Worst hardware for your Linux desktop

Courtesy of Madpenguin.org 5/14/2008, and I fully agree!

(Column) – I have been asked this over and again – which hardware should be avoided before installing Linux? The list is actually smaller than you might expect, but it is helpful if you would like to remain in a headache-free zone.

Broadcom Wireless Products: Despite efforts by well-intentioned developers, seeing successful wireless with anything based on these chipsets is not an easy task, despite the hogwash you will read elsewhere. Linux wireless is doable, and generally speaking, you are best off to ask what those not using these chipsets are having success with. In general, you will likely find this is the best path, although you can also check your distro’s HCL (hardware compatibility list) for more information.

ATI Video Cards: Despite recent improvements, I cannot see a single reason to use their products for desktop Linux. Unless you already own an ATI card, you will find NVIDIA or Intel graphics to be more than adequate for daily use.

To be fair, I have found that most problems with ATI cards are only becoming apparent with restricted drivers to power the cards. So sticking with open drivers will generally not lead to issues.


Seagate: This hard drive company has made their point-of-view very clear. Not as much with words, as with their FreeAgent drives. It is truly sad when something OS independent like a hard drive force users to consider an alternative to the otherwise well designed Seagate hard drive.

I would snub Seagate in response to this. Unfortunately, most people will settle for workarounds, instead.

Winmodems: To be clear, I’m not saying that the software modem cannot work with Linux, rather that Linux users should not use them. Despite fantastic efforts like the Linmodem project, I prefer using other options if I’m bound to a dial-up only connection.

I have long since been a fan of external modems myself, but that was a long time ago. These days most people are on broadband connections, so I guess this is a non-issue now.

Final Considerations. As a rule, I recommend being careful and proactive when looking to turn any built-for-Windows computer into a Linux box. Use a LiveCD whenever possible to make sure the distro and the computer you plan on using are a good match.

Check to see if you are seeing the kind of resolution support you need (widescreen users) and that the sound is working properly. I’m not saying either of these cannot be overcome, but there is little reason to buy a new computer that will translate into a weekend tweaking project.

Consider buying from vendors that support your preferred distro. It may cost a little more, but it is always refreshing to put your money where your passion is.

This covers our list of compatibility problems that face Linux users who are just starting out. Hopefully, by avoiding this hardware products, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble early in the process.

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