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Operating Systems Software Linux

Linux Supports More Devices Than Any Other OS 272

Posted by kdawson
from the in-the-tree dept.
Linux Blog recommends an interview up on the O'Reilly site with Greg Kroah-Hartman, long-time Linux kernel hacker and the current Linux kernel maintainer for the USB driver core. He updates the free Linux driver program announced almost two years ago, which has really caught traction now with more than 300 developers volunteering. The interviewer begins by asking about Kroah-Hartman's claim that the Linux kernel now supports more devices than any other operating system ever has. "[One factor is] the ease of writing drivers; Linux drivers are at normally one-third smaller than Windows drivers or other operating system drivers. We have all the examples there, so it's trivial to write a new one if you have new hardware, usually because you can copy the code and go. We maintain them... forever, so the old ones don't disappear and we run on every single processor out there. I mean Linux is 80% of the world's top 500 super computers right now and we're also the number one embedded operating system today. We've got both sides of the market because it's — yeah it's pretty amazing. I don't know why, but we're doing something right."
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Linux Supports More Devices Than Any Other OS

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  • by XB-70 (812342) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:18PM (#25634399)
    Could you guys write a driver for my limo?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...and it can't even work properly on X86. OObOOOOnTOO!
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:20PM (#25634421)
    Its no surprise that Linux supports more devices. Just look at various hardware devices that require third-party drivers and sometimes even third-party software to function on Windows.
    • by jav1231 (539129) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:23PM (#25634451)
      I'll remember that when Linux fails to ID my laptop's wifi adapter and the guy in #linuxhelp tells me, "Dude, I dunno...mine works!"
      • It's... very much a distro thing.

        Ubuntu, despite having newer kernels and stuff, doesn't support my wifi card like Sabayon does. I 3 that distro ^-^

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Randle_Revar (229304)

          I don't know the details of your case, but in general, it is NOT a distro thing. In the case of wifi, anything using the same kernel newer than 2.6.23 should have similar wifi support except for some like Mint that automate ndiswrapper setup.

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:36PM (#25634585)
        I will bet you just about any amount of money that the standard kernel for Vista doesn't detect that card. Yes, Windows has third-party drivers, but Windows relies on third-party drivers for everything, Linux does not.
        • by jav1231 (539129)
          I'm just sayin'...I love Linux, Man. I'm with ya. But I haven't run it in quite some time due to the hoops I have to go through to get my wifi working only to have an update break it...using the same module. :(
        • Vista ships with drivers for a lot of things on the disc, all the way back to RTM.

          My BCM94311 works out of the box on Vista because Vista was released after that chip became common, hence MS probably demanded they be allowed to put the driver on the install disc.

        • by DaveWick79 (939388) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:25PM (#25635125)

          This may be true, but which OS is handicapped by it?

          The only advantage to Linux is the more frequent release schedule which allows it to stay current with drivers.

          Every windows release has come with a fairly current and comprehensive driver list. Every device you can buy has a windows driver included with it.

          Also of note is the influx of what you might call "Basic functionality" drivers for devices such as scanners and multifunction printers - often full feature drivers are not available for these devices even though they technically work on Linux.

          • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @09:06PM (#25635515) Homepage Journal

            I ahve yet to install a version of windoes that didn't require immediate driver updates.

          • by pembo13 (770295)
            Isn't that kinda saying that you can understand this message I gave you because I didn't give you the cipher, and therefore it is your fault?
          • by merreborn (853723) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:11PM (#25636251) Journal

            Every windows release has come with a fairly current and comprehensive driver list.

            Where windows flounders and linux shines, is with non-current drivers.

            I pulled an old voodoo 3 out of an an ancient PC. It was pretty trivial to get debian to recognize it, but after hours of searching, I never found a functional windows XP driver.

            • FYI (Score:3, Insightful)

              by DrYak (748999)

              3DFX Zone [3dfxzone.it] host a couple of interesting drivers.

              Including SFFFT's drivers.
              These work with Windows XP and XP64 and provide support for Glide (3dfx did release the source for the Linux version) OpenGL (thanks to Mesa3D) and DirectX 9 (at least for the function that the hardware can provide).

