Jeff Liebermann - Help Hopefully Please

I am going to be buying a new laptop soon, hopefully anyway, and I plan on getting an Acer. I have a desktop that I will be keeping.

What I need to know is that I want the laptop to wireless access. What is it that I need to know and what should I make sure the laptop has before I buy one? As you can see, I am WiFi illiterate. I plan on having XP on my laptop, no matter what it comes with. I am just not wanting to use Vista so I will probably reformat and then install XP myself, and I am comfortable doing that since I do it all of the time with my desktop when I feel the need to reformat. I am not completely computer illiterate, just WiFi dumb is all. Any help that you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


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Graphic Queen
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OK, no problem. Acer laptops work well at 2 of my customers (both students). Any particular Acer?

You don't have much in the way of a selection. Whatever they offer is what you get. It's fairly difficult to do it wrong if you're going to be running XP or Vista. The drivers are supplied and everything is blessed by Acer to work as advertised. As long as the card supports

802.11b and 802.11g, you're done.

However, if you're going to run Linux, you need to make sure that wireless card is supported. In general, Atheros based chipsets are the best supported.

All the advanced acronyms and buzzwords don't buy you much at the typical hotspot that only supports 802.11g speeds, and often just

802.11b. So, if the card also supports 802.11a, MIMO, Super-G, Turbo-G, Afterburner, and other such acronyms, they're nice to have, but you don't really need them.

Most of the manufacturers offer Vista or XP. With Vista, I've found that 2GBytes of ram is a comfortable minimum. However, it's still slower than XP on identical hardware. I would go with XP for now, but realize that it may cost you real money to upgrade to Vista at a later date.

Well, I've run into that a few times. With some vendors, it's Vista or nothing. What I've done is make an image backup to DVD of the Vista installation using Norton Ghost 2003 before booting on the machine. Make sure you also backup the boot record. This will give you a 2nd chance in case you change your mind and want to use Vista instead. For my customers, I'm assuming they will change their mind in perhaps a year or two. I don't know if the image backup will even work at that time, but it will certainly involves less time and hassle than trying to install it from the supplied Vista disk and have to go fishing for the drivers and pre-installed apps.

Looking at what Acer things are specifications:

it appears that most of their new laptops come with Intel 3945ABG or something called "Acer Invilink 802.11b/g" wireless. A few come with Intel 4965AGN which also does MIMO. Any of these will work just fine, but you're on your own for Linux support.

If possible, find the disassembly instructions or inside photos (from the FCC ID web pile) and check out the antennas. They're important for good range. They should be fairly large and located at the top of the LCD display section. One on the side is fine, but the other should be on on top. If the antennas are in the base or on the hinges, you're going to have range problems.

I also noticed that some of the laptops listed do NOT come with built in wireless. Depending on version, it's either an add-in MiniPCI option or an external PCMCIA, PCIExpress, or USB device. Pick a model first.

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Jeff Liebermann

Here are a few notes from an Acer 5101 user.

  1. Acer suggests (requires?) that you do a system backup immediately that you get the system running. This takes 2 dvd's or a corresponding number of cd's. Getting the system running takes an hour or two as it cycles through a number of setup routines. The software is there to do the backup, and it works quite well. Restore worked just fine.
  2. When I booted the knoppix live cd, I discovered a third partition on the hard drive. A little more reading showed this to be a disc image used for the 'reset to factory' boot option. This option must be turned on in the cmos, then it can format the 'c' drive and set it back to 'in the box' conditions. I tried this (after a messed up linux install) and it does work properly. I wanted a linux install so I could be more confident in the security of the machine when I use public access points.
  3. I had a lot of difficulty with the sound card drivers in linux. I left that because I didn't really need sound
  4. I had even more difficulty with the wireless setup. I need to go back and work on that, I just ran out of time.

I did not specifically seek out an acer machine. My old laptop (purchased on

2000) died and I knew I had to get an XP machine very quickly, as everything was going vista. Staples had a bunch of these on clearance so I ended up with it. Overall I am very pleased with the unit.

As long as you don't mess with the rescue partition (and windows can't even find it) you can do what you want then put it back to factory specs when it comes to do warranty repairs. I am sure the XP drivers (where they are different from vista) are available separately.

I didn't particularly like the 120 gig drive divided into 2, 55 gig fat32 partitions but that seems to work ok. Bonus is that linux can read & write the 'd' drive without problems.

Right now my wife has commandeered the machine, so I rarely get to use it. If she lets me, I will get linux working on it.


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