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Portables Software Linux Hardware

The State of Laptop Linux In 2005 422

jg21 writes "LinuxWorld's senior editor James Turner reports this month on what he calls The State of Laptop Linux in 2005 and says it's a lot better than it was in 2004, but adds - after conducting his own new test to see if any Linux distro is yet really laptop-ready: "What's needed to make things better? Well, the Linux community needs to address the device driver crisis." Turner acknowledges that binary-only drivers are a sore spot with free software purists, but says he'd "rather have a fully functional, if closed, Nvidia driver than a reverse-engineered one that limps along." Overall though he concludes that widespread laptop Linux is much closer now."
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The State of Laptop Linux In 2005

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  • From the article:

    Fedora Core 3 was next on my list. This was a pure disaster. The install program left me with a black screen, whether I chose text or graphical install. A total no-go from step 1.

    Heh...I could have told him what he did wrong...I had the exact same issue when I tried to install Fedora on my Toshiba. It took me a lot of flopping around (two reinstalls) to identify and fix the issue, but now Fedora works like a charm.

    I'm guess I'm not suprised to not see Ubuntu among his tests, altho

    • by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <.gundbear. .at.> on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:19AM (#12175701) Homepage
      I think the whole point of Linux/Fedora Core 3 not being 'laptop ready' is that he did nothing wrong :)

      If it's laptop ready, it should work. If it doesn't work, then it isn't ready.
      • If it's laptop ready, it should work. If it doesn't work, then it isn't ready.

        These posts always surprise me, because I've been running Linux on an old IBM TP-600E for years, with never a problem at all. I guess I didn't know that it wasn't "ready", or surely I wouldn't have dared such a thing. Should I have been experiencing difficulties? Is there something wrong with me or my laptop? My desktop was running Linux long before it was "ready" for that, too...

        • The sore spots I've found are APM, ACAPI, accelerated 3d graphics, wireless networking, and external or multiple displays. These are likely to cause frustration. Lesser issues include modems, sound cards, video cards (sometimes), and pointing devices (occasionally).

          I've always been able to hammer out something that "pretty much worked," but often with quirks. E.g. to suspend to RAM I must first exit X if OpenGL acceleration is enabled. And after resuming, I can't use PCMCIA, the infrared port, or some

      • by tedric ( 8215 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @12:17PM (#12177040)
        Ever tried to install a "pure" Windows XP on a laptop lately? You probably run into the same problems as with a one-size-fits-all Linux distribution.

        As I mentioned some time ago, my Thinkpad T40p came with a customized version of SuSE 9.1 pro. This is what I would say is a ready for the laptop linux distribution. You simply put the the disk in your DVD drive, answer 2-3 short questions at the beginning regarding the partitions and amount of space you want to use (or simply go with the defaults), click ok and off you go.

        Just like using a recovery Windows XP CD, all hardware modules are installed and configured, plus a whole bunch of usefull applications for e-mail, WWW, office applications.

        I had a lot of trouble installing XP from a "normal" installation CD on my old T21, which came with a Windows 98 recovery CD, and which I wanted to upgrade.

        Of course, the FC3 installer shouldn't just have displayed a black screen. But this whole question if Linux is ready for the laptop isn't fair if you compare an unmodified Linux distribution with Windows recovery CDs explicitly made for your computer model.
    • by OECD ( 639690 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:20AM (#12175703) Journal

      Also from TFA: Finally, I downloaded SuSE Linux 9.1, both the Live Boot and the full install. What a pleasant surprise. Everything in both versions worked right out-of-the-box, sound and WiFi included. As a bonus, the 9.1 distro is a 2.6 kernel, so I wasn't sacrificing the latest kernel features to get hardware compatibility. SuSE also had the smoothest, slickest install procedure.

      So, use that one. What's the problem?

      • by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:28AM (#12175792)
        So, use that one. What's the problem?

        Not sure about you, but I don't really have the time to try every single distribution available in the hope that one of them will work with everything on my laptop.

        He also makes a good point about closed source drivers. As much as it pains people here to hear it, I (as a user) don't really care how the driver was developed if it turns into a simple difference between having a laptop with something working or not working.

        I'll pick the latter any day.

        • I'll pick the latter any day.

          Blast, I meant I'd pick the former.

        • Buy a box with linux pre-installed if you don't want to geek out. Yellowdoglinux has a whole pile of em.. if I could only get kubunu onto my external firewire disk though...
        • <snark>
          I hear Windows has pretty good driver support, then you won't have to worry so much about it.

          (This snarky comment posted with a laptop running Gentoo Linux over a wireless connection auto-associated and authenticated via wpa-supplicant using a readily available Linksys PCMCIA card)
        • by Tassach ( 137772 )

          He also makes a good point about closed source drivers. As much as it pains people here to hear it, I (as a user) don't really care how the driver was developed if it turns into a simple difference between having a laptop with something working or not working.

