Linux Only Hardware is not what we need

11 Jan

As a was going through my feedreader last night I came across an article submitted to digg called “Linux Only Hardware.” The only description was “Article about why we need Linux only hardware.” So the first thing I thought was that this guy needs to be told that making hardware that will only work with Linux is completely in contradiction with the free software movement, but then I read the article. I just assumed that he was talking about making hardware that used some kind of device (maybe in the bios) to make it impossible to use the hardware with Windows (kind of like reverse trusted computing), but I was very wrong.

Here is a dissection of the article:

What is not talked about is how in fact Linux is basically a Operating System that runs on Microsoft hardware.

KeyBoard and mice are the only hardware that I know of that Microsoft makes. He doesn’t literally mean hardware made by Microsoft though.

If you have been in the business long enough you should know what I mean. The Intel x86 architecture has been tuned over the years to run Microsoft Windows. It’s a total monopoly. Oh yeah, you could say it’s an open architecture if you live with your head up your ass.

This shows a complete lack of understand of how computers work. If a processor is changed in a way that is going to make a significant different to programming it will likely change architecture as well. Compilers are changed to better fit processors but that is a different story all together. I have one question for this fellow; why would Intel repeatedly make chips beyond the capabilities of Microsoft operating systems (i.e. 32 bit and 64 bit processors). To finnish up I just want to point out that the x86 architecture first debuted it 1978(source) and DOS debuted in 1981(source).

As a matter of fact even Apple has conceded their proprietary hardware in favor of Intel’s Microsoft hardware. You can even find people who have Microsoft Windows running directly on this “new” Apple hardware.

I’m not sure what his point is here. I guess he is saying that interoperability is bad and that every company should have their own set of proprietary “standards.” Of course, the real reason Apple switched was because Intel could make better chips much faster than IBM. The G5 is an utter piece of crap.

Back to my main point: The biggest problem, maybe the only problem facing Linux is that all computer hardware is basically Microsoft hardware and Linux has to reverse engineer it to make Linux work on it. The Linux community has had the luck last year to get Dell to begin to sell computer with Ubuntu pre-loaded and this has been a good thing for Linux, however the hardware is just Microsoft hardware with Linux installed from the factory. Not a really risky commitment.

Yet more misunderstanding of the way things work. Linux does have a problem with hardware but it is not that it is being designed for Microsoft; it is that the companies that make the hardware don’t make linux drivers and won’t give out the specs needed by kernel developers to make them.

What the world needs is Linux hardware. This is hardware made specifically to run Linux. In my opinion this should not be Intel manufactured. Perhaps AMD should take the lead position in developing CPU chips that are tuned for Linux, or even better would be to get someone like SGI (previously known as Silicon Graphics) to turn their MIP presses again with tweaks for Linux.

No it doesn’t. The world needs Hardware with open standards so that drivers can be made for any operating system. There is more out there than Linux (by Linux he probably means Ubuntu).

Until we see specific Linux hardware on the market Linux will be forced to play on another teams home field.

Yeah, ok.

I’m sure this guy is one of those Ubuntu fanboys that I talked about a while ago… The thing that really made me mad was that his blog has no comment section! I can’t tell him how stupid he is to his face if he won’t let me comment is blog!


Posted by on January 11, 2008 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Linux Only Hardware is not what we need

  1. Zeth

    January 11, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    He just knows nothing about the history of computing or how computers work. Not everyone is like us and buys components and bungs it all together themselves. After all Linux ran on the 386 four years before Windows really became the dominant system with Windows 95.

    However, I think he has a point under there somewhere and has not found his way to it.

    Looking at the OLPC, it is the first laptop computer designed for Linux. It has hardware that requires no binary blobs, as well OpenFirmware rather than BIOS which gets you to the kernel really fast (then takes a little while because the OLPC has a really light processor). It also does not have all the legacy crap to support printers from the 1980s and so on.

    Likewise the OpenMoko is the first Linux-based mobile phone with no binary drivers except for a tiny bit of firmware on the GSM chip.

