Hardware Drivers in Linux World


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Aug 21, 2020
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I know many distros want to keep out binary blobs, with good reason.

For those distros that include binaries, why do some distros have better hardware support than others?

I imagine that the system detects the hardware and gets the device ID. Then the system checks with a repo that has all the drivers in the world, both binary and open, and asks the user which driver he wants to install or just accept the recommended driver.

This is a lot of imagination. How does it actually work?

In practice it basically comes down to what default settings are and/or how tolerant the installers are.

I've had issues installing and using Debian and Ubuntu on the same system Mint had no issues.
Even though all three are based on Debian.

How does it actually work? Considering computers speak binary and have no mind of their own, there is no excuse for any incompatibility outside of incompetence by the software creators.

1.) Hardware Drivers are splitet into Kernelmodules, opensource Firmware and closedsource Firmware.
* Some Distros doesnt use closedsource Firmware per default e.g Debian until mid 2023 (than this have be changed)

2.) Linux is more global, Windows use DYNAMIC LINKED LIBARYS (DLL) and Apple only a smal tree of possible Hardware. So its required to compile the Drivers and in some cases the drivers are against the rest of the system.

3.) Some companys doesnt create drivers for there hardware and its hard to build drivers for things you dont know.

At least that's what I know, please correct me if I'm wrong.
G'day mekineer, Welcome to Linux.org

Perhaps you could tell us what your pc entails?....make and model etc ?

In a nutshell, drivers are something I have never given any thought to.

Why?....because my motherboard has onboard graphics and I have no need for a stand alone graphics card....therefore no Nvidia etc driver required.

my pc dates (approx) to 2012 - 2013. being the age that it is, I am absolutely assured that any drivers necessary for the rest of the hardware setup, are already well catered for in the kernel.
The pc itself is quite magnificent...it is running a quad core i7-7700, and performs beautifully.....very quick.

By not giving details of your rig, your question can only be answered rather generally.

Give us some detail.

if you needed to delve deeper into the topic than has been approached here, then give some indication of just how deep you wish to go.
There are plenty here who will accommodate you.
I tend to think of drivers for Linux come in two flavours FOSS and Non-Free, FOSS drivers are for the purest, and Non-Free for the pragmatist and sensible user. Most [not all distributions will include a full set of FOSS drivers [some are in the kernel and some in the software manager] but not Non-Free, others like Mint,MX,Parrot, Ubuntu, include a comprehensive Non-Free package, even Debian now offer them as standard.
So what's the difference? Foss drivers are usually more basic, they are written by community members and released under a GNU free licence . Non-Free are supplied by a few [but growing] band of OME suppliers and are usually copywrite, restricting their use [but still free of charge] Given the choice I will choose the Non-free drivers over FOSS ones for usability on my hardware.
But as this is Linux the choice is as always yours and yours alone,
Hello @mekineer,
Welcome to the Linux.org forum.
You have already received several good answers. I would just add that it sometimes depends of the country of origin also. As some countries have very strict laws governing the use of non free software. And some Linux Distro for that reason avoid proprietary drivers. Others don't. Some Distros also out of a desire to be completely FOSS (free and open source) aviod the Non-FOSS drivers also. If you have hardware that needs Non-FOSS drivers you'll have to seek those distros that supply them. It's a choice of pay for everything MS and MAC or use as much free software as possible. Linux/BSD's
Insomniac had the type of answer I was looking for. But I would like more detail as to why some distros have better hardware support than others, even if they both use free+nonfree drivers.
I know this is not what you asked, But if you have a machine under 3 yrs old, then the distribution that I consider, comes with the widest selection of FOSS and Non-Free drivers had to be MX linux with AHS
Drivers...this reminds me of the dark days of windoze. Plug in anything and get...windoze is installing the drivers...this can take some time...we suggest you go shopping or to a movie...when you get home the drivers might be installed.

As for Linux...I say what drivers...everything I plug in Mounts automatically. The only time I check for drivers is with a clean install...I run the Driver Manager for my Graphic Card.
I found some details here:

I am making a report here on my wiki:
(Click on "How do drivers differ between Windows and Linux?" to expand the section.)

Seems that they don't focus on backwards compatibility in the linux kernel. Fuck those 3rd party drivers!
Come to think of it...since switching to Linux Mint Cinnamon...I've never searched for any drivers online as Mint does it all...especially Graphic Card Drivers...



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