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Hardware drivers, the only Linux problem?

Date: 2010-05-03 00:00:00 -0400

I have read many articles dealing with that Linux is better or worse off than Windows. After researching the topic a bit, I think I have something to say in the matter.

In my humble opinion these are the main points that an operating system must meet:

  • User friendly

  • An operating system must be easy to use. Should be a tool that saves time. The user should not devote more time to learn how to perform a task than, to perform the task itself. In this field, I think both Windows and Linux meet the task. Examining a little the idea, before beginning to dissent. Let's talk about the average user. Requires:
    • To browse the Internet
    • To write documents with word processors
    • To work with spreadsheets
    • To prepare presentations.
    • To write emails
    • To be Able to connect with like communications networks
      • MSN
      • Yahoo messenger
      • Skype
      • etc.
    And the average user can easily perform all these tasks with both Windows and Linux.
  • Easy to install

  • Well actually, this is not a feature that an operating system should have. Let's face it, the average user does not install the operating system on his computer. Anyway, if you want to make comparisons. I think that for example, Ubuntu or Fedora are even easier to install than Windows, at least they require less time and effort, and being honest, both are equally easy on standard hardware. The advantage of Ubuntu or Fedora is that you end up after installation with a 100% functional computer, whereas with windows, you still have much work ahead, not hard to do, but tedious, to say the least. We can also take as an example Arch Linux or Gentoo, which are far more complicated than Ubuntu or Fedora (and Windows), but is not in the scope of this analis.
  • Stability

  • Stability. Well, this is already getting interesting. Linux is by far, more stable than Windows, It is almost imposible to see a Linux system halted, yes an aplication can stop responding, but that not lead you to a restart operation. The "blue screen" that neither exists in Linux, is somehow common in Windows :). In Linux, you do not need to reinstall everything every 18 months, as you need with Windows, or even more often. So Linux is way more stable than Windows. I think this point does not requiere more analisis.
  • Security

  • Better than writting my own analisis here, which will of course lead to a conclusion than Linux is by far, more secure than Windows, I have decided to use an analisis posted on The Register, which you can read in full here.. Here there are some parts of that analisis. We compared Windows vs. Linux by examining the following metrics in the 40 most recent patches/vulnerabilities listed for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 vs. Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS v.3:
    1. The severity of security vulnerabilities, derived from the following metrics:
      1. damage potential (how much damage is possible?)
      2. exploitation potential (how easy is it to exploit?)
      3. exposure potential (what kind of access is necessary to exploit the vulnerability?)
    2. The number of critically severe vulnerabilities
    The results were not unexpected. Even by Microsoft’s subjective and flawed standards, fully 38% of the most recent patches address flaws that Microsoft ranks as Critical. Only 10% of Red Hat’s patches and alerts address flaws of Critical severity. These results are easily demonstrated to be generous to Microsoft and arguably harsh with Red Hat, since the above results are based on Microsoft’s ratings rather than our more stringent application of the security metrics. If we were to apply our own metrics, it would increase the number of Critical flaws in Windows Server 2003 to 50%. We queried the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) database, and the CERT data confirms our conclusions by a more dramatic margin. When we queried the database to present results in order of severity from most critical to least critical, 39 of the first 40 entries in the CERT database for Windows are rated above the CERT threshold for a severe alert. Only three of the first 40 entries were above the threshold when we queried the database about Red Hat. When we queried the CERT database about Linux, only 6 of the first 40 entries were above the threshold. Consider also that both the Red Hat and Linux lists include flaws in software that runs on Windows, which means these flaws apply to both Linux and Windows. None of the alerts associated with Windows affect software that runs on Linux. As you can see, they used a comparison of RedHat and Windows, and clearly is safer to work with Linux (RedHat). We may say that Fedora or Ubuntu are less secure than RedHat but once again more secure than Windows.
  • Hardware Support

  • This is the weak point of Linux, yet despite the many efforts to include support for new hardware in the Linux Kernel, it never equals to its competitor Windows. The standard hardware is easily recognized, and even easier to install than in Windows, because if you put the CD of Ubuntu or Fedora on a Laptop, you finish the installation with everything working. For Windows, you must then install the drivers from the manufacturers. But to printers, cameras and web cameras, cell phones, GPS, etc, the situation is totally different. Normally you spend hours searching in forums and blogs about how to make it work, and often your hardware never works at 100% of its capacity. Linux is definitely far from having a good support for hardware, and this is where the users generally complain, video cards, WiFi cards, etc. are difficult to install if it is achieved.
  • Conclusion

  • Linux really needs to make a lot of efforts in this field, but how? On Windows, the hardware manufactures develope the drivers, on Linux this is usually a community job. The manufactures face some problems if they try to develope drivers for Linux, and the most important might be too few users buying that brand and model of printer and using Linux to invest money in creating a driver. There is plenty of info about creating drivers in Linux I think the problem is not how difficult or easy is to create the driver, but what you (manufacturer) win by doing it. Ubuntu and Dell are helping in the right direction, but Linux needs more help in that direction. Much effort is put into eye candy effects, and do not get me wrong, eye candy effects are good. But I think in my humble opinion that it would have more profit for Linux, putting that effort in drivers. We should work more closely with the companies that manufacture hardware. Even if these companies do not want to release their drivers as open source. The day that the normal user (not the geek one) knows that installing Linux on his PC or Laptop, will have no problem installing a printer, a camera, or any other piece of hardware, that day, Linux will become real popular. In the meantime the average user prefer to deal with viruses, "blue screen", slow operating system, But avoiding the hassle it is to run his hardware in Linux. What do you think? please comment below, what else can be done to give Linux the popularity it deserves.

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