    Both of these projects had to really look hard and negotiate to get the correct combination of hardware to allow them no blobs.

    However now, most manufacturers, at least the ones in Asia, when planning new hardware, take into account Linux. It is possible to buy a least one of everything where the manufacturer is actively supporting Linux drivers, rather than the kernel hackers reverse engineering after the fact.

  2. Justin

    January 11, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I won’t argue with any of that, but every thing you said supported my point (one of them anyway). The problem is not with the design of the hardware itself (though yes all of the legacy support is pointless, it doesn’t really hinder linux’s or bsd’s ability to run on the hardware) but with blobs.

  3. malemuse

    January 15, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Hello- I found your site quite by accident and I see that you take issue with my article “Linux Only Hardware” on my site Perhaps a little more information from me may help you understand what I was attempting to write about, which in hind site was rather hurried put together.
    You seem like a bright young lad and you raise some accurate points so I was compelled to write this.
    All Microsoft Windows type computers, which I referred to as Intel x86 architecture in my article, used to be known as IBM PC compatible computers. The reference of x86 has only come about in recent years. I am not here to give a history lesson, there are better qualified people for that, but you can read a little more here:
    All Microsoft Windows based computers run on this hardware. This type of hardware originally ran DOS which was also from Microsoft. There was no Linux in those days, but there was UNIX and I believe XENIX. Those were not very popular.
    The IBM PC has a BIOS system integrated into the motherboard that has been tuned over the years to assist Microsoft products run better on the various hardware implementations. It seems that Zeth understands this, but he mentions Linux running on 386 hardware and by that chip generation Microsoft was releasing Windows NT 3.0 which I used personally. Linux was almost non existent nor heard of in those days with the exception of some academics.
    You are very correct that Linux only hardware would be contra to the Free open Source movement, however I still believe we need more hardware, and here is the catch, that is designed with Linux in mind first, not secondary. Yes, these issues could be addresses via drivers, but you must agree that roaming the shelves in any computer retailer you will not see many boxes marked with “Linux Certified” and all will be marked Windows 95/NT/2000/ME/XP/Vista certified.
    Here is where the open source movement must improve itself. I still stand also on the matter that Linux is playing on the other teams field. Maybe there are some Kernel programmers lurking that would like to make contrary statements, but I doubt it.

  4. Justin

    January 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I am quite aware of what an IBM PC is and that Linux was not very popular in its early days. The problem seem to have occurred mostly from you referring These computers as x86. x86 is a processor architecture and a processor architecture alone (of course there are other things that are designed specifically to work with this type of processor such as the bus, but I don’t think they are really that important to this discussion); Yes Intel made x86 and yes Intel is largly responsible for modern computer design but that does not make it ok to call these computers x86.

    I don’t think you are trying to blame the processors them selves as you originally made it sound, but I would like to touch on that a little bit. When x86 came out it kind of sucked. It was only used for cheap low end machines and was relatively underpowered compared to things, like alpha, that were much more popular that the time. This is why UNIX was not popular among people who used IBM PCs; they didn’t have the power to use it. Linux changed all of this because it was small and robust and could easily run on these underpowered machines. Also x86 processors are now used on all of the largest most powerful computers in the world as well as a lot of servers, Intel would be stupid to make a processor that only Microsoft products can take full advantage of.

    I can’t agree with you more on the bios. Bios sucks hard and there have been projects to replace the bios (by flashing) with open code(LinuxBios por ejemplo). Beyond the bios all other hardware needs drivers to work (some also have embedded blobs). The real solution to making hardware support Linux is to get manufacturers to make open drivers for their products (and stop using embedded blobs). Of course you don’t see “Linux supported” on boxes at stores. That is because as far as that company cares Linux doesn’t even exist.

    I still feel that hardware should be made completely open with no particular OS in mind, but with complete customability for all OSes. Perhaps it should be the job of the OS (during installation) to customize the firmware to itself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: