Hardware Roulette

I needed to buy a card-reader to replace one that died so I stopped by at Walmart on this hot afternoon.

The store had expanded and moved the electronics department so I had a bit of exercise and actually walked around 3 sides of the building before I could exit…

I noticed there was one Acer netbook for sale. Unfortunately it bore that other OS. There was not even a desktop out of a box. It was all notebooks, tablets and smart phones. I was just about to gather some statistics when I met a helpful sales-person who helped me find a card-reader. I bought a “universal” kind and read on the package, “Supports XP, Vista, “7” and MacOS”. No worry, though. The thing works like a champ with GNU/Linux as I expected.:

Aug 29 16:57:38 beast kernel: [2663891.237797] usb 2-1: New USB device found, idVendor=0cf2, idProduct=6230
Aug 29 16:57:38 beast kernel: [2663891.237805] usb 2-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=4
Aug 29 16:57:38 beast kernel: [2663891.237811] usb 2-1: Product: UB623X
Aug 29 16:57:38 beast kernel: [2663891.237814] usb 2-1: Manufacturer: ENE Flash
Aug 29 16:57:38 beast kernel: [2663891.237818] usb 2-1: SerialNumber: 606569746801
Aug 29 16:57:38 beast kernel: [2663891.238220] scsi8 : usb-storage 2-1:1.0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.236178] scsi 8:0:0:0: Direct-Access USB2.0 CardReader CF 0100 PQ: 0 ANSI: 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.236662] scsi 8:0:0:1: Direct-Access USB2.0 CardReader SM XD 0100 PQ: 0 ANSI: 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.237156] scsi 8:0:0:2: Direct-Access USB2.0 CardReader MS 0100 PQ: 0 ANSI: 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.237899] scsi 8:0:0:3: Direct-Access USB2.0 CardReader SD 0100 PQ: 0 ANSI: 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.239293] sd 8:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg3 type 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.239640] sd 8:0:0:1: Attached scsi generic sg4 type 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.239987] sd 8:0:0:2: Attached scsi generic sg5 type 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.240385] sd 8:0:0:3: Attached scsi generic sg6 type 0
Aug 29 16:57:39 beast kernel: [2663892.519221] sd 8:0:0:3: [sdg] 7744512 512-byte logical blocks: (3.96 GB/3.69 GiB)”

Easy. I am a hero because the little woman can now publish pictures of our remodelled mansion, thanks to Debian GNU/Linux, the “Universal” OS. You win with Debian. So much for fearing randomly chosen hardware might not work with GNU/Linux. No searching the web for a driver, either. It was already installed. BTW, the unit that died was no relation to the new one.

Here’s what she’s so proud about:

It’s big and beautiful and we’ve made it look better than new. It took almost as long to renovate it as to build it and I’m glad this long hot summer is winding down.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
This entry was posted in technology. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Hardware Roulette

  1. JR says:

    @ kurkosdr

    Your comment refers …”PC-BSD has such a list AND a tool that allows you to check what hardware is compatible when running the live CD, aka BEFORE installation not afterwards.”

    “Yes, three guys hacking BSD did better than thousands of linux loons.”

    On certain linux live CD/DVD’s and usable when running live BEFORE installation is a program called HardInfo.
    Maybe under another name but nervertheless it seems to comply with your requirements and seems to give a tad more info than the screen displayed on this site.

    http://wiki.pcbsd.org/index.php/Hardware_Compatibility

    See if it compares with the PC-BSD tool and let me know.
    Perhaps you can then send an email to the linux loons at their site.

  2. “BTW what I really asked was a site that has a list of pieces of hardware that have their drivers in the kernel tree (aka they work and they work without binary blobs.”

    MoveTheGoalPosts(TM)

    I gave you exactly what you asked for and now you’re splitting hairs. Where’s the linux equivalent to this? Where’s the fully searchable hardware compatibility list that I can query against every fork of Linux?

