This weekend I had one of those experiences that exemplifies the reason that I switched to Mac rather than Linux nearly two years ago. I spent the better part of this weekend trying to get my girlfriend’s laptop to dual boot into Linux because she’s been having all sorts of inexplicable issues with Windows. After hours and hours (and hours and hours) of driver hell…no mas. I’m done.
The laptop is an old one of mine, but it’s hardly ancient. It’s a Dell D600 Latitude – about four years old, I’d say. The specs are still pretty decent too, except that the wireless and ethernet cards are provided by Broadcom, a company that appears to be somewhat (in)famous for not offering Linux drivers. The result: I couldn’t get online – wired or wireless. That put me at a distinct disadvantage with respect to getting anything else done, so I tried to make it work.
Although the basic install – including partitioning – worked brilliantly and took only minutes, most of my weekend was spent shuffling back and forth between my Mac – where I Googled for solutions, downloaded Windows drivers, the ndiswrapper binary and its dependencies – and the newly-minted, but still unusable, Linux machine, carrying my USB memory stick with the downloaded files and instructions copied and pasted into text files.
I don’t blame the Linux community for not providing drivers. It’s not their responsibility, nor is it really Broadcom’s. None of these folks are responsible for providing drivers I can use. Nonetheless, it’s this kind of wasted weekend that kept me from turning to Linux two years ago. I just don’t want to have to spend this much time making my desktop machine work. This is the machine that I need to be productive with rather than spending my time making it functional in the most basic ways.
As evidenced by my recent switch to Linux in the workplace, Linux seems to detect and handle newer hardware quite nicely. Unfortunately, newer hardware isn’t always an option. This machine needs to last until the new line of MacBook Pros comes out and I can give her the one I’m writing this on, so she’s stuck with what she has for the time being. I was hoping it would be recent enough that the install would go as smoothly as the one on my work machine, but evidently not.
Maybe I could have gotten everything working. Maybe. But at this point the amount of time I’ve spent on the problem has vastly exceeded my interest in it.