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Linux and small hardware vendors

Linux: Everyone who’s used a non-MS system will have learned — typically the hard way — that not all hardware is equal. Not just in terms of specs, flexibility and power, but also in terms of whether or not it can be used at all.

Most hardware vendors consider their specification and interface documentation to be their crown jewels; giving access to these without a signed NDA is impossible. On the other hand, for free software developers, signing an NDA makes life quite difficult — it can be done, but nobody else can help you maintain it further without signing an NDA, the resulting code may ‘disclose’ too much of the ‘IP’, and so on. In a lot of cases, the vendor isn’t interested in giving access to the specs, even with an NDA — it’s their IP and why isn’t the customer just using Windows?

The end result: lots of hardware with crappy support on non-MS operating systems.

Things aren’t as bad as they used to be, though — since nowadays the high-end hardware is more likely to support standards, and Linux is a top choice on embedded hardware (set-top boxes for example), so it has a much higher profile. But cheap, end-user oriented PCs still wind up with components from vendors who couldn’t be bothered with non-Windows customers, and that can mean using a hacked-up, reverse-engineered driver and hoping it works. (That’s not to denigrate reverse-engineered drivers. some of them work great. But fundamentally, the vendors are making a mistake here.)

So it’s pretty impressive to see that LaCie are now sponsoring development of k3b, the CD/DVD burning application for KDE!

Good timing too, I was about to buy a DVD burner ;)

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