What is a Core Component?


Picture by madame_furie

One of the decisions that we took when defining the Ubuntu Friendly process was that we would distinguish between a core component and an extra component. A submission received with a failing core component would get a rating of zero (who wants to buy a bike with broken pedals?), and a submission with all its core components working would get a rating of 3 out of 5. The extra 2 points will be gained with working extra components.

But the question is, which components of a system should be considered core components?

This is a tricky question, as it will depend a lot of the uses a person gives to a system. But, in the end, we all have to take decisions, so we can make things happen. Obviously, core components in desktops won’t be the same ones as in laptops/netbooks, as their uses are completely different.

We have also to take into account that a system with all its core components will only get a 3 out of 5 from those core components, so it is totally OK to leave outside of the core components an important one, as it will only mean that if it fails, the system won’t get a 5 out of 5. For example, for a laptop I would consider wireless a core component. I just can’t imagine using a laptop (if it comes with a wireless card) if the wireless network is not working. But I can imagine using  a laptop where the wired ethernet card is not working. I would consider the wired network an extra component for a laptop. Obviously, the perfect laptop will have both working, that’s why we would need both working to be able to reach a rating of 5 out of 5.

So, what are your ideas? What components are vital for your laptop/netbook? What components in your desktop you couldn’t live without? Comments welcome!


  1. ” if the wireless network is not working. But I can imagine using a laptop where the wired ethernet card is not working.”

    You’re joking right? I hope this is not the touchstone of what we can expect when we spend our hard earned money on a product based on it being Ubuntu “friendly” only to find it is not friendly. Networking period must be considered a core component. A lot of us with laptops turn off wifi at times (or all the time) because it eliminates one potential risk. Not only that, ethernet is required sometimes to set up your wifi, change settings, fix things if you messed them up.

    Now I realize that almost all ethernet is just going to work. My point though is that if you are willing to dismiss something as crucial as ethernet as a “core component” just because it is in a laptop, then I as someone making recommendations cannot recommend Ubuntu Friendly. I have to tell my customers, look, you STILL have to ask about each and every single component because that 3 out of 5 doesn’t mean anything.

    And while we’re at it the Ubuntu Friendly should list every component that does and does not work, because again 3 out of 5 in this case doesn’t help us at all if a component you think of as not core, IS core to me and the very reason I am buying the equipment.

    This isn’t my typical rant Ara, this is about as serious as I can be. This Ubuntu Friendly stuff is important.

    • Your comment could have been very good constructive criticism, but you missed the opportunity of being polite. Anyway, I will answer:
      First, that’s why we are asking for feedback, to hear everybody opinions. Second, the results will be always public, so anyone interested could go and see which tests passed or failed for every given submission. And third, 3 out of 5 means that core components are working, and nothing else (if something else is working it will get more than a rating of 3). And because the list of core and extra will be public, anyone could know which things are working and which things are not working, based on that 3 out of 5.

      • “First, that’s why we are asking for feedback, to hear everybody opinions. Second, the results will be always public, so anyone interested could go and see which tests passed or failed for every given submission.”

        This is very very good. It almost should be a requirement to include a shorturl (or full) on the packaging or website of Ubuntu Friendly products pointing to these. And products that include the test pass/fails list on their site and packaging should get some bonus like Ubuntu Friendly * ..but * doesn’t quite work. Just something that says, hey, right here at Best Buy when you buy this thing, you know what works and what doesn’t.

  2. Hi Ara.

    First off, ,I would like to express my worries that such dual classification can be a trap. Ubuntu will be regarded as of poor quality if the sticker means “yeah it boots but the webcam is not working, microphone is mute, speakers are too loud and it crashes on hibernate”. We should be careful with any Ubuntu quality association for sub-par devices. Having said that and giving the idea some thought this is my list:

    Consumer laptop:
    – docking station connector (rare)
    – fingerprint reader (likewise)
    – smart card reader (rare or common, depending on country, there I would remove it from this list)
    – LED indicators (wifi, mute, disk, etc)
    – non-essential additional keyboard keys (vendor-specific, vendor-standard keyboard extensions)

    Consumer desktop:
    – S/PDIFF connectors
    – Extra motherboard connectors without default exposure on the motherboard backplane (especially things that are rarely used in non-corporate world)

    • Hey Zigmunt, thanks for your comments.

      To your concerns, there will be no sticker of what an Ubuntu Friendly system is. A system won’t be Ubuntu Friendly or not, it will have a range from 0 to 5.

  3. The goal of the Ubuntu Friendly program is to give the community a resource where they can tell each other in clear terms whether a system they have is considered to work well with Ubuntu. As long as the terms of the designation are clear, there shouldn’t be a problem saying a laptop without a working Ethernet port is a 3/5 system. If you want to use Ubuntu Friendly as an equivalent to certification then you should be looking at the very highest rated systems with almost all components working.

    • The problem is that people in the community are not the only ones that will be relying on this sticker. As Ubuntu becomes more and more mainstream, persons purchasing it need to rely on things working. Consider the netbook with Ubuntu fiasco with all of the ones sent back, and those had working components. A person purchasing a system that is rated Ubuntu Friendly only to find certain key components not working is more likely to be driven back to their old system.

  4. I’ve had to setup a Broadcom card by sneakernetting all the various things Jockey would have fetched and manually resolving dependencies. It took 5-6 tries to finally get all the dependencies right. If the wired ethernet had worked on that netbook, it would’ve been a lot easier, but Jockey won’t launch without a working ethernet connection.

    No ethernet = only a geek could get the wireless turned on

    • Hey maco!

      Very good point, Broadcom wireless card needs jockey. I think that this is a very good reason to consider Ethernet as a laptop core component.


  5. Difference between desktop and laptop – I can’t think of anything else besides battery status (and maybe some power managements based on status).

    Isn’t pretty much all the hardware a critical component? Can’t imagine wanting to use computer where components are only partially working (otherwise I would buy a cheaper computer without these components).

    Funny nobody listed what the core components should be, here’s a try:
    – keyboard
    – touchpad
    – sound card
    – video card (openGL should work, uless the card has no HW to support 3D)
    – power management (hybernate, sleep, wake on LAN etc.)
    – USB
    – video out
    – card readers
    – CD/DVD drives
    – networking HW (whatever present, wifi, ethernet)
    – bluetooth

    IMO it also makes sense to certify components, e.g. individual graphics or sound cards (the support for these varies a lot and people replace them or get custom ones fairly often).

  6. Hi Ara

    Another pointer here: I have an old laptop, with Athlon processor. It’s quite good, but it has no wireless card. So, *the only* way for that laptop to be up-to-date, is to have Ethernet working.

    So that can make it a core component.

  7. Pingback: Core components in Ubuntu Friendly for 11.10 | Ara Pulido

  8. Since I don’t buy desktops off the shelf, model names wouldn’t be important to me, more what parts work and what don’t.

    In that regard, core components for a desktop would be motherboard/CPU/RAM, sound card/onboard chip, graphic card/monitor, keyboard, mouse, wireless card/LAN. If all of that works fine with Ubuntu, you’d have core components that are friendly.

    However, a keyboard or mouse not working in that regard would be a rare thing. If the graphic works fine, the monitor would be most likely too, as it’d be recognized.

    Recently, I had a problem with a new graphic card that had no 3D-drivers for Ubuntu 10.04 – so I had to change my system to 11.04. So, by that example, it’d be friendly for 11.04 but not for older versions.