We’ve come a long way, baby

I was considering Linux compatibility. Back when is started, at the end of the 90’s, compatibility was not much to talk about. Most cards and peripherals were not supported, or the support was iffy. I remember having an ISDN card, which i had no support for. And since there was no support, there was also no internets for me. So using Linux full time was not an option back then. Over the years, support has gotten increasingly better. Nowadays i would be greatly surprised if a device i had was *not* supported.

I remember having a Canon MP500 which was a nice multifunction printer back in the day. Well, this was in 2006 maybe? So not *that* long ago. But still Before that i had a Canon.. something or other, A3-size printer. Neither of these had any support. They were both initially listed as “Paperweights” on the Linux Foundation OpenPrinting list. I think it was that. Whatever equivalent we had back then.

Canon was absolutely unrelenting. They would not support Linux, even if the foundation offered to make drivers for them, if they would only send some hardware to them. Kind of hard to make drivers without specs or hardware. Eventually we got some generic drivers, and the MP500 started working, somewhat. Resolution was limited to about a third of what it was supposed to be, but it worked. A great day. Many times i considered just throwing the Canon out, and getting an HP, which have always had impeccable hardware support under Linux. But, that didn’t seem right. I was having a first world problem.

Reading the OpenPrinting page today i see that Canon is still somewhat of a troubled vendor when it comes to Linux support. Oh well. The MP500 broke down, and printers are usually not worth fixing out of warranty (hell, they are usually not even worth using after the initial bundled ink runs out…). I decided to get an HP, and settled on a cheap multifunctional called F4580, probably no longer for sale. Works great. There are several driver to choose from, and they all seem to work great. Now though, the scanner seems to have broken down 😀 Oh well. The printer still works…

So we’ve come a long way in a little over 10 years. Devices we hadn’t even heard of are now supported under Linux, and you really don’t have to think about what you are buying, unless you need specific fringe devices that are not say.. consumer grade. Most of the stuff you can get out of Verkkokauppa will most probably work when you plug it in. Some vendors even have Linux-sections on their support sites, but mostly it’s all built in to the OS, if you’re using one of the mainstream distros (some .deb or .rpm based one).

To follow my distro-hopping, I’m currently running CrunchBang on my desktop, and Debian 6.0.4 on my work laptop. I have a windows 7 virtual machine if i need to use something that absolutely need windows. Debian was a bit of a hassle to set up so that i’m pleased with it, but it’s mostly done now. I started with a net-install which had pretty much nothing built in.

I’ve also been working on preseeding an Ubuntu installation. Basically an automated install of ubuntu that configures the system in a certain way based on a .seed file (well you can call it whatever you want, really), which contains answers to questions that the installer makes, and other settings. It was about one work day or so to have everything running smoothly. I now have a 11.10 .iso which can be booted, and it’s completely hands-off. When it’s done (within 20 minutes or so), you’re at the login. Might come in handy at some point. The most difficult part, for some reason, was the keyboard layout and locale-settings. They just wouldn’t stick, or it’d interrupt the otherwise automated installation by asking me some question. Eventually, i started from scratch, using the 11.10 preseed example, and got everything working. So it was probably a brain-fart on my part at some point.

The next step will be testing various distribution methods, the first being a PXE-boot type installation, where a TFTP-server dumps the image onto the installing computer and runs it. Should be interesting.

Still waiting for ICS for my Desire Z. CM9 is rumored to be supported on that phone too, but there isn’t so much as an alpha out yet. I’ve seen some videos of this particular phone running CM9, but they are probably self-built firmwares or some CM developer trying things out. So i’ll have to wait a little while longer on this one. I’d even appreciate a nightly for the 2.3.5 series android that i’m running now. They halted all nightlies for the CM7 series while CM9 was being developed. I’ve been looking at the changelog for the next nightly, and it’s already like 2 pages long. So they could just release something in the meanwhile for us tinkerers to play around with. Pretty please?

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