          Exactly. I have no problem at all with binary-only drivers, on the conditions that the vendor doesn't charge extra for them and updates them as frequently as they update the Windows drivers. IMHO, working drivers are part of what I paid for when

          • by MoralHazard ( 447833 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:30AM (#12176445)
            Linux frowns on binary-only, closed-source drivers for a reason: they decrease the overall kernel quality if nobody else can help debug them. Nvidia's closed-source driver is fine, until its doesn't fucking work. Then what?

            And this is kernel space we're talking about, so this means that your machine keeps crashing, hard, when it fucks up. And nobody can fix it, except the vendor, who "updates them as frequently as they update the Windows drivers", which means about twice a year, no more than four times total over the life of the product.

            This is NOT good enough. The Linux kernel changes much more frequently and drastically than Windows, and driver maintainers are expected to keep up with the kernel or have their code cut out.

            Torvalds and the kernel maintainers are driving a very particular type of bus, here. People who want to release binary-only drivers are just unwilling to get on the bus.
            • Re:Installation woes (Score:5, Informative)

              by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot AT pitabred DOT dyndns DOT org> on Friday April 08, 2005 @03:45PM (#12179417) Homepage
              Or unable, due to licensing restrictions in their driver code. I've heard ATI and NVidia developers would love nothing more than to just open source their drivers. It'd be a big, nasty monkey off their back. But they can't because of some of the technology that they license from other companies. It's not lack of desire that's preventing this, it's lack of legality with current IP agreements.
              I mean, just look at what ATI has done with getting the older Radeon's supported with OS drivers. They have released a lot of info.
        • lol I noticed some of you missed the point. It wasn't that installing linux on a laptop is impossible. It was that it was directly out of the box install. And much as it pains me to say it I have to have a windows install on my home box to play all the games I want because there is just not the diversity of games or driver support for linux yet, but it is getting better.
      • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:39AM (#12175909)
        Uh, maybe I like Fedora more? Or Ubunto? Or generic Debian? Or even slackware? Maybe I like to keep my machines consistent from my desktop to my laptop, from administration to application concurrency. I've run multiple distros and found it a hassle. I'd rather pick ONE distro and use it exclusively.

        Or, I could just use OS X or FreeBSD.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:18AM (#12175685)
    The vendors currently see enough profit in binary-only drivers; thus, when you buy for that manufacture then you are supporting that plan.

    How would you like to participate in a kind of wiki open architecture development where you can tweak the plans for hardware? When the plans are in a good enough state you could then send it to a vendor to manufacture one for you - don't think it is crazy because this is similar to how apple started. When enough people start buying into this than the scales of economy would be realized. I say that the EE community has to step up and support an open architecture just as the SE community.

    Until that time, vendors will see no reason to give you more details about *their* hardware.
  • Here you go........ (Score:4, Informative)

    by KingBahamut ( 615285 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:18AM (#12175686) []
    • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:21AM (#12175728) Homepage Journal
      Aw, you beat me to it.
      Here I KW from the FAQ:
      EmperorLinux specializes in the installation and configuration of the Linux operating system on laptop and notebook computers. The portable Linux market is a very small one, in which several companies over the past few years have tried and failed to maintain a presence. EmperorLinux has been in business since August 1999, and we are focused completely on our core portable Linux offerings.

      We are the only company offering a wide range of system hardware (over 30 different portable systems in 7 classes) running Linux. We have machines from 2-pound ultra-portables, up to desktop replacements with Pentium-4 processors and 16" displays. Our machines are based on the finest systems offered by IBM, Sony, and Dell. We thrive on the difficult problems posed by staying current with ever-changing laptop hardware.
      We are also the only company offering a wide choice of which Linux OS is installed on your system. We offer a variety of popular Linux distributions, and all of our systems are available dual-boot with Windows. Offering so many Linux choices on many different hardware platforms sets us apart from any other Linux system integrator.
      We customize each Linux distribution to the particular machine hardware it will be running on. This includes a custom Linux kernel, advanced sound and PCMCIA drivers, and the latest X-server code. More exotic items like FireWire, USB, and DVD are also supported. Each machine is individually tested and verified before shipping to ensure that all hardware components are working under Linux.
      All our systems come with one year of Linux technical support, both 1-888 phone support and e-mail support. Full manufacturers hardware warranties
    • Good GOD! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ALecs ( 118703 )
      Those prices almost made me choke on my coffee. If I could afford to pay 2x as much for a laptop, I guess I'd love getting a fully supported machine.

      As it is though, my $1000 Averatec works for everything but sleeep; and I know it didn't take me $1k of time to get it that way, either.
      • >> it didn't take me $1k of time to get it that way, either.

        I wish more people considered the cost of time... not trying to sound like a "windows TCO" ad, but how many times have you needed to get [pick anything here] to work and blown a whole Saturday afternoon?

