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Old 12-26-2007, 04:06 PM
Bit
 
Default Linux vs Windows Drivers

What is so fundamentally different about drivers in Linux and Windows?

Specifically, video card drivers have always frustrated my understanding
of what's going on under the hood. Say I have a nice video card from
ATI. I need to install some cool drivers from ATI in order to make the
card work at its best and in order to do any cool things like dual
monitors. I download these drivers from the company's website, install
them on my machine, and I'm off and running. Assuming all goes
according to plan.


That's all fine. Now, this is what confuses me. In Windows, I'm done
forever at this point. I've never had a problem, nor heard of a
problem, where I had to mysteriously reinstall the drivers for my video
card after an Automatic Update. Not so in Linux. Every kernel update
has me wondering if I'll have to reinstall the drivers for my video
card. It seems like sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I just
reboot and pray that my video card is still working afterwards.


Not knowing a great deal about how drivers really work in Linux or
Windows, I can only really conclude that either Microsoft never updates
the Windows kernel (at least not in a way that screws with driver
interfaces), or there is something very different about how the two
operating systems handle drivers. Can anyone shed some light on the
subject for me?


Thanks,
bit
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Old 12-26-2007, 04:21 PM
"William L. Maltby"
 
Default Linux vs Windows Drivers

On Wed, 2007-12-26 at 12:06 -0500, Bit wrote:
> What is so fundamentally different about drivers in Linux and Windows?
>
> <snip>

> Not knowing a great deal about how drivers really work in Linux or
> Windows, I can only really conclude that either Microsoft never updates
> the Windows kernel (at least not in a way that screws with driver
> interfaces), or there is something very different about how the two
> operating systems handle drivers. Can anyone shed some light on the
> subject for me?
>
> Thanks,
> bit
> <snip sig stuff>

It really comes down to the difference between the "business models".
Windows: closed, propietary, major market share; *IX (a lot of them)
open, non-propietary, lesser market share.

The developers of the hardware almost always provide drivers for W*dows.
They know their hardware intimately, they have full-blown develpment
teams and systems with access to necessary source in W*dows, etc.

For *IX, only some hardware developers provide drivers. The rest are
developed by community members. These are often based on only specs from
the hardware developers and often no specs at all. Specs may be
erroneous, incomplete and/or late. No in-house development systems or
teams.

W*dows drivers available upon release of the hardware, *IX often
necessarily have to come late due to the items mentioned above.

You can avoid a lot of this by just running all your video adapters in
VGA mode, which is relatively static and supported with very little
change needed as new kernels and hardware become available.

--
Bill

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Old 12-26-2007, 04:37 PM
Bill Campbell
 
Default Linux vs Windows Drivers

On Wed, Dec 26, 2007, Bit wrote:
>What is so fundamentally different about drivers in Linux and Windows?

A major difference with Vista is that their drivers are more concerned with
DMCA copyright protection than performance, and this goes down into the
hardware as well.

http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.html

>Specifically, video card drivers have always frustrated my understanding
>of what's going on under the hood. Say I have a nice video card from
>ATI. I need to install some cool drivers from ATI in order to make the
>card work at its best and in order to do any cool things like dual
>monitors. I download these drivers from the company's website, install
>them on my machine, and I'm off and running. Assuming all goes
>according to plan.

Video card manufacturers have a long history of changing things, with no
documentation of course as they're proprietary. So long as they provide
Windows drivers, they figure their job is done.

Linux doesn't have enough market share to really get their attention, and
developing these for Vista is made more expensive (see the article above)
so they concentrate their efforts where they will get the most return.

Bill
--
INTERNET: bill@celestial.com Bill Campbell; Celestial Software LLC
URL: http://www.celestial.com/ PO Box 820; 6641 E. Mercer Way
FAX: (206) 232-9186 Mercer Island, WA 98040-0820; (206) 236-1676

The day-to-day travails of the IBM programmer are so amusing to most of
us who are fortunate enough never to have been one -- like watching
Charlie Chaplin trying to cook a shoe.
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Old 12-26-2007, 04:48 PM
Bit
 
Default Linux vs Windows Drivers

William L. Maltby wrote:

On Wed, 2007-12-26 at 12:06 -0500, Bit wrote:


What is so fundamentally different about drivers in Linux and Windows?

<snip>




Not knowing a great deal about how drivers really work in Linux or
Windows, I can only really conclude that either Microsoft never updates
the Windows kernel (at least not in a way that screws with driver
interfaces), or there is something very different about how the two
operating systems handle drivers. Can anyone shed some light on the
subject for me?


Thanks,
bit
<snip sig stuff>



It really comes down to the difference between the "business models".
Windows: closed, propietary, major market share; *IX (a lot of them)
open, non-propietary, lesser market share.

The developers of the hardware almost always provide drivers for W*dows.
They know their hardware intimately, they have full-blown develpment
teams and systems with access to necessary source in W*dows, etc.

For *IX, only some hardware developers provide drivers. The rest are
developed by community members. These are often based on only specs from
the hardware developers and often no specs at all. Specs may be
erroneous, incomplete and/or late. No in-house development systems or
teams.

W*dows drivers available upon release of the hardware, *IX often
necessarily have to come late due to the items mentioned above.

You can avoid a lot of this by just running all your video adapters in
VGA mode, which is relatively static and supported with very little
change needed as new kernels and hardware become available.




Thanks to both of you for the reply. Good information, but that still
doesn't really answer my question. I'm more interested in the technical
side of things. What I really want to understand boils down to this:


Why is it that in Windows I can install ATI drivers once and never worry
about it again, while in Linux I may have to *reinstall* the drivers at
a later date after a system update to get my card working with them
again? Experience has proven to me that in Windows I can install the
ATI drivers once, leave those same drivers on there for eternity, update
the system over and over with Automatic Updates, and never worry about
it breaking my video card. In Linux, every time I see a kernel update,
I've learned to be braced for impact and just be ready with my ATI
drivers to reinstall to get my card working again. I've never
understood this. I'd like a technical explanation for why this is so.


Thanks,
bit
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