I kept postponing the issue of getting a new laptop for quite some time. I would do some research, open a few sites and message boards to see what new is out there, but I was not able to make the final step. I guess I was waiting either for my old one to die or someone to take me by the hand and lead me to the store. Finally, several days ago I came into terms with the fact that neither of these two things would ever happen and I actively started looking.
I did some serious going around some stores and booting different notebooks from my USB thumb-drive with BT3 on it in order to find what I was looking for. It turned out that Acer Aspire 4720-4538 for a little under $500 was ideal for my needs. It has an Intel Dual Core 1.7GHz, 2 GB of RAM, an Atheros wireless chipset and it is light and relatively small.
I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a linux laptop. It comes with Vista, but I blew it out within 5 min. of laying my hands on it. You have to be careful when buying it if you prefer to have a wireless chipset that is supported by the madwifi drivers. Apparently some of these machines come with the Atheros chipset and some don’t. I learned this the hard way. The display model had it, but the one they gave me in the box did not and I had to return it. Both of them had exaclty the same model number. I have no idea why the manufacturer would do something like that.
I am done with buying expensive laptops like I did before. I have a desktop where I can do gaming and CPU/RAM/IO intensive computing, so I do not need a “desktop replacement” laptop. For a $500 price tag I can afford to get a new notebook a lot more oftern if I need to. Come to think of it, if I get a new cheap laptop 18 months from now, at that time it will be faster than almost any expensive laptop I buy now. So, what is the point of spending a lot for a laptop and keeping it for periods of 3 years and longer?