Driver education for Linux novices
Last week's column on DSL Linux generated so many letters and loose ends that we're going to have to play catch-up this week.
As you may recall, DSL Linux is a micro-sized version of the free, open-source operating system that can start and run from a 50-megabyte CD. As such it can run on elderly and anemic computers, breathing new life into them.
I left out the first rule of DSL Linux as it pertains to inexperienced computer users: It may not work with your hardware. All companies that manufacture printers, mice, video and sound cards - pretty much everything that gets plugged into a computer - also create drivers, little chunks of software that make the hardware gadget work with an operating system. In most cases, that operating system is Windows XP.
Not many companies create drivers for Linux. Instead, the many thousands of public-spirited programmers who have developed Linux write drivers as needed; those in turn are incorporated into each new update of the various "distros," or versions, of Linux. If these drivers match your hardware, DSL and other forms of Linux will detect your hardware and install painlessly. The growth in numbers of these drivers increases every year, which is probably why DSL Linux installed on the half-dozen PCs I have around the house.
So what if you have hardware that isn't supported?