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Feature: Desktop Hardware

Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on May 02, 2008 (7:00:00 PM)

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For years, device and peripheral builders could get away with ignoring the Linux desktop market. It was too small to matter, they would say. Things have changed. At the Linux Foundation meeting in Austin, Texas, last month, major PC vendors ASUS, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo said they would be telling their chipset, component, and peripheral OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that they were going to demand Linux-compatible hardware from them.

It's one thing when Linux users ask for support; it's an entirely different thing when multi-billion-dollar companies demand it. This is an offer that the OEMs can't refuse.

To be precise, the companies announced during the meeting that they would start including wording in their hardware procurement processes to "strongly encourage" the delivery of open source drivers. Off the record, several of the PC makers said that they would be going further still. In their next round of OEM contracts, they intend to insert language that will require OEMs to deliver equipment either with Linux drivers or with open APIs (application programming interfaces) so it will be easy to build Linux drivers.

Some companies, such as VIA Technologies, a board and chip vendor, didn't need the encouragement of the big PC vendors. VIA announced at the meeting that it would be open-sourcing drivers for all its equipment. During the "We're Shipping Linux on PCs -- Now What?" panel, Timothy Chen, special assistant to the president of VIA, said, "VIA hadn't been doing much [in opening up] ... it's been hard for the company to embrace open source, but at the end of the month you'll see us opening up."

VIA has kept its promise. On April 30, VIA opened its VIA Linux Portal Web site to the public. As its first offering, VIA has released binary graphics drivers for the VIA CN896 digital media IGP chipset for the Ubuntu 8.04 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP 1 Linux distributions. According to the company, it will release these drivers' documentation and source code over the coming weeks, followed by official forums and bug tracking. VIA intends to stick to a regular release schedule so that its drivers will stay in sync with major kernel Linux distribution releases.

Sources close to the major Wi-Fi silicon makers indicate that they too will be providing at least binary Linux drivers. Executives at both Atheros Communications and Broadcom Corp. have said privately that they plan on changing their ways about supporting Linux. This change is being driven both by the major PC vendors' support for Linux and the fact that Intel's Wi-Fi chip support for Linux is beginning to nibble away at their Wi-Fi business.

It is also noteworthy that Luis R. Rodriguez, a leading developer on the ath5K reverse-engineered, open source Atheros driver project, announced on April 15 that Atheros has hired him "as a full time employee, as a software engineer, to help them with their goals and mission to get every device of Atheros supported upstream in the Linux kernel."

If these trends continue, we may see a day when Linux desktop users can simply assume that any device they buy will support Linux. That's an offer no Linux desktop fan could refuse.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the operating system of choice for PCs and 2BSD Unix was what the cool kids used on their computers.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.14.170.99] on May 02, 2008 07:44 PM
YESSSSSSSS

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Re: Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 121.0.31.121] on May 04, 2008 11:26 AM
good, i think good computer will fit with good laptop computer battery. i bought acer laptop computer battery from online shop.
[Modified by: Joe Barr on May 04, 2008 07:05 AM]

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Re: Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 143.166.226.42] on May 05, 2008 02:16 PM
Go Linux Go.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 77.91.22.107] on May 02, 2008 07:54 PM
That's very good news.It's a shame they didn't think of this idea earlier.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 204.249.77.1] on May 02, 2008 08:23 PM
Very nice!


-
on another note, very nice also that i can put comments here without the need to register. ;)

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 77.101.36.156] on May 02, 2008 09:01 PM
As someone who worked with the consumer and laptop groups in one of those listed vendors, this is welcome. When we brought up linux systems on the laptops in, what, 98 and 99, they were impressed, but gave little help. Nowadays you do get good support for most of a laptop a few years old, but support for the WLAN and other features can be patchy. One thing I remember from those days in the PC group was what it is like shipping a product -an epic of testing drivers. Most people spent their lives on the phone with the OEMS, saying 'you're late, it doesn't work'. For laptops, getting a BIOS that the OS liked -with an acceptable battery life- was a nightmare that took most of the software team's days and nights up.

If the PC vendors are asking for this it is for one reason: enough customers are asking for it. Why would they be doing that? Well, Vista sucking and XP dying could be one reason.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.131.183.118] on May 02, 2008 09:36 PM
I think this is a sign that corporations are starting to demand hardware from their suppliers with Linux on them and drivers for them. I've predicted that Linux will only move forward when corporations start to realize that making Bill Gates the richest guy in the world is not an effective use of their capital. For now, I suspect this is still mostly an underground movement at many corporations, but clearly the large OEMs have heard it and can see the writing on the wall. And since it takes time to port and test drivers, they're moving early to demand them.

