[linux-elitists] [doc@ssc.com: [Fwd: Plug 'n' Pray to Plug 'n' Play: What's it Going to Take?]]

Aaron Burt aaron@bavariati.org
Wed Apr 19 22:49:36 PDT 2006

On Wed, Apr 19, 2006 at 02:47:48PM -0700, Don Marti wrote:
> What Needs to be Done for desktop (and especially laptop) Linux --
> to work with whatever devices come along.

Ubuntu Dapper's doing very well so far on my new-to-me laptop.
($90 at Free Geek for a laptop that runs Linux.  Ha ha OLPC.)

What Could Be Done:  
- Central, well-maintained registry for mapping PCI/USB IDs to drivers,
  both in-kernel and out-of-kernel.  New IDs for old or backwards-
  compatible devices has been a common issue.  A PC should be able to see
  an unfamiliar device, ask the registry what driver to use, and load it.
  Bonus points if it also apt-gets the userspace stuff and/or driver
  source as needed, and tracks devices that don't have working drivers.

- Easy mechanism for incorporating out-of-kernel drivers into a running
  system.  I think it's a documentation issue, at this point.

- Nice application software to support all those devices with buttons
  and such for setting off actions on the computer, e.g. "copy" buttons
  on scanners.  This may be mostly taken care of, and I just haven't
  been paying attention.

- A lab or something that helps with getting new gizmos to coders,
  teaches coders how to make and maintain drivers, makes sure there
  *are* maintainers, perhaps provides reverse-engineering equipment and
  expertise, and hosts bake-offs and other compatibility testing stuff.

- A concerted effort to get "Supported by (Ubuntu/Fedora/RHEL) Linux!"
  badging out there and on boxes and store displays.  Get marketing
  literature out there so every mouth-breathing big-box salescritter can
  gawk at its "how to handle Linux Weirdos" tipsheet and confidently say,
  "yuh, it works with Line-ix, now buy it so I can get my commission."

- An army made up of everyone's Aunt Tillie, returning gizmos because
  they won't work with Linux.

> Or better yet, vice versa. As a user, I want any Nikon, Canon, Casio
> or Olympus digital camera to work 10X better on any Linux laptop it
> meets than it would on any Windows box (which today in too many
> cases requires that the user run some install disk). Or (hey, why
> not) better than any Mac running OS X as well.

It's all in the userspace.  Which is all in the hands of whoever has an
itch to scratch or a surplus of money to hire coders and designers.
Like I said, Ubuntu works really well.

> What's it going to take? Also, what do people not know now that they
> ought to know (such as, say, where it's best to run the driver).

"Where do I go learn to write Linux device drivers and become a Linux
embedded applications engineer?  They're hiring those folks like mad in
Portland!"  (Not speaking for myself here, I'm going into power engineering.)

> My goal is to convince the audience that any device should relate
> better with Linux than with any proprietary OS.

Beyond better stability, how so?  Linux can read and write files on a CF
drive as fast as anything else can, but it ain't gonna make it take
pictures or squeal like a piggie.

That said, there is a bit of room there for stuff like controlling a
digital camera for stop-motion animation, stuff where you can combine a
cheap inflexible consumer-grade widget with a free and powerful software
system to get a device that's much more useful.  If, that is, you're a
geek, or you have a pet geek to code it up and maintain it.

That's not something unique to Linux, but it's *easier* with Linux.

(Another, non-Linux example: Foam RC motor-glider + digital camera +
video transmitter + glue circuits = personal UAV for aerial photography.
He's working on navigation and suchlike; ultimately, it's gonna be used
to count and track birds on the interior of an island.)

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