Linux woes with new hardwares.
Hardware compatibilities & drivers for linux are often hard to come by. Drivers availability & maturity in 6~9months times after the product being launched is pretty common. Problem is that, after 6~9 months when the product is matured enough to have good linux driver support & most compatibility issues ironed out, the product is probably no longer on sales in most computer shops around you. That is the dilemma. If I used new hardwares, I have poor linux drivers support. If I wait for 9 months for the product to mature, I probably cannot find the product any more.
The only way it seemed to bridge this gap is to patch & compile my own linux kernel to get my hardwares working. It's tough. Real tough.
One of my new motherboard uses SIS756 chipset, which has yet to have very matured driver support natively in the open linux kernel. Just to get it working I have to
1. Use a 5 years old PCI S3 Virge VGA card to install FC4. Cos FC4 failed to start graphic install with a nVidia 6600LE 3d card. And text install is even more buggy with other problem. Kinda tricky, but not that big a deal still, provided you still have a PCI VGA card in your storeroom. Hello, 2005's coming to an end & 2006 is just round the corner. PCI VGA card??
2. Download the latest kernel & modify the entry of the SIS IDE 5513 controller in the driver file & recompile it to get DMA enabled for the onboard IDE controller. The problem is rather silly that some one thought SIS5513 is compatible with SIS511 & identified them as SIS551X. Without DMA-enabled, disc access speed degraded to <3Mb/s & applications like TV-tuner will stutter when multiple applications are reading the harddisk simultaneously. Enabling it will return disc access to about 58Mb/s. How on earth do you think anyone will ever discover this? I have no idea. I only chance upon it from some forum to realised such silly problem with the linux kenel.
3, Onboard SIS190 network card is not recognised by the default FC4 kernel. And to solve this, I have to first wait for the FC4 kernel 126.96.36.199 to have support for the SIS190 chip, plug in a SMC network card to enable live update to upgrade FC4's kernel to 188.8.131.52. After which the SIS190 nic works, well sorta. Still I was met with another strange problem that all https sites failed to connect. Only lately, by chance that I said let's try getting the SIS190 linux driver from SIS manufacturer itself & overwriting the SIS190 driver provided in the open kernel source & recompile the whole kernel & see. Surprisingly, it finally solved this teething problem once & for all. And the cause is no other than a buggy driver released in the public kernel source.
So, now, I have resolved most, if not all of the hardwares compatibility problems with that motherboard. The effort, I must say is tremendous. And many a time, you need some luck to find the real solution. Who ever said that linux is ready for the consumers mass market? I shall shut him out from now on. Linux is really not for the faint hearted, unless you have say atleast a year old computer hardwares & the driver support for such hardwares are mature.
That is Linux, in reality.