Getting Familiar with Your Other Hardware

Meeting new people isn't always easy. Sociologists tell us that there is a complex interplay that takes place whenever we meet someone new, much of it subconscious. Although it is possible to meet someone and instantly like him or her, it is more likely that you become comfortable enough to develop a friendship only after having been around a person for some timein other words, after you've gotten to know a person better.

Now, what the heck does this have to do with hardware and your Linux system?

Well, it's like this . . . . For most, the computer we use is a black (or beige) box with a few things plugged into it and some magic happening inside that makes it possible to surf the Internet. Anything that falls outside the small subset of applications we use makes us uneasy. That's why the notion of trying something new may be intimidating. The best way to get over that is to become comfortable with what you have.

Ubuntu's Device Manager is a great place to start for getting to know what makes up your system (see Figure 6-10). You can find it by clicking the System menu on the top panel and selecting Device Manager from the Administration submenu. Or, you can bring it up by pressing <Alt+F2> and typing in hal-device-manager, its program name.

Figure 6-10. GNOME's Hal Device Manager.

As soon as the Hal Device Manager loads up, you'll notice that the program window is broken into two main panes. The left side lists all the various device classes and subclasses that make up your system. Beside each major item, there's a small arrow that collapses or expands that particular device or device class' components. Click any item and details about that item are displayed in the right pane.

Why don't we take a few minutes to explore this hardware landscape? Let's start with PCI devices.

PCI Devices

Adding a PCI device definitely requires a reboot because we are talking about internal devices, though your system likely has PCI devices already installed. These are cards that fit into the slots inside your computer. When you reboot the machine, Linux should be able to scan for these cards and identify them without any problem. When you click a PCI device, you'll see that a third tab appears in the right pane. Click the tab to get more vendor-specific information on the device (see Figure 6-11). This is particularly useful if there is a configuration issue and you need to identify your device's make and model number.

Figure 6-11. When listing PCI devices, the Device Manager adds a PCI information tab in the right pane.

Shell Out

You can also run the command /sbin/lspci for a more succinct list of all PCI devices on the system. The following is a partial list from my notebook computer:

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0000:00:00.0 Host bridge: ATI Technologies Inc RS200/RS200M AGP Bridge [IGP 340M] (rev 02) 0000:00:01.0 PCI bridge: ATI Technologies Inc PCI Bridge [IGP 340M] 0000:00:06.0 Multimedia audio controller: ALi Corporation M5451 PCI AC-Link Controller Audio Device (rev 02) 0000:00:07.0 ISA bridge: ALi Corporation M1533 PCI to ISA Bridge [Aladdin IV] 0000:00:08.0 Modem: ALi Corporation M5457 AC'97 Modem Controller 0000:00:09.0 Network controller: Intersil Corporation Prism 2.5 Wavelan chipset (rev 01) 0000:00:0a.0 CardBus bridge: O2 Micro, Inc. OZ601/6912/711E0 CardBus/SmartCardBus Controller

If the Linux kernel has the appropriate device drivers available as modules, they are automatically loaded, and nothing else needs to be done to make the device available. The reason that this information is useful has to do with those times when you do not have a driver handy or directly available. Being able to get the details on the troublesome device in this way is the first step toward getting it working.

A classic example of this is the Winmodem, so called because it was designed to work specifically with Windows. If you have one of these modems and it was not automatically configured by the system, never fear. I'll talk about Winmodems in more detail later in the chapter. For the moment, let's talk USB.

USB Devices

The whole idea behind USB was eventually to replace all those different connectors on the back of a computer. That includes serial ports, parallel ports, and mouse and keyboard connectors. The acronym stands for Universal Serial Bus. On any USB system, there is at least one USB hub and whatever devices are attached. If you look at Figure 6-12, you can see information displayed on two USB controllers (one is a USB 2.0 port, the other USB 1.1), a Labtec webcam, a mini USB wheel mouse, and my Palm Zire 72 (selected), all connected to my system.

Figure 6-12. The Hal Device Manager displaying USB information on a connected Palm device.

Notice that in the case of a USB device, like my Palm Zire 72, a third tab appears on the right pane. It is labeled USB and clicking it displays additional information specific to the USB device currently selected.

Trivia Time

I casually mentioned that my notebook computer had both USB and USB 2.0 ports. It's worth noting because not all systems have both and there is a difference between the two. The new USB 2.0 uses an identical connector to the original USB 1 port but the hardware supports a much faster rate of information exchange. This is particularly useful for devices that must transmit a large amount of information, such as a digital video camera. USB 1 has a speed of 12Mb per second, whereas the new USB 2.0 can transmit data at 480Mb per second.

Shell Out

To get a list of USB devices, try the command lsusb. The following output is from my notebook:

 $ lsusb Bus 003 Device 001: ID 0000:0000 Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0830:0061 Palm, Inc. Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0c45:6029 Microdia Triplex i-mini PC Camera Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0451:2046 Texas Instruments, Inc. TUSB2046 Hub Bus 001 Device 001: ID 0000:0000 Bus 002 Device 002: ID 04fc:0013 Sunplus Technology Co., Ltd Bus 002 Device 001: ID 0000:0000 

The sheer number of USB devices available is phenomenal, to say the least, and the list is growing. Many of these devices use a standard set of drivers, which means that a number of things can literally be plugged in and usedno need to mess with loading drivers because it is all being done for you.

You noticed the word many in that last sentence, right? Keeping track of what works (and what doesn't) and providing access to drivers that aren't included in current distributions is the raison d'être of the Linux USB Device Overview Web site. If you find yourself looking at a new webcam, and you aren't sure whether it is supported under Linux, look there first:

The site is organized into sections, depending on the device type (audio, video, mass storage, and so on). Each device is assigned a status identifying just how well a device is supported, from works perfectly to works somewhat to don't bother.

Moving to Ubuntu Linux
Moving to Ubuntu Linux
ISBN: 032142722X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 201

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