It's a standard Intel kit, so it should run Linux just fine. Unfortunately, roughly the entire stock bound for the US has been held up in manufacturing and isn't expected to be properly released for another two weeks.
For example, in upgrading Karmic my previously-working Intel graphics card was blacklisted for some reason; in the Pulseaudio release (Jaunty? Lucid?) I had to have "killall pulseaudio" bound to a hotkey because it shat itself so often; in Oneiric my previously-working AMD graphics card failed to update window titles, making the system unusuable; in Precise Compiz crashes every few hours and window previews don't work any more.
Basically, if you can configure your laptop to use as much Intel hardware as possible, you should be OK. Whatever you do don't get AMD graphics (I've been dealing with it for two years now and it's my biggest regret in my laptop) and make sure to get Intel wifi. Do a quick Google search for every piece of hardware just to double check, and you'll be OK.
and I still get occasional compiz window manager crashes but they are few and far between these days. If you want something along the lines of an Air have a look at the Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
I believe IBM conceived the thinkpad and nurtured it trying to engineer a solid product for corporate world. Retaining customers and creating a perception as a safe choice fit with IBM's ideals.
I believe dell put salesmanship slightly ahead of creating a reliable device. Gateway and HP opted to make a shiny chassis, cheap hardware substitutions, difficult to maintain and subsidized with shareware.
At the end of the day, I do believe Lenovo carries on the thinkpad visage of being a safe choice and not cutting corners like some of the competition.
re: Thinkpad X1 Carbon: looks like a great option! Thanks.
You will have problems with pulseaudio hosing video playback timing and a host of other stuff if you run Ubuntu. My solution is to just remove pulseaudio entirely, which forces me to use an alsa-based volume widget, but that's pretty trivial and the hard volume keys work out of the box.
If you get thermal issues, pull the machine apart and make sure the heatsink is applied correctly - on my T400 there was a serial # sticker over one edge of the CPU die that was holding the heatsink away from the die. Also, the cooling air intakes have filters that get dirty easily and make a massive difference to cooling efficiency (the fan isn't just pulling air from inside the case as things appear).
As for keyboards, the keyboard on my T400 is my favorite on any computing device I have right now. The layout on the W520 my employer provided is the same as the T400, which is basically the same as it's been forever, but the keyfeel is a lot more rubber-dome-y than the T400 which feels highly mechanical.
The other thing I'll say for Thinkpads is that after a few years of maintaining my wife's laptops, I was pleasantly surprised on opening up my T400 to clean out it's heatsink that Lenovo's engineers actually didn't hate me and want me to die as is the case with other, fruitier manufacturers. There's still a good bit of "remove WXYZ to get at A", but these are much more maintainable machines than typical.
With the SSD I moved to btrfs, a mistake (look into dpkg, fsync and btrfs before going there.)
Everything brand/netbook specific resolved in the 11.X versions. But a screen with bellow ~768 vertical resolution isn't well supported (odd since I think Unity started in the netbook distribution?)
Samsung has some nice high resolution small screens..
But I'll be waiting for SATA3 and USB3 to permeate the low end before my next upgrade.
tl;dr Fan spun constantly, machine ran hot, trackpad was basically non-functional. May just be X220-specific. Not sure.
As mentioned in linked comment, Ubuntu running in Virtualbox presented no problems at all and I'm happy with current setup.
After a few months I've got used to the problems, but I do miss OS X. (I'm more than happy to give Apple my money to make things Just Work.)
All the bells and whistles are supported, like the Trackpoint, web camera, special keyboard keys, LED light, etc. The only gotchas I've run into are with NVIDIA graphics drivers.
"stock" Ubuntu 12.04 runs great, bar an issue with suspend/resume.. But - Grabbing the official test packages for the 3.5.0 kernel have sorted everything..
I don't have any Thunderbolt devices to test with, but DisplayPort monitor's certainly work on the Thunderbolt port..
EDIT: I should add.. avoid ANY laptops from ANY brand that include "dual" graphics eg NVidia "Optimus" etc. I've got the Intel HD 4000 card, it runs Unity perfectly..
Second Best Choice: Ubuntu Certified Hardware. http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/desktop/ Tested and validated against current Ubuntu images.
Third Best Choice: Ubuntu Friendly (choose 4 stars or higher). Community tested. https://friendly.ubuntu.com/
But yes, use intel hardware.
About the only issue I have had is a weird speedup of flash videos with the built in chrome flash driver.
Oh, and I'm running Mint, not Ubuntu, which I highly recommend.
If the t530 isn't powerful enough, there's always the W530 for a more powerful processor and 32 gigs of ram.
*Disclaimer, I wrote this guide / app
They seem like serious MacBook Air killers with similar hardware and much, much better screens. But they'd have to run Linux, of course, because they can't be taken seriously if they're crippled with Windows.
only problem is that laptop has some issues ever since the roof leaked on it.
What is wrong with the MBA viewing angle? I just notice the colors are a bit off when I sit in this ridiculous position.
Gist of it: I <3 my ~4 year old netbook.
my right pinky, instead of punching right_shift, always accidently press up button (in vim it's mutable, but in console it throws me out of flow every time)
Older ASUS are fine, they have big, wide right_shift button
I have no idea why things have gone so steadily downhill for so many brands, but especially the ASUS/Acer types are just painful. Track down in person any model you are considering and give it a whirl before you place your order. As others have said, start with Lenovo, since they do an above-average job.
not trolling, genuinely curious
Obviously you could accomplish all of that by installing Debian and spending hours configuring it yourself, but that seems unnecessary when others have already done it for you.
apt-get install chromium
I'm also not sure that chrome ios "proprietary software."
Of course it's not difficult to install Google Chrome (or Chromium for that matter). It just saves time to have it installed automatically.