How difficult is it getting a Hardware Test Kit going ?

Firstly, the above thing does not really exist. At least, not to my knowledge. There are variants of the concept which are built around “certification” or “compatibility” testing – more in terms of providing a metrics driven output of interaction of the Operating System with the hardware. But that is not what I meant. One of the reasons for this post could be a small mail-thread. Another could be that given the fact that “non enterprise” Linux operating systems by the very virtue of their fast release cycles don’t have the luxury of having Hardware Certification sites, it would not be too insane to provide the tools (or a testing kit) to the users to figure out where they stand. A last reason could be this too.

In very simple terms the idea is to provide the user with a tool (and perhaps a few plugins/addons) that would allow the user to download the following details :

  1. the details about the hardware they propose to test the OS against (eg a notebook/desktop one is going to buy)
  2. the details about the extent of hardware support provided by the OS of choice

So, if for an use case I want to buy a Dell Latitude 630 and want to run Fedora 7 on it, using the tool I can take a shade-better-than-guesstimate as to how the hardware and the OS intersect. Having said that, what are some of the blockers in this ?

  • getting the hardware information to be released in a format by the vendor that can be used by the tool across any Linux OS
  • getting the Linux OS to create an “extent of hardware support” for that particular version

The second  item might not be all too difficult  given that an OS release does factor in to a large extent the  hardware that  it will end up  being installed on. Being based on a sizeable section of upstream code also allows that information to be captured. The trick is to collate the information and make it available in a form that allows a comparison however rudimentary. Which of course brings us to the first item – that of getting hardware vendors to  release the information in a form that can be useful. All models have technical specifications, it might a bit of extra effort to ensure that they are properly structured to allow comparison. The extra effort tradeoff would surely be an increased uptake in the desktop/notebook space by folks who are keen to have Linux on their old and new desktops/notebooks.

A typical UseCase would be something like – I want to buy a Wipro WIVNB7711 notebook and plan to run Fedora 7 on it. I have the tool downloaded on my existing/current box, added the database for Fedora 7 and then downloaded from Wipro’s specification site the specifications for the model. I run the specifications against the OS database and visually see what would be the result even before I buy-install-do_the_round_of_LUGs. Extend the same to printers, scanners and other peripherals and would get to see the impact of working on such a tool.