Let's burn the planet ... because we can!

There is a term, that in recent years my brain is using a lot when trying to explain to me what my eyes observe. Late-Roman Decadence. I am not a historian, so I might be inaccurate with its actual meaning. For me it just means "wasting because we can". If you want to see this in action, delete your YouTube cookies to get out of your tech bubble and open its start page. Probably depending on your location, it's all about eating the biggest meals for 9000€, driving the fastest cars for 777k€, destroying expensive things in the most hilarious ways for 2M€ as well as giving homeless people 100€ and filming them at whatever they do with it before they fall back into their own life of being spat out and ignored by society. For me: disgusting and worth another strategically well sized and well placed comet.

But that's just the depression speaking. So let's not look at the world, let's look at and try to tackle my own little problems.

I like to have my laptop efficient and quiet. No fan, no moving parts that "klack" or whatever. Just silence. Bonus points if the AC adapter does not emit high-pitched buzzing. My ears are broken and very sensitive to noise. But I also like to have a machine that is as low-spec as it can be. Using less resources should be a good thing, right? So currently I am using an Acer Swift 1, which comes with an N6000 1.1GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM. This is fine for me performance-wise and I can have my usual 5 to 10 applications running with no problems at all. It even plays many of the coop games, my girlfriend comes around the corner with once in a while. For KDE work, the translation summit workflow is one of the things I tend to wait for. It would of course be faster on a higher spec'ed system but it takes around 20 minutes with Fedora and around 4 minutes with Debian on the same machine, so other factors than hardware seem to play a big role in this story as well. Also, I can still have that laptop at the... well... top of my... well... lap without burning my legs or making my blanket smell funny.

On a side note, this laptop sucks in other ways. It cannot do suspend properly. If it wants to go to sleep it immediately wakes up again with full display brightness and it repeats that every few minutes. Acer support says: no Windows, go fuck yourself. (Disclaimer: They did not actually say "go fuck yourself", they just stopped responding once I mentioned Linux.) Also the touch pad is only recognised as PS/2 device and lacks all gestures like scrolling and such. (Yes, I learned to use scrollbars again and hate scroll indicators that are thin or hidden.) Again, without Windows, you do not have the right of owning properly working hardware. I spent weeks looking into these two issues but none of the proposed solutions I found worked for me, either because they only work on Swift 3 and upwards with more settings available in EFI or they just did not do for me what they did for some other people. But broken hardware being sold and then fixed with Windows drivers is a completely different topic I do not want to delve into. Back to what I want to talk about. Buying another passively cooled laptop in the future. So what is the market up to?

Due to the bad Linux experience with the current Acer laptop, I decided to specifically look for Linux devices. Tuxedo to the rescue! Let's look at their current lineup. The InfinityBook 14 v2 was passively cooled but it is not in stock anymore and according to their support, there are currently no plans for new passively-cooled laptops. OK, so ... what are they up, then? In their latest news, they show a Stellaris 17 - Gen5 ... with absolute high-end hardware which needs an external water cooling system to operate properly. One of the key selling points is that the graphics card alone is allowed to draw 175 watts. Let's burn the planet ... because we can!

I do not want to pick at Tuxedo here in particular. The processor vendors are playing the same game for years. If they can gain 5% performance by increasing power consumption by 30%, they will do it. Complete nonsense, but it sells. Bigger, faster, louder. Let's make sure nobody realises that a 1GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM might be enough for 90% of the people. Instead, make the people think they are missing out so they consume without thinking about their actual needs. The same success story the car manufacturers are wallowing in with their SUVs. Let's burn the planet ... because we can!

So, what now? "Everything's fucked" is not a healthy attitude. But trying to change things seems impossible because of all the "not listening" you get when trying to talk to vendors about it. ... Yes, even from small vendors.

I will continue watching the Tuxedo space because I would like to support what they are doing (Linux-wise, not Hardware-wise). I will also keep an eye on AMDs Ryzen Embedded R1305G CPU and its close friends. Maybe some laptop manufacturer will be stupid enough to put it in one of their models. They could at least sell one of them. My backup plan is to buy a laptop with e.g. a low-spec Ryzen U series CPU and hope the fan can be made shut up with energy profiles and disabled boost and such. But that feels like wasted resources again. I will also continue to write to laptop manufacturers even if they do not even bother answering because my desires are too non-mainstream and as such too expensive to deal with. ... But I also ask myself, why bother at all. If the majority of our society (I am talking "western" here but the rest of the world is catching up quickly) is happily burning the planet for no reason but the fun of it, why am I trying to disagree and having a hard time? Why not just party along and wait for the cleansing comet? ... I guess it is one of life's challenges to find an answer to that question.


I have the PineBooks on my radar, but so far, I only saw 14" screens. I am not getting younger so I am planning to get a 15" or 16" next. ... But for the price, I might give it a try at some point. :)

By schwarzer at Mon, 08/07/2023 - 18:16

Was that "InfinityBook 14 v2" whose discontinuation you complained about not also a 14" model? But I can see your point.

