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SubjectRe: Aunt Tillie builds a kernel (was Re: ISA hardware discovery -- the elegant solution)
On Tuesday 15 January 2002 04:38 pm, Alex Bligh - linux-kernel wrote:

> However, Eric's approach (dmesg) is still flawed as normally
> the way these distros fail is either (a) hanging on boot, or
> (b) failing to detect the relevant hardware. Needless to say,
> neither failure mode is going to give much use to a configurator
> tool which looks at dmesg.

"make autoconfigure" looks at a bunch of things, one of which is dmesg. (It
also looks at the PCI bus, isapnp, enumerates filesystems in use out of the
mounted partitions, checks /proc/cpuinfo to see what to optimize for...)

It's actually doing a fairly decent job, although it's not quite ready for
prime time yet. (Improving rapidly, of course, as we continue to thump on
it. :)

> Eric: I think you'd be far better off trying to identify the
> machine (and hence get a working .config) rather than the
> hardware.
> Example: put in some wget based thingy, which goes to some (fixed) web
> site, searches for (some extracted or Tillie composed string) which
> describes the hardware (bound to have been bought as-is and never opened),
> pulls down a set of config files and heuristics to determine between them
> (look at BIOS, or 'that model will always show this or that in the PCI
> table') and guesses the correct (initial) config as tested by some other
> user.

Meaning you'll continue to be six months behind the curve, and fail every
time Dell tweaks its laptop layout. (Dell does things like switch sound
chips without switching model numbers ALL THE TIME.)

Are you volunteering to maintain this database?

So no-name assembled white boxes from e-machines and stuff wouldn't be

Have you TRIED the current auto-configurator?

> This is the automated equivalent of going to,
> typing your machine name followed by 'kernel .config'. If the site
> it contacted was configurable by the distro, you'd then have
> the distros praising you in that once they have solved the problem
> for one IBM T23, they've solved it for all of them, without doing
> a new release.

Assuming every IBM T23 has the same hardware in it, which oddly enough is a
bit of a gamble. (OK, IBM is better at this than Dell, largely due to
inventory management reasons.) And assuming the finite number of database
maintainers has yet bought an IBM T23, and that the rest of the world can
wait until then.

Requiring live network access for the autoconfigurator to work is one heck of
an extra requirement, though. Most of the world is still using dialup, you

> And Aunt Tillie (apart from the module changes whatever)
> can be using the kernel version etc. from their distro (recompiled),
> rather than the latest 2.[2468].xx with lots of new bugs^Wunwanted
> fixes in.

You want to write some other tool.

In order to compile a new kernel and use it on a new machine, you need to
configure it, which is time consuming and tedious, and can require a bit of
detective work. This is a problem that Giacamo and Eric decided to address.

This is NOT the problem you're trying to address.

Aunt Tillie is a side issue. She's going to continue to run Windows until
Linux comes preinstalled on her new computer, or until somebody ELSE installs
it for her and does an awful lot of hand holding. And what she probably
really WANTS is an iMac. :)

Autoprobing PCI is -EASY-. Almost trivial. USB and PCMCIA/Cardbus were
DESIGNED to be autoprobed. Finding out your CPU type and chipset aren't too
hard either.

It's really the old nasty ISA devices that are a pain to auto-probe, and they
are finally, mercifully, dying off. The newer and more naieve the user, the
less likely they are to have lashed together an old 486 with VESA local bus,
three different SCSI adapters, a CD-ROM hanging off the sound blaster, and a
ham radio interface plugged into the parallel port. Autoprobe really should
become EASIER as time goes on.

Giacamo and Eric started work on the autoprobe as a way to reduce the number
of questions the configurator showed people by eliminating hardware that they
provably do not have, and defaulting the stuff they DO have to on. But it
turns out that on any relatively recent machine, it's an easy enough problem
that you can autoprobe EVERYTHING and build straight from that. So the Linux
kernel could finally do "configure; make; make install".

I consider that a neat hack.

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