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Emulating Linux’s Hardware Support in Windows April 24, 2006

Posted by Carthik in ubuntu.
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Many people complain, from time to time about how Linux is poor when it comes to supporting the variety of hardware that is available today. I beg to differ — I think Ubuntu, for one does an outstanding job when compared to Windows XP.

Consider this:
Your standard Windows XP cd does not come with the drivers for your devices. The drivers are usually in the “Installation CDs” that you get with the devices, which you sooner or later misplace. Windows does not have to worry about supporting the variety of hardware out there. The manufacturers do the device drivers themselves.

Ubuntu, on the other hand, has to provide device drivers for all known devices from the many different manufacturers. What’s worse, unlike in the Windows world, Linux users have to rely upon Linux developers to write the device drivers (more often than not).

Here’s the kicker – The Ubuntu install CD (just one cd) has to provide all of those drivers. Windows cannot begin to try to provide the device drivers on a single CD! The closest I have found to a collection of device drivers for Windows XP on cds is the DriverPacks.net project. You will need a total of 9 or more CDs to get all (or most) of the device drivers for the different devices for Windows.
Linux distros often pull off the trick of supporting different kinds of devices by using a common base that works for most manufacturers, with special tweaks/optimizations for the variants. Sometimes variants need a seperate driver, too.

So the next time you want to curse Ubuntu for not figuring out how to make your device work, think of the extra effort involved for the developers (who mostly don’t get paid to do the work they do) who write the drivers, and the OS team that puts together everything to fit on a single CD.

I am willing to spend some extra time to achieve any “extra” features I want beyond that provided by default. It is up to me to go that last foot, when it comes to making the device work perfect. Each time I tweak some setting (like those for my touchpad for example) to make it work better, I get a warm glow. All things are possible in a free world, sometimes things that are not possible in a world where I have to pay. For example, I can drag my finger down the right side of my touchpad to scroll down a page – something I was unable to do in Windows, even with the drivers installed by the manufacturer of my laptop.

Over the year I have been using Ubuntu, I have been positively amazed at the effort that goes into providing me with a free, extremely stable, usable system. I hope you can appreciate the positive differences between Windows and Linux better as time passes.

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2. Rikostan - April 24, 2006

I have noticed that Ubuntu does an awesome job finding newer devices, better than Windows does, but where it seems to fall short is in older devices.

XP has a lot of built in drivers for older devices. You don’t need to go find the install discs, the items are already there, installed, and working great right after installation, but newer devices need correct drivers installed.

Ubuntu seems to be just the opposite, in my ,admittedly, limited experience. I installed Ubuntu on a newer Dell Inspiron laptop and every single little item was installed including my memory card reader. It was a flawless install.
While the install on an older Toshiba Satellite cdt 2800 S201 had a few issues, the main one being the sound card would not work no matter what I did. I tried every trick I could find after a couple of weeks of researching it, but I could not find the answer. This is not the only older machine like this either. I have a couple of Compaq Armadas with the same kind of issues. Machines that run Xp and Win 2000 using drivers on supplied by the OS, have issues with Ubuntu.

So I agree that Ubuntu takes a lot of the driver hassle out of the install process when it comes to newer machines, but it needs some work when it comes to older mainstream device drivers.

3. The Technician - April 24, 2006

I am very happy with Ubuntu and its hardware support. I was amazed that it installed fine on my Sony SRX77 laptop. Granted the unique function buttons do not work, but all the hardware and onboard wireless was detected. Well done Ubuntu.

4. Bâshrat the Sneaky - April 25, 2006

In fact Windows DOES support most devices out-of-the-box, only some specific hardware isn’t supported. Windows’ setup CD however does not support many mass storage controllers and that’s where the DriverPacks are an absolute necessity.
I said Windows does support most (Plug ‘n Play) devices, but most of the time that will only be a generic driver, which means your system will not perform at such a level it could perform AND quite often the functionality will be limited. That’s where the DriverPacks prove themselves worthy: no more need to download and install the drivers manually.
Now you know what the DriverPacks do for Windows. But there’s another remark I’d like to add. From the article: “You will need a total of 9 or more CDs to get all (or most) of the device drivers for the different devices for Windows.”. That’s not true. In pure, uncompressed form, they are 1.1GB. CAB compressed they are 550 MB. 7zipped they are 210 MB. You’ll only find the DriverPacks in CABbed or 7zipped form on your Windows installation disc, which means it can easily fit on one CD (7zipped). Exact space requirements can be found here: http://www.driverpacks.net/Projects/DriverPacks/Installation_Instructions.htm#space_requirements.

5. digen - April 25, 2006

As far as my limited experience goes Ubuntu Linux has very good hardware detection capabilities.It has detected the wifi on my laptop which no other distro I’ve tried has done it natively.

6. chrisgoerner - April 28, 2006

I’ve been an Ubuntu user since Hoary Hedgehog, and I’m very happy with hardware compatability in Ubuntu. I have had some trouble trying to find a good compatible printer, and film scanner, but this would be the same with any Linux distro.
And on the machines that I’ve installed Ubuntu on (probably about 20 or so), I’ve found the hardware detection, and included drivers, better (in general) than Windows XP.

7. dooohhead - April 28, 2006

I’m very much a novice when it come to Ubuntu and Linux in general, but I was impressed that aside from getting a printer to work, everything else has just been detected and seems to run. As a matter of fact my printer is “known”, but I have yet to figure out how to install the drivers correctly to make it work, so it appears to know that my printer is there (including the model, etc) but just doesn’t know how to print to it. I like it and have decided to continue to use it instead of Mandriva, which I previously used for awhile.

