FOSS / FOSH friendliness — Intel or AMD?

Jayaguru-Shishya

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In a nutshell: When it comes to the FOSS / FOSH friendliness, should one prefer Intel over AMD, or vice versa? Which is the way to go considering the degrees of freedom in hardware?

Sorry for the inconvenience, I am still a novice on Linux and at the moment, buying my first pre-installed Linux laptop. I was told that the good people here at Linux.org might help me with my quest.

In the beginning, I'd like to emphasize that I am not looking for "absolute freedom down to firmware level" nor "fully free hardware" (e.g. Purism, Raspberry Pi, Olimex, BeagleV, or any other single-board computer out there on the market). I mean, it's not that those things wouldn't be important. I just want to say that in my opinion, certain binary blobs can be acceptable. Anyway, in this thread I'd like to focus on the comparison between the two commercially predominant processor manufactures, AMD and Intel, and the small steps they have taken to approach the developer community and its aspirations of free hardware / firmware.

Now, I know that neither Intel nor AMD is a great option in terms of freedom per se. That's why I am emphasizing the course of progress and all the little steps that have taken place.

I've tried to make my research on the topic, and — to make a long story short — AMD seems to have been rather generous with releasing source code in the past, and it even used to be the choice of preference by Libreboot / Coreboot project.[1][2] In the same breath, Intel has been lashed out for allegedly releasing "distracting, irrelevant pieces" of source code, that have been merely to lead developers astray. There was also a pretty outspoken statement on LinuxInsider (24.09.2012), calling AMD "being a LOT more FOSS friendly" than Intel, and therefore to buy AMD chips "if you want to support FOSS, be it server, desktop, or laptop":[3]

Intel has cooked up UEFI which lets them lock down the system? AMD has gone Coreboot on their new chipsets. Intel using PowerVR on their low end mobile chips? AMD has opened the specs as it was asked to with the exception of the UVD engine which they legally can’t because it contains the HDCP code and that’s not their to give. You can still get full hardware acceleration, just use Catalyst drivers.

So the choice seems pretty simple to me, one company is being a LOT more FOSS friendly than the other so the choice should be a no brainer. This will be a good test of the community as well, as if AMD sales don’t go up after doing everything the community asked, why should other hardware companies support you? You asked for the docs? They gave them. You asked for the specs to make your own drivers? They not only gave all of them they legally could but actually hired devs to help out with the FOSS drivers to make them better.

So I’d say the answer is clear, if you want to support FOSS, be it server, desktop, or laptop, you should buy AMD chips and show hardware companies that opening specs and docs is good for business.

That quote is quite old, though, and things might have changed ever since. For example, Intel has been said to be a major contributor to the open source technologies nowadays. In turn, it is said that Google is working towards excisizing (getting rid of) the "binary blobs from the x86 part of Zen CPUs" in AMD.[4] Well, these are not — of course — a guarantee of anything, but at least small gestures in the direction of playing together with the FOSS / FOSH developer community.

I am also aware of the different brands that offer pre-installed Linux laptops (System76, Tuxedo, KDE Slimbook ... just to name a few), but I am not actually interested in those ones. Instead, as all of the aforementioned three are offered both in AMD and Intel, the main interest of this thread — as described above — is the very comparison between the two CPU manufactures.

Thanks a lot in advance for your time, expertice and goodwill! Cheers!


Yours Sincerely,

Jayaguru-Shishya



Ps. If you think that there's not much different between the two chip makers, that's a perfectly fine answer as well! Sorry if I left an impression that I am forcing one to choose between the two! :cool:
 


dos2unix

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You can see by my avatar picture which one I currently prefer.

Currently I believe AMD is faster and has better value. However that hasn't always been true.
Intel was on top of mountain for a long time. I'm sure it'll change again in a year or two.


I don't tend to be a ford or chevy guy. I just go with what the current best value and performance is.
 

stan

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You've obviously already done your homework... nice! We like that! :)

I run mostly old junk with a mix of AMD/Intel. Neither has caused me any grief to speak of, nor any cause to praise one more highly than the other. Over the years the biggest problems I've had with hardware is built in wireless adapters, and less often with sound or video.

It seems that I've read here and elsewhere that many people have trouble with AMD Ryzen and Linux (but not @dos2unix ;)). Not everyone has problems, to be sure. It may be that some distros (or later versions coming out) may resolve these issues, much like many wireless problems also resolve themselves with new updates to the OS or kernel. Strangely enough, This article says that AMD recommends Intel's in-house Linux version, Clear Linux, as possibly the best distro for the AMD Threadripper. That's quite a surprise!

Linux frequently suffers delays to support new hardware because many manufacturers don't try very hard (or at all) to support Linux. As long as you're flexible and willing to use limited distros for awhile if needed, or maybe compile new drivers yourself if needed, you will probably have few problems with Linux going forward. This is if you were bulding a system. But buying your laptop with Linux pre-installed should be perfectly safe and usable with either AMD or Intel. These retail sellers should have worked out any compatibility issues beforehand, or at least offer you support if you have trouble.

Good luck! Enjoy your new Linux laptop!
 

Jayaguru-Shishya

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Thanks for your replies, @dos2unix and @stan ! I really appreciate that!

I am still a bit indecise whether to go for AMD or Intel. I know both propably will run just fine on Linux — especially if we're talking about pre-installed laptops — but that's exactly what makes it so difficult to choose Heh...

But I guess I am inclining towards KDE Slimbook, as I have this thing for KDE (ironically, I like to customize it to something as minimalistic as possible ... so no, none of that flashy stuff for me).

But I like Qt though; I have some previous experience with openSUSE, and I am planning to install LXQt to my brother-in-law's old laptop that he got from his father... Not sure if I should go for Lubuntu (LXQt), openSUSE with LXQt, or if there'd be a lot of difference once the DE is the same. ... But hey, that's another discussion already! :D

@captain-sensible that's some really nice-looking rig you've got there! I guess it's not for me yet, but it's fascinating to see how the FOSH project take steps forward little by little. Just that ARM part put me thinking ... isn't the Nvidia's acquisition of ARM currently pending...?
 
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Lord Boltar

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It is a Ford or Chevy argument - a duopoly - both CPUs run just fine under Linux - to me it does not matter - it boils down to the graphics (GPU) in your machine - NVIDIA, AMD, or Intel which has better Linux drivers and support - all my machines run NVIDIA
 
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