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Blatantly Supporting Linux. Sort of.

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More hardware manufacturers than ever support Linux in some way- they supply binary drivers, or support and sponsor FOSS drivers. Even better, some actually admit it publicly. Though some still act like you want to peek up their skirts when you ask about Linux.

Linux hardware support is one of those best of times/worst of times scenarios. It supports more hardware platforms than any other operating system, except perhaps NetBSD- everything from tiny embedded devices to mainframes and supercomputers. Alpha, amd64, ARM, HPPA, ia86, ia64, MIPS, MIPSEL, PowerPC, and Sparc. Some folks give Linux credit for saving the Itanium.

But there is a big consumer-level middle ground where it's a bit trickier. Printers, scanners, wireless networking interfaces, audio and video all have some notable gaps. Even when there are good Linux drivers, Linux users get the short end of the stick on management software and extra goodies.

One odd thing I've noticed, and this seems to be a definite trend, is some vendors are now boasting of their broad driver support. Which sounds at first like they're going all cross-platform, but when you look more closely it's like this:

"M-Audio Delta66 system requirements:

Minimum System Requirements (PC)

Windows 98SE / Me / 2000 (SP4) / XP (SP2)*

For 96kHz operation: Pentium III 500MHz w/ 128MB RAM

For 48kHz operation: Pentium II 400MHz w/ 64MB RAM

* Home and Professional Edition only. Windows Media Center Edition is not supported.

** M-Audio suggests you also check the minimum system requirements for your software, as they may be greater than the above.

Minimum System Requirements (Mac)

G3/G4* 500MHz

G5 w/PCI-X expansion slots** - Incompatible exceptions

OS 9.2.2, 128MB RAM; OS X 10.1.5, 10.2.6 w/ 256MB RAM

Mac OS X 10.4.5, 10.5.1 w/512MB RAM

OMS 2.3.8 for MIDI under OS 9.2.2

* G3/G4 accelerator cards not supported

** Intel based Mac Pro & DualCore G5 with PCI-Express expansion slots not supported.

And they say there are too many Linuxes!

This is a good high-end sound card that is supported in the Linux kernel, and it works well. Linux users have known about them for years. When you search for "Linux" on http://www.m-audio.com/ you'll even find some useful information.

M-Audio isn't the only one; I'm seeing this for a number of devices that I'm too lazy to go back and find right now. The good news is these are significant cracks in the monopolist's armor, and a sign that real diversity and choice are slowly returning to the PC marketplace. It wasn't that long ago that Mac users were treated as unwanted stepchildren, just like Linux users. But why be shy about listing Linux as a supported platform? Is Linux not pretty enough? Does it smell bad? I've asked a number of vendors over the years and never get a good answer, just vague fluffspeak. When I get an answer of substance I'll be sure to share it.


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