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Having trouble installing a piece of hardware? Want to know if that peripheral is compatible with Linux?
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Ideally I just want to be able to plug it in and play, without needing to download new packages, try and compile them etc.
Support-wise Graphics cards that require, or just perform better using, vendor-supplied drivers have always been a relative "problem". That's because the Linux kernel must remain free of proprietary, patent-encumbered, closed-source, binary blobs. What you will face depends on the requirements you have for your card, how it'll be handled depends on your Linux distribution but with the proper amount of reading downloading the right package and installing it should not be a problem as searching LQ should show.
*And if you don't want to do anything at all then just select a card the kernel supports out of the box. In that case you obviously waive all rights to gripe about driver versions, feature loss, sub-standard performance, etc, etc.
Distribution: Fedora 17, Ubuntu 12 LTS and Ubuntu server 10.04
I usually do this: Look at what's at discount prices atm, good deals etc. Then I google "name of the model + linux" to see whether there are any problems in forums, note the date it was solved (often years before) and choose from that. Always scale up, get more years for your dollars.
I have gone wrong once with an ATI Radeon card that completely crapped out in OpenSUSE when playing Windows games that was supposed to work fine on Linux under Wine. I sold it and got an nVidia card with the proprietary driver and can now play Wine games in Linux (switched to Fedora 17) with good graphics and speed. The occasional crashes are more Wine related than graphics related.
ATI/AMD supposedly plays better with the Linux kernel, but my personal experience (so far) is that nvidia is superior. One caveat; if you install kernel updates in Ubuntu and Fedora you absolutely should search for updates after they have been installed, because the proprietray nVidia drivers are always one step after. Unless you know this, you'll probably experience problems. For a hassle-free experience, use the nouveau driver, or consider ATI/AMD.. Again, google is your friend.
Whichever you go for, if you use the HDMI out on your graphics card, be advised that Linux will often output to VGA or the DVI initially.
For SSDs, I always go Intel, 'cause I've had irrecoverable errors with cheaper SSDS. Experts now say OCZ's good models are just as stable but I haven't tried them.
I run CentOS 5.x and I've had nothing but problems with ATI/AMD drivers. So much so that I replaced 60+ video cards with cheap NVIDIA 8400's on some Dells we bought. I find that the proprietary video drivers for NVIDIA install easier and work better. I have had constant issues with getting the ATI drivers to compile. That being said, those were older HD3xxx cards at the time, so their support may have improved.
The huge downside of NVIDIA is that whenever you upgrade the kernel, the video drivers will not work without being reinstalled. X-server will not start. This is probably true for any proprietary video driver. There used to be a good nvidia-kmod out there. Not sure if it's still active.
The NVIDIA drivers also are much easier to get multi-monitor support.
I have had similar problems with ATI drivers & Debian. A few years ago I replaced a new & expensive ATI card with NVIDIA because of this. Lately I have bought an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU with HD4000 graphics and have not had any problems relating to drivers. So far I have not had any problems with incompatible items on motherboards from ASUS & Asrock. Most Intel components (network, sound) seems to be supported out of the box. Even wifi is rarely an issue compared to a few years ago.