Linux-izing Notebooks Is Getting Easier, Really!
Notebook PCs and Linux are learning to get along better than ever before.
Linux has come a long way since its initial inception as an academic development project undertaken by Linus Torvalds during his college years. It's no longer the sole province of the enthusiast crowd or just a hobby horse for academia. In fact, this progressive platform has become the poster child for the Open Source movement. Its ever-strengthening appeal in academic, governmental and enterprise markets continues to move Linux development down truly inspired paths. Although Linux was originally designed for Intel 80386 processors, it has now expanded its horizons to include all kinds of processor technologies, including chips found in everything from embedded controllers in cellular phones and PDAs to exotic enterprise-grade, multi-processor servers.
However, Linux on notebook PCs has lagged behind in terms of comprehensive, universal and widespread support. That said, this too is changing rapidly. Although commercial offerings of Linux notebooks from major vendors are scarce and often fleeting, they are available in small pockets that are typically exclusive to specific foreign markets. Also, several smaller companies specialize in issuing or re-issuing notebooks with Linux installed on name-brand products. However, nowadays an average Joe can bumble his way through the installation process with relative ease and resounding success - at least when compared to the Herculean efforts required to Linux-ize notebooks in the past.
For those accustomed to Linux on the desktop, there's an unmistakable gap in hardware support when it comes to replicating Linux desktop successes on mobile platforms. Contributing to this problem are the many configurations, implementations, and combinations of specialized notebook hardware, about which vendors may or may not be willing to provide details openly so that Linux driver developers can provide the software necessary to support them. In addition, top-tier notebook manufacturers tend to push aggressive monthly revision cycles for marketing purposes and to keep pace with the ever-increasing availability of notebook features and functions. Unfortunately, this often forces Linux support to lag considerably behind what's available for the "other OS" and give those interested in combining Linux and notebook PCs no other choice but to trail behind leading edge notebook technology.
Even so, Linux has a lot to offer to notebook users. This article gives a brief and narrow perspective on the current state of affairs for Linux on notebook PCs - but is by no means a complete assessment of everything available in mobile Linux implementations. In fact, it's fair to view this how-to as having been constructed to address this question: "What sort of notebook capability can you expect from a modern Linux distribution?" We tried one surefire way to find that out: We installed Linux on a notebook PC using two well-established and popular community-based distributions: openSUSE (10.1) and Fedora Core (5).