Friday, July 04, 2008

Linpus Linux == Fedora, but poorly done

http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/columns/acers_linpus_linux_lite_ultra_portable_laptop

The hardware is based on the Intel Atom Processor which will be used in the Asus EeePC 1000. If you navigate to /etc/system-release you will discover that Linpus is based on a fork of Fedora 8 (Werewolf). That’s better. Much better. Fedora has managed to avoid shabby deals with Microsoft and playing fast and loose with Kernel source code and the GPL. At last, a version of GNU/Linux on an ultra portable you can use with a clear conscience. Being a stripped-down version of Fedora it lacks both make and gcc (and probably ncurses too, though the binaries may be included in the distro but just excluded from the default installation). That will not bother novices or newbies much but it will hack off advanced users—no pun intended. On the plus side though, Linpus comes bundled with MP3, WMV and Flash support and plugins. Package management is courtesy of Synaptic but as Linpus is really Fedora, packages are RPM and presumably Yum could be used on the command line.


Despite all the caveats, Acer has joined Asus, Dell and others in something which may have a profound effect on the future of free software; and, above all, at last a pre-installed version of GNU/Linux that will sit well with a free software conscience. No source code ambiguities or GPL violations or any funny business playing fast and loose with the principles of free software. Just a hacked version of Fedora.


I have known Acer been shipping Linpus Linux for quite some time (Acer been shipping machines with Linpus in Malaysia since 2006 IIRC), but I didn't know Linpus is based on Fedora. I've tried using Linpus before, but its quality is nowhere near its parent. Also, while the Acer machine (the one I tried) ships with Linux, getting the machine to actually runs Linux is a pain. Nvidia gfx card, Nvidia chipset and Atheros/Broadcom Wireless, proves fatal when want to keep up with latest and greatest of the FOSS world.

Acer should test their machine hardwares with Linux without proprietary drivers before actually shipping it with Linux. Shipping Linux with the machine while the machine itself is resisting the OS is not a good approach. They should be tested to work well together - this is one place Acer (and other Linux laptop/desktop vendors) should learn from Apple Mac.

I am not sure how stuff goes nowadays after the Acer announcement that they will supporting Linux officially (as the bad experience I had was quite some time ago), I hope the bad experience I had with Linpus have changed.

P/S: /me patiently waits for a company that can be Apple of the Linux world. The ThinkPad series are near, but still missing at some points.
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