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FreeBSD on Laptops

$FreeBSD: doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/laptop/article.sgml,v 1.10 2002/09/05 23:49:41 keramida Exp $

FreeBSD works fine on most laptops, with a few caveats. Some issues specific to running FreeBSD on laptops, relating to different hardware requirements from desktops, are discussed below.

FreeBSD is often thought of as a server operating system, but it works just fine on the desktop, and if you want to use it on your laptop you can enjoy all the usual benefits: systematic layout, easy administration and upgrading, the ports/packages system for adding software, and so on. (Its other benefits, such as stability, network performance, and performance under a heavy load, may not be obvious on a laptop, of course.) However, installing it on laptops often involves problems which are not encountered on desktop machines and are not commonly discussed (laptops, even more than desktops, are fine-tuned for Microsoft Windows). This article aims to discuss some of these issues.

1 XFree86

Recent versions of XFree86 work with most display adapters available on laptops these days. Acceleration may not be supported, but a generic SVGA configuration should work.

Check your laptop documentation for which card you have, and check in the XFree86 documentation (or setup program) to see whether it is specifically supported. If it is not, use a generic device (do not go for a name which just looks similar). In XFree86 version 4, you can try your luck with the command XFree86 -configure which auto-detects a lot of configurations.

The problem often is configuring the monitor. Common resources for XFree86 focus on CRT monitors; getting a suitable modeline for an LCD display may be tricky. You may be lucky and not need to specify a modeline, or just need to specify suitable HorizSync and VertRefresh ranges. If that does not work, the best option is to check web resources devoted to configuring X on laptops (these are often linux-oriented sites but it does not matter because both systems use XFree86) and copy a modeline posted by someone for similar hardware.

Most laptops come with two buttons on their pointing devices, which is rather problematic in X (since the middle button is commonly used to paste text); you can map a simultaneous left-right click in your X configuration to a middle button click with the line

          Option "Emulate3Buttons"

in the XF86Config file in the InputDevice section (for XFree86 version 4; for version 3, put just the line Emulate3Buttons, without the quotes, in the Pointer section.)

This, and other documents, can be downloaded from

For questions about FreeBSD, read the documentation before contacting <>.
For questions about this documentation, e-mail <>.

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