Fedora 8 and Laptops

One of the features that has been on the feature list for Fedora 8 has been the pretty vague bullet point of “Improved Laptop Support”. And a lot of good stuff has gone on under the covers, but to someone tracking the development tree on a daily basis, not much of it is really that obvious. To help ensure that we have improved and also to look for any of the little obvious gaps which needed jumping, I've spent a lot of the past few days doing nothing but testing out a current rawhide live image on a wide variety of laptops. And the nice thing is that there are a lot of things that are going to be rocking for Fedora 8.

One of the big areas that people should immediately notice a difference in Fedora 8 is wireless drivers. Fedora 7 made some first steps here with the inclusion of firmware for the ipw2x00 and iwl3945 chips, but the iwl3945 driver was a bit flakey at release time. Fedora 8 adds to those also with support for the new iwl4965 wireless as well as including drivers and firmware for a variety of pci and usb cards. The big wireless drivers still outstanding are for Broadcom and Atheros. Broadcom actually has a working driver and once you download the firmware and extract it with b43-fwcutter, it works great — this isn't ideal, though, so hopefully we can work with Broadcom to get a redistributable firmware image for the future. Atheros chipsets, unfortunately, aren't in as good of shape… but with work getting underway on the ath5k driver, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to support these chips with a legal and open driver for future releases. And as an added plus, most of these drivers have now been merged for 2.6.24 so that we don't have to carry the patches for the future.

Another area that should have some nice improvements is handling for various multimedia keys. Some efforts by hughsie, hadess, and others, there's now a standard way of both getting key events mapped from the scancode to the keymap via hal quirks and we also set up the default shortcuts in GNOME to use the normal media keys in X. The final piece was setting up our default keyboard layout to include the media keys. I've been fixing up laptops to have the right scancode mappings in hal, and those should be included in hal-info that we include in Fedora 8. Also, I've sent the relevant kernel patch upstream so that Thinkpad volume buttons send keypress events (imagine that!) so that Luis's bug can be fixed.. although the patch is meeting some bizarre and not entirely fathomable resistance upstream (you want to create a whole new way to send events that are keypresses? *boggle*)

A final area that should have some improvement is suspend or more importantly, resume. The database of quirks continues to grow based on the infrastructure that was present in Fedora 7. I was happily surprised with how well this is working across a variety of machines. The biggest area of shortcomings right now is that laptops with nVidia graphics don't seem to want to resume correctly (with the nv driver). This has worked in the past, though, so I'm hopeful that we can get something to at least work in some of the cases.

But overall, looking pretty good. I've been keeping track of what I've tested on the wiki and will continue to update and expand it leading up to Fedora 8.

3 thoughts on “Fedora 8 and Laptops”

  1. How about display switching–or is there some obvious user-friendly method of doing this already? I’ve been doing it more or less manually with aticonfig…

  2. Like for external displays? There’s (sadly) not useful UI for this in Fedora 8, although Intel and ATI chips at least should work with xrandr. So you should be able to do
    xrandr –output –auto
    and have something reasonable happen.

    Definitely something that needs to be nicer for Fedora 9, though.

  3. Yeah, that’s what I meant. That’s unfortunate, but something to look forward to in Fedora 9.

    If I had that and reasonable behavior with my external hard drive, I’d be completely happy. Well, if I ever get my laptop back and working again…

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