Linux driver status

Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman has posted a status update on the Linux Driver Project, which is an effort to help hardware manufacturers support Linux – even write the drivers for them – hopefully alleviating the hardware support problems I mentioned in a previous post.

Greg states:

Linux supports more different types of devices than any other operating system ever has in the history of computing.

…which I believe. However, there are a few factors which I think are key to the perception of poor driver support:

  1. The kernels included in distributions naturally lag behind the current kernel release. The change to regular 2-3 month releases must have improved this, but it is still a problem compared to the competition. Most hardware for Windows and Mac comes with a disk of drivers you can install, so it doesn’t matter how old your OS is (within reason) – you can get your new hardware running on it. The Linux approach prefers drivers to be part of the kernel release, for reason
  2. Lagging support for highly visible hardware. Things like wireless network adapters and video capture devices are increasingly common and (it seems slightly redundant to say this) hard to do without if you particularly wanted them.
  3. Support for printers is not a kernel driver issue, Greg notes, but is often perceived as such, because on competing platforms it appears to be a driver issue. Users don’t typically care about this distinction, they just want it to work.

All in all I think that the situation looks good, with some significant improvements (e.g. in wireless) in recent kernels to be included in distributions soon…

Comments are closed.