Originally Published: Tuesday, 7 November 2000 Author: Brian Richardson
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Reviews Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linux Hardware Resources

Expand your Linux hardware horizons! Brian Richardson takes you on a tour of some of the world's best Linux web resources for hardware (other than Linux.com, of course). Get connected and let Brian act as your virtual tour guide through Linux hardware sites on the web.

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The next set of reviews for hardware.linux.com will focus on Linux Web resources for hardware. Many quality Web sites exist that help the Linux community work through hardware configuration problems, along with providing driver information. This is the first article of the series.

There's a reason why linux.com has an entire section dedicated to hardware. Because it's always been an interesting problem in the development of open-source software, hardware deserves more space. Most computer hardware vendors cover their hardware interface in a veil of legally-enforced secrecy. This means GNU/Linux driver programmers often have to resort to reverse engineering and experimentation when developing support for new peripherals.

Fortunately, there are corners of the Internet where this information has been compiled and organized, making it easier for Linux users to solve their PC problems. One such resource is ZDNet's Linux Hardware Database ... the LhD (http://www.linhardware.com).

DataPower Technology, Inc., started LhD in March of 1999. In August of this year, the site was acquired by ZDNet. DataPower made this move to keep the site separate from its network-solutions business. The new LhD site was designed to be larger, adding ZDNet's current product list to the database.

The front page of LhD shows the site's three major aspects. The left side of the page carries the LhD database sorted by equipment type (notebooks, CD burner, etc.). There are also links to (surprise) ZDNet's "Linux Resource Center." The center of the page contains a search engine, along with information on adding to the site. The right side of the page links to relevant articles on other Web sites (upgrade guides, product reviews, etc.). While not revolutionary, the layout is familiar and easy to navigate.

But in the end, the information is what's important. A Web site without content is just a pretty shell, vainly covering a wasteland of ignorance (much like that cheerleader I briefly dated in college). The LhD, like many Linux oriented sites, is driven by reader-provided content. This is good, since many Linux users experiment with hardware in ways most normal computer users would ever dream of. However, any moron with a keyboard can add useless information to the system (Example: A floppy drive review was anonymously posted with a 0 out of 5 rating. The product summary contained the impolite and grammatically incorrect "its a load of crap". This was on the front page, under the Recent Reports heading).

The LhD database isn't complete, but then again, no Linux hardware resource will ever be 100% complete. Additions for all types of hardware are in the database, even those which are known to have no support. But, there are also many devices, often older, not listed. These include Pentium Pro motherboards and odd-ball video chipsets, which won't be sought by the "average" user.

The search feature can only be called simple minded. Searching for my server motherboard ("AMI Merlin") brought up anything with 'ami' in the name ("Dynamite", "Tsunami", etc.). The Power Search feature uses the same simplified engine, but allows specific fields to be searched. One small improvement would be placing the "search" box on the same page as the "search results." That would prevent the inevitable smacking of the "back" button when the initial search doesn't find the right product.

Since I know from experience that my AMI Merlin motherboard works with Linux, I decided to add an entry to the LhD. This requires a free site registration. If the device does not exist in the database, users add a "product" entry. To review an existing entry, users add a "review" entry. Only "review" entries allow ratings to be added, along with known workarounds. Database entries can be linked to driver download sites.

LhD does add information to the user reviews. Product descriptions and categories act as keywords, linking to related HOW-TO documents and Web sites. This places hardware reviews and configuration information from a number of resources in one place.

Overall, LhD is a good resource for finding Linux hardware help, as long as users continue to update the information. The biggest issue seems to be the simplified search engine, which makes it hard to find specific information. A useful site, it's worth bookmarking.

Brian Richardson doesn't get paid by any Web sites for his reviews (not even linux.com), so his review should be fairly unbiased. These are his opinions, not those of linux.com management.

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