I am shopping for a laptop computer and i would like to buy one that is truly free – one that is able to run GNU/Linux without any restricted drivers, binary blobs and proprietary firmware.
I’ve been looking for such a laptop for almost a week now, and unfortunately couldn’t find it. I’ve tried asking about it on Ubuntu and gNewSense forums and local (Israeli) forums of GNU/Linux and Free Software experts, but the best reply i could get was that finding a perfectly Free laptop is just too hard and that at this time i should just give up! That is what Mark Shuttleworth himself said, even though he claims that he is also concerned about the issue of “radical” hardware freedom (see discussion at the bottom of Bug #1).
Why is it so hard?
For example: The hardware database at the FSF website has a list of network cards that support Free Software; This is informative, but in practice i couldn’t find anywhere on the Internet a way to search for laptops that have these cards. A lot of laptop vendors don’t even bother to list the manufacturer and model of the network card in the details of their laptops’ components, because in Windows they all just work and Ubuntu makes it relatively easy to install restricted drivers.
The above is also correct for video cards, DVD burners, etc.
So, apparently, most people – even Linux users! – don’t care about free firmware. I do care, and i tried my best to do something about it, but my wife urgently needs a laptop to write her thesis, so unfortunately it seems that i’ll have to buy a (partially) restricted system after all.
I thought that you would like to know that there are people that care about this issue, but find it hard to do something about it in practice.
If you do know about a laptop that is fully usable with purely free drivers, please tell me.
N.B.: I have great respect towards Mark Shuttleworth and i believe that he is doing his best to help and fix this issue. I regret using the word “claim”, but i already sent the letter to RMS and wanted to post it here without changes.