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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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  • Here you go........ (Score:4, Informative)

    by KingBahamut ( 615285 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:18AM (#12175686)
    http://www.emperorlinux.com/ [emperorlinux.com]
  • Linux On Laptops (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cryptacool ( 98556 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:19AM (#12175699)
    Linux on Laptops [linux-laptop.net] is a great resource for how-tos on getting your specific model of laptop working, there are some other sites as well (linux.org [linux.org]), 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.
  • by tquinlan ( 868483 ) <tom&thomasquinlan,com> on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:20AM (#12175720) Homepage
    ...is 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@@@gmail...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.....
  • 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
  • Binary Drivers (Score:2, Informative)

    by cfromg ( 872848 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:24AM (#12175759)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:26AM (#12175782)
    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 manually add an entry to /etc/fstab, and mount it (or have it plugged in at startup)

    Those are no problem for me as a long-time Linux user but are just annoying. Plus, for the simple casual user, it may just look if "printer, usb stick and mousepad just don't work".

    Also often these annoyances are known and seemingly part of a higher philosophic approach. E.g, the CUPS behaviour has come up at the mailing list multiple times, and they said it's the expected behaviour.
  • by Shatrat ( 855151 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:35AM (#12175874)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:44AM (#12175951)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:45AM (#12175956)
    >> - 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.
  • 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:

    http://lists.debian.org/debian-powerpc/2005/02/msg 00180.html [debian.org]

    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 different.

    So if you have a newer powerbook (bought since Febuary), I'd look in to the mouse problem before I considered installing linux (yellow dog or otherwise).
  • Re:Installation woes (Score:2, Informative)

    by Alcilbiades ( 859596 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:03AM (#12176161)
    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.
  • Linux on Laptop (Score:2, Informative)

    by stevenm86 ( 780116 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:25AM (#12176399)
    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 in most cases possible to make any device work on any distro.. It all depends on how much tinkering you are willing to put in. With Gentoo, you do your own configuration... I don't know how much of this stuff would have been picked up by the 'auto-hardware probe' scripts that come with most binary distributions.
  • by Jussi K. Kojootti ( 646145 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:25AM (#12176400)
    Well, for one thing, most Linux distributions have a very good selection of Free <p> tags out-of-the-box.
  • by Oliver Aaltonen ( 606410 ) <aaltonen AT gmail DOT com> 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 [aaltonen.us] for more detail.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:34AM (#12176500)
    http://www.suspend2.net/ [suspend2.net]
    Has patches to enable Software Suspend 2. It works wery well on most rigs.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:37AM (#12176537)
    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 [sourceforge.net] 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.
  • Re:powerbook (Score:3, Informative)

    by zapp ( 201236 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:44AM (#12176610)
    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. There is a GPL flash plugin, but it doesn't really work.

    Also, don't get a 12" Powerbook. They are much different internally than the 15, and I don't think sleep is supported. You'll also want a pcmcia slot for Wifi, since airport doesn't work.
  • Re:Power Management (Score:3, Informative)

    by Air-conditioned cowh ( 552882 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @12:26PM (#12177164)
    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 T-shirt. No joy.

    I currently have the APM switched on and have to remember to switch off the Nvidia driver if I go anywhere where I need to flip the laptop into suspend mode.
  • by Twinkle ( 84777 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @12:35PM (#12177294)
    Take your color depth down to 16-bit instead of 24-bit and you should get 3d accel back, verify with;

    glxinfo | grep direct

  • Re:Driver Crisis... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @01:04PM (#12177632)
    Don't buy from the manufacturer again :-).

    And give stuff like this a change :
    http://lists.duskglow.com/mailman/listinfo/open-gr aphics [duskglow.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @01:12PM (#12177717)
    On my laptop, including my usb wifi. (with 2.6) This sounds kinda like a freind of mine, who is always railing against the evils of microsoft, and when he buys a new computer, he gets the all-in-wonder card. Now, he knows this is unsuported in linux, I tell him not to get it, he gets it, it doesn't work in linux, and he bitchs about how crappy linux's driver support is. If these people are valuable assets to the OSS comunity then we have lost something, but my freind is not a programmer, and some how I doubt this guy is either. So, I haven't lost anything, at any rate.
  • by Homburg ( 213427 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @03:14PM (#12179102) Homepage
    I installed Ubuntu Hoary on my laptop (an old-ish Dell) a couple of days ago, and hibernate works great out of the box. It uses some kind of software suspend, which (I would geuss) means it's likely to work on a lot of different hardware.
  • Re:Installation woes (Score:5, Informative)

    by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot@NosPam.pitabred.dyndns.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.
  • by elliott666 ( 447115 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @04:15PM (#12179788)
    for a real good time with suse 9.2 on a laptop try compiling the acpi modules into the kernel. with the acpi stuff built in you have a good work around for acpi functions disappearing when you restore from suspend to disk, and you get you acpi up and running almost immediately after boot up, it the best of both worlds.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.