GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams
While a number of hardware manufacturers support GNU/Linux, not all do, or else they are slow about it. This is the cause of most difficulty in installing GNU/Linux yourself--you suddenly find that your hardware is not supported out of the box. However, this is fairly rare today, and when you find yourself in such a situation there is generally a wealth of support available within the GNU/Linux community to solve the problem. Most devices will, however, simply work without any effort under GNU/Linux. We look at some specific cases below. The Linux Hardware HowTo is also a very useful resource.
Network interface cards (NICs) come in many difference designs and there are numerous clones. Sometimes there is very little technical information made available by the manufacture available and open source drivers may be hard to come by. This is only likely though for very recent new cards or very specialised cards (like Gigabit Ethernet). Any PCI Ethernet or Fast Ethernet NIC should work out of the box with GNU/Linux.
Modems that identify themselves as Windows only or designed for Windows are so-called software modems which rely on the CPU doing some of the work for them. Some of these will not work with GNU/Linux. However, all external modems work with GNU/Linux.
For graphics cards, avoid the absolute latest releases until you've checked their driver status under GNU/Linux (check with the retailer or vendor). For example, for nvidia graphics cards (see Section 98.1.1) the NVidia Gnu/Linux binary driver web site has a README that lists the supported cards, which generally includes everything but the absolute latest top-of-the-line cards (support for which is generally only a matter of time).
There is an excellent web site for checking GNU/Linux compatibility for printers (http://www.linuxprinting.org). Generally, most Epson and HP inkjet printers are well supported.
There is a similar web site to check for CD recorder compatibility. In general, any ATA CD-RW and DVD-RW/-RAM/+RW drive should work just fine with GNU/Linux since they are controlled by the ATAPI driver.
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