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Linux on Laptops

Here are my hints for configuring Linux for the laptop of your choice.

1: Turn all extra software off

Don't run any software unless you need it. It will save you on memory and the potential of programs running in the background eating up valuable battery power. For example: rpm --erase slocate. Use ps to find whatever is running. Don't neglect crontabs, either! There are cronjobs that try and run once an hour; demote them to once per day.

2: mount all disks noatime

By default, the system keeps track of the last time a file was accessed. This means that if you "cat file", and even though the file may be cached in memory, it needs to write that access time back to disk. Turning the noatime option on will prevent this, and prevent things like cron (which ls'es /var/spool/cron every minute) from keeping the disk spinning 24 hours a day! For example:

none                    /proc                   proc    defaults        0 0
none                    /dev/pts                devpts  gid=5,mode=620  0 0
/dev/hda8               swap                    swap    defaults        0 0
LABEL=/boot             /boot                   ext3    noatime         1 2
LABEL=/                 /                       ext3    noatime         1 1
LABEL=/var              /var                    ext3    noatime         1 2
/dev/hda9               /home                   ext3    noatime         1 2

3: deactivate network cards on suspend

There are a few reasons for attempting to cleanly shutdown network interfaces:

  1. Prevents lost connections, which usually means lost work
  2. Conserves power; some systems continue to power the card in suspend mode

4: setup mail daemon to queue mail locally, but "smarthost" forward to your ISP

I have configured sendmail for queue delivery only to enable offline delivery. Queue delivery means that I can "send" mail from any program without modifying the application; it just goes into the sendmail queue. cron jobs, a gui mailer all work without any modification. This also means that I won't have to "save" the mail as unsent (aka Drafts) now, and later remember to resend the mail when I am connected to the network. I have a terrible memory; I'd never remember! With this setup, reconnecting to the network automatically redelivers the mail waiting in the queue.

It's practically impossible to send mail directly from the laptop because most mail servers reject connections from random dsl lines. You have to "smarthost" forward your mail through your ISP. sendmail should NOT have the -bd flag for security purposes; On RedHat, do this by changing /etc/sysconfig/sendmail - DAEMON=no.

I download all mail onto local disk via pop/imap so that I can read my mail any time I want; network or no. Modern imap readers should be able to cache your mail locally on disk and allow you to continue to read your email even if you are "offline". Remember to make the appropriate changes to your mailer, so that email appears to be comming from your pop server. for me, this means 'set hostname="rightsock.com"' in ~/.muttrc

Lastly: Graceful shutdown

This script checks for active network connections and for queued outgoing mail. There's nothing worse than suspending your laptop before an email is delivered when you could have waited 10 seconds more and delivered that email. Particularly useful when you're about to go to bed.

Updated 2007.01.26 kjw
Updated 2004.08.11 kjw
Created 2001.01.09 kjw