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PC Hardware in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition by Barbara Fritchman Thompson, Robert Bruce Thompson

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Configuring USB under Linux

The first draft of this section originally began, “USB under Linux is not ready for prime time.” We eventually came to realize that USB under Linux “just works,” and the reason for that change of heart is instructive.

In preparing to write this section, we installed current releases of Red Hat and Mandrake Linux on three representative test-bed systems—a Pentium III on an i815 motherboard, a Pentium 4 on an i845PE motherboard, and an Athlon on an nForce2 motherboard. We then connected diverse USB peripherals, from mice and keyboards to printers and scanners to external optical drives. Some of them weren’t even recognized. Some of them worked, more or less. Some of them worked sometimes and not other times. Others didn’t work at all. None of them worked reliably.

We had just about written off Linux as having poor USB support. Fortunately, we have a “back channel” mailing list of experienced Linux users to whom we turn when we have questions about Linux hardware issues. We told them about our problems with USB under Linux, and received many responses, all of which basically said, “USB works fine for me under Linux.” Hmmm.

After much hair-pulling, we finally determined that the problem was ... a bad cable. Trying to make testing more convenient, we did something stupid. As often happens, cutting corners to save time actually ended up costing us time. We swapped systems and peripherals around during the failed initial testing, but we always used the same ...

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