Thursday, March 12, 2009

Linux Has Worse Device Support Than Windows...I Don't Think So

I was cleaning a virus out of a Windows XP system for a client when the UPS driver showed up with my latest gadget. The virus was one of the fake Anti-Virus viruses, you know, the kind that pops up all kinds of warnings that your system is infected or you are being attacked from some random IP address even when you are not connected to the Internet. We should be able to start a class action suit against these folks for the money they cost our clients. Anyhow, the gadget was a new MP4 watch. I am a sucker for watches that do other things.

The package showed that the watch software required Windows 2000, XP or Vista. I had a computer close by that runs XP so I decided to test the watch on it. The only printed paper inside the package was a list, in several languages, of the contents of the box.

I hooked the cable up to the watch, then to the computer. A box popped up that said new hardware was found. Then a box popped up asking where I wanted to search for the drivers. I put the CD in and told the system to search everywhere. After a while, I got a message that no driver was found. Next, I checked the CD and saw a setup program so I ran that. After a while, and with several clicks to accept EULAs, I got a message telling me to connect the watch and click next. The watch was still connected, so I clicked next. The same message came back up. I thought that maybe disconnecting the watch and then plugging it back in might work. No go, same message. Time to try a restart.

I unplugged the watch and restarted the system. When I ran the setup program this time, I got a message that the software was already installed. I plugged the watch in and up popped the new device message. This time, I did not get a box to search for a driver. No new drive showed up in Explorer and there was no new program group for the software. So, I unplugged the watch, opened Add/Remove Software and removed the watch software. Reboot and try again.

This time, I left the watch unplugged and started setup. The message to plug the watch in came up. I plugged the watch in and pressed next. Same message. Uninstall the software again. I checked Device Manager and sure enough there was the watch as a USB storage device. I removed the device and unplugged the watch. Reboot again.

Time to try running setup and keeping fingers crossed. When it got to the message to plug the watch in, I did and clicked next. No message and a lot of activity from the CD. I finally got a message that the installation was complete. The watch showed up in Explorer and the software was in the Start Menu.

It only took 4 1/2 hours to get to this point but everything was working. I can upload files to the watch and they play fine. By this time, I have also finished my clients computer and have it ready to return.

When I got back, I decided to see what would happen if I plugged the watch into one of my Debian GNU/Linux computers. As soon as I plugged it in, two new USB storage device icons showed up on my desktop. I right clicked them and clicked mount. I opened Konqueror and there in /media were the drives. I copied files to the watch then closed Konqueror. I right clicked one of the watch icons and clicked Safely Remove and then unplugged the watch. The new files were there and played fine.

Total time to get the watch working in Linux, 1/4 hour.

Which system is it easier to get devices working in?

By the way, I love the watch. I will do a review of the watch when I finish the BASIC series.


Drew said...

Nice post! Clean and non-aggressive, what more Linux posts need to be!

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience with a little Disney camera that I had bought for my daughter. The thing came with a CD that had a driver on it. I installed the driver on 2 different XP machines. After going through the driver install, and plugging the camera into a usb port it never recognized that the camera was plugged in, or that a driver had been installed for it. On a whim, I plugged the camera into an Ubuntu Laptop. It immediately recognized it, (it actually saw that is was a Disney camera) and let me download pictures. My experience lately is that everything seems to work better under Linux, than under Windows. My assumption is becoming that things should just work. (And I shouldn't need to download, or install any software to make it work).

Anonymous said...

SANE doesn't support my 2-year old USB scanner, and, according to the comments, likely never will.

When I bought my 4th-generation iPod Nano, it was not recognized by Linux (something about new encryption).

My Palm Tungsten E2 is useless with Linux because I use DocumentsToGo and SheetToGo, and there's no way (in Linux) to get documents or spreadsheets off of the E2 and into OpenOffice.

Linux is zero-for-three with my hardware.

Anonymous said...

That's my experience also. With all sorts of hardware. My HP All-In-One took all day to install in Windows and DIDN'T WORK! And left XP with a ton of toxic software.

In Linux I just plugged it in and nothing happened. Damn... Anyway, after opening Open Office the printer WAS THERE. And a "fax printer" too. Hmmm. Too easy. Gimp has the File -> Aquire -> Scan WORKING. The card reader just works.

Instalation time in Windows: Several hours. (days, if you count the time to remove all the extra software) and didn't work.

Instalation time in Linux: 1 minute and it just works.

And don't get me started with my external sound card that Windows cripples by design.

Anonymous said...

To the guy who said;

"My Palm Tungsten E2 is useless with Linux because I use DocumentsToGo and SheetToGo, and there's no way (in Linux) to get documents or spreadsheets off of the E2 and into OpenOffice."

Buy a $15-$25 USB Bluetooth Dongle, Install Bluez on your Linux machine and the Bluetooth xfer stuff from the Synaptic package manager (I assume you are using Ubuntu or another Debian based distro,... but use Yum if you are using an RPM based distro). Launch the Bluetooth xfer application and send your docs to your desktop wirelessly,...

That or move them to an SD card and plug them into an SD card reader on your PC... which is easier, but not as cool.

I don't have an iPod or your particular scanner, so no help there...

