[kwlug-disc] Open Source intro handout

Andrew Kohlsmith aklists at mixdown.ca
Fri May 1 09:43:09 EDT 2009

On April 29, 2009 07:26:00 pm Paul Nijjar wrote:
> Regardless of Canada's legal situation, it remains true that you can't
> play DVDs on Ubuntu without enabling additional repositories, so I
> feel compelled to mention it.

Playing DVDs on Windows needs additional software as well.

> 1. Lori suggests that hardware support in Linux is not such a big deal
> any more. Certainly this has not been my personal experience -- last
> month I had a terrible time getting PCMCIA wireless cards to work, and
> I found the support for a Laserjet 1100 (an old but fairly common
> printer) to be pretty bad. I could get the drivers to work but the
> print quality was much worse than the standard Windows driver. I would
> claim that this is exactly the kind of experience that turns new users
> off of Linux -- even if 90% of stuff works the way you want it, the
> 10% turns people off Linux and back to their Windows boxes (which are
> much less than 90% working sometimes.)

I think that you'll find that older hardware is harder to find support for for 
any operating system, *especially* PCMCIA wireless. (speaking from my own 
experience).  I have been pleasantly and consistently surprised that most stuff 
these days does work.  I think the hardest thing I had to do was get the 
idiotic ATI drivers to install properly, and before that was locating the 
stupid PPD file for my Pixma MP530 -- they were on the CD, but just obscured.

> To turn this into a question: how good is video card support under
> Linux these days? I had heard that Nvidia support still requires the
> proprietary drivers to do reasonable hardware acceleration. I don't
> know the state of AMD/ATI stuff. Enlighten me.

The *only* reason I screwed around with the ATI drivers was to help someone 
else out.  I've never installed video drivers for myself.  Intel GMA, 
ATI/nVidia stuff works fast enough for me with the open-source stuff, and it 
works out of the box.

Using ATIs drivers is an exercise in futility because they are determined to 
make the Linux install process the same as the Windows one, and it doesn't fit 
well.  If they'd just set up a repository for the damned DEBs/RPMs it'd be 

> On that note, are there other classes of hardware for which Linux
> support tends to be spotty?

"Weird Stuff" -- the kind of Cracker Jack toys you find in the supermarket 
bargain bins is often sufficiently screwy to cause problems because they need 
proprietary drivers.  Printers by and large work.  Video, Sound, most USB stuff 
tends to just work.  I guess some of the media stuff is problematic.  Newer TV 
Capture cards and such, specifically, since they have often have binary blobs 
of firmware which must be sent to the card before they are functional.

> 2. Richard offered some counterarguments to the open source
> aggravations. This was exactly what I was trying to avoid. I have
> experienced each of the aggravations I listed personally, and boy can
> they be aggravating.
> Having said that I don't really know the best way to approach the
> issue. I want to be frank about the most common things people find
> aggravating, so that they don't get all pumped up about open source
> only to be disappointed. But if you're an Eeyore like me then you tend
> to undersell the product, and nobody gets excited enough to use it.

Really it's not something that can be avoided.  Windows and Mac have their 
share of aggravations, and Open Source does as well.  MY big thing is that 
while OSS has aggravations, I can largely work around them.  You can't do that 
with the proprietary stuff. You get so far and then a reinstall is all you can 

> 5. I was trying to identify good resources for people to use at the
> end of the handout. I don't know if I got the list right.
> There is a long list of resources on the KWLUG website:
> http://www.kwlug.org/node/403
> Maybe I should just put that URL on the handout? What other resources
> would you consider crucial for people (home users and small business
> users, neither of whom have much money) who are getting started with
> free software?

That's be a good idea, but that page really does not list resources for 
solving problems; it's a community list of where you can go to meet up with 
kindred spirits.

I'd suggest googling for the (generic-ified) specific message you're getting.  
That's where I usually start out.  Then there's freenode.net, #ubuntu or 
#debian or whatever.   Linking ESR's "how to ask smart questions" essay would 
be good too. A reminder to be polite and that you're asking people who are 
giving their time and energy for free would be a good thing as well.  :-)

I just have a few questions of my own: What and Where and more specifically 
When on Saturday is this event?


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