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The State of Laptop Linux In 2005

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the penguins-in-your-lap dept.

Portables 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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Installation woes (2, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | about 9 years ago | (#12175679)

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, although I am definitely disappointed...after reading the release notes on HH, I've decided to go with it on my laptop, but I would have liked to have a guinea p^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hsomeon else test it out first...especially on a Toshiba.

Re:Installation woes (5, Insightful)

2nd Post! (213333) | about 9 years ago | (#12175701)

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.

Re:Installation woes (4, Insightful)

OECD (639690) | about 9 years ago | (#12175703)

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?

Re:Installation woes (5, Insightful)

Mr_Silver (213637) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:Installation woes (1)

DenDave (700621) | about 9 years ago | (#12175881)

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...

Re:Installation woes (1)

EvilAlien (133134) | about 9 years ago | (#12175889)

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)

Re:Installation woes (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 9 years ago | (#12175912)

I'm using the NDISwrapper to run a pure windows wireless driver (thanks a gob linksys, for using different chipsets for same model number card 8P ), as a last resort this type of technology is preferable to not being able to run at all.

Re:Installation woes (2, Insightful)

Tassach (137772) | about 9 years ago | (#12176037)

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 I bought the hardware.

If a hardware vendor officially supports Linux, they'll likely get my business over a competitor who doesn't, regardless of whether their drivers are GPL or not. If Firaxis ported CivIII to Linux, you wouldn't be whining that it wasn't open source, would you?

Re:Installation woes (4, Insightful)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:Installation woes (1)

Threni (635302) | about 9 years ago | (#12175725)

> I could have told him what he did wrong.

He knows what he did wrong - tried to install some poorly tested software.

> It took me a lot of flopping around (two reinstalls) to identify and fix the
> issue

I'm just not that patient. I don't mind spending time solving my own problems, but I'll be damned if I'll waste my time solving other peoples. It's not like there's a dearth of Linux choices out there.

Don't fight the system (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#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........ (4, Informative)

KingBahamut (615285) | about 9 years ago | (#12175686)

Re:Here you go........ (4, Informative)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 9 years ago | (#12175728)

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

Re:Here you go........ (1)

KingBahamut (615285) | about 9 years ago | (#12175811)

Got an old workmate that works there. They do pretty awesome work. Well that and FauxPas likes ubuntu, and thats good enough for me.

Good GOD! (2, Insightful)

ALecs (118703) | about 9 years ago | (#12175930)

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's chicken and egg (1, Insightful)

badfish99 (826052) | about 9 years ago | (#12175688)

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.

Re:It's chicken and egg (3, Insightful)

rovingeyes (575063) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's chicken and egg (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175827)

Did you go to school and learn how to say things that sound like they ought to be true but actually are not true at all?
It is funny to me how you mind-manipulation trolls always say things in /. that you obviously have never thought through and don't really believe.

If every cell phone is running Linux (which is really where it is going, you uS troll), then how is that a small market for Linux?
But your a-wipe company in Redmond doesn't get a single license.

Linux On Laptops (5, Informative)

Cryptacool (98556) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Driver Crisis... (5, Insightful)

eviltypeguy (521224) | about 9 years ago | (#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...

Re:Driver Crisis... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175797)

Excatly. I'm sick to death of people who demand that "the Linux community" should write drivers for every peice of hardware they stumble across at Best Buy. They don't demand that Windows ships with drivers for every widget and geegaw, and you rarely hear people talk about "The OS X driver crisis" yet on Linux, it's suddenly the responsiblity of the kernel developers to support everyone elses hardware!

The people responsible for solving hardware support on Linux are the hardware vendors. The customers need to bitch to them, not the kernel developers. As you say, in many cases the kernel developers don't have access to the specs, but the hardware vendors sure do. It's their hardware, it's their responsibility.

Re:Driver Crisis... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175815)

"I may not agree with the prohibition of binary drivers but I understand why the Linux team won't deal with them..."

Definition of cutting off one's nose to spite your face.

edge of the wedge (4, Insightful)

xixax (44677) | about 9 years ago | (#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.


100% compatible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175714)

Is there any laptop that 100% compatible with linux?

Gentoo on my Dell D600... (4, Informative)

tquinlan (868483) | about 9 years ago | (#12175720)

...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!

Re:Gentoo on my Dell D600... (1)

Cryptacool (98556) | about 9 years ago | (#12175776)

yeah i do the same thing, the only caveat is that the wifi and audio drivers might require some tweaking, mine did, but other then that, yeah gentoo works great on the D600.