        I love slackware. I use it every day ..but after RTFA, I might just give SUSE a spin.
  • Until laptop Linux becomes more popular, the manufacturers will continue to save money by only supplying drivers for Windows.
    And until the manufacturers start making the investment in Linux driver development, the Linux market will remain small.
    • by rovingeyes ( 575063 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:24AM (#12175755)
      Until laptop Linux becomes more popular

      To an extent, I agree with that statement. But I'd rather put it as "Until Linux becomes more popular". I don't see why manufacturers will even bother with a mass produced and heavily marketed laptop with Linux. Besides why would a common person go ahead and buy a laptop linux? They cost pretty much that same as a decent windows or even apple laptops.

      • "Besides why would a common person go ahead and buy a laptop linux?"

        For the same reason they buy Apple laptops - they want something that doesn't get hacked within 5 minutes of connecting it to the internet, they want something that doesn't have "critical security advisories" every week, and they want something where every program for the platform isn't spyware.

        Or perhaps they'd just like a prettier desktop and some customisability.
  • Linux On Laptops (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cryptacool ( 98556 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:19AM (#12175699)
    Linux on Laptops [] is a great resource for how-tos on getting your specific model of laptop working, there are some other sites as well ( []), and while they aren't the best updated they helped me at least get linuxs working on my D600 very well. Also its a good spot to check to see if you particular laptop model is generally supported.
    • Knoppix as Shoppix (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kale77in ( 703316 )
      I've been taking Knoppix CDs to shops here in Sydney to see if Debian will run on the 10.6" laptops available there (I commute; I'm looking for something ultra-portable). I drew a small crowd in one place by merely putting Xaos on Auto-zoom; It's interesting to see people's responses. As to results, not much yet; the Fujutsu's seem OK; the Vaio's I haven't been able to check yet (staff who don't know what Knoppix is are justfiably wary of booting strange disks).
  • Driver Crisis... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eviltypeguy ( 521224 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:20AM (#12175710)
    The Linux community would address the driver crisis...if it were legal to do so or the hardware specs were available! Blame your freakin' manufacturer. Not developers that would gladly write drivers if they had the information to do so!

    Binary drivers aren't a solution no matter how badly he thinks they are. They're of questionable legality considering the nature of the GPL, and no developer will help you with them given that they're a black box at best.

    I may not agree with the prohibition of binary drivers but I understand why the Linux team won't deal with them...
    • edge of the wedge (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xixax ( 44677 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:48AM (#12175994)
      If binary drivers are OK, why would a company bother releasing source? If one company can release binary only, why not the other? Under the current attitude, companies stand to gain a lot more than they would with binary only.

    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:31AM (#12176459)
      The Linux community would address the driver crisis...if it were legal to do so or the hardware specs were available! Blame your freakin' manufacturer.
      OK, I blame the manufacturer.

      Now what?

    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      Binary drivers aren't a solution no matter how badly he thinks they are. They're of questionable legality considering the nature of the GPL...

      IIRC there is no GPL issue with the kernel loading non-GPL'd modules, at least as far as Linus is concerned. From his point of view the drivers are simply using a published kernel interface, so they aren't qualitatively different from userland modules from the point of view of creating a derivative work: it falls under the category of simple aggregation.

      The point
  • by tquinlan ( 868483 ) <tom@th o m a s q> on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:20AM (#12175720) Homepage working flawlessly. It sees all the hardware, it installed quickly, and everything I need is running beautifully. I've got VMware installed with the work image in it, so I can use it for everything I need. There wasn't anything special that I had to do outside the normal Gentoo installation - it worked like a charm!

  • by seamustheshark ( 603643 ) <clarkecr@gm a i l . com> on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:21AM (#12175721)
    I've been using various versions of SUSE on my Dell Laptop for the last eighteen months (and many other distros also).

    After wrestling with Red Hat, Mandrake, Slack and Gentoo, my laptop finally found a home with SUSE Professional.

    It "just works"; therefore, I spend more time working and less time messing around trying to force things to work?

    Whilst I do enjoy messing around with various distros, the time does come when I need to get work done, and SUSE lets me do this, including (almost) seamless co-operation with my company Windows-LAN?

    Just my 0.02 Euros worth.....
    • I would like to know why an article claiming to assess the state of laptop linux in 2005 only reviewed SuSE 9.1

      With SuSE being the most laptop-friendly distribution out there, you would think they would make an effort to get the latest version of it. They did give 9.1 high marks so I'm not too upset, but 9.2 adds even more improvements.

  • by null-und-eins ( 162254 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:21AM (#12175722) Homepage
    Talking about video drivers shows how much Linus is not ready for the Laptop. If this is a problem, how much are audio, USB, FireWire, and WLAN are going to be a problem? I'm working in a CS department and most people I know don't even try to get Linux running on their laptop. (That's also why Apple's OS X on iBooks and PowerBooks becomes more and more popular around here.)
    • That's strange. I recently installed Debian on my laptop. USB worked out of the box, and WLAN just took an install of the NDISWRAPPER. (Haven't tried firewire as i don't have anything that uses it.)

      Everything works just fine. For all intents and purposes it didn't really required anything more than installing on a desktop, nor was it really any more work than a windows install. (But don't ask me to get direct rendering and 3D acceleration to work... *sigh*)

      So yeah, I use linux on my laptop everyday.
      • WLAN just took an install of the NDISWRAPPER...What's the problem again?

