IT Management has a review up comparing Windows 7 to Ubuntu (to XP) on a new Netbook. If you’re getting a netbook, it might be worth your while. This post is about something from the comment section, though. Stuart notices that the writer made excuses for some of the failures on Windows 7 but admitted quick defeat when running into WiFi problems on Ubuntu:

OK so you go to the effort of fixing the broken Windows installation. But when Ubuntu has a problem with WiFi drivers you just criticize it. We all know that some WiFi chip makers have been very hostile to Linux.

Actually, I didn’t know that. I commented on a previous post that my WiFi works better with Linux than it does with Windows for both Ubuntu and Mandriva (not Mythbuntu, though). But I mentioned it to my friend Tony and he confirmed that WiFi is a bit of a problem area due to lack of cooperation on the part of chipmakers.

Here is the thing about the lack of cooperation by chipmakers and how much more difficult that makes it for Linux developers.

It. Does. Not. Matter.

That Linux has a good excuse for the fact that WiFi may have difficulty working will not make my WiFi magically start to work. When buying a Netbook, I’m not going to say “Well, I want WiFi, but it’s the chipmaker’s fault so I’m going to get the OS where WiFi doesn’t work right.”

Ten years ago we were having the same discussion about hardware drivers of the more basic sort (audio, video, etc). I couldn’t get Audio on RedHat and was told that it’s not Linux’s fault because Creative Labs didn’t make the drivers. As the saying goes about alcoholism, it’s not your fault but it is your problem. If Linux wanted people to make the transition, they had to take ownership.

Which, fortunately, they did. Linux driver support for my various and sundry computers exceeds Windows’s despite the latter’s inherent advantages. And I fully expect them to get there with WiFi chips, too. No doubt in my mind.

This is likely to be an ongoing problem for Linux, unfortunately. They’re likely to continue to be a step behind. Newer hardware will always focus on working with Windows first and Linux somewhere just before Amiga and Novell. I’m not sure what precisely Linux can do about this. But they’ve got to figure out something because it really doesn’t matter to the user that Linux developers are better at making lemonaid out of limes than are Microsoft developers. They care primarily about how it tastes.

The other problem with Stuart’s comment is that hitting walls with Windows 7 is excusable because it’s a beta product. The Ubuntu he installed was a release. If he’d been doing the same for Vista, that’d be a better argument. But nobody defends Vista.

-{Disclaimer: I may or may not be currently employed by an entity that is either mentioned in or competes directly or indirectly with an entity mentioned in this post. All positions I hold are independent of any such relationships and were held prior to the time that any such relationships began.}-


Category: Server Room

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One Response to It’s Not Their Fault, But…

  1. Webmaster says:

    Will,

    That seems to sum up most of my interactions with Linux users:

    Linuxite: Linux is perfect for everyone! It can do everything! If everyone were using it they’d be so much happier!

    Me: But hey, wait a second. There’s no linux support for (soundcard A, Wifi card B, Video card C…)

    Linuxite: Yeah but that’s those corporations’ fault not Linux’s! People should just buy replacements from companies D, E, and F and then they’d be all set!

    Me: But doesn’t that involve them spending more money and throwing out already paid-for hardware when they seem pretty happy with what they already have?

    Linuxite: But Linux is FREE man! There’s no cost!

    Me: No, actually there is a cost. The primary cost of me switching to Linux is the cost of buying new, “linux-supported” hardware. The secondary cost is the inability to use certain programs (unless I keep Windows in some form of a dual-boot or virtualized setup). The tertiary cost is the aggravation factor in working out how to get everything working, and more to the point, trying to implement forum-“help” instructions like “bleep fraggle the 32-bit interface then type zorble gleeple bloop in the command line but you have to sudo that or it won’t work right…”

    Linuxite: Grrr… you just hate linux!

    Me: No, Linux just doesn’t suit my needs after all… or a lot more people than you’re willing to admit. And if you want to change that, then you need to stop complaining about companies “not supporting Linux” and actively do something about it.

    The bottom line is that Linux is in a “chicken and egg” situation. On the one hand, Linuxites have convinced themselves Linux is “ready for primetime” for years. On the other, they still have a real problem convincing manufacturers of that, because Linux is a small (if rabid) userbase compared to the Windows market.

    The main markets in which Linux has made inroads are niche markets to begin with – either because the Linux software can be easily adapted to lighter-power processors (a number of “region free” dvd players, for example, are simply a cheap ARM processor running linux-derived DVD playback software), or because the market is smaller and having a “rabid” userbase is a survival tactic (Hauppauge and various internal or USB tv tuning/recording adapters).

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