Re:Gentoo on my Dell D600... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175875)

same for Mandrake 10.1

I even have the wireless and winmodem working.

Playing UT2003 on it right now.

Re:Gentoo on my Dell D600... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176029)

I have Gentoo running on my Dell 300m. It was a bit of a challenge initially, most especially because X was a little flaky and the wifi needed some manual tweaks. I have an ipw2100 (802.11b) specifically chosen because of the OSS drivers that are being developed (and supported) by Intel. If I was buying the laptop today (which you can't because Dell has discontinued their smallest, lightest laptop!) I'd have gotten the ipw2200, which is a 802.11g and is now well supported.

My only complaints are that suspend-to-mem doesn't work (there's no way to wake it) and the battery display function key doesn't work. In fact apci seems to not be very happy -- battery stats in general are not accurate.

SUSE 9.2 Pro is good for me? (3, Informative)

seamustheshark (603643) | about 9 years ago | (#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.....

Re:SUSE 9.2 Pro is good for me? (1)

CodeArtisan (795142) | about 9 years ago | (#12175849)

SuSE worked great for me too. In fact, timewise, it took longer to defrag and repartition my drive than it did to actually install it on my Inspiron 8100.

Re:SUSE 9.2 Pro is good for me? (2, Informative)

Shatrat (855151) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Obviously not ready for the laptop (2, Interesting)

null-und-eins (162254) | about 9 years ago | (#12175722)

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.)

Re:Obviously not ready for the laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175766)

Too bad it works fine on the Thinkpad 760EL (mp3 playing musicbox), Thinkpad T20 (wife's full-time system) and ThinkpadT23 (my full-time system) I own.

Re:Obviously not ready for the laptop (2, Interesting)

radarsat1 (786772) | about 9 years ago | (#12175790)

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. And i love it. :)
What's the problem again?

Re:Obviously not ready for the laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175936)

What's the problem again
But don't ask me to get direct rendering and 3D acceleration to work... *sigh*

Re:Obviously not ready for the laptop (1)

Otter (3800) | about 9 years ago | (#12175945)

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.

Re:Obviously not ready for the laptop (4, Insightful)

Some Dumbass... (192298) | about 9 years ago | (#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).

Re:Obviously not ready for the laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175942)

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.)

Informative? This guy guesses that Linux must have problems with USB (yeah right) and stuff on laptops and gets modded Informative?! This is speculation, not information.

Closed drivers. (5, Insightful)

FreeLinux (555387) | about 9 years ago | (#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...

Re:Closed drivers. (0, Flamebait)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 9 years ago | (#12175879)

NVIDIA's binary drivers are shit. Speaking from personal experience, I have had all sorts of funny things happening with them. Including bash misteriously crashing and gcc sigsegvs. This indicates the drivers were corrupting the memory of other apps. They sure are fast for OpenGL, and I wish Linux had good open source OpenGL drivers. But it doesn't. Luckily I do not do any 3D work, or otherwise I might be forced to actually use them more. The open source drivers which came with my distro are really stable albeith only 2D.

Until Linux device drivers are insulated from each other the way programs are thanks to the help of the MMU, this sort of thing will continue to happen with binary drivers, and other poorly written drivers.

Happy with my laptop, but... (5, Interesting)

ALecs (118703) | about 9 years ago | (#12175740)

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.

Re:Happy with my laptop, but... (1)

stratjakt (596332) | about 9 years ago | (#12175944)

Linux ignores the BIOS and uses it's own calls to talk to the hardware.

It's a linux issue/shortcoming. Blame the BIOS people all you want, but linux pretty much ignores the BIOS once it's bootstrapped, except in some cases if you specifically configure it to use BIOS calls to, say, get HDD geometry.

Linux development is still primarily driven towards the server set, which, not unlike Samara, they never sleep.

Suspend/sleeping even on "well supported" desktop hardware doesn't work right. Hibernation under linux is still way alpha and unstable on most rigs.

bullshit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176058)

Sorry, it works great here, on decent hardware which the manufacturer supports on Linux.

Linux sure as hell does depend on the BIOS for ACPI stuff, and the problem sure as hell is that they only test it against Windows.

Re:Happy with my laptop, but... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#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.

It was better in 2000 ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175743)

You could call up Dell and have an Inspiron with Red Hat delivered.