  3. “ROFL! Many “regedit” advice columns are about cleaning up after installations/removals gone wrong”

    Such as? Always dealing in heresy instead of actual fact or experience. I’ve actually had Debian, yes DEBIAN, refuse to boot after trying to get multiple monitor support working. Something that takes two clicks in Windows or OSX requires config file editing and the potential to brick your system.

    It wasn’t even a typo, it turns out that the display drivers that I was using didn’t support the monitor’s native resolution. Something Windows and OSX give you actual feedback on, letting you know what resolutions are supported by the monitor via its driver.

  4. “The result, “Error: Unknown config file command “.”

    Great, where’s the error? Zero feedback other than “it’s broken”. You’re no better off than where I said you were. The difference is, I’ve never encountered an error after changing settings in a GUI configuration. This is because fields are validated; I can’t enter a letter when a field only accepts numbers, etc.

    Even web configurations have this down pat. No website says “upload a text file with your config options”, they provide a simple form (automatically generated based on the dataset, like most GUI configs) which automatically validates.

  5. TM lied when he wrote, “it won’t start anymore with no feedback as to what’s broken.”

    Here’s my current $HOME/xpdfrc:
    “cat .xpdfrc
    include /etc/xpdf/xpdfrc
    initialZoom width”

    For a demonstration, let’s break it:
    “cat .xpdfrc
    include /etc/xpdf/xpdfrc
    initialZoon width

    The result, “Error: Unknown config file command “. Granted, if I mistype “width” the program still runs but at least it’s usable. So, software can and does notice misconfiguration. Good software always checks user-input for validity. That’s not a property of the OS, just good coding. Some things are not checked so there is room for improvement. Of course that other OS has the same problem, feeble/evil users and the developer may not have any way of telling whether input is correct or not, e.g. writing “lose” instead of “loose”.

  6. TM made my day with his joke, “configuration GUIs don’t introduce errors the way editing a flat file does”.

    ROFL! Many “regedit” advice columns are about cleaning up after installations/removals gone wrong and then, there’s malware which deliberately messes with the registry so manual tweaking is required or you re-image/re-install the OS. Been there, done that. Re-imaging is the way to go. A lot of malware is a trojan and some of the “guests” may tweak the registry in unknown/undocumented ways. Unless a user has a rigorous backup/restoration system that makes the PC unreliable at best even if you remove the trojan-malware. You cannot be sure to get all the guests. That is why I gave up trying to fight malware on XP and switched my last employer to GNU/Linux. Problem solved.

  7. TM wrote, “For anyone claiming there’s no Windows hardware compatibility list, there’s an entire bloody search engine:”

    Chuckle. For fun, I entered the device I recently purchased in a popular PC shop in Winnipeg…

    It was not found. So, M$’s search engine is incomplete. How is that different from GNU/Linux’s hardware compatibility lists? Most distros quit the HCL racket years ago because it was virtually impossible to get universal coverage.

    Some statistics. I searched the link TM provided for Universal Card Reader, my product. I found two hits. I searched walmart.com for the same string and found 145 hits of which 16 were more or less similar products. So, how useful is that search engine? For your information Alibaba.com is full of OEMs who will rebrand really generic stuff like this so searching is useless. GNU/Linux does index the actual chips used and classifies them by driver very nicely. GNU/Linux also follows published standards for USB so it should work with anything. I have only seen a couple of cameras that had any problem with access by GNU/Linux and that was a configuration problem not software compatibility.

  8. That’s it, time to clear house of trolls contributing nothing to the discussion, like Brillo.

  9. kurkosdr says:

    BTW what I really asked was a site that has a list of pieces of hardware that have their drivers in the kernel tree (aka they work and they work without binary blobs.

    PC-BSD has such a list AND a tool that allows you to check what hardware is compatible when running the live CD, aka BEFORE installation not afterwards.

    Yes, three guys hacking BSD did better than thousands of linux loons

  10. Brillo says:

    Some old coot wrote, “Go XXXX yourself.”

    Fantastic. This is exactly the kind of teacher I want teaching my own children.

