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Thunderbolt Still Has Problems For Linux

Hardware

Published on 20 June 2013 05:34 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware
22 Comments

While the popularity and future of the Apple/Intel Thunderbolt interface can be debated, the current state of Thunderbolt on Linux still leaves a fair amount to be desired. While on the state of Linux hardware support, the Google Chromebook Pixel does work with modern Linux distributions, but not all support has been perfected.

Greg Kroah-Hartman has written a new blog post this afternoon entitled Hardware, past, present, and future. In the post he says a few things about the state of Linux hardware support, which is summarized below.

- Greg KH calls Thunderbolt technology as "dead" and compares its adoption to Firewire, but the current state of Thunderbolt on Linux is less than desirable. The state of Thunderbolt on Apple hardware with Linux is particularly bad, "It turns out that that Apple, in their infinite wisdom, doesn't follow the specification, but rather, they require a kernel driver to do all of the work that the BIOS is supposed to be doing. This works out well for them as they can share the same code from their BIOS with their kernel, but for any other operating system, that doesn't know how to talk directly to the hardware at that level, you are out of luck. So, no Thunderbolt support on Apple hardware for Linux (at least through May 2013, maybe newer models will change this, but I'm not counting on it.)...Note, all of this is for Thunderbolt the PCI interconnect, not the video connection. That works just fine on Linux as it isn't PCI Express, but just a video pass-through. No problems there." (Though even on the video side, there's been Intel Thunderbolt video problems with Linux.)

- Greg has been using the Chromebook Pixel from Google and really enjoys its screen as well as the Atheros-based WiFi, the fast Intel CPU, and it's the best presentation laptop he's ever used.

- Current Linux shortcomings with the Google Chromebook Pixel include suspend/resume not working until the Linux 3.10 kernel, the resume mode throttles the CPU but is also fixed in Linux 3.10, keyboard backlights don't survive suspend/resume (might be fixed for Linux 3.11), and the PgUp/PgDown/Home/End/Delete keys don't work without an out-of-tree kernel patch.

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