When I first started using Ubuntu the difficulty with using it on a laptop was centered around wireless issues. Today wireless issues are much less common, but Linux laptop compatibility is still plagued with problems due to ‘optimus’ graphics and poor bios decisions from many vendors. As an IT professional I know enough to avoid certain hardware, but for people without my IT background trying to find a laptop that works well might seem an impossible task.
A consumer willing to purchase a laptop on-line might order a laptop with Ubuntu pre-installed from a vendor like System76 or Dell. For many of people they would prefer to order from HP, Lenovo, or a local store like Best Buy.
System76 offers excellent laptops for a broad range of users including power-hungry gamers (with Steam being on Ubuntu graphics power is likely to be much more sought after). Dell offers a fantastic ultra-book with Ubuntu pre-installed that is aimed at Developers.
These options still amount to a very small selection of laptops and many people would like to get specific features in their hardware that are not offered on models with Ubuntu pre-installed. In the past when people got a laptop and then installed Ubuntu themselves it has resulted in experiences like the following:
After 3 days of solid searching, installs, compiles, theories, interfaces config, supplicant creation, and “this is what worked for me”- I’m once again at the end of my rope.
I’ve been having a real hard time staying with linux because of my laptop. it doesn’t have the worst combination of hardware, but the ATI card is really close to the worst thing.
Having a hell of a time installing ndiswrapper and wpa-supplement to get my wireless working. Again. ndiswrapper did come with Ubuntu, but wpa-supplement didn’t. I had it on a flash drive though, so I attempted to go compile it. Except it took about 50 tries before I realized Ubuntu must not have installed any dev tools. Got Make installed and tried to compile this stuff, now I can’t figure out why it keeps choking on some stupid error. I’m sure I’m doing something stupid that a Linux pro would a laugh at, but I’m so frustrated at this point I may give up.
All of the above issues could be avoided by knowing what hardware will work before a purchase is made. Around May of 2011 Ara Pulido and a small team from Canonical started Ubuntu Friendly to address this concern. Ubuntu friendly differs from the ‘Certified Program’ in that it is driven by community submissions. Ubuntu Friendly is a brilliant idea and will help as more and more people want to use Ubuntu.
There is a need to transfer this project from the Canonical employees to a community team. Nicholas Skaggs and I had a discussion on IRC last night and we both hope to get this process rolling in the next few weeks. There is a need to ensure the information on the wiki page is accurate and up-to-date as well as get familiar with the current process. I am sure that the needs will include web development, database work, testing application work and documentation. As the details are worked out I will blog more about the specific team needs, but if you are interested in helping out please contact me or join the discussion on #ubuntu-quality of irc.freenode.net. This is a fantastic opportunity to contribute to the growth and success of the Ubuntu Community.