Hunting for a new laptop (part 2)

Earlier, I had reported on my quest for a new laptop. To recap, I had narrowed down my choice to an LG model whose 12.1" 1280x800 WXGA display and ATI Mobility Radeon X1250 graphic chip failed to be recognized by the Ubuntu CD. Back then, my initial tests were performed using a Feisty CD. Since then, I have returned with a Gutsy CD and got equally disappointing results: E: screen found, but none offers a usable configuration.

Some people suggested buying a laptop with an all-Intel chipset. While Intel chipsets are indeed the best-supported in the business, largely because Intel invests its own resources into coding Linux drivers for all of its products, products based on Intel chipsets tend to be double the price of those based on VIA motherboards with ATI graphic chips. Seeing how quickly hardware devaluates on the market, it feels rather unjustified to pay such a fortune for an Intel-based product, only to see its market value cut in half less than a year later.

Here's a tip for AMD/ATI marketroids: invest as much resources into coding GPL kernel and X.org drivers for all of your products as you did for the OLPC project and always do so a good 12 months before entry to market. Otherwise, prepare for bankruptcy, because companies like Intel who don't shun the Linux market will eat you alive.

Me goes back laptop hunting...


Unknown said...

The AMD open source efforts are not that bad.

The Xpress 1250 chipset is supported by the X.org radeon and radeonhd driver already. Try checking out latest xf86-video-radeon from git.freedesktop.org or use Fedora, which already includes these drivers.

If neither is an option, you can still install the proprietary fglrx drivers on Ubuntu.

Martin-Éric said...

Definitely not by radeon; it wasn't recognized.

Maybe by radeonhd, but Gutsy has an old 0.1 release that wasn't even on the CD, because 1.0 is a rather recent thing.

Installing the proprietary drivers won't work, because you first need to get to the desktop to be able to install anything.

In a nutshell, if I cannot get to the desktop even using the VESA driver fallback, then the conclusion is that Radeon chipsets simply aren't supported.

Unknown said...

"you first need to get to the desktop to be able to install anything."

Er... what? Maybe the average Ubuntu user doesn't know how to handle apt-get, but I'm sure *you* know.

"the conclusion is that Radeon chipsets simply aren't supported."

That seems like a premature conclusion. Even if your particular model requires some tweaking, there are many radeons that work well with either the opensource or the proprietary driver.

Unknown said...

Oh, it occurred to me you were probably using a live cd. If so, installing using the "Alternate" text-mode cd and then installing the fglrx drivers before booting into X will probably work.

Martin-Éric said...

Exactly where am I apt-get anything from, with a store demo laptop not connected to the network? If it's not on the live CD, I cannot use it.

Unknown said...

Sure, it won't work because the Xpress 1250 (RS690) support was added to the radeon driver after Ubuntu 7.10 was released. And the radeonhd driver is in universe. So you need an internet connection. The work on AMD's part is done (concerning basic driver support), now it's time for the Linux distributors to integrate it into their distributions. Fedora did it already.

Aigars Mahinovs said...

Have you looked at the Asus EEE PC? If you want small form factor Linux computer that one might be just enough for your needs. The only problem is connecting a projector to it.

Martin-Éric said...

Nobody seems to be selling Asus products around here to begin with. Anyhow, I checked the specs and it's too diminutive.

Meanwhile, it looks like I'll go for a DELL D430, instead of bending backwards to get LG to play nice with Gutsy. :)

Unknown said...

I heard an Ordi technician talking about some Asus Eee PC stuff, so I presume they might sell it in Estonia.
As for graphics drivers, it's definitely not AMD to blame here anymore. They have supported the making of fully working open source modeline driver, with 2D acceleration work going on afaik, and 3D to come. It is the distributions problem to integrate them, and a 6 months schedule with strict backporting policies doesn't really help there when the software world is going quickly and the schedule aligns with only GNOME releases. In fact AMD does more than Intel. Intel develops drivers, but AMD in addition also releases specifications without any strings attached - Intel has not done that.

Good luck with the laptop hunting, maybe I can give some advice also. You know where to find me ;)

-- Mart Raudsepp