My wife and I have between us a LifeDrive, a Palm TX, and the E2... All work with Linux without problems.

If you are an M$ astro-turfer,... than ignore all the above,... because you were just spreading FUD.

Anonymous said...

Checking the Linux hardware compatibility list before buying new hardware goes a long way.

audunmb said...

Let's face it. Linux doesn't have support for everything, and is especially weak on scanners. Same goes for Mac OS X.

And the problem with this watch and XP is a fault of the makers of the watch software, not of Windows.

But if it had been an open source driver, it would probably been fixed rather easily, regardless of the incompetence (or lack of time more likely) of the developers.

In other words, Linux doesn't go well together with closed source drivers (hence the lack of support), but open source drivers would be a benefit even on Windows.

Anonymous said...

I had the same 1/2 hour vs 4 hour experience with a new installation

I keep Vista on a partition just for my ipod (Amarok works but itunes really goes better with the ipod so I'm guessing the Palm folks may have a point too) I boot into Vista maybe twice a month to update my ipod, for everything else I prefer linux (I like Mint but there’s other versions)

I was messing with my notebook a few months back and messed up the hard drive partitions

with Linux, I downloaded the latest CD, hit install (which includes most of the software I could need), I could work on my notebook while it installs, then it offered to reboot when I was ready, lastly updates I choose took 30 minutes and I can download new software and install it in 3-4 minutes

with Vista, the CD only comes on a hidden partition that was gone so I called tech support and they wanted $30 for a replacement CD that would take a week to get. I have the “OEM Home Premium” license sticker so I had to find and download a pirate "OEM Home Premium CD” (no other version works). To install on my notebook I had to sit and wait for the Vista install, you can't do anything else during installations (just watch TV). After the install I had to go to different websites and find CDs to install the extra software that should come with an OS, like an office suite and a photo editor and itunes and I lost my paid anti-virus CD so had to find a free one plus a firewall, then those secret MS updates took a few days and I have to keep rebooting and I had to worry about the activation because it could stop working AND I hear that the next update could disable my vista because it could be seen as a pirated installation and then I have to call Microsoft to please unlock my computer PLUS I get to feel bad for downloading pirate software when I own the license sticker

Anonymous said...

First and foremost to the posters who says their devices didn't work in Linux, Linux is open source, the device drivers that are in the kernel are either written from scratch by the developers of the Linux kernel, or reversed engineered by the said same developers. This is the important bit, in many cases they were not written for Linux by the hardware developers.

Until recently (Ubuntu 8.10) my Sony Ericsson W800i worked flawlessly when ever I plugged it in. Ubuntu detected that it contained both MP3's and photos and offered to open Amarok and F-Spot respectively. This doesn't happen in Windows XP as I have to install the driver for it and then launch the Sony software and in Vista it just mounts it as a USB device. With Ubuntu 8.10 it recognises the device as a 3G modem only and every couple of minutes it wants to setup the connection, even though I say no, it constantly pops up. The annoying thing apart from the constant 3G setup is that it no longer mounts it as a USB device and asks do I want to play the MP3's in Amarok or view the photo's in F-Spot. This in my opinion is a step backwards for Ubuntu. Now I have to have Windows on my pc just so I can download music to it and upload the photo's. Shame really.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience with a USB key sound card I bought a couple of years ago on a whim. It said it supported Win98/2000. The 98 driver I could never get to work, it would play in win2000 but sounded horrible with an incessant tick noise that I assumed was a hardware issue. Just for grins I figured I'd try it in the same computer after booting into linux it worked perfect with crystal clear beautiful sound and without having to install any drivers.

Tigger said...

This is a good article, and a nice anecdote, and I'm sure there are many anecdotes like this, but there are also the same anecdotes going the other direction. I have a few myself. I don't think that you can make the final conclusion "Linux Has Better/Worse Device Support" from this.

Richard said...

I had a similar issue on an Epsom C41 printer.

On a dual boot system using Win2000 + Mandrake. I spent just under three hours with a support call to Epson using the installation disk.

To install the printer under Win2000 I needed to create a 'virtual USB printerport'

I finally booted into Mandrake the printer was automatically identified as a C41 and configured using Foomatic in approximately 30 seconds.

BrentRBrian said...

Out of the box, no driver disk, no downloads, just plug and play ...

I have working:

HP 5610 Office Jet ... 0 min
Samsung 1710 ... 2 min
Ezonics webcam III (pac207) ... 0 min
Palm III ... 30 min
Finepix Z camera ... 0 min
Fujifilm A100 ... 0 min
Samsung M320 phone ... 0 min
Wireless PCMCIA cards ... 0 min
USB to RS-232 ... 0 min
Flash Memory ... 0 min
USB to IDE ... 0 min

I also have broken:

Canon F30 fax/print/scan (lost cause)
Ezonics webcam III spca561a
HP 2.0 mp webcam
Asus WL-107g (LAN) rt2500

So, I contacted Fedora (bugzilla), they put me in touch with the driver authors. The driver authors told me how to collect the data they needed to write/repair the drivers.

They should all be working in the 2.6.29 kernel (Fedora 11).

Try that with Windows and tell me how it works out.