Ever hear people bashing Linux about hardware support? Ever stop to think about what this really means?
Why is hardware not as “well” supported in Linux? Several reasons come to mind, but the biggest one is that there aren’t enough Linux users yet to make it economically wise to support Linux. There wouldn’t be a return on the investment – especially seeing as how Linux users are notorious for keeping their wallets shut. It’s the same reason my company doesn’t support Opera or Safari. It’s also the same reason why, as much as we want to, we simply can’t ignore Internet Explorer. It is what it is.
However. Think about Linux for a second. Yeah, there is no guarantee your hardware is going to work. Companies don’t develop drivers for Linux. They don’t put a friendly penguin on their packaging to reassure buyers that their product will in fact work with their computer. They even go so far as to list Windows and Mac in the system requirements, apparently leaving no room for Linux. And yet, plenty of hardware does work in Linux. Why?
Because Linux is awesome!
The power of Linux is that it’s not bound by those limitations. This is what Open Source means. Buy some hardware that doesn’t work. Make it work. It’s well within the possibility of the Linux user to compile a kernel module or to write a driver to hanle almost anything in Linux. A little time and patience, and a lot of man page reading can help break through what seemed to be an unresolvable conflict before.
But I know what you’re going to say. That’s so far beyond the normal skill of a regular computer user. I’ve got news for you. I’m an avid Linux user and it’s beyond my skill. Not necessarily because I couldn’t do it if I took the time, put in the effort and tried to learn – but I haven’t yet. I haven’t needed to. This is the second thing that makes Linux awesome. You know all those super nerdy guys who grow beards bast their belts and sit in dark rooms all day? Those guys do have this skill and they love doing it. The simple fact of the matter is, I have a system that works flawlessly with my hardware because other people have taken the time to make it work before me. And they’ve been gracious enough to allow me to benefit from their work at no cost to me.
My Dell laptop bit the dust recently. Windows being the piece of crap it is finally quit working after a hard reset. It had serious problems. So initially I tried to reinstall Windows. I had no network whatsoever. I had no network! Not even an eth0 connection with a CAT5 would get me hooked up, let alone wireless. I figured I would have to go to dell.com to download some drivers, but I thought I’d at least be able to do it.
The fact of the matter is, the customer thinks that Windows and Mac are both great because so much stuff works out of the box with their system. But that’s because Windows comes pre-installed with the drivers and stuff setup already. If you had to set it up manually, good luck! Mac is at a slight advantage because they handle their own hardware, but we’ll let them be for now….
So what did I do? I installed Ubuntu. My hardware worked on the live session. The LIVE session! Didn’t have to configure anything! Network was automatic. Even wireless!! What about all that Windows software I had to run? Actually there were a couple things I needed Windows for. NO PROBLEM! Enter VirtualBox. I can’t believe success stories like this aren’t out there more prevalently.
Ever noticed that any time you buy new hardware for your Windows PC like anew printer or a new mouse or anything it almost always comes with a little CD (sometimes they’re tiny :)). Those are the drivers! I’ve found that more times than not if I’m installing that same hardware on Linux I can just chuck the CD and the hardware will work. Perhaps I need to google for half an hour like I did with my Lexmark printer, but usually can find something to make it work.
I haven’t even dealt with the fact that Linux gives you more choices and flexibility than ANY other system. I haven’t even talked about security and stability. I haven’t even mentioned performance. In all those categories Linux beats Mac and Windows hands down, and the fact of which is well documented. I simply thought the world would benefit from a rebuttal on one of Linux most maligned categories: hardware. But, let’s cut the nonsense. Linux is the real deal. The only other category anyone can complain about is games, and that’s not even that bad, especially with VirtualBox and/or Wine or other similar options.