Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thbbbt

Is it my imagination or is the Linux hardware situation getting worse?

My motherboard, a socket A with an amd xp processor, gave up the ghost. Unfortunately, my ability to research was limited by dialup internet access on an ancient win95 machine. So I got a dual core AMD64 AM2 system with an ATI rs485 chipset motherboard. Sound looked easy, the ethernet adapter common, the xorg radeon drivers would give me good results. But how to boot. I didn't have access to a cd burner, and an old 2.4 kernel knoppix is the only thing that i had that would boot, but it wouldn't see the sata hard drive. Kubuntu 5 something wouldn't boot, suse 9.3 wouldn't either. A friend had a knoppix dvd from the beginning of the year that would boot, see the drives and allow me to install a system. I then installed gentoo, chrooting into a partition and doing the longish process of building a system. I got a cd burner working, burnt the gentoo and kubuntu live cd's, neither would boot. Getting a kernel to work off the hard drive was miserable, finally using genkernel which loads everything and it's progeny to work. Good.

It was the most difficult install I've ever had to do. The next hardware issue is my Samsung 1740 laser printer. Samsung provides drivers but they only work with cups 1.1x, not 1.2 which the latest distros want to use. Of course I find this out after much vile muttering.

Thankfully the video was simple to setup, and I experienced the impressive speed and ease of use of those inexpensive usb hard drive enclosures. The existing partitions showed up and the speed is amazing. Oh, the dual core amd is very nice, even under heavy load it provides a smooth user interface.

I thought maybe the new hardware configuration was a bit to bleeding edge, but no. I purchased a via based motherboard for the old machine. Guess what. The 6.x kubuntu wouldn't boot there either. This is not new or uncommon hardware. I'm downloading suse to see if it works on any of the machines I have here.

As usual, the only useful documentation anywhere are the user forums in ubuntu and gentoo.

In an attempt to end on a positive note, Wine is getting impressive. At around version 0.9.14, it could install things using install shield. It has hit that nice sweet spot where things just work. Time for microsoft to drastically change their api.


Comments:
a kernel developer at OLS said in one of his talks that while linux has great hardware support, whenever anyone runs over a piece of hardware that some distro won't work with they blame the kernel and say, "god, the linux kernel has crappy hardware support." never mind that it works on all that other hardware they threw at it without so much as a driver disk ;)

being a kernel hacker must be a bit of a thankless job.
 
i agree with aaron. it must be very frustrating to have to keep up with the ever-changing hardware, and the crappy implementations of standards...
 
Is it my imagination or is the Linux hardware situation getting worse?

It's your imagination. Linux' support for hardware is the best support that any of the actual OS's has. I've seen this text (can't say now, forgot it) where it is described that Linux as kernel itself has support for hardware that isn't even planned for other OS's kernels.

About situation going wrong? Can't say, since it is in good state now I do believe it is hardware incompatibility between components (it is possible case).

Greetz
 
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