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Excellent Linux Hardware: Liteon External DVD Writer, Kill-A-Watt
Just the other day I was sitting around complaining to my dogs, who are devoted, attentive listeners, that finding out how well hardware devices are supported on Linux is still more work than it needs to be. Vendors are finally getting brave and daring to say "Linux" out loud, but that doesn't always tell you the whole story. Do they supply their own drivers and support them? Are they nasty, antique binary-only drivers that require antique versions of Red Hat or SUSE? The best answer is they offer official Linux support with genuine, unencumbered FOSS drivers and community support.
At any rate both dogs gave me their best "You can complain, or you can do something constructive. Like come outside and throw the ball a few thousand times" looks. So I threw the ball a few dozen times, and then came back inside and decided to write about some of my Linux hardware experiences.
Thanks to the first-rate Linux USB subsystem, any standards-compliant USB device has the potential to "just work." For example, my M-Audio MobilePre USB ADC/AC microphone preamp works splendidly on Linux. Another item in my audio recording studio that pleases me greatly is the Liteon EZ Dub external USB DVD-RW. It works fine with K3b, K9Copy, and any number of Linux music and movie players.
To cut down on noise, the computer in my little studio is housed in a nice quiet Antec Sonata case, and it sits underneath my desk. This is a bit inconvenient for doing a lot of CD-writing, so the Liteon sits on top of my desk, connected via a powered Linkworld 4-port USB hub. That little hub is the hub of my audio recording empire because everything plugs into it: the Liteon, the MobilePre, and friends bring their USB microphones and turntables to use in various creative ways.
Of course no consumer device can be considered complete without having some kind of Windows-only junk, and for the Liteon it's two special EZ Dub buttons. When you install the special Windows software you can start a disk copy with the push of one button, and backup computer files with another. Amusingly, the EZ Dub functions will not work with copy-protected disks, and this is not disclosed anywhere meaningful; it's in very tiny letters on the box, and mentioned in the user manual. Of course they're not going to bundle any de-encryption software, but it's still a sign of the lame times we live in.
But we do not care about stupid Microsoft/MAFIAA DRM junk, for we are stout Linux users who do not have to worry about such things. Actually Windows users don't either-- Linux has libdvdcss for cracking DVD encryption, and in the Windows world you will find literally hundreds of applications for doing the same thing. Stupid DRM tactics should go into the Oxford English Dictionary under "futility".
The Kill-A-Watt power-consumption meters are famous and I don't have anything new to say about them. Just that they are nice and useful and easy to use, and sometimes deliver a real eye-opener. For example, power management in a lot of Linux distributions is still not very good--plug the Kill-A-Watt into your laptop and let it have some long runs in the different power management stages. You might be surprised at how ineffective some of them are at actually saving any power.
In the olden days the biggest energy hog was your CRT monitor. LCD panels are much more frugal, and it's fun to see if the manufacturer's claimed specs are true. Again, a lot depends on how well the operating system manages the different states, so this gives you nice objective measurements to go by.