Hardly Any Hardware Works on Ubuntu Linux? 03/06/08

… that’s a statement in one of me email messages this morning.

Imagine, I’m starting my day and reviewing messages and posts over a cup of tea, when I read this rather angry filth desperate plea for help because “… apparently Ubuntu, and all of Linux is worthless, there is no hardware support for these crappy #$@*!+? OS’s! Hardly any hardware works on Ubuntu linux, it &%#$@ …” Ummm… let’s call this email writer “Joe”. (You know who you are.) :-)

Perhaps for all the Joe’s (myself included). Let’s dispel this myth shall we?

Personally, I’d like to clarify one thing. I do not believe that there is a single piece of hardware that does not work with Linux. (After all, ask “Steve”: He’s the “Super Villian”). Funny video links aside, I think a more accurate statement is that some hardware requires drivers to be written. And yes, I do concede that for now there may be more drivers readily available for other platforms, only because those platforms were adopted for desktop use by the general public, faster than Linux was – And as such, vendors wrote more drivers for them.

That trend is clearly changing. Poor hardware support, as in “Hardly Any Hardware Works on Ubuntu Linux!”… I think not! I have only had one issue with drivers, I couldn’t get some Realtek network cards working, so I switched (easy). To be sure, I’ve posted about hardware before:

Ubuntu Hardware Compatability List (HCL)
Massive List of Laptops That Work With Ubuntu

After further reading online, it is very evident that the increasing adoption of Linux (at an increasing rate) on the desktop, is improving the quality and volume of hardware support for the end user. For example, Ubuntu Brainstorm has an active community providing valuable input for hardware support among other communities.

Additionally, “Joe” needs to be aware of the issue between a driver and software used to obtain functionality. I’ve personally encountered this issue with a WebCam: Linux Driver for Quickcam USB cameras – Logitech Quickcam Fusion, where I had trouble because of drivers and then a separate issue where I did not have some functionality because it (the functions) were not provided by the software I was using. And yes, it would have been easy to simply say the hardware does not work, but evidently, I got this “unsupported” hardware working. Mark Shuttleworth’s blog “here be dragons” clearly addresses this very aspect:

“…Solving this requires work at two levels – first there are possibly some drivers, and second there need to be relevant applications to manage the gadget’s content (music, photos, videos, GPS tracks, etc) and administer the gadget (firmware updates etc)…”

“…it’s all about critical mass. Once 5-10% of the people who buy these gadgets are running Linux (actually, a single brand of Linux), only then will the gadget manufacturers themselves start to care about it as a consumer platform for which their stuff should work. That goes for everything from cell phones, PDA’s, and smart phones to some of the more weird and wonderful things that people like to drive from a PC, like laser cutters and 3D printing machines. It’s partly just a matter of time, but then it’s also partly a question of how we communicate the state of Linux today…” You can read his full post here: http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/76

Now, for those looking for “currently” compatible hardware, I’ve listed some of the resources I use below. Hopefully, they will help you too. And if you’re reading, Joe… This list is for you too. :) Enjoy!

Ubuntu Hardware Support

Linux Compatible

Ubuntu HCL

Hardwaredatenbank (German – Hardware Databank)

Linux Hardware Compatibility HOWTO

Linux Hardware Compatibility Lists & Linux Drivers

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2 Responses to this article

Vadim P. March 6, 2008 Reply

Only had that happen once, to which I replied, “Okay, list me all hardware that isn’t working.”

The list was extremely short. Then we checked the manufacturers page, and saw no Linux support listed. That explained things some.

Next, we googled the name of the offending device, and a few words describing the problem. Second google link, a couple of copy/pasted commands on the terminal, and the hardware was working just fine.

The guy was quite happy too also, and future requests were much more polite. -That’s- the real thing you’re going for :)

UbuntuLinuxHelp March 6, 2008 Reply

Yup, you’re right. We don’t want to hear/read filth. We only want to say it. Hee hee hee… But you’ve got a valid point, which is: we still have to make sure the hardware is compatible.

Usually when I’m at a tech shop asking about a part… “Is it compatible with Ubuntu Linux?”. They start smiling and you can see they don’t know. (One reason why I poked a little “dig” at Logitec in the webcam post). ;)

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