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Where The Drivers Are

For Linux, looking at the hardware manufacturer's site for drivers is looking in the wrong place.
Most hardware manufacturers do not create the driver's for Linux -- people in the Linux community volunteer their time to do so, despite the fact that the hardware vendors frequently refuse to tell the people who already BOUGHT the hardware how to actually program for it.

The major reasons hardware manufacturer's to hide how to actually access their hardware are simple: money and control. The hardware manufacturers want to maintain control over their hardware "interfaces", so they can make oodles of cash "licensing" these "technologies" to third parties. Microsoft encourages this by building in special features that make certain hardware work better than others, and secrecy deals so the hardware maker can be assured MS won't tell anyone how things really work.

Once "trusted computing" starts really being swindled into every desktop, you will see this become a much more pronounced problem as the trusted computing gang begin dictating exactly who can even get in the game... pay up for the "licensing" and "testing" and "certification" and whatever else it takes to be "trusted", or your hardware won't work. Drivers won't run. You're hardware or software company won't exist.

All of this nonsense doesn't help the end user/consumer one bit, it it does prevent rival manufacturer's from building compatible competing products, which would help everyone else a LOT.

The Linux community generally doesn't bother with such under-handed nonsense. Someone spends the hours, days, weeks, or more, of their own time experimenting, hacking, or "reverse-engineering" how a piece of crippled hardware or software works, and writes an open source driver from scratch for it. Since it's open source, others can add their contributions.

Before long, you have projects like OSS or ALSA where hundreds or thousands of like-minded hackers have collaborated to discover and build a general purpose sound system that can talk to hundreds of sound cards, yet makes it easy for sound programmers to write new programs for.

You don't go to Creative for Linux drivers for Creative cards. Creative won't write the driver because its not in their best interest, yet. You go to the Linux community around your version of Linux. In most cases, for sound, you end up at ALSA, which probably already came with your version of Linux. On RedHat Linux and many other variants, the sound card is detected and configured during install of the base OS itself, and you never have to install "the driver" yourself in the first place. The same goes for video, printers, scanners, drives, etc. You go to the Linux community for Linux support.

And, as the numbers of free/libre' users increase, the market impact is being felt too: hardware vendors who are open with their users about how to hack on the hardware find their hardware being supported, and more importantly: purchased. More and more people are basing their hardware buying decisions on whether or not that hardware works with Linux. If not, there is probably an alternative that does, and still works with Windows, which they buy instead. Video companies like Nvidia and ATI have already learned that lesson and produce drivers for Linux, or give out the information that the Linux community needs to write their own driver.

Plus Linux guys spread the word on their grapevines: "hey, I called these guys about hardware X, and they are Linux friendly. Hardware Y hung up on me." That word of mouth ends up on webpages and is having global impact.

And yes, ultimately, since the hardware manufacturer's don't tell people HOW to actually access and use the hardware they already bought, the Linux community did exactly what you said: the [hardware] consumers wrote their own drivers.

And, as a personal note, if my 4-year old twins can use Linux, then I think your mom will be okay with it. Check out the One Laptop Per Child project to see how its possible.


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