Still, it will be a while before all the small peripheral companies who don't necessarily deal with the large OEMs to move over as well. There will still be a lot of consumer-oriented hardware that won't easily work with Linux for a while yet.

But the key is that once corporations see the benefits of Linux in the data center, they will decide that having open desktops that use the same standard protocols and APIs as the servers - as well as being more reliable, more secure, and easier to manage - is better than being locked in to a proprietary system. And when that happens - and they have OEMs who can supply them with desktops with certified drivers - Linux will begin its move onto the desktop.

This is opposite to the way Microsoft took over. Microsoft took over on the desktop first because it had no competition from expensive UNIX versions back in the day, then pushed into the server space as proprietary UNIX versions started to go out. Linux has to go the opposite direction because Microsoft already owns the desktop space. Linux has to win enough of the server space to make using Linux desktops desirable. And there's little doubt Linux can do that.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 208.47.135.227] on May 02, 2008 10:00 PM
I've always assumed any device I buy will just work in Linux. It has led to a couple times of hair pulling frustration. Most of the time I find a good driver with a little bit of googling and linux know how.(lspci, lsusb) I've been lucky for the most part the biggest mistake was the Creative X-Fi that only recently had drivers for it. What is really awesome is a new distro of linux has more drivers already there versus a Fresh windows install. Windows even vista has some catching up to do.

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w00t!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.171.0.140] on May 03, 2008 01:42 AM
OMG I think I just had an orgasm!!!

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.131.132.96] on May 03, 2008 06:52 AM
This is great news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This is excellent news

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.192.250.149] on May 03, 2008 07:16 AM
Further comment verges on the hyper-critical, but I hope that the message getting through is "open up the programming specs" rather than "release binary drivers". Pure consumers (who like GNU/Linux because it's free as in beer) will be happy with binary drivers (until a kernel upgrade breaks them ...) but those of us who support GNU/Linux because it is free (as in freedom to do what we want with it) want nothing to do with binary-only drivers.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.58.248.67] on May 03, 2008 03:22 PM
This sure makes me happy !!!!!!!1

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.38.226.129] on May 03, 2008 09:27 PM
Great,Hardware starting to move on with Linux (a.k.a. Best OS in the world) compatibility.

What's next?I smell some software makers' thinking about the day they will need to support Linux the way they support *Crappy OS-a.k.a. WinSucks*.

And that day will come.Soon.We shall wait,thy that day will mean victory of libre open source software against the proprietary hell micro$$$oft and other companies created.


I love Linux!I love Ubuntu!I love you guys;-)
I love you for creating a truly free/great/cool/not-limited operating system that allows me to learn programming without being blocked by some big-money company.

;-)Thanks again!

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.97.128.81] on May 04, 2008 03:20 PM
This is the most amazing week news for me. I am very happy for these positive changes in Linux world.

[Modified by: Joe Barr on May 04, 2008 01:22 PM]

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.153.77.34] on May 04, 2008 09:26 PM
They can push, but what will they do if the companies do not make linux compatible hardware? most likely? Nothing.

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Re: Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.105.95.146] on May 05, 2008 10:06 AM
They can change VENDORS

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Re(1): Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.105.95.146] on May 05, 2008 10:24 AM
Will not do any good unless they offer computers without Windows. True Dell has 1 with Linux and HP is looking into linux but the choices are slim and hard to find.
I would like to see major companies implement these ideas
1. Have Linux supported hardware
2. Offer computers with either no OS or Linux installed
3. Have more options to choose from besides 1 computer and 2 upgrades
4. If there is a sale on Widows based computers offer the same discount for computers with other OS's
these ideas would help increase non MS computer sales. Otherwise it is just a joke since Linux supports most hardware anyways.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.83.240.189] on May 06, 2008 06:39 AM
Great news. It's about bloody time. If the major Linux distros are able install appropriate drivers out of the box, 80% of Linux forums' support requests will vanish overnight, along with 80% of the excuses people give for not using Linux.

I'm cynical enough to think that the manufacturers will still find some way to screw this up, but it's a positive sign that things are changing for the better.

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.189.80.54] on May 07, 2008 01:19 PM
Hope that's true!!

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Computer makers push device builders for Linux-compatible hardware

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.66.93.228] on May 09, 2008 11:42 PM
NOT surprised Vista (big elephant) is out, new windows is underway and new MS server demands min 4Gb ram. what u think? hardware can barely keep up with ms software so we have shift from MS to Linux ;)

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