Canonical Puts Out A Hardware List, But It Falls Short
Canonical has announced this morning they have released the "world's most comprehensive, up-to-date component catalog for Linux." It's effectively a hardware database showing components they have tested. It's interesting, but of course I have more than a few comments on the matter with some constructive criticism.
The press release announcing the Canonical Component Catalog can be found at Canonical.com. As said in the press release, "Canonical today announced that for the first time it was making publicly available its complete database of certified components for Ubuntu and Linux — rapidly reducing the the time-to-market for Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) working on Ubuntu or Linux machines."
It's nice for what's publicly available and can be found at Ubuntu.com. It lists components by vendors and also by component category. There's also basic search functionality. Though not to serve as an advertisement for OpenBenchmarking.org, which will launch by month's end, there's a few areas Canonical could improve upon.
- The press release advertises it as "the world's most comprehensive component catalog", but it contains not even 1,500 components and from just over 160 vendors. In comparison, there's over 1,600 articles on Phoronix (not counting 5,000+ news posts) with probably 50~60% of those being in-depth hardware reviews (and the remainder of course looking at drivers and other Linux topics). I did nearly all of that testing single-handedly for seven years, yet Canonical and its large hardware team only produces results for slightly more results with less information. Canonical's database doesn't even have motherboards as a category and its graphics cards count is at 126 and its network count is at 116. These are three of the most problematic components for Linux hardware support. It also doesn't appear that Canonical doesn't list the components that fail to work with Ubuntu, but only the ones that pass.
- If Canonical wishes for their database to remain release and up-to-date, they must leverage their large community and user-base, otherwise it will continue to lag. Size of OpenBenchmarking.org? As of this morning, OpenBenchmarking.org has data on 444,894 components spanning 311 vendors and 181 recognized product series from these vendors. There's 35,965 result uploads and 230,468 test completions recorded. Community-provided data must also be trustworthy, but with Ubuntu's massive user-base there's lots of duplicates you can check for and compare, etc to get to a point of self-validation. See some screenshots from earlier this week and the last page of the Core i5 2500K for some hints of forthcoming announcements. Community data can also be used for what's popular or commonly used to reduce the risk of flaky support.
- Not only should the community be able to help in saying what works for them and what doesn't, but they should be able to provide comments on hardware entries, ask questions, etc.
- The hardware mix in their catalog isn't too great. If you search for something like say "GeForce" (link), you get a handful (23) of results. Nothing too new. The newest NVIDIA GPU it has is a GeForce GT 230M while most of the hardware is GeForce 8/9 class. Nothing for the newest GeForce 4/5 Fermi series. There's just 23 results and that includes GeForce being recognized as an IDE / USB controller, etc where it's a motherboard chipset.
- Like the GeForce results, if searching for something new like P67 or H67 yields no results. Core i5? No results. (Trying to search for the hot topic as of late, Intel's "Sandy Bridge".)
- There isn't too much information. Take for example, their result for a Radeon HD 4650 graphics card. (Also shown below.) All it basically says is that this ATI GPU is "certified" in Ubuntu 9.10, but it doesn't talk about newer releases. It also doesn't say what drivers it requires. In the case of that particular ASIC, there's open and closed-source support. There's also no support for such hardware owners to comment or answer questions, etc. Here's a comparison of searching the same products on Canonical's Hardware Catalog and Phoronix Media's OpenBenchmarking.org:
The OpenBenchmarking.org version has results for just not one Ubuntu release, but four. It also shows it working with the radeon and fglrx drivers, some of the AIB partners offering the said graphics card, some of the tested kernels and display drivers too. There's also pricing information, performance test results from several different spots, related hardware, related Linux news, and independent industry reviews on the said product. There's also commenting support, statistics, and other information not being shown in the pre-release screenshots. From the results on many of the entires you can also tap the lspci, dmesg, Xorg.0.log, xorg.conf, and other logs if you so wish.
OpenBenchmarking.org search results also change based upon the type of hardware being search. Searching for a motherboard should yield some same, some different, bits of information.
- Canonical's Catalog does do a nice job at listing results for desktops / notebooks / netbooks from the different hardware vendors, which looks to be their main focus of the catalog rather than focusing at the component level to satisfy the home system builders and enthusiasts.
- There's no benchmarks / quantitative performance informatio at all. It just says whether something works or not. Canonical has used the Phoronix Test Suite and they're also still working on Abrek, their own testing solution. But there's no support for uploading these results to Canonical's product catalog or anything else to separate Component #1 from all of the other components that also have a "certified" state.
Looking at the other items I've written about the soon-to-be-released Iveland and OpenBenchmarking.org will yield many other features Canonical could implement to make the "world's most comprehensive, up-to-date component catalog for Linux" much more useful to consumers. Right now it looks like it may do a sufficient job for someone that just wants to know if an off-the-shelf PC will work with Ubuntu Linux, but for anyone else, it will fall short.
The list above is just what immediately came to mind. Or, Canonical, you can contact me and would be happy to collaborate with you (or any distribution and hardware vendor) on OpenBenchmarking.org, which will be publicly unveiled later this month. We all have a common goal of improving Linux hardware support.
More information on it can also be learned next week in Munich or the following week in Los Angeles at my Southern California Linux Expo talk about making better Linux hardware choices where it will officially be christened.