[GLLUG] Seemingly Simple Question

Jan Henkins jan at henkins.za.net
Wed Nov 4 10:38:50 UTC 2015

Hello Paul and Leo,

On 2015-11-04 08:06, Paul Hewlett wrote:
> I have a thinkpad w530 at work and it is probably the worst laptop for
> Linux(Ubuntu) that I have ever used. Rebooting is only successful
> about half the time.
> For my personal use I bought a dell xps15 after reading that dell
> installed Ubuntu for internal use... Everything works and I have had
> no trouble with it at all.
> I would never use lenovo for Linux ... But YMMV
> Paul

Paul, there seems to be an issue with that particular machine of yours, 
because I have two Lenovo laptops (an Ideapad i5 Z360 and Thinkpad 
Core2-Duo X200) that works faultlessly with several different Linux 
distribution. I use Dell at work, but will choose Lenovo over and above 
Dell for personal use any day. The difference in quality between even 
the Dell XPS range (which is a really excellent of lappies) and the 
Lenovo X (and even the cheaper T's) series is immediately obvious when 
you do a side-by-side comparison.

Having said that, the Lenovo W series is supposed to be their 
"powerhouse" models, and doing a bit of research on specifically the 
W530 model it is widely reported to be satisfactorily compatible with a 
wide range of Linux distros. Your problem sounds somewhat like an issue 
with either BIOS and/or SSD firmware incompatibilities, and issue I have 
had with my work Dell Latitude E6530 as well. For a while I could not 
run Ubuntu (12.04 at that time), but Fedora 18 had kernel patches that 
helped. In the end I upgraded my BIOS (which did not help for the SSD, 
but fixed other issues), and then swapped out the Samsung SSD for a 
newer model (which did the trick). I would also be inclined to run 
memcheck to see whether the system RAM checks out.

> On 2 Nov 2015 10:58 pm, <lists at boywithwings.co.uk> wrote:
>> Heya all,
>> I'm planning to get a Thinkpad, possibly after Christmas as my old
>> i5 Macbook Pro is getting a bit rickety.
>> I'm thinking either a T410 or X220. The main goal would be a tough
>> laptop that I could use for DJing and Music Production.
>> Unfortunately this means I would have to run Windows on it (URGH
>> UNCLEAN) to run some of the music software I rely. I would probably
>> dual boot with Ubuntu Studio.
>> Those two Thinkpads are a great choice as they have Firewire 400,
>> which I need for my current audio interface. All very legacy.

Hi Leo!

Legacy does not always mean "bad"! :-) Still, I would seriously suggest 
that you start budgeting for a more modern USB2/3 audio interface, and 
research what works with Linux. Latency over USB (even USB1) is not what 
it used to be, you can get near zero latency with Ubuntu Studio on an 
old 64-bit Linux machine. I mostly use an external USB2 (backwards 
compatible to USB1) ART Tube interface on both my Ideapad Z360 (1st-Gen 
i5, probably the same age as your Apple) and much older Thinkpad X200 
(Core2-Duo), and I rarely get any XRUNS recording at 24-bit 48k. I do 
get XRUNS on the old X200 (but not on my Z360) when I use my Edirol 
interface and record at 24-bit 96k, but that is mostly due to the age 
and slowness of the USB chipset in the old Thinkpad.

>> My question is mainly, which one do people recommend for my use
>> case? I do a lot of lugging equipment around the UK (and Europe), so
>> that would push me towards the X220.

The X220 is an exceptional machine with reportedly excellent battery 
life [1]. I can remember reading a review of it written by Cory Doctorow 
(SciFi writer/digital activist) where he sung its praises. He uses 
Ubuntu exclusively, so there is no issues with Linux compatibility [2].

>> I've seen the more expensive X220 occasionally for sale with a i7
>> but the T410 with only an i5. My Macbook has a dual core i5 with 8GB
>> of RAM and 1TB hybrid drive and has a similar form factor to the
>> cheaper T410. Would there be a big performance gap between the i7
>> X220 and the i5 T410? I will go for an SSD in either and a good
>> trackpad is a must.

There will be a big difference in performance between the two from a 
normal computing perspective, although the T410 is also a fine machine. 
However, I don't believe that the performance differences between the i5 
and i7 CPUs will make a massive difference for music production, because 
the real bottle-neck would be I/O related (USB or FireWire bus, as well 
as speed of HDD), and of course RAM. Therefore an i5 spec T410 with a 
decently specified SDD won't neccessarily have to stand back to an i7 
spec X220 with a "spinning rust" drive. If you do only one thing, 
upgrade whatever laptop you use to the max with RAM, so that you get as 
much in memory as possible. That way you minimise hitting the HDD, which 
is always the slowest part of the data chain.

One last point - as good as your old Firewire audio interface might be, 
it is going to start seriously impacting your future technology choices. 
If getting rid of the Firewire interface is not an option, consider 
getting yourself a cheap desktop machine for home production use that is 
easily upgradable with a Firewire interface card, which would mean that 
you can still use the audio interface for home studio purposes. By 
contrast, USB interfaces are becoming scarily good these days, and they 
are also getting a lot smaller and lighter. My ART Tube interface is a 
relic by comparison, and almost three times the weight (as well as twice 
the size) of it's (sadly non-tube) replacement model. Also, USB 
interfaces are also relatively cheap, you can get excellent interfaces 
between £80-£300 depending on your use-case. How many interface channels 
do you need?

Last thoughts: Your choice between the T410 and X220 is largely academic 
IMHO, they are both "boringly good". If you are price-sensitive, the 
T410 might be the best immediate choice, although the technical 
excellence of the X220 could be the winning factor in the end. I would 
play a pricing game between the two, pricing up the individual upgrade 
paths and doing a post-upgrade pricing comparison.


[1]: http://boingboing.net/2011/03/08/lenovo-x220-claims-2.html

Jan Henkins

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