Your Linux Data Center Experts

Fedora in particular and Linux in general, works quite well on LOTS of hardware these days. There are still however some vendors that just refuse to release specs for their hardware. Read on for a simple thing that we can all do to try and change things for the better.

Linux runs on more hardware than any other operating system these days. That's not really all that surprising, considering all it normally takes is someone who has the hardware and is interested in running Linux with it. There's no need for large numbers of users in order to have something gain support, or that it be new and shiny.

Recently there was even an offer from a group of Linux kernel developers that they would be happy to write a driver for any hardware where the specs were provided to them and so forth.

Unfortunately, there are some notable holdouts to providing information so that Linux developers can make drivers that work:

  • NVida video drivers
  • ATI video drivers
  • many of the wireless cards out there

Fortunately, there is a simple way we can try and get them to stop blocking good Linux drivers for their hardware: Just don't buy that hardware. Having things like smolt around also could help, as these vendors could see how many sales they are missing out on, as numbers of their more open competitors hardware increases.

Now, some of you might say that's idealistic and we should just buy whatever we have to for the performance we need, binary driver or not. The problem with this is that if this model is successful, it's going to start spreading to other hardware. Soon it will be impossible for Linux to work at all without binary blobs. See this doomsday article about this scenario.

At Fudcon (click to see my report) I was talking to some folks about laptops, bemoaning that there didn't seem to be that many available that didn't need binary video drivers and yet still had good screen resolution. Thorsten pointed out that some of the dell laptops are available with the Intel video driver, and are otherwise all Linux compatible.

Since it's been about 2 years since I got my laptop, I was interested and made the mistake of investigating further. I now have a Dell Latitude D820 on the way. Since I don't yet have it in hand I can't say much for sure, but all reports I have read make this out to be fully Linux supported. The video is Intel. The wireless is Intel. A very nice 1920x1200 screen. Excellent battery life. Suspend/Resume works fine. Hardware virtualization works great (something I have really been meaning to play with). Smart card reader supposedly works (another fun toy to play with). The fingerprint reader is the same model that's in my current thinkpad and should work.

In addition there are some folks that have made Dells firmware available in a easy to consume yum repository. When a new BIOS is available, it just comes in with a yum update, and a new BIOS is only a reboot away. Very slick.

The only things I will miss from the thinkpad are the thinklight, and the 2 extra arrow keys. Otherwise the Dell looks like it's going to be a step up in every way.

It used to be that it was hard to find hardware that would work with Linux at all. Thankfully that's changed and now there are tons of choices. When putting together your next machine, do consider going with vendors that “get it” and provide specs for their hardware. I think in time this will bring around the last holdouts.

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