Phoronix turns 18 covering Linux hardware

Eighteen years ago today, I started to focus on Linux hardware reviews. Back then, it was difficult to get devices running on Linux, from 56k modems to printers and other components today where Linux support can just be assumed. Open source graphics drivers at the time were also in their infancy and lacked vendor support, while NVIDIA was then well regarded for its proprietary driver being at least functional and capable. It’s been quite a journey.

In the early days of Phoronix there was a lot of testing with Mandrake Linux, Fedora Core and Knoppix. SimplyMEPIS, Yoper Linux, Yellow Dog Linux and other outdated Linux distributions proved popular back then before Arch Linux and Ubuntu gained popularity (or indeed shortly before the inaugural Ubuntu Warty release). Warthog which didn’t even arrive until later in 2004).

Linux has come a long way in the past 18 years… (Screenshot of an older distro called Big Linux.)

While these days AMD Linux graphics support is highly valued by the community and especially gamers for supporting these open source graphics drivers, in the early days of Phoronix it was a time when ATI was widely criticized for its proprietary “fglrx” driver which often left much to be desired in terms of support, functionality and robustness. NVIDIA meanwhile provided a much more optimized and functional Linux graphics driver at the time. It was only after many years of hard work invested in AMD that their open-source Linux graphics driver materialized and became well-loved by the community, while NVIDIA continued to provide its stack of quality proprietary drivers. undoubtedly excellent. After growing speculation over the past few years and a number of interesting changes, it wasn’t until last month that NVIDIA finally announced its open-source kernel graphics driver component, although there’s still a long way to go before it’s released. does not reach the mainline kernel and still no NVIDIA plans for open-source userspace driver components.

I certainly don’t miss the days of having to modify their xorg.conf and jump through hoops just to enable multiple monitor support on Linux before hotplugging worked…

Some of the other fantastic Linux hardware achievements over the past nearly two decades have been the arrival of the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) and Fwupd for updating firmware on Linux, Canonical really pushing the Linux desktop and dealing with many top paper cuts to the usability of the Linux desktop, and the success of the Raspberry Pi and PinePhone/PINE devices introducing new users to Linux. Red Hat’s substantial contributions to upstream open source projects and driving many of the greatest innovations I’ve covered over the past 18 years. Over the past decade, all of Valve’s work on Linux gaming and promoting these areas of the Linux stack has been superb, with their upstream contractors working on projects ranging from X.Org/Wayland to Mesa.

On the hardware vendor side, Dell’s Project Sputnik has been a success for Ubuntu Linux on laptops, Lenovo continues to increase its Linux support/offerings on the consumer side, and HP has also increased its Linux products – most recently with their HP Dev One which uses System76’s Pop!_OS distribution. It will be interesting to see where this relationship between System76 and HP leads and one of the areas I’m most looking forward to seeing evolve over the next few months. Outside of notable Linux offerings from hardware vendors, over the past 18 years there has been a steady, albeit still small, increase in interest in Linux from the hardware vendors I deal with, ranging from engineers to media/PR. Linux dominating HPC, Linux being the de facto default for machine learning/AI, and Linux for IoT have all contributed to what only 18 year olds could only dream of. At this time we have also seen Microsoft release various software for Linux and more recently even release their own Linux distributions (e.g. CBL-Mariner) and their much talked about Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) lately. years.

During this period there was also the development of the Phoronix test suite for open source and Linux benchmarking and as part of the open source benchmarking portal Together this has driven Linux performance benchmarking with today also marking 14 years since the release of Phoronix Test Suite 1.0.

In 2004 it was mostly covering what hardware did and didn’t work in Linux for now more on how it worked in Linux and other caveats. It was a remarkable journey for the Linux hardware ecosystem during this time.

Overclocking and other enthusiast features have also improved a lot on Linux… The open-source community getting reverse-engineered and supported mice/keyboards and gaming peripherals is now quite common as well. Unfortunately, although in 2022 official support from hardware vendors for such support for Linux desktop devices is still quite limited.

Excluding the commercial success of Google Chrome OS/Chromebooks, Steam Decks, and Linux secretly on consumer devices, there really hasn’t been a hyped “year of the Linux desktop.” Also, (outside of the server/HPC space), many hardware vendors aren’t too interested in Linux from a traditional consumer desktop perspective. Linux just hasn’t taken over the masses without any compelling reason for most individuals to switch from macOS or Windows.

In turn, this lack of a true “year of the Linux desktop” is what still leaves me alone producing 99% of the content on Phoronix for the lack of consumer hardware vendors interested in pursuing lucrative advertising interests on the website, etc If you were just focusing on Linux servers, for example, that would be a lot easier, but there’s not too much commercial industry interest in the Linux desktop in 2022 with Phoronix’s unique demographics. With ad blockers being more common and widely used today than 18 or even 10 years ago, this has made things more difficult now than in the early years of Phoronix.

For those who enjoy daily and original content from Phoronix, thank you for your support. I hope you are viewing the site without any ad blockers otherwise I hope you are a Phoronix Premium member. Phoronix Premium provides access to the site without ads, multi-page articles on a single page and other benefits.

As part of Phoronix’s 18th anniversary, there’s also a Phoronix Premium special for annual and lifetime subscriptions if you’d like to show your support and help ensure a successful 19th year of daily content.

As a last little tidbit for these 18th anniversary thoughts, the last calendar day on without new original content for an entire calendar day/24 hour period was May 20, 2012… A few days back 10 years ago! Regardless of life or world events, there is work to be done every day. Yes, it has also meant more than a few spelling mistakes and a few other omissions in the writing or parsing of being overworked, but every day I wake up determined to see the advancement of Linux hardware support. So perhaps that commitment is the biggest reason to consider joining Phoronix Premium to help support open-source news and Linux reviews/benchmarking or at least turn off your damn ad blocker or keep up with the latest content through Facebook and Twitter. Tips via PayPal are also accepted if that is your preference.

Thanks and back to Linux testing.

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Steven L. Nielsen