    Student: “But other people say one plus one is two instead of three…”

    RP: “Go XXXX yourself.”

  11. ch says:

    “After 10-mins…..”

    And that from someone who charges money for his alledged knowledge of Windows?!? Shame on you!

  12. For anyone claiming there’s no Windows hardware compatibility list, there’s an entire bloody search engine:

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/windows-7/en-us/AdvancedSearch.aspx

    It even displays thumbnails of what the device looks like. Where’s are the thumbnails in Linux, Koz?

    Try searching “logitech”. It shows mice, webcams, microphones, etc. Most are compatible but there are even a few listed as “not compatible”. So no only are they listing all compatible devices, but even ones that aren’t so you know for sure.

  13. Dougman, why are you even having to edit the registry? The average Windows user NEVER touches the registry so what EXACTLY are you doing in there?

    See, unlike Linux, on Windows and OSX, you can configure your applications WITHOUT having to open any files at all. Likewise, configuration GUIs don’t introduce errors the way editing a flat file does. Enabling dual monitor support in Windows doesn’t accidentally prevent my machine from booting, for example.

  14. “Linux solution: Open the text file, make the necessary changes, then save as root. DONE”

    And then the error you accidentally introduced in the config file gets silently eaten by the application and it won’t start anymore with no feedback as to what’s broken. Have fun spending your weekend debugging because you clearly forgot to version control your config files before editing them.

    If you really love the config file approach then you must love INI files, a Windows invention that the registry replaced. Oh wait, Linux folks complained about INI files too. Hypocrites.

  15. “Brillo, in classic trollism, wrote”

    Grow up Robert. This type of editorial is what you always use when you’ve run out of canned responses from the Fanatic’s Handbook.

    “Go XXXX yourself.”

    See what I mean?

  16. Brillo, in classic trollism, wrote, “Notice also that I found out some results in a very hands-on manner, so be careful with your answer.”

    Go XXXX yourself.

  17. Brillo says:

    Erratum:

    For the first link, substitute the original with this.

  18. Brillo says:

    Linux solution: Open the text file, make the necessary changes, then save as root. DONE

    Here are some extended (and more realistic) versions of that.

    1) You open your editor (nano, mc, vi, emacs, whatever) and pound away at the keyboard. You don’t realise a few typos have been made and proceed to reboot the system. Whaddaya know – your Linux won’t start.

    2) You fire up your update manager (yum, apt-get, whatever) and start installing new packages from the repository. Once you have restarted the system, this happens. Ouch!

    Maybe someone needs 10k hours extra playing with fecal matter just to give his “expertise” a bit of a polish?

  19. Brillo says:

    Some old fool, with the steadfastness of a moron running to a brick wall, pasted some sippet of the kernel compile-time configuration file.

    Here a pop quiz, “Will that information help you find out the extent of support for a certain wifi chipset say on any given version of a Debian-based distro?”

    Notice that Debian-based distros tend to follow the practice of “backporting”, which increases the complexity of the underpinning, vanilla source code to some unpredictable extent.

    Notice also that I found out some results in a very hands-on manner, so be careful with your answer.

  20. oiaohm wrote, “The issue is not that the lists don’t exist its the fact they lag behind implementation by about 6 to 8 months.”

    A decade ago there were “compatibility lists” but as oiaohm wrote, one driver covers a bunch of generic devices and there are not many issues these days. Anyway, most systems are bootable in GNU/Linux and if a driver is hard to find, hardware is not.

  21. oiaohm says:

    Ivan there is no proper list of what generic drivers supplied with windows supports either.

    You are depending on makers of devices to brand crud.

    There is a huge list but incompetent in the documentation section of the linux kernel source code. Reason more devices work than what are listed.

    The issue is not that the lists don’t exist its the fact they lag behind implementation by about 6 to 8 months.

  22. dougman says:

    Ways to edit your computer configuration files.

    Linux solution: Open the text file, make the necessary changes, then save as root. DONE

    Now back to work.

    Windows solution: Start-Run-REGEDIT, get frustrated trying to locate particular keys.

