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Old 01-16-2006, 04:16 AM   #1
Registered: Jan 2006
Distribution: Ubuntu
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Custom built PC using Linux questions

I am going to build a new machine and put Linux on it but am unsure what parts to buy because i dont know if a particular piece of hardware is supported by Linux.
When you visit web sites that sell the individual hardware parts they dont tell you how well it is supported in Linux, if at all, so its hard to know what to choose.
Can anyone give me some advice about what they do when choosing hardware to ensure if will work on Linux?

Old 01-16-2006, 04:18 AM   #2
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Registered: May 2004
Location: In the DC 'burbs
Distribution: Arch, Scientific Linux, Debian, Ubuntu
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Most distributions publish a hardware compatibility list. In addition there is a hardware compatibility list here at that you can consult. I also find just using a Google questy like "$NAME_OF_WIDGET Linux" (no quotes) to be helpful in seeing if other people have gotten $NAME_OF_WIDGET to work.
Old 01-16-2006, 09:06 AM   #3
Registered: Sep 2004
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Distribution: Slackware, Mandriva, Debian derivatives, +BSD/ Solaris/ Minix/ plan9/ GNU/HURD...
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Completely off-the-cuff: The general PC that you'd typically find Windows 9x/XP installed on should work just fine. I never met the box yet that runs Windows that couldn't also work with Linux. In fact, Linux is older hardware's best friend. Now, one other thing, is the level of hardware detection in your chosen distribution: Fedora, Mandriva and Knoppix, for instance, are top-notch at hardware detection, and Debian and Slackware, for example, need some work (from you, hacking in text files in a dark console or running x86config). General rule of thumb.

Newer, more specific devices are a gamble. Heavy-gaming video cards are some work, some don't. Modems are scattered, but mostly OK (except for the notoriously cruddy win-modems - but who even uses those anymore?). I never *did* find a way to get my DSL USB connection to run on ANY Linux distribution known to man, but the ethernet connections work fine.
Old 01-16-2006, 10:50 AM   #4
Registered: Jun 2004
Location: CA Foothills
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Let me help you out friend, these are the easiest hardware even for n00bs:

Sound card -- Get a CMI8738 PCI card

Video card -- Any NVIDIA AGP (example FX series) or PCI-E (example 6000 series)

Ethernet -- Most onboard chips are fine, if not get Netgear FA311

HDD - Stick with IDE for now to avoid SATA problems if this is your first install

Also let me suggest PCLinuxOS, this ISO will setup GL and 3D video for you (if you use one of the video cards i said). Also sets up flash, java, and comes with software you will actually use.

Good luck friend.
Old 01-16-2006, 11:15 AM   #5
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I would recommend coming up with an initial hardware target using whatever criteria is important to you, and then browse through some forums looking for reports of problems/successes with the specific hardware you've tentatively chosen.

An issue that hung me up a little when installing Debian a few months back (all good now):

"SATA drive controlled by nForce3 250Gb chipset on motherboard"

My SATA/nForce3 combo was not detected by earlier kernels. I think support for this combo came in around 2.6.10. I see your distro listed is Ubuntu. You are probably fine there. I booted some Ubuntu liveCD back then and it detected my SATA easily. The Debian installer at that time was based on an older kernel and didn't detect my SATA harddrive (but found the other PATA-133 one).

General tip: nVidia video cards are generally regarded as better supported under Linux than ATI cards. But I don't want to start a flame war between video card manufacturer loyalists. I had an ATI card working, but I only tried it with the default vesa driver. One would expect the vesa driver to work with just about anything, so this was no major accomplishment. Then the ATI card (hardware) crapped out on me so I replaced it with an nVidia and installed nVidia's accelerated drivers.

I also recommend sticking with good old standbys rather than the more exotic stuff. For example, I'd buy a corded PS/2 mouse instead of a USB wireless mouse given no pressing need to go for the newer technology. You'll save some money in the process too. This is just a general recommendation. The computer I'm typing on right now is runing Debian with a wireless USB keyboard and mouse, and it works just fine (at least until the stupid mouse batteries die again - this is a frequent occurrance!)

Come to think of it, this particular computer I'm using with the wireless keyboard/mouse also happens to have an ATI video card installed. Still only using the vesa driver however.

Some hardware will require you to install drivers yourself. For example, a Hauppauge video capture card. Simple enough to install the required IVTV drivers, but these are not part of the kernel yet. I think they are planned to be integrated into the kernel sometime around this summer.

Last edited by haertig; 01-16-2006 at 11:21 AM.
Old 01-17-2006, 09:36 PM   #6
Registered: May 2004
Location: USA-Calif
Distribution: KANOTIX!
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All the above suggestions are good, but I like this one best...

Originally Posted by haertig
I would recommend coming up with an initial hardware target using whatever criteria is important to you, and then browse through some forums looking for reports of problems/successes with the specific hardware you've tentatively chosen.
Identify a tentative system.

Then, in an Ubuntu forum, indicate your intended use and tentative system, and ask for recommendations.

Regarding dialup modems, external serial hardware modems have worked best for me.

Good Luck


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