvious that tracking detail at that level is imposing a serious drag on the system. Observer effect, anyone?

sysdig in Arch will build a special module that must be inserted to get sysdig to work. I didn’t try Debian yet; my Linux Mint machine is offline for a day or so, for misbehaving. (I also occasionally punish my TV for saying rude things, so this is not unexpected.)

I won’t duplicate the glowing praise that sysdig gets in other circles, just because there seems to be a heavy tradeoff in using it, from my standpoint. Yes, it will let you see every clock sync between your hardware and software, and you’ll see exactly when the downbeat of “Bring da Ruckus” leaves your music player and departs your speakers.

But you’ll need a degree of power to keep both the system and sysdig afloat at the same time. I’m guessing if your machine predates the Pentium 4 generation, you might have trouble with that. Just so you know. 😐

Tagged: hardware, information, system

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Dated Hardware, Waiting for Hardware and the Nokia N900 in 2013

The Nokia N900 was released in November of 2009 – three and a half years ago. When I bought my first N900 in January of 2010 it was a huge upgrade for me in terms of both speed and software freedom (coming from a Blackberry). The idea of having a computer – a true computer – that was also a phone was amazing. The same device I used to send text messages, I also installed applications on using apt-get. True multitasking – my applications stayed open until I closed them, not until the operating system decided it wanted to kill them. I didn’t mind paying the 450 USD it cost to purchase the brand new N900 out of contract – this was an awesome piece of technology!

Fast forward to 2013. Three years later I have gone through 2.5 Nokia N900s (I say 2.5, because the first two each broke in different ways and I was able to build a working device from their left overs) and still have it sitting on my desk as I write this. Three years is a long time in the world of mobile hardware and the N900 easily shows plenty of signs of aging. Compared to my wife’s Nexus 4, it loads applications and web sites slowly.

So why is it I hold onto hardware/software that deserves an upgrade? Simple – no one has released a comparable replacement. At first I did not want to trade my true Linux operating system in for this dribble called Android everyone raves about. Upon giving Android a chance though – I could make do with it. The HTML5 supporting browsers on Andriod really provide a decent web experience (which beyond text messaging is what I mainly do on a mobile device).

The hold up then? The hardware. I’m not talking about the speed of the hardware though – I’m talking about the lack of design. Almost every modern mobile that is sold today is a pure touch device. Hardware keyboards are a thing of the past it seems.

Am I truly the last person left alive who doesn’t like a software keyboard taking up half of my sub-10 inch screen while I type something?

When I search for modern cell phone hardware I certainly feel that way.

I have hope though! Within the next year we are expecting at least three new mobile operating systems to enter the landscape:

  • Ubuntu Mobile
  • Tizen
  • Firefox Mobile
I hope against all open that one of the hardware makers supporting these operating system breaks the current tread of touch-only devices. Maybe then I and stop picking up old N900s on Ebay when my existing one breaks!
~Jeff Hoogland

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