              But then again, back to the main argument, it's an entirely community effort based on opensource code and such. Stock Windows does not support it, and it's not trivial to find decent drivers for it. Whereas "tdfx" is just a

          • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:14PM (#25636265)
            But, honestly, I'd rather the Linux "basic" driver to the third-party crapware that you have to install to get some printers working. Things that are so slow to do some things make the device (or Windows) totally unusable because of the slowness. It would be one thing if all the drivers were standardized and worked seamlessly but it seems like every device requires yet another crapware extension to use the software.
          • by Draek (916851) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:56PM (#25636511)

            Every device you can buy has a windows driver included with it.

            Wrong. Maybe every consumer-level device you can buy today, but I have a nice shiny network card around that needs tweaking to work in Linux, doesn't work at all in Windows (yes, I tried, for more than a day), and only works flawlessly in FreeBSD and Solaris. Dunno where it came from, probably a server somewhere. And don't even get me started on PPC, SPARC et al, where Windows dearest fails to run at all. Which is kinda unfortunate for my Powerbook, but alas, we do have Linux.

            People sometimes forget that, despite their ~95% marketshare, not all devices in the world are Windows-compatible, or were ever meant to be.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bollox4 (852236)
            Absolutely! As an old time sound card user, the support from Linux until recently has been pretty dire and even now is pretty basic since many cards have included software that goes beyond the "ooh, this card produces sound" front to supporting 5.1 & 7.1 surround sound et al. Here's a for instance... I have an E-MU 1212m. Linux say they have drivers for this card. Great it produces sound. However, I have Windows software that let's me interact with that card, that takes full advantage of every input
          • by Repossessed (1117929) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:04AM (#25636809)

            Every windows release has come with a fairly current and comprehensive driver list. Every device you can buy has a windows driver included with it.

            My computer will not run windows. Yes all the hardware has windows drivers, but those drivers span from windows 98 to Vista. Some of them are not available to download at all, the manufacturer having decided I should buy a new device that costs 5 times as much.

          • Re:Printers (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Taxman415a (863020)
            You've hit the point where I'm not sure Greg Kroah-Hartman is in touch with reality. Now I very much value his efforts and this doesn't change that, but if you RTFA (I know, I know) he says that every type of device is supported and there are only two classes of devices that are problems. He mentions webcams and wireless. He says webcam suport has recently been greatly improved and about wireless: About a year ago wireless wasn't doing so well. We got a bunch of people working on that now and everything is
        • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:28PM (#25635157)
          That's a really undersold benefit of Linux-as-we-know-it. Everything is built in, or can be found on the repositories in a way that makes Windows Update look amateurish.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kwerle (39371)

          Do I still have to recompile the kernel to get that 3rd party driver to work in linux, or is that one solved?

        • by Rogerborg (306625)

          I will bet you just about any amount of money that the standard kernel for Vista doesn't detect that card.

          Oh, I'll take that bet. I'll have to collect via my wife's Vista install though, rather than Ubuntu 8.10, since 8 hours of Googling, modprobing and sudoing has been unable to breathe life into the generic USB wifi dongle that Vista just worked with.

          I'm not even going to take issue with the general contention that Linux supports more hardware out of the box, but it still lags in wifi support, and that

          • Oh, I'll take that bet. I'll have to collect via my wife's Vista install though, rather than Ubuntu 8.10, since 8 hours of Googling, modprobing and sudoing has been unable to breathe life into the generic USB wifi dongle that Vista just worked with.

            What chipset is it? And you are sure that you tested this on a generic Vista install, meaning no third-party drivers whatsoever. You may have a point if its a Broadcom chipset, but just about anything else Linux will detect without fail and Windows requires messing around with drivers.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hairyfeet (841228)

            What gets me are those damned Lexmark all in ones. Here in AR I work on a lot of folks PC that aren't the latest and greatest,and they could really use Linux security. But I had to give up even thinking about showing Linux even to those that only use their PC for email and surfing because I'd walk into their house and there sat a Lexmark all in one. And now I'm in the same boat since a customer gave me a new Lexmark when her husband bought her a laser printer. Trying to get it to print,much less scan or fax

      • by neo8750 (566137)

        I'll remember that when Linux fails to ID my laptop's wifi adapter and the guy in #linuxhelp tells me, "Dude, I dunno...mine works!"

        I'll remeber that when do the same for my windows box and get told same thing. My linksys WPC54G card comes to mind. It worked fine in linux but never ever was able to connect to encrypted or unencrypted networks in windows

        Its called every system is different and that means its can really just be specific to you

      • Flash.

        Hardly anyone uses Flash, do they?

