The Toshiba Satellite 1115-S103 is a nice starter laptop, which today (12/01/2002) is going for $649 USD at Best Buy, and $699 USD at Circuit City, and $699 at Micro Center. after rebates. It might still be available at BestBuy if this link works, or still available at CircuitCity if this link works, or still available at MicroCenter if this link works.
Late News: Best Buy had an in-store-only sale of these going on 12/15/2002 for $499 after $100 instant markdown, $200 Toshiba rebate, and $300 Best Buy rebate. Thats an unbelievable price point.
The Satellite 1115-S103 has a 1.5GHZ Mobile Celeron, 14.1" display, DVD drive, 256MB memory, and 18GB disk. A bit heavy at 6.9 pounds, the battery life is only 2 hours (running flat out), and it runs pretty warm. The fan cycles on and off every 5 minutes or so to keep the Tcase of the Celeron between 55C and 60C. The Tcase of a Mobile Celeron is rated for up to 100C, so nothing to worry about. I like the pleasant warmth basking over my fingers.
Unfortunately, Redhat 8.0 will not install on this laptop out of the box. Its not at all the fault of the laptop, but rather the general neglect of laptop installation by RedHat.
Fortunately, Chris Elmquist, Greg Gulik, and Rick Richardson (myself) did battle with Redhat 8.0 today (12/01/2002), and were successful in taming Redhat 8.0. What follows are 2 documents that describe what we did.
The above should get you up and running pretty quickly. If you have more time, you can try some bleeding edge stuff below.
This laptop really needs ACPI support in order for interrupts to be properly routed. Redhat does not yet ship a kernel RPM with up to date ACPI support in it. I've built linux-2.4.20 plus the acpi-20021205 patch, and that makes the interrupt routing issues go away. However, the AML for the ACPI DSDT table in this laptop has some issues that the current version of ACPI is unwilling to work around. This affects the AC monitor. There are a couple of ways to fix this, the simplest being to apply my Relaxed AML Patch. This patch simply makes the kernel ACPI code ignore minor errors in the bios DSDT table.
For the masochist, you can suck your DSDT table out of the bios, disassemble it with Phoenix's ad.exe AML disassembler, patch it with my tosh1115-s103.asl.diff, recompile it to an initialized C array of hex codes using Intel's iasl compiler, and then hack it into the Linux ACPI code as an override table. I told you this was for masochists. Believe it or not, this is what some prima-donnas on the ACPI mailing list expect people to do. More details on how to perform this ridiculous procedure are at ftp.poupinou.org.
In the end, I think its best to forget about ACPI completely for the time being, and go with the APM emulation in the next section.
If you built the ACPI-enabled kernel, you might be disappointed with what you can do with it. ACPI support is minimal. I found that while the ACPI support is needed to get proper interrupt routing, there are better ways than ACPI to access the features of the laptop. A package originally designed for some HP Ominbook and Pavilion models gives a more satisfying experience. Get the Omnibook Kernel Module. Use modprobe omnibook apmemu=1 user=1 to load it. That will give you APM emulation so that the Gnome Battery Monitor applet will work, as well as give you access to the temperature sensors and other features of the laptop through /proc/omnibook/*. Here are the step-by-step instructions for installing it:
The LCD backlight will not shut off after inactivity with Xfree86 4.2.0. There is a fix in the XFree86 current CVS for the ATI Radeon driver, so it will be easiest to wait for 4.3.0 to come out in January 2003.
If you can't wait, you can manually shut off the backlight using /proc/omnibook/lcd. It will also shut off if you switch to a text mode console. Here is a perl script which you can add to your Gnome session startup programs. Then set xscreensaver to blank after 5 minutes (or whatever).
I tried Xine and mplayer, and had problems with them. Ogle works (and with the bog-standard OSS sound drivers), and you can't argue with that.
Someday I may even document this setup. But a word to the wise must suffice for now: you will need the linux-wlan driver for the D-Link card. The Redhat 8.0 kernel orinoco driver will work for only a few minutes with this card. Its a shame, too, because setting up wireless using the Redhat "neat" GUI is absolutely painless. The wlan driver is not supported by Redhat, so we find ourselves forced to do battle with wlan's bizarre configuration files.
I used the Smart Link slmdm driver, version 2.7.8. You can find a link to it at LinModem Resources. Here is my report on how it works.