personal computer

This page needs citations, and a lot of work.


Every piece of hardware falls into one of three categories:

a) free

b) proprietary and freedom-compatible

c) proprietary and incompatible with freedom

Read more about the three categories here.






Internal wifi cards:

If you have a wifi card that will only work with proprieatry software, you may want to replace it with a freedom-compatible wifi card. HP, Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Apple, and Toshiba use proprietary connectors and/or digital restrictions in the BIOS. This will prevent you from installing a freedom-compatible wifi card.

^Is Sony in that list? Does the list cover laptops, desktops or both?

Most other brands don't restrict users in this way.

Laptops use half-height Mini PCI-E ports. Desktops use [standard PCI-E ports]? Choose your wifi card with this in mind.

Atheros designs freedom-compatible wireless PCI-E chipsets. They sell a range of 802.11g and 802.11n chipsets.

You can find freedom-compatible internal wifi cards here:

External/USB wifi cards:

A few USB wireless chipsets are freedom-compatible. Some of these are the wireless g type RTL8187, RTL8187B, and RTL8187L. These work with free software out-of-the-box, and so are new-user friendly. They're discontinued, but you may still find adaptors with them.

It's not that easy because manufacturers don't stick to a single chipset for a given model. That means one person will report an adapter as working (on a forum, or h-node) when in reality the adapter that you purchase may or may not work. (Chris)

"The wireless n draft chipset type AR9170 is not so hot [why?]. The new USB N chipset AR9271 is great does not yet work out-of-the-box in Trisquel [as of July 2013]. The next Trisquel release should support it." [does Trisquel 7 support this?]

Chris recommends a wireless card with the Atheros AR9285 chipset.

You can find freedom-compatible USB wifi cards here:


Most ethernet cards are free software friendly. Some of these free cards require newer Linux-libre kernel. You can install a newer Linux-libre kernel via the System Update program, wait for the next Trisquel release, or update the kernel yourself [how -- link?].

Some ethernet cards use optional proprietary firmware. Intel and Realtek brand cards do this.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

Intel cards are the best option, if you want 3D acceleration and decent battery life.


Nvidia and ATI graphics require proprietary software. UPDATE: Noveau driver(?) All ATI graphics cards require proprietary firmware for 2D or 3D acceleration. If it works at all, it will work without these features [explanation please].

If you want an nVidia Desktop PC video card, Chris recommends the 9500GT. It performs a little better than the current generation Intels.

Intel motherboards have integrated graphics processing units (GPUs). The Core i3 – i7 series have the best integrated graphics.

Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics performs less well, and costs less money. These chipsets have the GMA X4500 graphics: G41, G43, G45. Of these, the G45 is the best. The GS45, GM45 and GM47 also have GMA X4500 graphics.

Chris: “I got a motherboard with G41 and everything works perfectly, ethernet, graphics, SATA controllers, onBoard audio (which is of high quality for onBoard audio btw). It supports either DDR2 or -3 memory and Core2 CPUs.”

“G43 and G45 will have a PCIe slot of revision 2.0 (as opposed to 1.1 on G41). G45 will have a X4500HD integrated graphics, not sure how much more powerful it is, seems to be just a higher clocked version of the same thing.”


BIOS is short for "Basic Input/Outut System". Every computer has one. It manages boot device order (harddrive, CD drive, or USB port first?), helps the OS interact with input devices like the keyboard, and other functions. [What do BIOSes do?]

The BIOS was originally stored on read-only memory (ROM), meaning they it cannot be changed. According to the FSF, these were treated as hardware as the only way to change the BIOS was to replace part of the hardware.

Present day BIOS is now stored on volatile flash memory, allowing the installation of a different BIOS, usually on the same flash memory. Since installation of a new BIOS is possible, it is treated as software and it must be free!

There is currently a transition from BIOS to UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface).

There are free BIOS. A notable one is SeaBIOS. SeaBIOS implements the standard BIOS calling interfaces that typical x86 proprietary BIOS implement. It can be run in an emulator (QEMU and KVM use SeaBIOS by default) or with the use of coreboot. Several Chromebooks include SeaBIOS as an optional coreboot payload to enable the installion of other operating systems on the Chromebook.

Coreboot initialises the hardware and loads a payload, usually SeaBIOS or GNU GRUB. Gluglug's modified Thinkpads use Libreboot (a free variant of coreboot) which has GNU GRUB as its payload (and SeaBIOS is a payload of GRUB2).

Unfortunately, replacing a BIOS is a substantial challenge as we do not have the information on how to do this.


Many printers depend on proprietary firmware.

HP sells some free software friendly equipment. Not all HP printers are libre friendly, but most category of printer equipment should have a few libre options.

There is no current generation all-in-one (scanner/fax/) laser printer. If you need all of those features, you could get an HP all-in-one inkjet printer, and a HP laserjet printer [July 2013].


Optical Disk Drive (CD, DVD, Blu-Ray)



DVD drives use standard (should we say libre/free/publically documented instead?) protocols, and will work with libre systems out-of-the-box.

Some DVD drive manufacturers implement digital restrictions to impede users, based on region setting.

DVD Video: Encrypted (CSS) DVDs demand proprietary software. Open source software can incorporate the proprietary CSS decoder. Libre software will not incorporate proprietary parts.

Blu-Ray Video data

Processor/ Central Processing Unit (CPU)

vPro [need citations, more information]

Intel VPro is a proprietary technology. IT allows others to access your computer remotely. Intel markets this as a feature. Some community members have expressed concern [cite].

Intel says that VPro technology can be disabled, and that it does not work while the computer is off. Intel also says that third parties can access your computer only if you request the remote access (password authorization). Intel says that a red border and flashing icon will alert users to the remote access.

A member of the Trisquel community expressed these concerns [cite]: The CPU contains vPro technology. It remains even if disabled There is no public audit; the user community cannot verify that disabling vPro does anything more than tell us that the technology is disabled.


11/30/2014 - 19:05
12/01/2014 - 01:27