The video drivers are using the AMD/ATI binary blob, though I haven't checked to see how current they are. The wifi is also likely using a binary blob firmware which does most of the heavy lifting. Honestly, and especially for a work laptop, I'd rather run slightly less optimized drivers and have the stupid thing just work without me futzing with it. My desire to hack at the OS on any of my computers is pretty low...
I recently installed XUbuntu 12.04 LTS on an ASUS E45M1-M PRO AMD E-450 board, intending to use it as my HTPC. I found a HOWTO detaling what to do to get XBMC to use the built-in UVD engine
, which entailed downloading the newest released catalyst binary blob and installing it, which basically creates a .deb tailored for you system which you can then install with dpkg.
I came away mighty impressed with how easy it was to keep the catalyst binary blob up to date. Of course, upgrading down the line might not be so pleasant, but for a HTPC with an LTS version of Ubuntu, I figured that this would not need to happen very often.
It boiled down to this:
# This is the Catalyst 12.8 AMD binary fglrx driver for 64-bit Ubuntu/Debian installs
# prepare a folder for it
cd ~/; mkdir catalyst12.8; cd catalyst12.8/
# download it
# unpack it
# set the eXecutable bit
chmod +x amd-driver-installer-8.982-x86.x86_64.run
# this creates the installable .deb
sudo sh ./amd-driver-installer-8.982-x86.x86_64.run --buildpkg
# ... and install it. Simples.
sudo dpkg -i fgl*.deb
In case you are wondering, I chose to install XBMC on top of XUbuntu because it gives me a nice, lightweight fallback GUI environment with a good file manager and a nice terminal if something goes wrong in XBMC, plus it takes care of initializing the network and managing some other low-level OS permission releated stuff without me having to fiddle with it.
My previous XBMC setup was Arch based and it was just too much hassle for me. YMMV, of course.