I've had a few days now to try out Dream Linux on all of my laptops, and the results are interesting, if mixed:
- HP 2133 Mini-Note, WXGA (1280x768) Display: This is still the best of the bunch with Dream Linux. It installed smoothly, got the display resolution exactly right on both the LiveCD and after installation, and although it was using the vesa driver rather than the openchrome driver, everything was working ok. I was not able to compile the latest openchrome SVN snapshot, but I was able to copy the driver over from Mandriva 2009.0, and it then worked just fine. The Broadcom Wired Gigabit network and Broadcom 4112 WiFi network both came up just fine.
- HP 2133 Mini-Note, WSVGA (1024x600) Display: I was not able to get the display to work properly on this one. The LiveCD booted at 640x480, and while it was very tedious to do the entire installation at this resolution, it worked. But after the installation finished, I was never able to get the display to come up at 1024x600, either with the openchrome or vesa drivers. I kept thinking it should be possible, but nothing that I tried worked.
- Fujitsu Lifebook S6510: This installed easily, and works just fine on the laptop standalone. The only problem I have with it is that I can't get the laptop display and external display to work together at the proper resolution (1280x800 internal, 1280x1024 external). I suppose this is because Dream Linux still uses a rather old X server. The rest of the system worked just fine; the Marvell Gigabit Wired Ethernet and my non-standard Intel 5300 WiFi adapter were both recognized and configured with no problem.
- Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S2110: This laptop has an ATI display adapter, and although the Dream Linux 3.5 distribution doesn't appear to include the proprietary fglrx driver, it comes up just fine on the standard ati driver. From what I have read there is very little difference in performance between those two drivers for ordinary use, so I am not concerned. The Broadcom Wired Network and Atheros WiFi both came up just fine.
In summary, Dream Linux 3.5 is an interesting, if somewhat odd, mix. It is based on the latest Debian 5.0 (lenny) distribution, so it comes from good, solid roots. It has some newer packages added, most notably the 2.6.28.x Linux kernel, but in the standard installation it still uses a quite old X server (1.3.0), and even with tweaking that only comes up to 1.4.x. The LiveCD version uses the Xfce desktop, which is quite nice - but it is only version 4.4, whereas the latest Xfce release is 4.6. It includes OpenOffice 2.4, not 3.0.
The Dream Linux user forums are quite active, and the couple of times I posted questions or problems there, I got useful answers within a couple of hours.
If you are looking for a solid, fast, Debian-based Linux distribution, Dream Linux 3.5 might be what you are looking for. However, if you want the latest packages and frequent updates, you might be disappointed with Dream Linux.