How do I Choose the Best Linux® Hardware?
You can select the best Linux® hardware by consulting a Linux®-compatible hardware list, preferably for the particular distribution or flavor that you will be running. Such a list might be found at the official website for the specific distribution or on websites that offer a general list of Linux®-friendly devices as part of documentation that accompanies the operating system. It also is very valuable to have a solid understanding of the types of Linux® hardware that are almost always incompatible with any distribution so that you can save time and frustration trying to make certain devices work. Performing an Internet search for "Linux devices" also tends to lead to where you can download the drivers you need to obtain compatibility for your Linux® hardware. Experienced Linux® users have learned not to underestimate the value of the information on hardware for Linux® available from community-supported technical help for the distribution and hardware in question.
A piece of hardware that will run flawlessly under one Linux® distribution might be very problematic under another flavor of this operating system. This problem sometimes is seen with two different releases of the same distribution because of the different kernel versions on which the releases are based. Research is very important before setting up, upgrading or migrating to a different flavor or to a different release of the same flavor. Knowing what specific types of Linux® hardware are hardly ever compatible probably is half of the battle, especially if you are new to Linux®.
For example, a dial-up connection on a Linux system is almost always problematic with what is known as a "soft" or "win" modem. This is because these devices lack certain hardware components for which there is no compensation in the Linux® kernel the way there is in some other operating system. When it comes to the need to establish a dial-up connection, a controller-based or real hardware modem is needed to avoid problems and having to tweak configuration files. Dial-up connections are still used by many people either as a primary or backup connection.
Another guideline that is helpful when selecting the best Linux® hardware is that very economical printers generally are incompatible, and commercial-grade and network printers or all-in-ones tend to be compatible. The same can be said when speaking of very economical digital cameras; they do not tend to be compatible with many distributions of Linux®. If your concern is for the convenience of setting up a new system with a distribution that will work right out of the box, it is helpful to know that, for example, virtually all Intel-based Pentium personal computer (PC) system boards and laptops are considered Linux® compatible hardware.
Some Linux® devices that will not work right out of the box are still compatible because functionality might be achieved by modifying hardware configuration files. Depending on the hardware in question, you might have to know how to work with kernel modules. Your knowledge of Linux® and programming undoubtedly will influence your decisions when selection the best Linux® hardware for yourself or a client.
Choosing Linux hardware is often a "chicken or the egg" question. A good number of us Linux users had a Windows machine and slapped Linux on it for various reasons (in my case, my version of Windows XP ate itself and I decided to try something new because the computer was old, anyway).
The good news is that computers made by major manufacturers -- HP, Lenovo and the like -- are popular and Linux types have figured out how to get the operating system to work with most popular hardware.
That's a far cry from the way things were as recent as 2000. Installing any Linux distro was burdensome back then because drivers supporting all but a limited range of hardware was rare. The problem has largely been solved over the years and Linux continues to improve in that regard.
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