Pine64 has indeed never had any larger screen in its offerings so far. The original Pinebook (which is no longer sold) had an 11.6" and a 14" option, the Pinebook Pro (the current model) only 14".

In fact, while I would love to be proven wrong, as far as I can tell, the only aarch64 notebooks with 15" or larger screens are Apple ones (and "larger" effectively means 16.2", the one and only >15" size Apple offers, and only for the MacBook Pro, which has an active cooling fan, the passively cooled MacBook Air stops at 15").

That would still leave passively-cooled x86_64 notebooks as an option though, if such a thing still exists.

By Kevin Kofler at Tue, 08/08/2023 - 01:20

Ah, yes. The InfinityBook was also 14" but I did not intend ti buy it. I only used it as an example for a discontinued fanless laptop. And as that, the last one available from Tuxedo.

The rest you say can probably be summarised as "too few options for passively-cooled laptops". :) ... Which is of course, a sad thing.

By schwarzer at Tue, 08/08/2023 - 17:22

In fact, when I search for passively-cooled notebooks with at least 15" screen size, the only results that comes up are (heavily overpriced, as usual for Apple) MacBook Air models. It is quite sad that Apple with their bundled proprietary operating system and their other walled-garden anti-features (such as a patented power connector) appears to be the only option that does not need a loud fan to dissipate its waste of energy, at least in mainstream retail.

By Kevin Kofler at Fri, 08/18/2023 - 11:02

Yes, my attempts to find one in recent years has come back similarly. Very few models and mostly from vendors I try to avoid for political reasons. :(

By schwarzer at Sun, 08/20/2023 - 09:24

For quietness, coolness and power consumption, as well as Linux support, I can recommend the Dell XPS/Precision line. My previous Precision laptop was a nightmare of thermals, but the new one - 5570 - with 12thgen intel (and you can already get some x80 models with 13thgen) is great! I have have it set to "cool & quiet" and even running an IDE, a few browsers and a virtual machine - the fans don't pick up more than a whisper, and I don't mind using it on my lap, at all. I don't know how well it'll run with fans completely turned off (though I can probably check), but you can limit the CPU power pretty severely and even turn off some P-cores, and it'll just continue humming along. These devices have H class CPUs - which are generally speaking "performance" parts but they can be scaled down to U level performance easily.

Of course the Precision devices (and I think also XPSs) can be customised to come with Linux out of the box, though due to logistics I got mine with the Windows configuration then installed Linux myself and it works just fine: no missing features - notably power scaling - and even the fingerprint reader works (if you're into that sort of thing, granted that fprintd integration in Linux is pretty lousy).

By Oded at Mon, 08/07/2023 - 04:46

I actually have a Precision 7750 at work and it seems alright. When disabling the CPU boost, the fan is silent almost all the time. However, their prices are not that sweet. If you "upgrade" the default model with a bit more RAM and a bit more SSD, you pay 500€ extra. That's insane.

Also, the Linux XPS (which I thought about at some point in my life) is not available here. Not sure if it's just here or if they scrapped it altogether.

By schwarzer at Mon, 08/07/2023 - 18:22

Dear Schwarzer, you are right on track: "I guess it is one of life's challenges to find an answer to that question". It is not just one challenge but the challenge and there's only one true answer. There are so many distractions in this world, all intended to steer you away from finding this answer. There's a creator of this world and the universe and he'll come soon as prophesized, to judge every living and dead being. Since you are living this borrowed life as if it were your own, not acknowledging the creator and his laws, the sentence already stands: eternal death with no possibility of returning to the creator. The goods news is, the creator paid the fine 2000 years ago, by coming into this world as Jesus Christ, offering his perfect self on the cross and raising again after 3 days.

Now, don't fear the world burning or a comet hurling towards earth. It is far healthier to attain a fear of God. A fear as in, you are in a plane 10000 feet up in the air and it is about to crash. What will you do? Jump and hope you can save yourself by flapping with your arms? Or will you take the parachute that Jesus is offering you? He doesn't want to see you perish, because he is kind and merciful and good. Please, read the Gospel of John without prejudice. You might do yourself some good.

By KDE User at Tue, 08/08/2023 - 15:31

I agree with some of your points. As I straddle the divide between desperately hanging onto whatever shreds of youth I can still aspire to hold, and going full-on embittered old man, I'm increasingly convinced that the best thing for this planet is humankind being uniquely fizzled out by aliens and cats rising up in three million years to rule the new world.