        How about that I've been using Linux since 1996, you have some of my code and documentation in your installation and I don't have the slightest idea what "took an install of the NDISWRAPPER" means?

        That said, if you do your homework and get a laptop that's known to work, and which has decent documentation for the little "took an install of the NDISWRAPPER" things you need to finish things off, there shouldn't be a problem.

      • I'd like to second that. I run normal Debian on my Toshiba laptop, and it works great. I've never really had driver problems, and most ACPI stuff works ok. It depends what manufacturer you buy from as to how much of it will actually work. Read reviews of linux on the laptop you're going to buy before you buy it. Chances are good that someone else has already tried it and can tell you if it works or not.

        <recommendation>Toshibas have worked great from my experience, but your mileage may vary. They
      • WLAN just took an install of the NDISWRAPPER.
        Come on now. Getting NDISWrapper to work is only easy if you are lucky. There are pages and pages [] of listings of particular kernel, driver, and wrapper versions and their interactions. When you see something like that you know you are in for some fun.
    • by Some Dumbass... ( 192298 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:38AM (#12175890)
      Talking about video drivers shows how much Linus is not ready for the Laptop. If this is a problem, how much are audio, USB, FireWire, and WLAN are going to be a problem?

      Extrapolation is bad. There's a known problem with video support for the latest 3d accelerated video cards (2d support is there), but that does not imply that other hardware is not supported.

      Having just bought a new laptop and installed Linux on it (to replace an old laptop with Linux on it) I can tell you that audio, USB, and FireWire aren't a problem. There are only so many mobile chipsets and only so many integrated audio/USB/FireWire solutions which go with those. WLAN is a problem, most likely due to the lack of availability of hardware specs (as with video).
    • Talking about video drivers shows how much Linus is not ready for the Laptop. If this is a problem, how much are audio, USB, FireWire, and WLAN are going to be a problem?

      Not much, if you go by reports. WLAN will possibly cause the most problem if you use no-name products.

      Be careful what you extrapolate. If you say "My bridge cannot withstand 3,000 tonnes of load, so it cannot withstand 4,000 tonnes" then that is fine. If you say "My bridge cannot withstand 3,000 tonnes of load, so my house might fall dow
    • I'm working in a CS department and most people I know don't even try to get Linux running on their laptop.

      Must be some CS department...

    • by philipgar ( 595691 ) <> on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:33AM (#12176487) Homepage
      I agree, although with stipulations. Linux is not ready for laptops. I have an ibook for that very reason. However Linux is mostly ready for desktop replacement style laptops. When battery life is not an issue (so the importance of APCI/APM support is minimal), many problems go away. The real problem comes with the state of wireless support. People claim that well obviously things won't work right with cheap wireless cards like those built into most laptops, but thats a load. Look at regular ethernet cards. I tend to buy loads of realtek 83159 cards because they're cheap and work fine under Linux. Why can't the same be done with wireless. Besides every wireless card has different types of drivers, and even if you get your card to work, there are issues. Try using 802.1x authentication under Linux (which my school requires). I fighted with xsupplicant for over a month of my old thinkpad before giving up and deciding I need an ibook. Now that I have an ibook I have the best of both worlds. I have a unix friendly enviornment that easily interoperates with my linux workstations, and I still have working wireless, accelerated video, 5 hours of battery life, most linux apps run under it, MS Office runs on it (I know its the darkside, but its needed) and everything is plug and play compatible. Most of all things just work. I don't worry about anything. In this day and age when laptops are becoming permanantly network attached devices whats the need for a fancy hardware support. Let the laptop be a graphical terminal and everyone will be happy. Phil
  • Closed drivers. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:22AM (#12175736)
    More than anything else, even more than Microsoft, closed drivers will be the downfall of Linux and open source. First they lock you in and then they rip the rug from under you.

    Drivers are too low level and critical to the entire OS. Drivers aren't like some accounting app that you can get by without. When the ATI and nVidia say, we can't be bothered with writing Linux drivers anymore, but we still won't open the source, what are you going to do?

    See Bitkeeper...
    • More than anything else, even more than Microsoft, closed drivers will be the downfall of Linux and open source.

      Which Microsoft realizes as well, I'm sure. I wonder if there is any pressure from Redmond - explicit or otherwise - on manufacturers not to release OSS drivers? Or maybe just extra candy for those that don't? Just speculating, but there's little doubt that they would do just that if they thought they could get away with it legally...

  • by ALecs ( 118703 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:23AM (#12175740) Homepage
    My last remaining sore spot is sleep. I've tried everthing I can figure to get suspend-to-ram (aka sleep) working. It never wakes up correctly.

    And I place the blame SQUARELY on the BIOS manufacturers. From what I can see, they're cutting corners left and right because it "works with Windows".

