I came across something interesting on a Lenovo blog the other day. It seems they're putting some thought into their OS strategy. You may remember the big fuss a while back about Dell offering Ubuntu as an option on their systems. It turns out Lenovo had beaten them to the punch by at least six months, but Dell was the first American OEM to do so and the first to actually, well, promote it. But when I bought my laptop, Lenovo was the only mainstream OEM that was forward-thinking enough to even have the option, so supporting that was a big factor in my choice to get a Thinkpad.
Anyhow now Lenovo are polling the Interwebs to help decide the shape of their GNU/Linux strategy. It's no surprise that Ubuntu leads with 50% of the vote, but what really struck me was the presence of this option in the distro choices:
Anyone that refuses to carry binary-only drivers, so that all others will also benefit, as it will require documented hardware
If you had told me three years ago that a mainstream hardware vendor would even understand the reasoning behind the FSF's refusal of binary drivers, I would have laughed at you. This isn't just an option thrown out there to placate the rabid GNU fans; the wording shows that they clearly understand why binary-only drivers are bad for the community. Having spent a few hours yesterday wrangling with some particularly odious offenders, this is extremely encouraging to read. The binary driver that ATI offers for the card in my Thinkpad is absolutely worthless. It drops the refresh rate to a level approaching 1Hz when I plug in an external display, makes hibernation impossible, and doesn't even support standard features like rotation. It's a total disaster—even the x.org VESA drivers outperform it, which is saying a lot. So I can't wait for Lenovo to offer an all-free GNU/Linux Thinkpad. I'm thinking my next laptop will definitely be an X-series, especially since by then they'll probably be offering LED-powered displays and solid-state storage.
The other extremely encouraging bit about this poll is that the option that excludes non-free drivers is actually in third place in terms of votes. It's even beating out traditional powerhouse distros like Fedora, SuSE, and Gentoo. I'm glad to see the hard-line stance on freedom isn't just something held by crazy bearded GNU fans.