I have a habit of making old gear last a long time. I'm only now in the process of decommissioning an old Pentium IV 3.0GHz 64-bit with a maxed-out 2Gb of RAM, and I'm sitting here staring at a Betamax recorder in front of my keyboard, alas it hasn't worked for years and maybe never will again. My current main machine is a Clevo 'Infinity Book' equivalent with a lovely navigation key layout, from another now-bankrupt Linux vendor, hooked up to a bigger monitor because middle-aged eyes. Bought nearly new a few years ago and until recently silent, but now starting to spin the fan up from time to time as software becomes ever more resource greedy. As it was secondhand it came with the maximum 32Gb of RAM which I would never have chosen myself as I use nowhere near that in my daily computing. Despite running Firefox with about a hundred open tabs, Thunderbird and Dolphin permanently, plus Clementine, Gwenview, often something in Dragon Player and various other utilities, I rarely push more than about 8Gb. I can't believe the other day I was reading a forum where Linux users were all chiming in saying how 32Gb is the absolute minimum they can manage with and nothing less today would be acceptable. I can understand for developers or high-end gamers but these seemed a mix of different folks all wanting to outdo each other with their stupendous needs and I thought 'what planet are you on?' Ah yes, the burning planet.

Yeah, *hate* thin and/or hidden scrollbars too. Fortunately the Plasma Breeze theme has reverted to more easily visible ones, but Firefox/Thunderbird and other apps still have the awful useless variety. It's like some cultishly obsessive designer-developers are frantically trying to remove every last thing they can on the screen until they're left with what they perceive as some pure zen-like blankness, at the expense of any practicality whatsoever.

I'll throw another name into the hat you might want to keep in consideration for your next notebook. Star Labs have/had a light fanless laptop, the
Star Lite
but it's not available to order currently. I'm not sure if they're bringing out a newer version and whether that will also be fanless. They only have four products featured on their site. But I've just made my own order through them, for their 'Byte' Mk II mini PC. Like all their products, they seem to have limited batches and limited order windows, with often quite a long wait for production and delivery. I can't vouch for them yet, it could turn out to be a star purchase or a black hole, will have to wait and see.

I was looking around for a new silent mini PC for doing basic music production (simple sequencing and audio tracks, no giant DAWs or VSTs, I already have real hardware music equipement instead). So I didn't have huge spec requirements. Slimbook also do a fanless mini PC, the 'Zero', but the specs on that seem just a bit too dated, with 8th gen Intel CPU. Tuxedo have one mini PC but with a fan that apparently makes 'swoosh' noises. That's too much for this use case. (And if I'm being snidey, whilst they seem like a good Linux vendor in many ways, I was a bit pissed off that during the recent KDE sprint or whatever it was that was held at their offices, it was their influence that seems to have invoked a couple of the worst decisions I've seen in Plasma-land in a long while, the main culprit being reverting to double-click as a default. I know it can be changed back again simply enough, but after twenty years of using KDE/Plasma in which I've freed myself from the shackles of other operating systems and their tedious routines and requirements, I've always appreciated how KDE has presented such a well thought through alternative. The selection mechanism in single-click mode in Dolphin/Gwenview is so elegant and effective, it only requires retraining the brain for a few hours of use to never look back. They even implemented a second alternative 'selection mode' for people who can deal with single-click generally but can't get to grips with single-click selection. And now, decades on we all have to regress to tired old bullshit RSI-inducing anachronisms from a bygone age just to satisfy Johnny Stodge Bollocks and his beloved double-click nonsense. So thanks Tuxedo, I ordered elsewhere :)

Anyway, there's some other Linux vendors, some US-based which isn't great in my case for European import costs (Star Labs did add import costs but it was only a few euros - they seem to deliver worldwide), and others not really Linux-specific but will offer their products without an OS. I've ordered from Quiet PC in the UK before, they're pretty good and they will subtract a substantial amount from the total if you remove Windows from the deal, but they're still primarily geared towards the Windows-centric merry-go-round.

This Byte II, like other Star Labs products, offers Coreboot and updates via LVFS, with a do-what-you-like warranty. Some users have complained about the delivery delays, though it seems Covid and the worldwide parts shortages were mostly to blame. The processor is the latest Intel generation but an N200 running at between 1GHz and 3.7GHz. It only has E cores but consequently has low power consumption and hence no need for a fan. It only takes a max 16Gb RAM; should be enough for me. The rest of the specs are fairly low end in the current marketplace. I think much of what appeals to me is just that they're doing many things a bit different, providing an alternative.

Anyway, I've just typed a bigger reply than your post. Good luck and good night!

By gumb at Wed, 08/09/2023 - 23:43

I agree that 8GB is totally fine nowadays. I usually run at around 7GB after hours of working. Would still prefer 16GB next time due to 8GB laptops becoming rare ...

I bookmarked Star Labs. :)

Wow, I did not know the change to double click, which to me feels like several steps backwards in a time where most stuff is either web-based (single click) or mobile (single tap) ... But well, someone must have thought it was a great idea ...

The N200 looks interesting. Will keep an eye on laptops coming with it in the future. The current line-up seems rather 13" heavy with some Acer exceptions, which I am going to ignore. ;)

By schwarzer at Fri, 08/11/2023 - 17:28