    Not to mention the TERRIBLE tech support Avereatec has given me, even with regard to Windows problems. They haven't released drivers for this noteboook yet, claiming their re-install procedure works flawlessly (it doesn't). Right now, Linux runs better on this machine that Windows.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I used to think that as well. I have tree laptops ranging from relatively old ones such as a Dell P3 450, to a brand new sony vaio with all sorts of goodies..

      None of them support sleep perfectly with Linux. I have tried dozens of different guides and distros to get it to work, to no avail.

      But with OpenBSD, it just works perfectly. OBSD is slower for my work, but its worth it because my battery now lasts an average of 3 hours and 20 minutes with it, and only about 2 hours with linux.
  • by sczimme ( 603413 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:24AM (#12175749)

    Turner acknowledges that binary-only drivers are a sore spot with free software purists, but says he'd "rather have a fully functional, if closed, Nvidia driver than a reverse-engineered one that limps along."

    I would have to agree with this - at least as far as my own systems are concerned. I appreciate the idea (and ideals) of F/OSS but do not pursue that single idea doggedly enough to ignore functionality. No single ideology can encompass all possible situations; open source can - and must, in many cases - co-exist peacefully next to closed source and commercial software.
    • The thing with closed-source drivers for cards is; who else _really_ has any business using taht code? Its whole job is to be the interface between proprietary (closed, even secret) hardware, and (possibly open, certainly someon-else's) software.

      It is, bluntly, the card manufacturer's bailiwick to go around writing that interfac layer; and if the workings of the HW are secrets, to be guarded because that's where their business gets its competetive edge, then the source code that buts up directly to those s
  • Linspire.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sammykrupa ( 828537 ) <> on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:24AM (#12175751) Homepage Journal
    Has full laptop support [].
  • Binary Drivers (Score:2, Informative)

    by cfromg ( 872848 )
    If only binary-only drivers were fully functional. It seems that they often are not, because less time is devoted to them compared to the windows drivers. I was not a purist in this regard, but have become more and more suspicious of binary-only drivers. Plus they complicate upgrading my Debian installation.
  • by Garabito ( 720521 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:26AM (#12175774)
    the year of Linux on the Laptop?

    Finally! I was getting tired of every year since 1998 being the year of 'Linux on the desktop'

  • by Anonymous Coward
    that many things work "98%". E.g., when I installed Fedora Core on my g/f laptop, it worked out of the box, including support for sound, the VGA etc.

    But then I noticed

    - that I had to give a kernel parameter at boot (including manually editing grub.conf) to get full functionality for the keypad

    - that everytime the USB-printer is not plugged CUPS goes into "Error/Stop" mode and must be reactivated manually (via the web interface). This is just annoying.

    - that to use the USB stick and camera, I had to manu
    • by Anonymous Coward
      >> - that to use the USB stick and camera, I had to manually add an entry to /etc/fstab, and mount it (or have it plugged in at startup) >>


      I plug in a USB stick or a Sony camera and it's automatically loaded in (stick is explored, camera triggers a dialogue asking to import the photos) without adding anything to fstab.

  • Does anyone have any experience with running Yellow Dog linux on a powerbook? I'm going to try it out in the next month or so, but I'd be interested to hear what people have to say about it.

    I wonder how that compares to running various distros on a PC laptop...

    • Does anyone have any experience with running Yellow Dog linux on a powerbook?

      I'll strongly recommend it. Because it's PPC specific, the installation comes with the bells and whistles you want (like pbbuttonsd), which I hadn't found to be the case in the PPC port of x86 distributions.

      Also, the PPC Linux community is small and helpful and there's a limited number of hardware configurations. So while you may hit some problems on very new Apple hardware, there are good resources to help you solve them.

    • I got a powerbook after they were updated in Feburary. I was all set to wipe OS X and install Debian on it. In fact I did, and afterwords I couldn't, for the life of me, get the the mouse to work. This is my original post to the debian powerpc list: 00180.html []

      It turns out they changed their touchpad significantly for the newest versions of the powerbook. I eventually gave up and started using OS X. I'm pretty happy with it, but it's still a little diffe
    • Re:powerbook (Score:3, Informative)

      by zapp ( 201236 )
      I work at Terra Soft (we make Yellow Dog). I can fill you in a bit:

      I'm writing this right now on my 15" Powerbook.

      Stuff that doesn't work:
      -Airport Extreme* (it probably won't ever)

      -3d Acceleration*

      -There is no Flash for PPC linux(*)

      -Newer model's touchpad changed, but it will eventually be supported, probably.

      -Sound (on mine at least) is kind of ghetto. No mixing, only one app can play a sound at a time.

      (*) = A binary driver from the manufacturer must be provided for this to work. Except flash. The
  • Yep, back a page and down one article. Ubuntu has been a great laptop disto. For all the problems reported with Dells it worked (wireless too) out of the box.
  • Works great! A few things don't work, like some of the function keys, the svideo, etc. But overall it works great for me. My biggest complaint about linux (desktop/laptop) is bootup time. WinXP will have my laptop on a desktop in 30 seconds. Linux takes over 2 minutes.
  • Live distros (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This advice has been given before but it is good advice. Try a bootable cd distro like Knoppix on a laptop before you buy it.

