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Re: Prospects for finding Linux compatible Laptops?
On Sat, 2004-01-31 at 22:35, Jonathan wrote:
> Is there any hope that certain Laptops will become more Linux friendly
> in the future? Doc Savage has told me (IIRC) that IBM does not really
> care that it's thinkpads work with Linux. That older ones do is perhaps
> serendipitous. I understand that Lindows will begin selling Linux
> laptops. Also WalMart now offers OS-less Laptops from Microtel. These
> are Transmeta Crusoe notebooks.
> When I say Linux compatible I mean that everything works. Modem, built
> in 802.11, PCMCIA bus and video card.
Asking for manufacturers to *guarantee* their hardware works with a
constantly changing OS is a bit unrealistic. The only hard problem area
in recent laptops has been with Intel's Centrino WiFi. That's because
there are some real IP issues with portions of those chips.
Most modems are Lucent winmodems which are fairly well supported by the
lt-modem drivers. They're kernel-specific, and the owner has to
recompile every time he upgrades his kernel. Of course, I haven't used
the modem port on my ThinkPad in more than a year, so this is pretty
much a non-problem.
PCMCIA drivers are now mature and very reliable. Their CardBus kin are
close behind. These days most folks have troubles with specific cards.
An excellent example of this is the D-Link DWL-A650. This 802.11a 54
Mbps wireless card has been well supported with Windows binaries from
day one, but remains totally unusable under Linux. After beating up
D-Link at every opportunity for more than a year, I've learned that this
might not be their fault. As a retired military guy, I understand the
need to keep certain secrets. For D-Link, the most important secret may
be the chipset API that controls the radio frequency and power output in
this card. If it is as capable as I am now lead to believe, I think
D-Link could be criminally negligent if they published those specs in an
open-source driver. Why? Because they could be used by a few
irresponsible people to jam adjoining police, fire, emergency services,
and military radio bands. Those are safe with the too-powerful chipset
API info safely cloaked in Windows binaries.
One challenge some folks are having with their Linux laptop and desktop
systems is with their USB devices. These drivers are not nearly as
mature as PCMCIA/CardBus, and the hardware is still evolving as USB 1.1
gives way to the much faster USB 2.0. And there seem to be new classes
of devices with USB interfaces hitting the market every week.
Perhaps the most common laptop-specific problem area today is power
management, where APM is being replaced by the new and more
comprehensive ACPI spec. There are a very few specific laptop models
that have bad power management designs, and these probably misbehave
under both Windows and Linux. I'm not aware of power management problems
in any major name brands, but there will always be a few folks driven by
price or eccentricity to buy off brands. If they then run into
compatibility troubles, I expect them to help themselves.
Anyone looking to buy a laptop needs to do more homework than they would
for a desktop. That's the nature of the beast. IBM may not officially
support Linux on their laptops, but in my experience they run the major
Linux distributions very well indeed. Some Linux laptop problems will
actually be problems with particular peripherals that IBM and others
could never be expected to support.
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