November 13, 2009, 7:27 pm
A few weeks ago, I picked up what I thought was a sweet deal through Woot: An Acer Aspire One AO751h netbook with an 11.6‚Ä≥ screen. I say thought because I assumed like most netbooks with an Atom chipset it would have handy-dandy Intel video that would ‚Äújust work‚Äù (TM) with openSUSE. Sadly, not the case ‚Äî it‚Äôs an infamous victim of the ‚ÄúIntel‚Äù GMA500 chipset, which apparently isn‚Äôt actually an Intel chip at all.
So, after much, much Googling I found this site with some packages for GMA500. Added it to my repos and installed the xorg-x11-drv-psb package and dependencies, and logged out, and all is more or less well. Compiz doesn‚Äôt seem to like it, but the resolution is correct. Installing from an untrusted repo is probably not the best idea in the world, but I wanted to see if there was something out there that would actually work with this dog of a chipset.
I expect to need closed drivers for Nvidia cards if I want the whole 3D-shebang. But this one caught me by surprise. And Nvidia goes out of its way to provide packages for major distros. (As I understand it, the 11.2 Nvidia repos went online pretty much in conjunction with the openSUSE 11.2 launch yesterday.)
Intel has built a reputation of open drivers that ‚Äújust work‚Äù with Linux, so this was a disappointment. Now I know I need to go back to doing more homework before buying my next netbook. And that‚Äôs the sort of thing that holds Linux back on the desktop: knowing that if you choose to run Linux, you have to take special care when buying hardware to worry about compatibility. Something that Windows users, more or less, take for granted. (Yes, there are exceptions, especially for legacy devices on newer versions of Windows‚Ä¶) No, it‚Äôs not going to stop me from running Linux ‚Äî but it will give pause to a lot of people who just don‚Äôt have the time, tech skills, and devotion to worry about hardware compatibility and/or massive fidgeting to get their hardware working.
This is why I‚Äôm really passionate about making Linux successful on the desktop: So that at some point, manufacturers look at the numbers of Linux users and don‚Äôt feel like they can say ‚Äúthat‚Äôs just a part of being a Linux user, too bad‚Äù ‚Äî and instead worry about the backlash of alienating a substantial part of their customer base.