    The Mandrake 9.1 on my ancient Thinkpad died and I used a Knoppix disk to recover. The Knoppix worked so well that I just installed it. In the case of the article Suse was the one that worked. This has to be WAY easier than trying to install Slackware. I almost wonder why the author tried that. Well, I guess he's just way more l337 than I am.
  • The exact same article will be written. And again in 2007, and again in 2008..

    Unless something dramatic happens, I don't see linux ever having anything close to universal wireless support, or support for the umpteen million other specialty hardwares in a laptop.

    I tried linux on this gateway laptop about six months ago. I couldn't get the touchpad working, it wouldn't recognize the lid switch to put it into hibernate mode (or even force a shutdown), I couldn't get the RCA-out to work (I like to use it as
    • by clickster ( 669168 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:57AM (#12176090)
      Unless something dramatic happens, I don't see linux ever having anything close to universal wireless support, or support for the umpteen million other specialty hardwares in a laptop.

      First, Windows doesn't support wireless. The wireless manufacturer supports Windows. If they treated MS users like they treat Linux users, Windows would have the exact same issues

  • I am running Fedora Core 3 on my Dell 8600. I have had zero problems. Heck, the only drivers I had to install after I was done installing FC3 was ipw2200 drivers and ati 9600 drivers (so I could actually use 3D.)

    This thing runs smoother then it did under Windows for sure. My only complaint is the problems I had getting WPA to work with the ipw2200 drivers.
  • by timster ( 32400 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:35AM (#12175876)
    I run Debian, so I'd be much more interested in articles on the state of laptop linux in 2004. I'll be there in a few months, with any luck.
  • by jhdevos ( 56359 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:38AM (#12175900) Homepage
    By delivering binary-only drivers, manufacturers can only support a very small fraction of the amount of different possible configurations. Now, since a huge percentage of users only use a very small set of possible configurations, that is ok for most people -- but it makes it much more difficult for someone to investigate other options.

    Practical examples abound: off course most manufacturers only deliver drivers for windows, but also vendors that support linux with binary-only drivers usually support only a few kernels / distributions. Running linux on something other than x86 (such as an ibook) is completely unsupported.

    If you want to have choice in what you buy and run, don't support binary only drivers. Don't buy WLAN devices that can only be gotten to work with ndiswrapper. Support manufacurers that do give code or documentations to the community. And be vocal: make sure that unwilling vendors know that this is important for us.

    • NVidia (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phorm ( 591458 )
      How about drivers like NVidia wherein the driver is partly prebuilt, and partly compiled to allow working with your current kernel, etc.

      Doesn't that way of doing things tend to lend better compatability?
  • by Christianfreak ( 100697 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:47AM (#12175975) Homepage Journal
    Until Linux is a simple grandmother-friendly install, desktop Linux is going to stay in the ghetto

    No its going to stay in the ghetto until OEMs bundle it. Could your grandmother install Windows?

    I'm sick of this "No one uses desktop Linux because its hard to install". Patently untrue, Linux installs are generally easier IMHO, one reboot as opposed to 3 with Windows (and that's not counting updates!).

    Software producers don't make business apps or games for Linux because people aren't using Linux.
    People aren't using it because it doesn't come bundled and the OEMs don't sell it because the games and the business apps just aren't there. Until someone solves the chicken and the egg problem there won't be a lot of Linux desktop growth.

    Honeslty that's fine with me. Linux works on my desktop and does what I need it to do. I've also gotten it to work fine on several laptops I don't know what this author's problem is!
    • Funny thing is that the first thing that occurred to me the first time I booted up the Ubuntu Live CD was, "Holy crap, my grandmother could use this!"

      (She's good at email and the web, but she finds updating the virus scanner kind of confusing.. wish I could tell her she didn't need a virus scanner. If it was up to me, I'd install it for her.. but on the other hand, it took her so much effort to learn Windows I don't want to change things on her now.)

    • Configuration afterward is, and software installation too. The package systems are halfway there, you can find programs to install eaisly enough. "But where's the icon?", asks grandma. There isn't one, gotta find where the thing inatalled and set that up yourself.

      And it doesn't help when some of the icons that are set up on install don't work and don't give feedback as to why.

      It's not like it's an impossible problem to solve, OSX and Windows software installs are pretty simple for grandma. You run the insta

    • "Could your grandmother install Windows?"

      Actually, yes. However, it got infected by a virus within an hour, and by the time I arrived, people were asking "why doesn't the internet work?", "why is it so slow?" and other such questions.

      I've just been setting-up Windows2000 on computers here, and it seems to take 2-3 days per computer (firewall installation, virus checkers, spyware checkers, lots and lots of "windows update", lots of reboots, service packs, printer drivers, scanner drivers, mouse drivers, m
  • by pshuke ( 845050 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:51AM (#12176021)
    The story, although concluding that the state of linux laptops in 2005 'is a lot better' than in 2004, says an awful lot of nice things about SuSE 9.1, in spite of it being an April 2004 distribution. And Linspire 4.5 is, according to distrowatch, from December 2003.
    It would be nice if a 2005 test actually used the 2005 versions of the distros (eg. Linspire 5.0 and SuSE 9.3)
    On another note, I do find it somewhat disappointing that Ubuntu was omitted from the test. I recently tried the LiveCD and it seemed very much laptop ready.
  • by NtroP ( 649992 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:54AM (#12176053)
    I just got a donated 1GHz PIII Dell laptop. It came with Win2K on it, but no documentation or Licenses that proved it was supposed to be there - perfect excuse to load Linux. I've switched from Fedora/Gnome to Xandros/KDE on my primary workstation (still use RHEL3 on my servers) because everything "just works" with our large Active Directory domain out of the box.

    I installed Xandros on the laptop and it was a thing of beauty. I had two PCMCIA wireless cards (a Cisco and an older one that slips my mind - I'm at home posting this before work). I put the Cisco one in first and configured it to connect to our wireless network (through the nice GUI interface). It auto-detected the card upon insertion, grabbed an IP address and we were off and running. Then, just for kicks, while in the middle of a surfing session, I yanked the Cisco card our and popped the other one in. The system chirped upon removal and insertion and my surfing continued unhindered! I couldn't believe it.

    It's working so well, that I'm even loaning it to someone from another department (with no Linux background) to take with her on a business trip so she can do some work while she's at her convention. She said she's sick of dealing with all the "problems" her employees have been having with their Windows stations, and if this does everything she needs, she'll switch her department too. Since it's just basic WordProcessing/Spreadsheet, Email and web access they need, I'm sure she'll find this a great alternative.

  • by jbellis ( 142590 ) <`moc.rednelbeganrac' `ta' `nahtanoj'> on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:54AM (#12176057) Homepage
    "The state of Linux on my Toshiba, 2005"

    Come on, even for slashdot generalizing from a single datapoint is a little underwhelming.

  • The importance of a piece of software being open source depends on the degree to which users and other software depend on it, since this determines the degree of lock-in.

    - If the software is used by many users and has a non-trivial UI then it would be better if it were open source.

    - More importantly though, if the software exposes an API and lots of other software is built on top of it (eg. a part of the OS) then it is important that it be open source.

    The reason for this is because these factors determin
  • by BigGerman ( 541312 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:56AM (#12176079)
    which is the most important thing for Linux-on-laptop. When I got Gentoo to hibernate (and wake up - important too ;-) on my Fujitsu, that was a happy day.
    • by hildi ( 868839 )
      'oh conserve energy, conserve the environment, what about the baby seals'.

      look, real men carry a gasoline powered generator with them and plug that into their laptop. real REAL men carry a chainsaw with a dynamo on it so they can check email while they cut down 300 year old redwoods.

      piss ant hippies like you are the problem with america, and why we got attacked by the terrorists.
  • If only... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pulse2600 ( 625694 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:07AM (#12176196)
    If laptop manufacturers would make more laptops with LESS built into it, I think people would have a much better time with Linux. Build me a laptop without an integrated modem, ethernet, and wireless network and just give me a bunch of usb and PCMCIA slots so I can choose my own accessories, much like I do with my desktop. That way I can spend less on a laptop because it doesn't "come with everything" and I can expand it with exactly the hardware I want.

    I have an old Digital HiNote VP 700 with no built in modem or ethernet card. I poked around online to see what PCMCIA devices are supported by my favorite flavor of Linux, and I bought those items. Machine runs slow as shit with a 133 mhz processor and Red Hat 9, but at least all my hardware works because I found the modem, ethernet, and wireless cards that work well with what I want to run. I am also happy using generic video drivers as long as I get the resolution I want.

    To compare, I have a Toshiba Tecra with built in Ethernet, Modem, and Wireless. First off, Fedora Core 3 locks up on bootup, so I put RH9 on this one too. Wouldn't ya know it, the modem doesn't work, the 10/100 ethernet adaptor is detected but doesn't work, and I haven't even attempted the built in wireless. But I still have these cards I know work cause I researched them and picked them out myself, so I just shove em in and I'm good to go. Although RH9 was able to correctly determine my video and audio chipsets, I would be just as happy using generic video/audio drivers if I had to.

    Sell me a laptop without everything built in so I can expand it myself...that's the way to make a Linux compatiable laptop.
  • that he says that what I've actually been doing very successfully for 2 years is just now becoming viable. Where do they get these so called experts?

    I'm a software developer and have been running linux (exclusively) on my primary work computer (laptop) for two years without a hitch. None of my colleagues who run microsoft-based laptops can say that.

    Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never had driver issues/problems on any of the many different boxes (including laptops) I've installed Linux on. It has always d
  • To be considered a success, a distribution needed to install and all the laptop components needed to work without any software installs or changes to the kernel.

