MODEL AUDIO CHIPSET DRIVER SETUP (*) TYPICAL USE COMMENTS Apple iBook standard Apple set ALSA,OSS,USB 2 SoundTracker, XMMS, Snd, Yarec Apple G4 400 tiBook PowerMac Screamer ALSA,OSS,USB 2 Audacity, SpiralSynth, Pd, no audio In; otherwise a good laptop for audio PowerMac AWACS play MP3s Compaq 7730MT unknown SB16 compatible OSS/Free 3 Midge, TiMidity, mpg321 acceptable audio via speakers/headphones Compaq Presario 1200 VIA VT82C686 ALSA 2 Csound, GDAM ditto Dell Latitude CPi/A NeoMagic NM256A/V ALSA 3 MP3 player, GDAM poor mic input (8-bit), power supply adds noise to sound Dell i8100 ESS Maestro 3i ALSA 3 XMMS, Pd, Csound, Ardour, Snd poor latency, unreliable under a 1024 period size; output not bad, input is terrible; supports multiple open, useful for testing Jack + OSS emulation Dell Inspiron Intel i810 ALSA 2 poor internal audio, cannot be disabled in BIOS Dell Inspiron 2600 Intel i810 ALSA 2 Jazz++, Pd, terminatorX, Audacity IBM Thinkpad 600E CS4236 ALSA 1 IBM Thinkpad 600E CS4239 ALSA 2 XMMS, iMic recording, room speakers tinny, headphones much better analysis with baudline Sony VAIO R600HEK Intel i810 ALSA,OSS 2 XMMS, Mplayer, GQmpeg touchpad distorts sound Sony GRX580 Intel 82801CA/CAM (i810) ALSA 2 Snd, CLM, Pd internal sampling rate hardwired to 48 kHz Toshiba Tecra 9100 Intel ICH3 (i810) ALSA 2 hardware detection difficult; poor latency, audio stream hangs or drops out Toshiba 5005-S504 Intel i810 ALSA 2 Pd, CLM, Snd, Audacity, Mix, good speakers, has internal subwoofer; has Speak Freely, XMMS firewire port and optical digital out
Responses in the Setup category rated the experience 1 for Dismal, 2 for Determined, and 3 for Delightful. As the table shows, installing and configuring a Linux audio system on a laptop is still not a simple affair. Many users reported that considerable determination was required before their system was completely configured and usable.
Although I did not ask about preferred distributions readers reported using Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, Slackware, Debian, Yellow Dog, and Gentoo. Apparently there was no general consensus about a particular distibution's suitability for Linux on a laptop.
I also asked if any users were employing a serial MIDI interface, any USB devices, or any PCMCIA audio cards. Apparently none of the respondents used a serial port MIDI adapter. USB devices in use included the Griffin iMic and Roland UA-30 audio interfaces and the Midiman MIDIsport MIDI interface. PCMCIA audio cards are a rather rare item for Linux, but a few intrepid users reported trying out the new RME Hammerfall DSP card (a driver is available from ALSA).