8. Alejandro - May 6, 2006

very nice post, most of the things you say are true and windozers don’t think about them…thanks Kernel team!!

9. stabani - May 12, 2006

I actually just installed Ubuntu–mainly because of reading your blog (its been sitting in my folders for a while) I mistakenly formatted my hard drive, but that’s a different story (happened outside of linux, in windows actually, dumb windows).

Installing Ubuntu drivers and all was actually easier than I’ve ever had it before. Everything Works! I love it!
Using Ubuntu 5.1.0 64-bit Edition

10. james - May 14, 2006

yeah, ubuntu’s “excellent” support for hardware owes a lot to the willingness of its developers and its founder to include binary only drivers and/or code released only under NDA.

not exactly open source, or free, but hey, congratulations.

11. stabani - May 15, 2006

I was quite suprised to find out that Ubuntu 5.1 automatically finds my phone (w800i) plugged into the computer and automatically sets it up. It requires a complete program on windows!

12. Chris Spejcher - May 22, 2006

Only issue I have with Ubuntu is webcam support. It’s a bit tricky and it always completely freezes everything and I cut the power so I can restart it. Other than that, Ubuntu beats Windows hands down. Firefox, BitTorrent, Gimp, Gaim, drivers for video and sound, etc all working by default. Only time I use Windows is when I take pics with the webcam. Might just get a digital cam though by the end of the year.

13. David Russell - May 30, 2006

The fact that more effort goes into Ubuntu’s device support doesn’t mean that it’s better. Take any given device (say, a wireless card). You can be certain that there is a Windows driver for it, but there is no such certainty in respect of Ubuntu. Therefore Windows device support is better.

14. Eugenio Yime - August 16, 2006

Hi, I’m using Ubuntu one month ago. I’m very exciting with this Operating System. I just want to say that Ubuntu project can make a Hardware Compatibility List, so we, the users, can purchase only the hardware in that list.

Thanks.

15. mugwamp - January 29, 2007

I attempted to install Edgy on an IBM NetVista and got serious video issues. After a weekend of work, and many trips to the forums, I managed to get the thing working with very low resolution. The problem that Ubuntu (and any other Linux distribution) is going to have, is that some installations go great with few problems whereas other installations turn into complete and utter disasters. Any newbie who experiences hours of frustration is very likely to go backto Windows and tell his friends that Linux is a joke. Right now I’m waiting for my Suse 10.1 discs to arrive so I haven’t completely given up. But Ubuntu has a long ways to go before it can compete on the desktop with preloaded Windows where everything works.

16. Aja - March 25, 2007

Hi,
Linux is a good platform to use, BUT it suffers from driver problems.
Try installing any Linux version from Ubuntu to RedHat with a new computer that has got SIS Ethernet, SIS sound or late model Epson printer, LCD monitors, and you’ll find how well it works.
I have tried just about every version of Linux there is, yes its mostly free, yes it is by a lot of volunteers but if you are new to it and strike these problems it is NO good to you.
We are probably spoiled by Windows operating systems but not everybody is into command line and mounting mode.
As it is Linux will never ever replace a system like windows because there are too many not working and unstable versions out there, even commercial ones like Lindows, Xandros, PClinux do not support lots of hardware.
Maybe if all clever people in the Linux community put their heads together and came up with a version that knocks Windows for dead we would not have to rely on Microsoft for its bloated crap, but as it is Linux in general does not offer a good alternative sadly.
Just installed SuSe 10.2 and again no support for Philips 190P7 LCD screen, no drivers for Ethernet SIS190, so there you are, no good trying to get people excited about a system that does not work properly on one CD or not!
Bugger means I have to go back to Windoze at least it works and lets me use the hardware in my machine
(Intel P4 D 3.4 ,2GB DDR667, Nvidia7600GS, 160GB SATA x2 On board Ethernet SIS190, Asus DVD writer, Card reader)
Anybody can get me CD with a Linux system on it that will allow me to run this machine bring it on, gladly pay for it but I wont hold my breath.
Regards,
Aja

17. Aja - April 2, 2007

Well after having read most blogs, Google results and the likes I must say I’m not surprised to find NOBODY has come up or even wrote about the problems I mentioned with drivers.
Google is full of same problems, trying to make it work by mucking around is not how it should be at all, okay if you are a Linux expert or long time user, NO good for a beginner.
So it looks even after offering a reward to make it work on my machine we will have to stick to Windows as so-called Linux experts are not really up to it, or maybe even cant be bothered???

18. porno sikiş - September 27, 2010

I am very happy with Ubuntu and its hardware support. I was amazed that it installed fine on my Sony SRX77 laptop. Granted the unique function buttons do not work, but all the hardware and onboard wireless was detected. Well done Ubuntu.

19. sex sikiş - September 28, 2010

I’m very much a novice when it come to Ubuntu and Linux in general, but I was impressed that aside from getting a printer to work, everything else has just been detected and seems to run. As a matter of fact my printer is “known”, but I have yet to figure out how to install the drivers correctly to make it work, so it appears to know that my printer is there (including the model, etc) but just doesn’t know how to print to it. I like it and have decided to continue to use it instead of Mandriva, which I previously used for awhile.


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