Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 10.04: Drivers & compatibility

“Nothing works with Linux” is another of the myths that Ubuntu 10.04 lays to bed, but does it match the near-seamless Windows 7 experience?

Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 10.04: Drivers & compatibility

We didn’t have any internal hardware problems on our three Ubuntu PCs. It offered to install the Nvidia graphics driver on our Dell M1330 laptop, instantly correcting display issues straight after installation, and our dual-monitor setup required only a modicum of driver tweaking.

Keyboards, mice, external hard disks, USB flash drives and digital cameras all mounted without fuss or need of a reboo

Keyboards, mice, external hard disks, USB flash drives and digital cameras all mounted without fuss or need of a reboot. USB and networked printers were also installed without downloading any Linux-specific drivers. We simply picked our model name from the considerable list and the operating system did the rest. (Click here for a full list of Ubuntu-compatible printers.)

However, we did hit some brick walls. Ubuntu correctly identified and mounted our iPhone 3GS, but there’s no Linux version of iTunes, and although some people have apparently managed to run iTunes via the WINE emulator, we were confronted with an immovable black screen every time we attempted to boot iTunes this way. Without iTunes, there’s no way of self-activating an iPhone or upgrading the device’s firmware.

Ubuntu failed to recognise any of the three USB mobile broadband dongles we inserted in our laptop, and our search for drivers culminated in a series of long-winded workarounds. A Creative Zen MP3 player was recognised, and its contents displayed in the Rhythmbox music player, but every time we tried to play a song stored on the device the application crashed. Meanwhile, a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 scanner wasn’t recognised and an all-in-one scanner driver failed to bring it to life.

For near-guaranteed device compatibility, the only real choice is Windows. That said, most devices we tested with Ubuntu worked flawlessly, and in some cases proved easier to install than Windows.

Ubuntu: 7/10

Handled most devices with aplomb and ran flawlessly on three different PCs, but still some way short of universal compatibility.

Windows: 9/10

Despite the odd post-launch wobble – especially with scanners – Windows 7 driver issues are mercifully rare.

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