That used to be one of the alleged benefits to using Linux on PCs; that older hardware was supported and because Linux (no matter which distribution, as they all mimicked it) was less clogged with non-essential code, it would run faster on older, less advanced hardware.

It was true for a while, it is no longer now so.

My case in point is the newest kernel {2.6x}, which drops support for the chipset in my aged, but not dead, Toshiba laptop. Though it has a Celeron 1.5 GHz processor, it makes up for brute speed with 2 GB of main memory, 128 MB of which is used for graphics memory. With Windows XP, the last supported OS from Toshiba, the unit works well with all the stuff I have on its 160 GB hard drive, and other than not being the fastest kid on the block, works well for many chores I throw its way.

When I first put Ubuntu 7 on it, the Atheros wi-fi chipset was not supported, so all my work on the web was done through a wired connection, which was not a big problem, as I use the unit more like a portable, and not a laptop. As I saw revisions 8 and 9 come and go, I was still a bit miffed that no usable wireless was available (no, using an NDIS wrapper did not work at all!), but I soldiered on, because I believed in the plan – that Linux was truly demonstrably better, as many eyes on the code was better than a few at Microsoft.

Then Ubuntu 10 came, and all was swell, with the exception that some schmoe in development decided that all the windows would close from the left, instead of the right. Well, it was annoying, but nothing I could not handle. I used that revision (10.04) for quite a while, resisting the temptation to upgrade the kernel, as I had nightmares about the problems it might create – and I was right.

A few weeks ago, I allowed the unit to have the Linux kernel upgraded to the one included with 10.10, and that was all it took. Everything was grunged after the first reboot.

Oh, sure, I could go back to the older kernel, but something was keeping the removal of the newer one from being fully removed, and I could not understand why. I tried to wipe and install 10.10 clean, and that produced the same results, no proper video upon start up. Eventually, I gave up, removed the partition, used GPartEd to grow the secondary NTFS partition, totally obliterating the usable space for Linux, and that is where it stands, for now, on that notebook. Windows XP works without flaws, without question. Just like Ubuntu was supposed to.

I know the reason. I know the cure.

But should something that was advertised for so long to “work on older hardware well” not have the simple code built in to sidestep the problems that all the newer kernels have? Ubuntu is supposed to be “computing for humans” not a do-it-yourself project. If I thought it was going to be one, I would have settled in with SuSE, and done it myself, as I like most everything about either SuSE or Fedora better anyway.

If something is supposed to work better for everyone (right, Canonical?) then why not keep the old code and allow testing for which kernel should be used?

Now, I know that many will be letting me know their opinions as to why this is a good thing, but, as I started to say, something that is advertised as one thing, for a very long time, should stick with that idea, and not give up, simply because the latest and greatest stuff is different. Hardware changes, but how hard are routines to check for certain problems, and allow the user to know about them before hand?

Microsoft’s products do it automatically, and it seems that anything wishing to supplant Microsoft’s products should do as well, if not better.

Again, many will say that is not the goal of Linux. For Linus Torvalds, that may be true, but unless Mark Shuttleworth and everyone at Canonical is lying through their collective teeth, that is certainly the aim of Ubuntu Linux.

That being said, another one of the realities of Linux was not having to change with the weather – allowing people to keep what was there, and not be forced to upgrade. I was not forced, but I was also not warned, and that isn’t fair, is it?


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