Toshiba L305D-S5934 Laptop, with a focus on Ubuntu Intrepid

I just purchased a Toshiba L305D-S5934 at a Best Buy store (not online) for $529.99 (plus California tax). I usually buy online but needed a laptop in a hurry for a trip, so I compared models at Best Buy. I have been intrigued recently by the Netbooks (like the Asus Eee) in the $300 range, but in the end I spent a bit more, $529.99, for a "real" computer, the Toshiba L305D-S5934, with 3GB RAM, a 2GHz 64-bit dual core Turion RM-70 AMD processor and a 15.4" screen., my usual source for things like this, has the similar L305D-S5904 with a slightly different AMD processor with the same MHz rating (it has the Turion TL-60 vs. my Turion RM-70) and presumably better graphics card (it has the ATI X1250 vs. my ATI 3100) listed online for $699, but it is shown out of stock. I saw on 2/22/09 in a Walmart store an L305D-S5900 with an Athlon TK-57 but otherwise apparently the same as my S5934, for $498. It was a closeout. online has the L305D-S5935 with a slightly faster 2.1 GHz AMD RM-72 (vs. the 2.0 GHz RM-70 on what I bought) for $678. It appears otherwise the same as what I bought (though I can't identify the graphics card, I suspect it is also the ATI 3100). That seems like a lot extra to pay for .1 GHz. There are so many little variants of these models, it seems, to make price comparison difficult.

I'm quite pleased with my Toshiba L305D, particularly how easily it works with Ubuntu Intrepid. I decided to install Ubuntu via Wubi, which creates a virtual drive for Ubuntu within the NTFS partition, and thus does not require repartitioning. I may create a separate Linux partition in the future and reinstall, but things are working so well that I may never end up doing that. Wubi does run natively--it is not running "within Vista" in a virtual machine the way e.g. Qemu can run Windows within Linux. There is some performance hit arising from using a virtual drive file within the NTFS filesystem but it seems not a bad hit. Processor performance is not affected by the Wubi approach.

[Note on Wubi: I have had two problems with it in the past. In one laptop with a Wubi install, *Vista* started locking up frequently. Eventually we figured out that Vista was crashing during some routine disk maintenance when it tried to do a check on the Wubi virtual drive file. Some sort of corruption had developed in this file, apparently, and it crashed Vista hard! Repeated attempts to fix the disk using Vista tools failed, and ultimately I had to uninstall the Wubi Ubuntu and reinstall. In my second case of Wubi failure, the Wubi virtual drive seemed to vanish entirely from the filesystem, taking the entire Ubuntu installation with it. The Wubi help pages suggested looking in the Vista equivalent of the lost+found directory, but no joy. The install was gone for good. Nevertheless, I think Wubi is pretty neat, and if you store your important files on a network drive, you should be safe.]

The onboard camera on my S5934 works great with Ubuntu. I enabled the medibuntu repository (from and installed skype, and I was videoconferencing immediately.

The onboard wireless has excellent range. The Atheros chipset was not recognized immediately after the Wubi Intrepid install, but when I did an apt-get-install on linux-modules-backports it appeared. However, after a kernel upgrade, the device went away again! At that point I looked at System->Administration->Hardware Drivers and saw that there were now *two* drivers for the Atheros Wifi. I switched back to the one that wasn't enabled, the one presumably supplied initially by the backports package, and Wifi operation started working again.

I am not currently able to hibernate within Wubi Intrepid on the laptop, because I do not have a separate swap partition set up, but the laptop's sleep mode works very well. After some past problems with intermittent sleep/resume problems on my old Dell Inspiron 8100, it is nice to have a laptop that reliably sleeps and then resumes with all functions!

Sound drivers work flawlessly on the S5934. Max speaker volume on the laptop is a bit lower than I would like, but the sound quality is pretty good. It is fortunate that the pulseaudio issues have finally been sorted out in Ubuntu, particularly with regard to skype. I did have to go to the skype option settings and enable one of the alternate mic options but it was smooth sailing after that.

The ATI video is fast enough. I did get some strange screen flashing behavior while playing a DVD when compiz was enabled, but this went away when I disabled compiz. I would guess that this problem will go away with some update at some point, or could be solved right now if I invested some time. So far the video works flawlessly through sleeps and resumes of the laptop, even with the fglrx driver enabled. My old Inspiron always had problems with the ATI fglrx driver and worked better in that regard with the video set up in VESA mode instead of the accelerated driver. Fortunately, no such problem exists with the new S5934.

Battery life is just acceptable, about 2 hours of moderate use. There is only an old-style video output port, no HDMI or DVI.

The biggest time-killing annoyance I have had with this laptop is the assortment of stickers that came affixed to it near the trackpad. Most of them came off smoothly, but one sticker left a ridiculous amount of sticker residue behind that took an hour to get off. I am not joking about it taking an hour.

The second biggest time-killing annoyance I have had with this laptop was removing the Norton/Symantec 360 anti virus junk in Vista. This process was classic Windows pain. Upon the second boot into Vista, a window popped up saying "Click Next to enable Norton/Symantec 360!" Of course, there was no button on the window that said "No thanks" or "Uninstall". So I clicked on the X in the upper right hand corner of the window to make the window go away. But the X would not close the window! Beautiful. Then I went to Control-Panel and tried to remove the program, but since the window was still open, I couldn't. I can't even remember how I got that crap removed, but it took several reboots.

You may wonder why I even left Windows Vista installed. The answer is Netflix On Demand. I have not yet found a Linux solution for this. I wish I could . . .

20090225 RPD

page views
local variable 'views' referenced before assignment

Valid HTML 4.0!