The Tecra M9 seems to be a good compromise - not light-weight but portable, and it fulfils my requirements on a laptop:
- Proper pointing device (I do not like touchpads)
- Mechanical RFkill switch
- Decent keyboard
Choice of Linux distribution
I have been using Debian since 1997 so for me the choice was easy. Apt-get and the huge package repository are other good reasons for using it. Personally I also want my system to be less desktop-centric than those systems that rely on having GNOME or KDE running for many of the basic functions.
However, the more modern Debian-based distros like Ubuntu usually have better hardware support for newer laptops. I would therefore recommend unexperienced users to try one of these first.
I use the X.org nv driver - no need for gaming performance. This driver also works nicely with xrandr when connecting video projectors.
Works out of the box, except that the firmware must be installed separately (from non-free). Update: From kernel 2.6.27 the driver is called iwlagn.
It is easy to configure the wireless network with the GNOME nm-applet. This applet works nicely in Fluxbox, too (sudo nm-applet). If you, like me, do not like the idea of running GUIs as root, it is also easy to configure wpa-supplicant by hand - see its documentation under /usr/share/doc.
Update: The toshiba_acpi driver version 0.19, with bluetooth support, was included in the kernel long ago. It seems that the wireless network switch must be on at boot time in order to power up the bluetooth adapter.
Works with thinkfinger. See the Readme file for instructions. It is a bit awkward to use, however, so typing in the password is usually faster. I do not use this anymore. Sometimes typed passwords show on the screen while the thinkfinger module is waiting for a fingerprint.
The lid and suspend buttons generate ACPI events but it seems that the lock, hibernate, zoom, wlan, etc., keys don't.
The volume control on the front works in GNOME. I mostly use the light-weight window manager Fluxbox, however. Update:It generates X key events, XF86Audio(Raise|Lower)Volume which can be mapped to your mixer of choice.
Built-in Secure Digital card reader
Works fine, but note that the device is called /dev/mmcblXX-something, not /dev/sdXY.
Update 6 Feb 2011: Seems to work after a fresh reinstall of Debian 6.0, which was recently released as stable.