Ubuntu's Gutsy target: Windows-level device support?

The “it just works” mantra still evades Linux

Less than a week after the latest Ubuntu Linux release - version 7.04 "Feisty Fawn" - users are already crying out for driver support to rival that for Windows in the next release.

The Ubuntuforums.org Web site is a public bulletin board for discussion of Ubuntu Linux, including the next release "Gutsy Gibbon" due in October 2007.

In a thread titled "2 priorities to destroy windows..." Ubuntu user "gdp77" praised the operating system for the quality of the included software but pointed the finger squarely at the lack of device support for holding it back.

User gdp77 said Ubuntu Feisty proved that Linux is faster, lighter, more beautiful, more secure, and more powerful than Vista, and "many people made the switch" but expressed concerns about device support.

"Many people downloaded Ubuntu [and] many people will not buy Vista and go to the Linux side," gdp77 wrote. "Many people like [OpenOffice.org], Gimp, etc... but when they want to do their work (like me) what they discover? That [you] can make a beautiful project but when [you] want to print... well [you] can't... and when [you] can do it, the quality is not good. You want to scan and [you] can't.. [you] want to sync your mobile phone and PDA and [you] can't..."

Claiming "everything is better in comparison to Vista", the user said "but nobody actually can complete his [or] her work".

Ironically, it has been widely speculated that Ubuntu - and other Linux distributions - supports more hardware natively than any other operating system, but third-party component and device manufacturers often ignore it with their proprietary drivers.

User gdp77 believes there is a real alternative to Vista, but vendors like Canon, Epson, Nokia, and Sony-Erricsson "force" people to buy Windows and prevent Linux users from deleting Windows partitions.

"The battle must be now fought in a whole new different level," gdp77 said. "The new battleground is the peripherals support. These things that make people complete their work. I know that companies don't give [you] access to their hardware drivers... [you] must reverse engineer and [you] must do it fast."

The second area, according to gdp77, is "eye-candy out-of-the-box" with the 3D Beryl desktop converting Windows users to Linux.

Other forum members agreed with gdp77, saying a "missing area" for Linux is "installing new hardware".

"Hardware drivers and compatibility are needed badly, especially in multimedia devices," another member said. "I think that Windows is vulnerable. The Linux community needs to put more focus on capturing the hearts and minds of the average home computer user. Ease of use matters."

If there is a Linux distribution listening to those concerns it is Ubuntu. Since its inception it has worked towards providing more ease of use with existing open source drivers and now has an integrated proprietary driver manager.

The release of Gutsy Gibbon will indicate Ubuntu's level of dedication towards more driver support and dazzling eye-candy.

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Rodney Gedda

Computerworld

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