I’ve just been bought a Dell Mini 10 by my employer, Red Hat.
I’ve wiped Ubuntu, and installed Fedora 11 on the machine, as it’s what I’m familiar with, and the kernel seems to be a bit more up to date than what it came with. Kudos to Dell for shipping with any Linux, I’m sure most people don’t care that much what “version” of Linx they are using.
Now, the interesting part: most stuff “just works”. The screen is fantastic, the keyboard is pretty good considering it’s so small, and the backlight seems to DTRT. It also weighs about one thousandths of a gram, or something in that order or magnitude.
Now, what doesn’t work: the Broadcom BCM4312 network device. Now, somebody has reversed engineered the Broadcom hardware and has published really good specs about the 43xx hardware, and the 4312 is no exception. The 4312 seems to be a LP PHY, so a little different than what the kernel knows about already. There’s already enough code in the wireless-testing kernel tree thanks to Michael Buesch (but EXPERIMENTAL and BROKEN) to get the chip operational, and recognised by NetworkManager, by alas, 95% of the setup code is needs to be written.
Now, all it would take is for a couple of expert network hackers to take the spec, and implement the engine setup in a few days of hacking. Unfortunately for me, I’m no network hacker, and am crazy busy with PackageKit/DeviceKit/PolicyKit work. That said, if no-one steps up to the mark in the next few weeks, I’ll have a go and submit some patches.
There’s also the firmware issue. Using b43-fwcutter I can get working firmware, but this doesn’t feel very “Fedora” as you have to use the Windows non-free driver and cut the binary data from it. I’ve tried to push through the open firmware package into Fedora, but this only supports a few of the older Broadcom cards. It wouldn’t take much to add support for the newer cards, although that’s probably a task for someone very familiar with the hardware, like for instance, Broadcom.
Now, Broadcom, I’m sure the open source community would really appreciate an engineer-day per week (I guess circa $12,000pa plus some good PR) for the open drivers and firmware. If that were to happen, and Linux support for Broadcom networking goes from 10% done to 90% done, I’m sure a whole lot more vendors would ship with your hardware inside. Whether or not that would translate to greater than $12k’s extra profit is left as an exercise for the reader.
For me, so the notebook is at least useful, I’ve replaced the Broadcom card with an Intel 5100AGN mini PCIe half height card with free drivers and distributable firmware. It cost £10, brand new.
I’ll still be testing the Broadcom free b43 driver, and hopefully be hacking on b43 in a few weeks if nobody beats me to it and my TODO list reduces in size.
edit: I’ve been informed the specs are not by Broadcom, they are reversed engineered. Wow.