      • by pembo13 (770295)
        Well Windows ues third-party drivers for that. But yah, it sucks when it's your driver that is missing. Not exactly the fault of Linux though. If anything you should be pissed at the people you _paid_ for the laptop.
    • Reading the article, I find a lot of enthusiasm from Greg Kroah-Hartman about how well the program has worked, saying that most hardware manufacturers come to his project to make sure that their hardware works with Linux: "Everything is supported by Linux. If you have a device that isn't supported by Linux that's being shipped today, let me know."

      I'd like the touchscreen device (Touchsmart PC by HP) to be supported by Linux. That would be cool. The idea of Compiz Fusion on a touchscreen makes me drool.

      Are

    • by sslo (1143755) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:50PM (#25636455)
      "Its no surprise that Linux supports more devices."

      I say! Hallo over there.

      Could some of you fine upstanding penguins please find it in your pint-size reptilian hearts to migrate over here to Van Daemon's Land this season, and help our poor bewildered little FreeBSD creature rebuild his USB nest?

      This is no joke, penguin people. Seriously, I need to keep a Kubuntu machine handy just to read the SD cards from my Canon. That simple task crashes FreeBSD. Regularly, reliably crashes it.

      I will probably be hunted down and speared with a tiny fork for this. But I think we need some penguin DNA over here, because no one has been able to properly deal with this for the past six years or more.

      There's a recent article at Linux.com about the ancient FreeBSD kernel panic involved in this, that has now even tripped up the PC-BSD project. http://www.linux.com/feature/149224 [linux.com]

      And now, I must scurry hurry to hide from the fork prongs!

      Sincerely - a frightened daemon captive

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by koinu (472851)

        That simple task crashes FreeBSD. Regularly, reliably crashes it.

        Have you heard about the FreeBSD USB2 project? They have important a totally new USB stack into the -CURRENT kernel recently. You could try it out.

        I hope you reported your USB problem on the stable mailing list or at least on their bug tracker.

  • by Gat0r30y (957941) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:22PM (#25634437) Homepage Journal
    Has anyone here tried to get Windows or Mac or anything else running in a custom embedded environment?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      The world of proprietary OS makes a strict division between desktop and embedded. For MS there's the CE packages. There is "embedded hardware" with XP and 98, but they're really miniaturised desktop motherboards.

      I've seen CE in robotics and lab equipment (oscilloscopes, vector analysers, EMC measurement, ...). I've yet to encounter Linux in this world. I once asked the person responsible at my previous job about this and the answer was pretty simple: You pay a license, you get a service. With Linux you can
      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:44PM (#25634671)

        On the other hand, I work in medical research and you don't see any embedded Windows, or straight-out-of-the-box Linux. The reason? You need someone to take responsibility for the system. MS specifically says that Windows is not appropriate for use in critical systems.

        • by freddy_dreddy (1321567) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:16PM (#25635019)
          The equipment you're working with probably comes from companies like Barco, Agfa, Siemens, ... am I right ? The ones I saw in that field all ran proprietary software directly on the hardware or on a very thin proprietary OS. Which is why this equipment is so $-intensive (that, and medical research generally pays whatever bill you present them with).
          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            Among others.

            One of the reasons it's so expensive is that some engineer has to sign to certify that it's safe. He's not going to do that unless it's tested. Well. For the lowest levels that can mean code that's proven correct. That takes a huge amount of time.

            But when something goes wrong with those systems it often means a bit more than your usual Windows blue screen. Like that gamma knife that cooked a patient.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by juiceboxfan (990017)

        I've seen CE in robotics and lab equipment (oscilloscopes, vector analysers, EMC measurement, ...). I've yet to encounter Linux in this world.

        It has always amazed me how much test equipment manufactures have embraced windows. Even HP(Agilent) switched their logic analyzers from HP/UX to windows some time ago.

        SONET testers are about the only [jdsu.com] exceptions [ixiacom.com] that I am aware of.

  • How do you get a tag misspelled on a /. story??

  • by lxs (131946) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:23PM (#25634449)
  • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:37PM (#25634601) Journal
    Can we get proper links in the summaries. I expected the link in "He updates the free Linux driver program announced almost two years ago" (which I've bolded because underlining is filtered out) to point to the program's website [linuxdriverproject.org] rather than back to Slashdot.

    If you want to link to Slashdot, then do it this way: "He updates the free Linux driver program announced almost two years ago [slashdot.org]"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Yet another example of the irritating blog phenomenon of "reporting" on something without bothering to link back to the source.

