• 3 minutes • 2009-11-01

    Nowadays, we are all about gadgets. My new printer, my new digital camera, my ability to connect my phone with my PC etc. As a consumer society we tend to buy stuff that we do not need or hardly ever use. I of course am no exception to this rule. I have tons of junk which are either replaced by newer models - and I didn’t have to replace them - or just obsolete items.

    What I am annoyed though is that although technology concerning peripherals is moving quite fast, the vendors themselves live in a prehistoric age and make the deadly wrong assumption that there is only one operating system in the world.

    Yes I am talking about Windows and the refusal of vendors to release drivers or software for their products for use in other operating systems.

    When I bought my Ferrari Acer 3000 it came with Windows XP Home Edition. I duly did not accept the Agreement Microsoft plastered all over the screen, took the manual and the CD and sent it back to them for a refund - which they have sent me. I chose to install Gentoo Linux on that laptop to have it as my little baby and play around. The initial obstacles arrived with the WiFi. It appears that Broadcom (the vendor of the WiFi device) claims that they cannot release the code for their drivers as open source since it violates an agreement they have with some US Government Organization/Agency. Fair enough we do not want you to release the source code. Release drivers for Linux then. Official ones, supported by Broadcom. If Broadcom or any other vendor has the resources to write Windows drivers, some of those resources can easily be targeted to the Linux community. Luckily the ingenuity of some people on the internet allowed the use of the Windows drivers in Linux with a package called ndiswrapper.

    Today I went to buy a new camera. Not that I didn’t have one (see first paragraph of this post) but I thought I might take one with a better resolution. Again… no Linux drivers. Why is that? Why are there drivers for almost all flavors of Windows and not for Linux? Granted that throughout the world there are more users that use a Windows distribution than Linux or MacOS. However the gap between Windows and Linux is decreasing every year. How many years must we wait until the vendors start releasing Linux drivers and software for their products I wonder. Notable that of all the cameras I saw today, only one (a Phillips) was giving software and drivers for MacOS.

    As far as drivers are concerned we all have to rely on the efforts of Mr. or Mrs. John Doe, an anonymous student or individual who knows a bit of programming and creates a project to make his/her hardware work while at the same time help others that have the same problem.

    Compared to just a year ago, the problem of missing Linux drivers for particular hardware peripherals has gotten better. But peripherals like TV cards and card readers can still present problems. Oliver Diedrich, “c’t. magazine

    I do hope this situation changes in the near future. It is a shame why users would not choose Linux because the hardware they own is not supported…

    Now let me get back to work…

Nikolaos Dimopoulos
Nikolaos Dimopoulos

Boldly goes where no other coder has gone before.... and other ramblings