'course that was before Bill Gates made some subtle hints to Michael Dell. Dell soon dropped Linux desktop/laptop support.

the free pass (off-topic) (0, Offtopic)

Lil-Bondy (849941) | about 9 years ago | (#12175747)

i can see that the free pass is making people write up longer replies before-hand and posting them as soon as they can... making the first few posts fairly big compared to normal - go ahead rate it offtopic, i dont care, im just posting it to show my opinion

Re:the free pass (off-topic) (0)

iggymanz (596061) | about 9 years ago | (#12175848)

yes, we have insightful first posts that are on topic and well thought out and contribute to a higher quality of slashdot, rather than "first post beeee-yatch!" type of garbage. How Horrible!

Re:the free pass (off-topic) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175882)

you have to deal with the following types of paid trolls (as far as I can tell)
1. Those who always try to divert the attention to whatever distro of Linux that they are working on.
2. Those who try to stear every single /. post to be about how wonderful MAC is
3. Those who are hateful aholes who must own uS stock and spread FUD
After them you can maybe find some real people talking about real things. That is why I only post anon now, because it is obvious that a lot of what is here is just product marketing content spam.

and to all of you industry trolls: Every time you plug your crap here we all hate your crap even more because you are jamming our lines of communication.

reasonable and logical thoughts? (4, Insightful)

sczimme (603413) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:reasonable and logical thoughts? (2, Insightful)

rdc_uk (792215) | about 9 years ago | (#12175910)

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 secrets is legitimately secret too.

The PROBLEM is the retarded method required to get a video driver INTO linux - since when did installing the WinXP detonator drivers involve a recompiled windows kernel?!?

make the device driver interface to linux one that properly supports binary-delivered (installer wrapped?) device driver downloads, and you'd possibly make the job of writing the damn things easier enough (and certainly the job of installing the fuckers!), that it would not be the onerous (and hence very low priority) job that it is for NVidia and ATI.

Then you'd likely see better / more frequent drivers, and the closed source nature would not be an issue.

But no; the zealots would rather bitch and whine about "they're not open source, boo hoo!" and create a straw-man argument for not fixing the Linux-side mess of issue, either...

Begin troll-mod of sensible but not oss-zealot opinion...now.

Binary Drivers (2, Informative)

cfromg (872848) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Another person not seeing the whole spectrum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175761)

[i]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]

Pfff. Again someone misses the example of the quality and performance of a completely open source DRI radeon/r200 driver. And before anyone says it sucks, let me remind them to try the latest CVS checkout, and they'll find it's performance and stability is breathtaking -- on par or beats the ATI sactioned version. To me, it's simply better.

3.5lb silent 12" Linux notebook, $1000 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175768)

The iBook G4 [terrasoftsolutions.com] . If only apple would release info on the wireless card! That is the only down-er to the apple laptops running linux: no wifi drivers right now. Small, portable, half the price of other laptops of similar size and features.

then, is 2005... (5, Funny)

Garabito (720521) | about 9 years ago | (#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'

Re:then, is 2005... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175964)

unfortunately, 2005 is the year of physics... but if you install aliroot on your laptop, it could be the month of compiling on linux to do physics...

Linux driver support really is a joke. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175777)

While I've been moderately successful adopting linux on my laptop. But on my desktop where I have some top of the line hardware only windows works.

My biggest issue currently is that linux doesn't support high resolutions well. Running a monitor in 1920 X 2900 just isn't possible. Even running the probe in the xconfigurator blows the system up. Why can't drivers just work on linux?

The annoying thing is (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#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.

HAL + DBUS + GNOMEVFS (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:The annoying thing is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176005)

It makes sense to me that you have to manually mount a flash device as the way that serial devices are laid out means that the order of plugging them in can mean that they are named differently. What other alternative? To run your system as root and then let external devices connect and then autorun something? Probably this is a bad idea.
So with Windows you have all of this autoconnect stuff, but the operating system is pron to being hyjacked.
I have experimented with hotplug, and it doesn't seem to work for me. And so I always mount the flash with a command which works great. But I think that this issue will be solved soon enough. Meanwhile I am not using Windows and I feel much more secure and don't worry about my machine being compromised or loosing all of my data because some instant messaging based worm.

powerbook (1)

theMerovingian (722983) | about 9 years ago | (#12175785)

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...

Re:powerbook (1)

Otter (3800) | about 9 years ago | (#12176028)

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.

