Greg Kroah-Hartman gave the closing keynote at this year’s Linux Symposium. The text of this speech is online (Myths, Lies, and Truths about the Linux kernel); I found it very interesting how Greg K-H demolished several myths about the kernel, in particular device support and the idea that binary blobs of drivers are legal. (They aren’t. I just now figured out Linus’ argument about them; it’s very clever.)
Open source and unencumbered drivers for 3D acceleration on Linux are lagging behind their proprietary counterparts. When 2D hardware goes away and everything requires 3D hardware, what options are there for people who use free software? Old hardware… unless something changes. Yes, I’m being deliberately provocative. No, I’m not really kidding.
It’s okay if you’re the pragmatic type, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations of mixing low-level proprietary software required for the proper operation of your computer with free operating systems. You don’t have to agree with me. That’s fine.
On 30 May 2006 TurboLinux announced the release of version 11, also called Fuji. While TurboLinux remains very popular in Asia, particularly Japan, this announcement generated little attention or enthusiasm in the United States or Europe. The fact that TurboLinux Fuji 11 Desktop is doing something revolutionary almost went unnoticed.
What has TurboLinux done? They’ve partnered with Cyberlink to offer a fully legal, licensed, DMCA compliant DVD player for Linux. OK, I can hear the open source
zealots advocates groaning and gnashing their teeth from here. Yes, we’re talking closed source and proprietary. This is still revolutionary and still very important.
First, like it or not, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the law of the land in the United States. There are a handful of other countries with similar laws. You can consider it unjust and stupid all you like but so far it has been thoroughly resistant to court challenges. You can break the law all you like and call it “civil disobedience” but you still leave yourself open to legal action if caught. I sure as heck am not going to walk into a client’s office proudly displaying illegal software on my desktop. Thanks, but no thanks.
The lack of legal multimedia software comparable to what is available for Windows users has been a major stumbling block to getting preloaded Linux systems on store shelves and taken seriously by consumers. Say all you will about the virtues of Open Source but the average Joe or Jane user isn’t interested and really doesn’t want to take the time to be educated. They want their computer to just work. Save them money, speed up their systems, make them more reliable, make them more secure… it’s all great but if the system doesn’t do what they want they won’t buy it. The average Joe or Jane user also can’t load their own OS: not Linux, not Windows, not anything.
Back in May I wrote an article titled Atticware: Reviving Ancient Little Laptops, which talked about using a current, very small, very lightweight Linux distribution to make a couple of old Mitsubishi Amity CN subnotebook computers useful again. The Amity CN is a 133MHz Pentium system with all of 48MB of RAM and a puny 1.2GB hard drive.
While the article received no comments I have been receiving e-mails now and again from people who actually did read it and who wanted to know exactly how I managed it. I went ahead and wrote it all out as step-by-step instructions. The good news is that very little of what I’ve written is Amity-specific. I think it should mostly all work on any laptop that can’t boot from CD-ROM or USB which has at least a Pentium processor of some sort or another and at least 32MB of RAM.The net result is that I’ve created a brand new webpage detailing how to install Damn Small Linux onto the Amity CN. This may lead to an entire website dedicated to making current Linux distributions work well on older hardware.
I’d love to hear from people who actually try and use my instructions. Did they work for you? Could they be better? If you succeeded, what system were you using? I’d be happy to post revised versions for different hardware giving appropriate credit where credit is due.
I’d be particularly interested if someone gets good results with the older models in the Toshiba Libretto series. The Libretto is so small that even old models still have a geek cool factor when running Linux. I expect what I’ve written will work fine on the Libretto 50CT, 60CT, 70CT, and 100CT. Newer versions can probably run a more capable distribution. I’m afraid the Libretto 20CTA and 30CT are just too old to be really useful any longer. Anyone care to test my theories about the Libretti?
I’d like to say “good-bye and thanks for the fun,”, but it wasn’t fun.