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Red Hat Linux certified for ThinkPad – but only sort of

All of the things that didn't exactly work before certification still don't exactly work

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From the look of things an IBM plan to offer Linux on ThinkPads has escaped early, spattering both IBM and Red Hat with a certain quantity of ordure. On Monday Red Hat completed Red Hat Linux certification testing on the ThinkPad 600e, and posted the machine as certified on its site, but unfortunately, under Linux some of the 600e hardware doesn't work, and more remains 'some assembly required.' And, er, that's what IBM's support site says in the most recent guide (also posted on Monday) to installing and running Red Hat 6.0 on the 600e. According to IBM only basic audio support is available out of the box. You can run power management if you recompile the kernel, but you'll find some devices won't work properly after a suspend/resume. IBM hasn't tested infrared compatibility, but says it has heard from some users who say it works OK. The internal ACP modem won't work, and "IBM has not announced plans for supporting the ACP modem under Linux." That's one's actually a corker. IBM's DSP modem is proprietary, and although drivers could no doubt be knocked up in a twinkling if IBM released details to the Linux community, it hasn't. Maybe it doesn't want to, friends. And PC Card services don't work out of the box either - you need a kernel upgrade, together with upgrades to PC Card and socket services. Now, the bizarre thing about all this is that this is pretty much the status quo ante. Pre-Red Hat certification you could get Linux to run on a ThinkPad, but it took some engineering and wasn't a job most ordinary consumers would be advised to undertake. Experienced users who wanted to run Linux on a ThinkPad would likely go somewhere like Linux on Laptops for advice and, wouldn't you know it, that's the first Linux resource IBM ThinkPad support directs you to. So questions are already being asked about how come Red Hat certified the 600e, and about what exactly (or under the circumstances, what approximately) Red Hat certification certifies. But we think that's maybe a little harsh. In Linux terms hardware being able to run Linux isn't equivalent to your being able to go into a store and buy a shrink-wrapped package that will install painlessly while you go have a coffee (or in the case of Microsoft software, while you type in increasingly long and convoluted security keys). So if you think of Red Hat certification as meaning you can run Red Hat on the machine, and you can, with effort, get most of the hardware supported, then the certification of the 600e is justifiable. We can also presume that quite a lot of the fault will lie with IBM's still-Byzantine systems. Big Blue undoubtedly intends to offer Linux on ThinkPads (in addition to Red Hat, we hear SuSE is climbing aboard in Germany shortly), and when it does it'll have support for its hardware (Register believe it or not: IBM still assiduously supports OS/2 on ThinkPads). So maybe we've just got a little bit ahead of ourselves. Supporting that DSP will be a tricky one though, if IBM wants to keep its IP to itself - the PC division might not mind, but of course it isn't that division that owns that particular IP, is it? Could be tricky... ®

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