Re:powerbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176059)

I tried the Ubuntu Hoary preview live CD last January on my TiBook (DLing the final one right now). I was astonished how everything worked flawlessly. Well almost, I had to manually mount my OS X partition and the 802.11b connection with DHCP initialization failed at startup, had to renew the DHCP lease et voilà!
The power button and going to sleep worked like a charm. It also recognized the keys for screen dimming and sound control out of the box.

laptop ready? ^H^^H^H^H^ARE THE PEOPLE READY? (1)

Neuropol (665537) | about 9 years ago | (#12175787)

how about doing some home work? For years, perhaps back as far as Red Hat 7.3 and even earlier, laptop functionality existed on almost every level: If you so chose to actually search the hardware compat list to find out what portables were covered and tested.

I have an *old* IBM thp770. 3 major *current* distros all installed and recognized every thing immediately. I settled on rh8.0 for that machine for certain reasons. but given the fact that 3 different distros installed, problem free, just tells me that Linux has been laptop ready for a while.

Maybe there should be a spin put on this: Linux has been ready for the laptop - Are people ready to commit to the change ...

"laptop Linux is much closer now" (2, Interesting)

thepurplemonkey (814382) | about 9 years ago | (#12175791)

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.

Fedora Core 3 on Dell 600m (2, Interesting)

shane2uunet (705294) | about 9 years ago | (#12175795)

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.

Re:Fedora Core 3 on Dell 600m (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175979)

>>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.>>

That's what SLEEP is for! :-)

Re:Fedora Core 3 on Dell 600m (1)

Zemplar (764598) | about 9 years ago | (#12176068)

Just because you can see your XP desktop first doesn't mean you can do anything useful yet. My work box is XP Pro and it becomes usesful at about the same time my home Ubuntu box is. Sure XP shows you a desktop quicker, but while it's still really loading.

Just a Microsoft marketing mind trick really.

Re:Fedora Core 3 on Dell 600m (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176087)

Are unloading drivers stopping the boot?
I found that certain network components when not found have very long time delays. (30 seconds) and the boot would halt twice for one device that was not found. (I think it was something with DNS or BIND).

All of this was listed out in the log files. they told me exactly what the problem was. I reconfigured my domain name and things booted up much faster.

The point of having an Nvidia.... (1, Insightful)

Aeron65432 (805385) | about 9 years ago | (#12175800)

What's the point of having a kickass Linux/NVidia comp/laptop if you can't play games? Sure there's Wesnoth, Tux Racer, and thank god Doom3 came out for Linux, but Linux is still missing Counter-Strike, WoW, etc.

Linux computers can have the most incredible overclocking system but if there's nothing to use that NVidia card for, it'd be better to get a basic graphics card for your coding.

OH MY GOD (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175804)


Gentoo yet again..... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175825)

I have gentoo running on my HP NX7010. Everything works well, the ati graphic issues are better since ATI released new drivers.

System is a 1.7ghz centrino which makes my 3.06ghz ht desktop (running Windows XP) seem like a dinosaur. Installation was very easy emerge this...emerge that... and finally a nice working system. If it weren't for certain applications that don't work under wine, I would move the desktop over to gentoo as well.

Linux (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175839)

There is a nasty bug in Linux that makes the computer reboot every 49.7 days. The worst part is that this bug has been around for almost 10 years...

What good is a million eyes looking at the code if they are attached to half a million idiots?

I guess most people don't realize this because they need to recompile their kernel every other week, or they use Linux only to boot into illegal copies of Windows.

Plus it's not like laptops run for that long normally without a shutdown. Especially considering Linux' power management!

as i read this (1)

darth_linux (778182) | about 9 years ago | (#12175840)

from my fully-functional linux laptop, I can't help but wonder the same thing. } // end sarcasm but yeah, there are alot of drivers out there. hopefully companies will see intel's success with Centrino (ipw2100.sf.net) and follow suit.

Live distros (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175844)

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.

My prediction for 2006 (2, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | about 9 years ago | (#12175856)

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 a portable DVD player on the road). I had trouble getting sound to work, but that's about par for the course with ALSA. It can be a real PITA to get something as common as an SBLive to work. The Radeon Mobility wouldnt work right with ATI's drivers, so I was stuck with the SVGA driver.

It's a problem the manufacturers have to solve, the stuff is all proprietary, and they aren't about to open all the hardware to let kernel hackers at it - especially not WRT to the wireless chipsets. There's just not enough benefit (ie; customers) to warrant the cost of a dedicated linux support staff.

Sad but true...

Re:My prediction for 2006 (1)

narfbot (515956) | about 9 years ago | (#12175992)

Why don't you try DRI with your radeon mobility. From what I've read, it works...

PowerBook (0, Redundant)

Mistah Blue (519779) | about 9 years ago | (#12176002)

This is why I got a PowerBook. Enough said.

