Linux driver issues (was Re: [RndTbl] Missed the meeting...)

Gilbert E. Detillieux gedetil at
Thu Sep 14 12:09:03 CDT 2006

John Lange wrote:
> I also regret that I missed the meeting but I have one question which
> was probably asked at the meeting.
> Instead of going Windows and kludging it with *nix apps, why not go
> Linux and run the one or two things you need from Windows with Wine?

There were reasons why I did not want to go with Windows under VMware, 
but I didn't specifically address the possibility of Wine as an 
alternative.  My past experience has been that there are a lot of 
compatibility issues with Wine, and I didn't want to have to test each 
Windows application I'm likely to run for compatibility with Wine.

Also, there were numerous driver issues which also were part of my 
motivation for not using Linux (at least not at this point).

> I see from the slides that drivers were a major part of your motivation
> so that obviously wouldn't be solved with Wine but that seems to be less
> and less of an issue these days as pretty much all the major device
> makers are releasing drivers for Mac and Linux. Not knowing specifically
> what devices are giving you grief its hard for me to judge.

The on-board nVidia chipset wasn't supported by the open source "nv" 
driver for Xorg, nor was it even supported by nVidia's own binary-only 
"nvidia" driver.  I had gotten things to work - sort of - with the 
generic "vesa" driver, but there was no support for DPMS screen 
blanking, and no support for wide-screen monitors.  There were a few 
other minor driver issues with other hardware, but this was the big one.

> You did mention printers; I haven't had a problem with printer drivers
> for quite a while now especially HP printers which have drivers shipped
> with most every distro now.

That was with my home system, and my Epson RX500 all-in-one photo-grade 
inkjet printer.  The generic driver under Linux works reasonably well 
for draft-mode printing, but horribly for photo-grade printing, at least 
on this particular series of Epson printers.

> I recently installed Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 on a machine and I
> was so impressed I've been installing it on all my desktop machines. So
> far I put it on two laptops (an old Toshiba satellite pro, and an IBM
> Thinkpad T42), in both cases everything, and I mean _everything_ worked
> right out of the box (yes, including the ATI drivers for onboard video
> card and the dual head display, onboard Wifi etc.)

That is impressive.  I've had lots of issues with ATI support for recent 
video chipsets, as well as with lots of onboard WiFi chipsets.  Of 
course, you are using an older Toshiba and an IBM ThinkPad, both of 
which are usually quite well supported by Linux.  So, your mileage may 

> I fear you switched just when Linux was finally getting good on the
> desktop....

It wasn't an easy choice, and I realize that (in general) things are 
improving with Linux, including with driver support from hardware 
manufacturers.  However, there is still (almost always) a lag between 
the release of new hardware and decent Linux driver support for it.
I happened to get caught up in that in-between time with my new system 
at work, and didn't want to wait until all these issues resolved themselves.

I am keeping a bunch of empty space on the hard drive, with the hope of 
later installing a new Linux distro there, and will likely switch back 
to Linux again when things are better.

Gilbert E. Detillieux		E-mail:	<gedetil at>
Dept. of Computer Science	Web:
University of Manitoba		Phone:	(204)474-8161
Winnipeg MB CANADA  R3T 2N2	Fax:	(204)474-7609

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