You know, the old thing about Linux was that it didn’t necessarily support your (new) hardware. Greg Kroah-Hartman has been trying to bust that myth with the Linux Driver Project for a while now. But recent events have proved beyond doubt that not only is he right, but installing and using new devices on Linux is now much easier than on Windows. In the last seven days, my Ubuntu 9.04 laptop encountered five new devices, and here’s what happened:
- My uncle’s camera, which he gave me to take a copy of the photos of a family wedding. I connected it via a USB cable, up popped a Nautilus window and I could drag and drop the photos off easily. On a Windows machine, I suspect I’d have needed a driver CD.
- My new Logitech Presenter (as recommended by gandalf). I plugged it into the laptop, and all the buttons just started working. Brilliant. By contrast, I plugged it into the Windows PC hardwired to the projector where I was doing a presentation, and I first got a “New hardware detected – what do you want to do?” dialog. I picked “find a driver” (well, duh) and then I got a “Enter admin password” prompt. Of course, I didn’t know the admin password and so had to advance my presentation using the Page Down key. :-(
- T-Mobile Mobile Broadband. I bought a mobile broadband stick on a £2-a-day flat rate PAYG plan for occasional use when travelling on trains and also now, while I get internet in my new place set up properly. Plug it in, a wizard asks “Who is your provider?”, pick T-Mobile and you are up and running. When, of course, you remember to switch back to Wifi, register on their website (they texted me a confirm code – doh! I had to put the SIM into my phone to get the text!) and add some credit :-) To be fair, the docs suggest it’s this easy on Windows too, although it may require a reboot.
- HP Deskjet D1560 Printer. I had to print some forms for a training day on the printer the leaders had brought with them. Plugged it in, and it turned up in the evince print dialog without even needing to restart evince. Magic.
- Hauppage Win-TV Nova-T DVB stick. I bought this three years ago, but for the last two years we haven’t had a TV licence, so I haven’t been able to use it. Getting it working last time was an enormous hassle. Now, the kernel just recognizes it. Although actually getting to watch TV has, so far, been stymied by problems further up the software stack.
A pretty good record. I don’t know if it’s relevant that all the devices were USB. But what isn’t, these days?