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Leading Edge? Bleeding Edge? Be careful!

As those who are familiar with me know, I enjoy buying some of the latest gear available, and seeing how it is handled by a variety of Linux distributions. Sometimes, though, it is possible to get a bit too far ahead of the general development/release cycle.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

As those who are familiar with me know, I enjoy buying some of the latest gear available, and seeing how it is handled by a variety of Linux distributions. Sometimes, though, it is possible to get a bit too far ahead of the general development/release cycle. The HP Pavillion dm1-1020ez that I purchased in January is a case in point.

To be honest, I bought it because I wanted to try out the SU2300 Dual Core Celeron processor. At the time I thought that I might run into problems with the GMA4500MHD graphic controller, but I didn't really think about some of the other pitfalls. Now I know better...

I was initially pleased to see that the CPU and graphic system were recognized and properly supported by all of the Linux distributions that I typically use. They all saw two CPUs, speed stepping worked, the standard Intel graphic driver worked, and it got the screen resolution right (1366x768). Good stuff.

But the pleasant surprise didn't last long. The first problem I ran into was that openSuSE 11.2 didn't recognize the Broadcom 4315 wireless network controller. I tried forcing it to use the bcm43 driver, to no avail. So that one went onto the back burner. I looked around a bit more, and found that several other "current/stable" distributions also didn't get the wireless networking right. The newer versions that are in Alpha/Beta release now, generally based on kernel 2.6.32, mostly got it right.

Then I realized that Bluetooth also wasn't working on openSuSE. I really like my Bluetooth devices, so that is a more serious problem for me. Once again, check the others... and not a single one of them got it right. Some seemed to "think" they did, because the Bluetooth icon was active, but they would never see any devices trying to pair. Others either didn't activate the icon, or didn't even display it. Bummer. I finally got some good news on this with the recent Ubuntu Alpha 3 release - Bluetooth works fine on that, and I am back to using my mouse and printer via Bluetooth.

Finally, I also noticed along the way that the touchpad wasn't being properly recognized. It works, of course, at least in basic ways. But there is no way to disable "tap to click", and most of the other touchpad-specific controls are missing. I still haven't figured out what to do about that.

So, if you are prone to buying the very latest hardware, be aware that you might have to struggle a bit to get it all working under Linux. Either that, or wait a little while, as it looks like pretty much all of the next wave of Linux releases will work much better with this system. Of those, the distribution which works the best on it right now, and is likely to get "out of the gate" first as well, is SimplyMEPIS 8.5 RC2. Not far behind that is Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) Alpha 3.

jw 12/3/2010

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