      A couple of weeks ago I found a project to control a remote control car with an iPhone. Last week someone was interested in doing something similar, so I did a quick Google search for it. In the intervening week dozens of blogs had parroted a description of the project and NOT ONE OF THEM had a link back to it.

      I finally found the original, buried a couple of pages down.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by marcosdumay (620877)
        Bloggers are just getting in line with professional journalists. When was the last time you saw a reference on a paper news? Or even on a web news?
    • by xant (99438)

      Interestingly, I read your post, went back over the links in the summary, and was shocked that they didn't link to the program's website there.

      There is starting to become an actual set of grammar rules for these things, which are implicitly recognized by Internet-literates, and broken only at the risk of seeming illiterate. Linking incorrectly is becoming as obvious as using the wrong tense of a verb: "Yesterday he goes to the store." And done incorrectly for the same reasons: some people can't bother to

  • Linux Story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:40PM (#25634631)

    Upgraded my Ubuntu server from Feisty (7.04) to Hardy (8.04). The path to Hardy includes Gutsy (7.10). The series of apt-get dist-upgrades went well...then I tried to run apache2. Error:

    symbol lookup error: /usr/lib/libxml2.so.2: undefined symbol: gzopen64

    I googled...turns out it doesn't remove an old libz file...certain things still refer to it. /usr/local/libz.so.1.2.3.3 is the right one, while the links in /usr/local/lib/ point to /usr/local/lib/libz.so.1.2.3 which is the wrong one. Copy the former into the latter, redo the links, everything's hunky dory.

    I think the difference here between Windows and Linux is that I wouldn't have upgraded Windows...I would have reinstalled (going from 2000 to 2003, for example).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cheater512 (783349)

      Nothing to do with drivers. :P

      No clue about Ubuntu but Gentoo not only detects breakages such as that but can also prevent anything bad from happening until its fixed.
      Not sure why Ubuntu left the old version.

      Posted from a 4 or 5 year old Gentoo install.
      Updates are smooth. :)

      • Except when it doesn't. That 'secret sauce' is powerful stuff, but Debian has a rather different approach to package management.

        Now try getting the same set of libraries twice running on a gentoo box, as the compiler changes behind your back.

        • by Ash-Fox (726320)

          Except when it doesn't. That 'secret sauce' is powerful stuff, but Debian has a rather different approach to package management.

          Indeed! Now if only that person used the distro packages instead of his custom installed ones - How do I know?

          The libraries are in /usr/local/lib/, he said it himself!

    • Re:Linux Story (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xtifr (1323) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:23PM (#25635091) Homepage

      Any files in /usr/local were provided by you, not Ubuntu. I have apache2 installed here on my Ubuntu box, and my /usr/local/lib directory is empty. Debian policy (which Ubuntu is based on) reserves /usr/local 100% for the local admin, and forbids packages from putting anything in that hierarchy except empty directories. (See section 9.1.2 [debian.org].)

      Or to put it another way, no, /usr/local/libz.so.1.2.3.3 is not the "right" one. It's another wrong one that happens to be working for you. For now. The right one is /usr/lib/libz.so.1.2.3.3. Next time you upgrade, that /usr/local version is going to bite you in the ass again.

      Ubuntu can do a fine job of updating itself, but it's hardly going to be able to upgrade 3rd-party software you installed manually, now, is it?

      (Windows is a different case, of course, since Windows doesn't come with any useful software in the first place.) :)

    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      This was always a concern of mine with binary distros. "DLL Hell" - Linux-style. It's never been as bad for me with RH or SuSE as it ever was for Windows, but my paranoia showed through, and I eventually made my switch to Gentoo. Funny thing is, I get mismatched libraries far more often, but I also upgrade software far more often. However, there is a simple fix: revdep-rebuild. Look for libraries and executables that are missing their libraries and rebuild, which should get them linked against the new

      • RPM has gotten pretty good about reporting dynamic libraries and recording their dependencies. It's when different packages need different libraries, and are built from different sources or distributions without ever being RPM managed, that life gets nutty. If I see one more package that is handbuilt from both Apache 1.3 modules and the latest untested CPAN tools, and have to unweave the dependencies and backport libraries for it, well, I'm going to be unhappy about it.
  • Drivers/embedded (Score:4, Informative)

    by WarJolt (990309) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:57PM (#25634819)

    There are more drivers because embedded hardware needs drivers to run hardware. You need a driver for your i2c bus. You need a driver to control that LCD panel on your linux-based PDA device. It's like comparing apples with oranges. Windows simply hasn't penetrated into the embedded market like Linux has.

