Don Marti

Sun 17 Jul 2005 01:03:21 AM PDT

Shop or hack?

A friend called me to ask a Linux question. He was trying to make an 802.11b card work using ndiswrapper, which I have tried too, and got working pretty quickly once I figured it out.

But there's no way you'd throw "set up ndiswrapper" as a to-do list item for someone who isn't just messing with his or computer for the sake of messing with the computer.

So I said, "Dude, do you want to mess around with your computer, or would you rather go shopping?" He said he'd rather shop, so I recommended a boring, stable, working Orinoco card.

Shop or hack is the fundamental decision you have to make with a lot of desktop Linux stuff.

If you want to plug it all in and have it work, you need to be a picky shopper. Instead of making an impulse purchase of a printer or camera, you have to check what works, maybe bounce some ideas off your favorite support forum, print out a list of possible hardware to buy, and then go shopping.

The people in an awful mess are the ones who already have a bunch of computer hardware from companies with different levels of Linux friendliness or hostility, and want to switch OSs. They often end up with one of least fun Linux projects, "trying to get some random hardware to work", as their first Linux project.