The move to Linux, stymied by hardware

by David Lane

With news today of Windows 7 being made available in no less than six different versions, it is getting harder and harder to not move lock, stock, and PGP key to Linux on a full time basis. Except…

For decades, I have listened to my father gripe about the computer industry and their inability to standardize on hardware. This has bitten me on occasion, especially when playing RAM bingo in the late 90s, but currently the hardware issue is affecting my ability to move to Linux. I have a laptop. It is my primary desktop, terminal server, packet platform, entertainment centre and core of my electronic world. It is commodity hardware. It has a wireless card that is not Linux friendly. It is a Marvell Topdog 802.11 a/g/n.

I originally tried to load Fedora Core 8 on this machine and it failed miserably because of the lack of wireless support. Turns out there were a couple of other chips in there that came out of the Marvell plant as well that just made using Linux a non-starter. All the components have to work, not 80% of them, so I loaded Vista and was content do run my Linux in a VM when I needed to use it, sure in the knowledge that someone would crack the code. That was two years ago and I really never got around to looking up a solution.

A little searching this morning shows that there have been advances. There are hacks using the NDIS driver under Ubuntu to make the card work, but I have not seen any articles on a native driver in the Linux distributions for it. There is a driver on the Marvell site for Yukon devices that is listed as running under Linux 2.6-Fedora but I have not had the time to try it, so I cannot affirm that it works. If you have tried it, please let me know your results.

Moving to Linux should not be a difficult task. I should be able to walk into any big box store, slap down my $300 for a laptop or desktop and walk out. I should not be stymied by hardware. But the sad news is that it is getting harder, instead of easier. I should not have to look up the chipset of every component in the box and compare it to a list of approved hardware. I should not have to keep a list of approved Linux hardware vendor websites book marked. A Personal Computer should run whatever operating system I need. We are getting close to that point, but we are not quite there yet.

Maybe this weekend I will get around to moving to Linux on this machine, but, more likely, I will wait for my next PC.

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