Linux-Friendly Hardware VendorsMay 09, 1999, 18:04 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jeff Alami)
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By Jeff Alami
Linux was once notorious for its lack of hardware support. Fortunately, the Open Source model created an environment where developers could create hardware drivers and contribute them to the Linux kernel or the XFree86 project. However, Open Source scares some hardware vendors, because they would have to release technical specifications to the public. Recently, the Linux market has become large enough to attract even the over-protective hardware vendors.
Best Power is best known for providing high-end uninterruptible power supplies. They're also well known in the Linux community for providing the best support for the Linux platform, as well as several other UNIX platforms. Source code for their serial interfaces is provided, which enables the end user to add customisations to the drivers.
APC, the biggest player in the UPS market, has just now decided to support the Linux platform. Other UPS companies, such as TrippLite and MGE have supported Linux with software, albeit in binary-only format.
Most of Logitech's mice and game controllers work under Linux with fully Open Source drivers. This is due to Logitech's willingness to provide specifications and assistance to independent Linux developers. The result of Logitech's relative enlightenment in the human input arena has produced good results, including support for their wheel mouse products and a wide range of gamepads and joysticks.
Unfortunately, Logitech hasn't done the same for their camera products. They are apparently reluctant to release their specifications for the QuickCam VC camera they acquired from Connectix. So if you're planning to purchase a QuickCam VC and you're using Linux, let Logitech know that you're looking for Linux support.
Matrox was once a company that was on the Linux hardware blacklist, a long time ago. When they did change around, they provided the necessary specifications that resulted in Matrox products being the the fastest cards for XFree86. With the Matrox MGA-G200 chip, Matrox has recently provided full 2-D and 3-D specifications, making highly accelerated X Window System and OpenGL drivers possible. Since then, a project has developed that is working towards having G200 acceleration for SGI's Open Source release of GLX. We'll just have to wait and see if Matrox will do a repeat performance with their upcoming G400 series of video products.
Plenty of other Linux-friendly hardware vendors exist. AMD provides complete specifications to their 3DNow! instructions, allowing 3DNow! instructions to be included in Linux applications such as mpg123. Adaptec, AdvanSys, ICP Vortex, and Mylex provide Linux drivers for their SCSI and RAID products. 3Com, LinkSys, Netgear, and Sangoma support Linux with their Ethernet, LAN, and WAN products. Cyclades, Digi, and Equinox, also support Linux with their serial products.
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