    After 10-mins…..

    1. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAdvanced
    2. Right-click in the right pane, click “New,” and click “DWORD Value” or “DWORD (32-bit) Value.”
    3. Name the new DWORD
    4. Double click on ExtendedUIHoverTime to open it.
    5. Click the “Decimal” radio button in the “Base” section. In the “Value data” field.
    6. Click “OK” to commit the change.

    After you apply, the system crashes and forcibly reboots.

    After 5 mins……

    You are greeted with this: http://i.imgur.com/hAUKL.png

    DUH!…

    After 5 mins…..

    You realize that the registry tweak does not allow Windows to boot correctly, so you are force to boot into safe mode. http://0.tqn.com/d/pcsupport/1/0/X/4/-/-/safe-mode-windows-7-2.jpg

    After 10 mins….

    The system crashes again and reboots a second time.

    Grrrrrrrrr……

    At this juncture, you are forced to boot with a Ubuntu LiveCD to fix, and if that doesn’t work, then you will have to re-install on top of the old Windows partition.

    Makes you wonder…. “Why don’t I just use Linux to from the start?”

  23. kozmcrae says:

    Ivan wrote:

    “That is not proper documentation, Bob.”

    Linux hides nothing from you Ivan. What documentation were you not looking for?

  24. Ivan says:

    That is not proper documentation, Bob.

  25. Brillo stupidly prattles on with, “no list of what hardware has drivers in the Linux Kernel tree”

    Here, let me help you read:

    “…
    CONFIG_ETHERNET=y
    CONFIG_MDIO=m
    CONFIG_NET_VENDOR_3COM=y
    CONFIG_PCMCIA_3C574=m
    CONFIG_PCMCIA_3C589=m
    CONFIG_VORTEX=m
    CONFIG_TYPHOON=m
    CONFIG_NET_VENDOR_ADAPTEC=y
    CONFIG_ADAPTEC_STARFIRE=m
    CONFIG_NET_VENDOR_ALTEON=y
    CONFIG_ACENIC=m
    # CONFIG_ACENIC_OMIT_TIGON_I is not set
    CONFIG_NET_VENDOR_AMD=y
    CONFIG_AMD8111_ETH=m

    That’s from /boot/config* on my personal system and it is a list of hardware in the kernel tree and whether it’s compiled in or built as a module.

  26. Brillo says:

    Huh? Debian GNU/Linux has both the build configurations in /boot/config* and non-free stuff in the repositories if needed.

    What did I say about seeing an optometrist, RP? Kurkosdr is pointing out that “there is >no list of what hardware has drivers in the Linux Kernel tree” (bolded mine). Though I may not necessarily 100% agree with what he says about that actual subject matter (since I never feel the urge to waste my sweet time on some inane software crusade and thus have no reason to find out if wifi will stil work on my laptop after I have paved over my perfectly working, 1+ year old Windows 7 install that boots up in less than 30 seconds with some funky OS with shoddy hardware support), but it’s pretty obviously to me that whatever you are talking about there is a total non sequitur.

  27. kurkosdr wrote, “as regards Debian, there is no list of what hardware has drivers in the Linux Kernel tree, so that WiFi card that used to work (with binary blobs) may not work after the upgrade.”

    Huh? Debian GNU/Linux has both the build configurations in /boot/config* and non-free stuff in the repositories if needed. It was a pain when Debian split the non-free blobs from the Debian Installer but a good work-around is to use the firmware-included (unofficial) installer. That problem affects not only wifi. I was in a school full of intel e100 NICs with binary blobs in the drivers. So, there are lists.

  28. kurkosdr says:

    Too dark… The bench and tiles should have been a lighter color than black. Glass keramic is good.

    Oh, as regards Debian, there is no list of what hardware has drivers in the Linux Kernel tree, so that WiFi card that used to work (with binary blobs) may not work after the upgrade. Cheers.

  29. Thorsten Rahn says:

    Glass ceramic? Really? Give me good, old iron plates.

Leave a Reply