The Dell Latitude reality check

Patrick Goetz pgoetz at
Wed Feb 16 21:49:40 UTC 2011

At work we have an automated install system and use a highly customized 
version of 10.10.  For friends and family, I use the standard i386/amd64 
Ubuntu Desktop ISO to install Ubuntu on their machines.

Recently, I decided to re-install an old Dell Latitude D630 with 
Maverick so that my 16-month-old electronics fanatic would have 
something to bang around on and watch Sesame Street videos.  I took the 
opportunity to play the "what if I were a naive end user installing 
Ubuntu for the first time?" game.  It's a laptop, so obviously I'm going 
to be using a wireless network connection ... I decided to try doing the 
install over wireless -- what else?  (Mentally try and count the number 
of end users you know who don't even understand the concept of a wired 
connection.)  Then queue up the Rolling Stones, because you still can't 
get any satisfaction, as far as I can tell, trying to install Ubuntu 
10.10 on a 6-year old laptop with a Broadcom wireless chip.

I understand the whole issue with proprietary drivers, but surely -- 19 
years into the linux game -- there must be a solution to this problem 
for providing end users a painless install experience on extremely 
generic hardware?

At the very least, the installer should scan the hardware and notify the 
user that they have install-critical hardware which requires proprietary 
drivers along with instructions on how to get the necessary drivers.

A better solution would be to include the most common proprietary 
drivers in some kind of encrypted sandbox on the install CD and let the 
user choose whether or not he/she would like to use the proprietary 
drivers at the time of the install.  I'll let the GPL legal experts 
figure out precisely how this could be done, but it seems to me it 
should be possible.

Patrick Goetz

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