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What’s a graphics card?

A plague on distros that don't support mainstream hardware! I bought a laptop from Dell – the well-known, mainstream computer vendor, Dell – but Mandriva won't work on it. All right, I know that it probably will, given a bit of Googling, logging in to the shell, monkeying with config files and fiddling with the BIOS. But Mandriva is aimed at newbies – people who don't know how to do stuff like that. So I wept and wailed, and after Graham and Mike couldn't help me, I went for Ubuntu instead. Same problem. I got the thing installed all right, but Mike had to go into /x/danger!/voodooatwork/newbies/keepout.conf and manually edit something to make the graphics card run at the right number of tera-gigawatts. Or something.

What's going on? When it takes the combined knowledge of two Linux geeks to install a newbie-friendly distro, what hope does the man in the street have? I know I'm not the problem: I can order beer in ten different foreign languages (Scots and Irish Gaelic, Spanish, Italian, French, Slovenian, Russian, Croatian, German and Geordie), I know how to cook aubergine and I can play Love Will Tear Us Apart on the mandolin. And I know it's not the hardware. Dell shifts a gazillion units every day, and I'm sure they know what they're doing by now.

The problem must surely lie with the mindset of the people 'designing' the installers. Sure, to Graham it's simple enough to edit files by hand and switch to vesa graphics. But it's much simpler to press the On button and have Windows come up.

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