Last Updated on October 3, 2010 by Dave Farquhar
Linux zealots are arguing over whether Dvorak‘s latest in PC Magazine is stupid or crazy.
I won’t call it stupid. But it’s ignorant.
Linux doesn’t need Windows’ plug and play layer. When it comes to low-level devices, like SCSI and IDE chipsets, network cards, and stuff like that, Linux actually puts Windows to shame. I can take a hard drive out of a Linux box, put it in a completely different machine–different NIC, different SCSI card, everything–and have it up and responding on the network in five minutes flat.
Now, sound cards can sometimes give Linux some troubles. But those devices have historically been problematic under every OS. I was pretty sure I had a five-year-old war story about my battles with an Avance Logic sound card under Windows here somewhere, but maybe that was on my first site. Some cards won’t work in Linux without divine intervention. Others won’t work in Windows without said intervention. It’s irritating when it happens, but it happens. It doesn’t mean the operating system is worthless, but it might mean the card is.
Video is sometimes a headache. But that’s not a problem with the Linux kernel. That’s the XFree86 or the X.org guys, depending on the distribution. And this is where Dvorak’s argument falls apart. You see, what Dvorak is calling a “video driver” looks a lot more like an application than a driver, on the system level.
You need more than a driver to get a GUI. You need an API. Plugging the Windows drivers into the Linux kernel doesn’t give you the X Window API. I suppose Microsoft could provide the Windows API, but what good would that do? None of the graphical Linux software would run on it. Microsoft would have to write its own X server. They could do it–others have–but what’s the point? Where’s the benefit? It’s a lot more work than just kludging the Windows Plug and Play layer to run with the Linux kernel.
So, basically, Dvorak’s editorial proves he doesn’t really know how Linux is put together, on the system level. It’s nice theory for CIOs to talk about while they wait for their turn at the tee on the golf course. But it won’t play out in the real world, because it’s just not that easy.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.