Summary: Intel had released Linux-hostile hardware before it finally fixed this
OVER THE PAST week or two there has been a lot of media hype about Intel NUC [1,2] (a lot of it was purely marketing), in part because Linux support was improved [3-5] (it was hard to install GNU/Linux on these machines) and there was a benchmark too . One angle that was scarcely explored in the media should have included the simple question: why did Intel release a Linux-hostile machine in the first place?
Let’s expand that question.
Was it not properly tested? Does Intel not care about Linux? Recall how Microsoft fought Linux affinity at Intel.
There’s a lot of food for thought here, especially now that Intel wants to impose UEFI on everyone (with security risks). For ethical computing with no surveillance, no back doors, and no monopoly abuse people should avoid everything from Intel (where possible). They should say NUC you to Intel. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
The Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) is a very compact computer with an Intel CPU at its heart. The NUC reviewed here has mini DisplayPort and mini HDMI ports, two memory slots, mSATA, USB 3.0, mini PCI Express, an IR receiver, and an internal SATA connector among other things.
The future of the desktop, Intel says, lies in the extremes: enormous tabletop all-in-ones and itty-bitty PCs like the company’s own diminutive Next Unit of Computing. And indeed, we were mighty impressed when we got our hands on Intel’s Core i5-powered NUC, which managed to crack PCWorld’s top products of 2013 despite being a bare-bones system that requires users to BYO RAM, SSD, and OS.
To recap briefly, UEFI-based systems all have a small partition on their hard drives where bootloader files are stored. These bootloaders, which usually have an .EFI file extension, direct the computer to begin loading the operating system from the drive’s main OS partition. The problem with older NUC BIOSes is that they didn’t always know where to look for Linux bootloader files. Linux distributions would install to the computer just fine, but by default the computer wouldn’t be able to tell that the internal hard drive could boot the system, and you would have to manually move the bootloader file where the computer could find it. The NUC team tells us that further improvements to the boot process are coming, but this update appears to at least fix the problems that we had—Ubuntu, Mint, and SteamOS all install and boot just fine with the latest BIOS update installed.
While there’s plenty to recommend Intel’s teeny-tiny NUC desktops, early adopters have been experiencing one or two problems. The biggest show-stopped: a flaw in the BIOS which could prevent Debian-derived Linux distributions from booting correctly, by looking for the wrong bootloader. With Debian one of the longest serving Linux distributions around, and being the parent distribution of everything from Ubuntu Linux to Valve’s Steam OS, that wasn’t great news – even if the work-around, moving the bootloader, was a relatively speedy fix.
A full and proper comparison of the NUC DN2820FYK performance under Linux is forthcoming that will closely examine all areas of performance from Ubuntu 14.04 with the Linux 3.13~3.14 kernel. There will also be many other interesting Bay Trail Linux tests. Those results though are not done today and due to many Phoronix readers asking for some Bay Trail results, I quickly ran some tests this week against the CompuLab Utilite review numbers from the recent review of that nice ARM Linux PC.