    I don't know how reasonable that standard is. Although it may betray my Gentoo bigotry, I always thought that one of the most important things about Linux was that you could customize it to adapt to a specific purpose. I see the ability to adjust the kernel or install customized software as a benefit of Linux, not something to be excluded. It
  • Everything works (including widescreen /w accelerated Nvidia driver, wireless, sound, ethernet, touchpad, USB, firewire, etc) except for the built-in cardreader, and the cruddy winmodem. A Xircom PCMCIA card allows me to still use dialup on the road, but it would be nice to have the internal modem work and it's annoying that there's no driver for the cardreader.

    Being that the cardreader is a weird brand "ENE Technology Inc CB710" and the modem is, of course, a soundcard-linked winmodem... well I'm not rea
  • Linux on Laptop (Score:2, Informative)

    by stevenm86 ( 780116 )
    Though knowing how notoriously bad Dell is with Linux support, I bought an Insipiron 600m anyway.

    There's gentoo running on it, and everything works. Well, I don't think the modem works, but I have never had the occasion to use it. It could be working, for all I know.

    And I mean, everything from cpu frequency scaling and suspend and hibernate, to stuff like the special touchpad features and 3D, native wifi drivers, all works fine.

    I use Gentoo.

    Point is, it depends on what you consider 'Support'. It is i
  • by Oliver Aaltonen ( 606410 ) <aaltonen@gmai l . c om> on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:34AM (#12176499) Homepage
    I downloaded the newly released Ubuntu 5.04 this morning. Installation took about 30 minutes, and here's what I have:

    Boots off CD and installs like it should? Check.
    Detects all hardware devices during the installation, even the wireless card? Check.
    Sound works? Check.
    Video works? Check minus (see below).
    Power management works, meaning sleep and suspend to disk (hibernate) work flawlessly and CPU speed throttles correctly? Check.
    Modem works? Who cares!
    Bluetooth works? Probably, but I don't have any BT devices to check it with.
    IBM's Active Protection System works to protect the hard drive? Nope.
    All function buttons for sleep, suspend, brightness, volume, etc. work? Yup.

    So, I'm sitting here with a notebook that by current standards is running pretty darn good under Ubuntu, with a very small amount of manual configuration necessary to get this far. What's holding Linux back from running as nicely as Windows on the ThinkPad?

    The video is the biggest problem. Ubuntu installs DRI drivers by default, which work pretty well, but lack 3D acceleration support. I can install the ATI binary drivers with a few simple commands, but they break suspend/resume functionality, which is arguably more important for most notebook users. I also won't be able to use the nifty ThinkVantage features on my expensive ThinkPad, like the Active Protection system.

    So notebook users have a dilemma: do the Right Thing and handicap your system by installing Linux, or stick with the factory installation of Windows where everything Just Works. The never-ending battle of Morality vs. Functionality rages on.

    (For those with the same/similar ThinkPad, see my quickly written guide [] for more detail.)
  • Power Management (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:46AM (#12176628)
    It's a laptop. Power management must work completely and fully, up to and including suspend to disk.

    The only Linux that I've seen that comes close in the power management area is SuSE 9.2 (haven't tried 9.3 yet), but even there the suspend to disk is unreliable.

    • Amen to that!

      It's ironic that Nvidia's Linux drivers are mentioned since they are one of the things that _stop_ suspend to RAM from working. I don't know if this has been fixed recently. I last upgraded about a month ago and it still didn't work.

      I presntly use my Dell Inspriron 8200 more as a desktop than anything else because it is pretty-much useless as a laptop if I can't get the thing to suspend to RAM. Lord knows I've tried everything; ACPI, APM, latest kernel+patches, been there, done that, got the
  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @12:47PM (#12177434) Homepage
    I just booted up the Ubuntu 5.0.4 live-cd on my laptop and it works very nicely! It autodetected everything including my iPod. This is coming from someone who more or less stopped using Linux three years ago for OS X (I had been using Linux since '96). Anyway, things are definitely looking good from here. I'll post a more in-depth review in my blog [] soon.
  • by Whatchamacallit ( 21721 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @03:49PM (#12179468) Homepage
    Just buy an Apple PowerBook or iBook and freaking be done with it! Run OS X if you care more about stuff just 'WORKING'. You can run all of your Open Source software under OS X! Plus you can run all the Apple Software including MS Office! Install the developer tools, install X11 and then go install Fink. You can ssh into your Linux / BSD / Solaris / AIX boxen, run X11 apps remotely, etc. Every *nix user and sysadmin I run into drools over my PowerBook, it's getting to the point where I have to carry a towel with me!

    Or if you are a GNU/Open Source Purist, put Linux on the iBook / PowerBook. They are the most supported laptops available for Linux. Most everything works as it should even under Linux! Even Linux Torvalds is running a PowerMac G5 workstation (it was a gift and it blows away most x86 hardware), albeit running Linux and not OS X. [] 4.0.1 now supports sleep mode on the Apple laptops w/ATI video cards. Not everything works even on Apple hardware.

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