Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
The quest to get GNU/Linux to run well on a laptop has been a long running challenge. In this piece, Ed looks at his success with OpenSUSE on a Dell Latitude laptop.
With openSUSE 10.3, using the KDE disk (but having tested the GNOME interface, too), the boot and install was pretty typical of SUSE any other time. I recommend you set the resolution to 1024x768 during at the first boot screen. One critical gotcha: While SaX is probing the hardware, do not touch the touchpad, or the machine will lock up and you'll have to reboot and start over.
Video: The default intel driver is faulty. Once everything is installed and running, you really should change to the i810 driver. Otherwise you'll run into display corruption errors, especially in conjunction with the suspend modes. This requires editing your /etc/X11/xorg.conf by hand, and you'll find the driver section near the bottom of the file.
A particular problem with Dell BIOS is the A10 and A11 BIOS updates cripple something in Linux. Most people have display problems, primarily a section of screen at the top either black or garbled, with the display offset downward by that band. The last known good BIOS update is A09. Even if it requires a downgrade, you may want to consider this.