    I still don't have Linux support for my creative express card sound device and it is supported on windows.

    • I seem to have I2C drivers up and running on both my old P4 desktop and my new laptop.

      lm_sensors uses it.
      All the temp readings and voltages are over I2C.
      Uses the same code as the embedded devices.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd (1658)
      That's true, but Linux isn't where it could - or should - be. There are many antique 3rd part drivers for Linux for embedded devices and busses (COMEDI doesn't get updated often, DDC's Linux drivers for $1000+ aviation buses haven't been updated in years, VME drivers are equally badly maintained), where comparable drivers for Windows are nice, shiny and up-to-date... even though you know damn well that's not where the market is. It seems to me that some hardware vendors release Windows drivers because they
  • I know the data can be very misleading. The average Windows Machine has about 87 devices on it, the majority of which are supported by class drivers (hard drives, chipsets, processors, etc).

    In the Windows world, almost all display devices are covered by VGA.sys - so the device has a driver, but is the user experience good?

    Also, what is considered a unique device? Most hard drives have a unique identification string, but they are all supported by a null driver. By just supporting a generic hard drive
  • "I mean Linux is 80% of the world's top 500 super computers right now and we're also the number one embedded operating system today. We've got both sides of the market because it's -- yeah it's pretty amazing. I don't know why, but we're doing something right."

    Sure they've got a huge percentage of the smallest markets out there. For all that they are missing 99% of the desktop market primarily because noone has matured the desktop Linux OS to anywhere near the point where Windows is, let alone MacOS. Wind

    • there are more embedded systems then PCs.

      • Yes but even though that may be the case, Linux still only owns 18% of that market and it's a far less lucrative market. 74% of Survey respondents indicated that they would not be using an open source embedded OS on their next project.

        However, as a free open source OS, what does Linux have to gain by being used? Is anybody profiting from it? Maybe it helps the device manufacturer's bottom line a little bit if they don't have to pay for licensing. But as far as Linux goes or any of the linux developers,

  • by quixote9 (999874) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:40PM (#25635297) Homepage
    but I moved to Ubuntu anyway a few years back when M$ started turning off purchased, but unregistered, copies of Office. So I had my share of issues back in the day.

    A while ago I was helping somebody get some software running and printing under Windows, and . . . gawd! . . . they had to install a driver. It's been a couple of years since I had to do anything so primitive. Everything just works.

    That's when it finally dawned on me that the times they are a'changin.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cerberusss (660701)

      Hehheh, yeah it's not easy to go back to the old ways. Fixing such issues on Windows, you immediately miss sudo, tail -f /var/log/messages, lsmod, et cetera.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:45PM (#25635347)
    all this back patting linux people give themselfs blinds them to the obvious failings it has. Does anyone really believe linux has better device support than windows? linux failed on 2 of my laptops and i know plenty of people who have given up on wifi. cry all you want about "bad" hardware and vendors who don't release specs, it doesn't make linux anymore attractive.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maugle (1369813)
      It's not "linux supports more devices, period", it's "linux supports more devices out of the box".

      Of course, if your device doesn't work immediately in linux, you're SOL in most cases.
    • by Draek (916851)

      linux failed on 2 of my laptops and i know plenty of people who have given up on wifi.

      Care to tell me how to install Windows on my PPC-based Powerbook? Right, and you're crying about wifi.

      Call me again when Windows supports anything other than x86 and AMD64, 'kay?

  • Yes, but a lot of mainstream hardware still doesn't have drivers. IE, the MinTV Digital Tuner Card I bought yesterday which the salesman *assured* me ran Linux, but actually didn't.

    Returning that today, and yes they will know why...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "the MinTV Digital Tuner Card I bought yesterday which the salesman *assured* me ran Linux, but actually didn't."

      First mistake, trusting a salesman!

      I always buy online after searching for information and reviews. I don't trust salesman to know shit or tell the truth.

  • This is all good and great but what is the ratio fornew devices ?

    I am impressed that there is a driver for that 300 baud modem that connects through the floppy port,
    but what about a driver for the latest all in one bluetooth printer ?

    G
  • lol... mod it funny you trolls!

    (i'm on ubuntu right now)

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