Mac troll (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176038)

moderate as 'Apple troll'

Can't we ever have a discussion here at /. without you content spammers from teh Apple marketting department spamming us with endorsements for your overpriced-secondrate powerPC crap that you have hypnotised so many into believeing is worth the three-times normal price that you charge?

How do you people sleep at night?

Binary Drivers (1)

squoozer (730327) | about 9 years ago | (#12175863)

I like what this guy said about binary drivers. I admit that it would be nice if we had open source drivers for everything but in the real world that just isn't going to happen - at least not in the near future. Companies like nVidia just can't see any benifit to open sourcing their drivers and I can quite understand that.

What we (the Linux comunity) should do is accept that there are going to be binary drivers (this will involve some people pulling their head out of the sand) and make it as easy as possible for hardware manufacturers to write drivers while still encouraging openness and adherance to standards. Very few hardware manufacturers will write drivers that need to be updated and tweeked every couple of months becuse the cost is just to high so we need a rock solid API that is well documented and has a documented change policy. Perhaps that exists already, I'm not that familiar with the exact kernel development process, but it doesn't seem like it is based on others comments.

FC3 on my 8600 (1)

thebdj (768618) | about 9 years ago | (#12175866)

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.

Laptop linux in 2005? (3, Funny)

timster (32400) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Binary-only drivers make choice more difficult (3, Insightful)

jhdevos (56359) | about 9 years ago | (#12175900)

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.


Mandrake/riva Linux installer needs more work.. (1)

Ats (88113) | about 9 years ago | (#12175916)

Mandriva 10.0 installer crashes on my laptop, Mandriva 10.1 does the same thing.

It's a little work, but I'd rather ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12175949)

have a list of laptops with sublist of supported, partially supported(with detail), and unsupported hardware on each. Rather than mess with binary drivers which are their own can-O-wormz I'll just buy the machine which doesn't use any PITA, becuz the detailed specs ain't published, hardware.

Hell, if you're gonna get the most out of your laptop/notebook, you're gonna want to eamine the hardware carefully BEFORE making a purchase.

Right now running:
FC3 with kernel compiled for Fujitsu P2120.
uname -srvmpio
Linux #1 Fri Apr 8 02:18:40 EDT 2005 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux

Re:It's a little work, but I'd rather ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176061)

follow up to own post

Before you run out and buy, be advised that the P2120 has a Lucent AMR modem. No biggie. Bought a PCMCIA modem/ethernet card which gives bonus of a 2nd ethernet port for various errrr activities.

Slackware, wrong distro to choose (0)

gilesjuk (604902) | about 9 years ago | (#12175968)

While it's one of the faster more traditional distros you really need to look to Suse, Mandrake etc to look at the state of Linux on laptops. Since these distros are able to auto detect the hardware in most laptops.

If these distros can't install a well configured Linux system onto a laptop then you can forget widespread Linux on laptop usage.

While you can manually configure and compile all manner of software to gradually bring your Linux laptop to full functionality with Slackware this approach is vastly outdated and for the hardcore Linux geek.

Winmodems (1)

mec_cool (757885) | about 9 years ago | (#12175972)

any recommmendation for a distro that will make any modem work ? that's what's keeping from installing linux on my laptop (and desktop by the way);

Windows and Linux is all hard to my grandmother (2, Insightful)

Christianfreak (100697) | about 9 years ago | (#12175975)

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!

Old distro versions? (3, Insightful)

pshuke (845050) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

I just installed Xandros on a laptop (2, Interesting)

NtroP (649992) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Ubuntu on my laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12176055)

I have been using Ubuntu Linux [ubuntulinux.org] (Hoary Hedgehog) on my laptop for the past month without any problems. I have a Dell Inspiron 510m [dell.com] . All hardware detected and working... which was better than Windows XP, as I had to hunt for drivers... :-)

If you hadn't noticed already, Ubuntu 5.04 [slashdot.org] has just been released, and should you lot stop /.ing it, I will be able to apt-get dist-upgrade and be a happy user. :-)

More accurate title (4, Insightful)

jbellis (142590) | about 9 years ago | (#12176057)

"The state of Linux on my Toshiba, 2005"

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

What really matters? (1)

Qwavel (733416) | about 9 years ago | (#12176078)

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 determine the degree of lock-in. If there is no user interface, and no other software is built on top of it, then there is very little lock-in and the software can easily be replaced in the future.

For this reason, closed source drivers should be accepted.

does not say anything about power management (3, Funny)

BigGerman (541312) | about 9 years ago | (#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.
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