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Old 01-29-2013, 03:33 AM   #1
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toshiba netbook nb 505 drivers help (if i need it)

I have never used linux before so this question may be stupid. I did an installation of mint to my netbook and don't know if all the drivers were automatically installed. I had a windows 7 on it before but due to my installing process, everything in the hard drive was wiped clean. after the installation and running update manager, am i suppose to find drivers for (i dont know) the webcam, graphics card, etc? I dont k\really know how to check if things are updated or not. It has been a long time since I played around with drivers so common knowledge may be confusing to me. Please explain with simplicity. Thank you for reading and may my frustrations bring humor and joy in your day
Old 01-29-2013, 01:16 PM   #2
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Let me see if I can help you understand drivers in linux.

Some background first.

Drivers in linux are called modules. You will see a lot of people use the term driver, that for me is a windoze term.

Modules ( drivers ) in linux can be either compiled in the kernel, or loaded as a module during the boot process. Most distros like Mint will have most of the modules loaded at boot time. If you want to see a list of modules that are loaded, you can open a terminal, ( a command prompt ) and type 'lsmod' ( just what is between the quotes ) press enter, a list of loaded modules will appear. It may be rather long, depending on your hardware. The left column is the name of the module. Some of the names are not too hard to figure out what part of the hardware they support, others are more difficult.

To know a little more about the module, you can run a command 'modinfo modulename' ( just replace the word modulename with the name from the list you get with lsmod command.

If a module is compiled in the kernel, you have to look at the kernel files to know what is in the kernel. You may wonder, why would someone want to put a module in the kernel. The answer lies in the boot process. Early in the boot process, modules for the hard drive and controller are needed by the kernel, so it can read the boot records. If they are not in the kernel, you have to load them with a file called initrd.gz. This file is used to provide the driver(s) to the kernel before the system is fully up. To simplify the boot process, compiling the kernel with the specific modules for a specific set of hardware can be done.

Distros like Mint are booted on thousands of different hardware configurations. So it will boot and run the hardware on many configs, some distros have extra modules in their kernels, making the kernel larger than necessary. The extra code is in memory, using memory, but may never be used on specific hardware configs. Advanced users will compile their own kernels, strip out the unnecessary stuff, and load only what is needed on their specific hardware. This makes the system much faster. I'm not suggesting for a moment you should do this, it takes time, and a lot of knowledge to accomplish this.

O.K. enough of the background.

How do you know if a module is loaded? Try the hardware and see if it works. For example, the program cheese will run on most webcams. Mint has an application package manager called Synaptics. You can list installed software, and find things in the repos to install. If cheese isn't installed, you can install it with Synaptics.

Now if you can't get cheese to show a picture from the webcam, it may be the driver that is missing. It may be in the repos, or you may have to go to the manufacturers web site to find a linux driver. Here, google becomes your best friend. Do a search like "linux driver for webcam model 123" and see what turns up. Google knows everything, well most things.

These forums are very useful, especially for the novice linux user. Search them first. In years of using linux, and all the problems I have had, I have not ever discovered a new bug. Someone else has got their first, and found a solution.

Graphics cards can be a little more difficult. The first thing you need to know, for their modules, is what 'chip set' you have. To find out, in a terminal, run the command 'lspci' ) without quotes. This will list the hardware on your PCI bus. In there will be your video hardware. Mine looks like this:loo
00:0d.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation C61 [GeForce 6150SE nForce 430] (rev a2)
Look for the 'VGA compatible controller' in the list. nVidia is mine, ATI and Intel are the other to large makers. There are others. Most distros provide the proprietary drivers, and you can also get them from the manufacturers web sites.

nVidia drivers from the makers site is proprietary, implying the source code is closed. There is an open source driver, that may first install. It works well for everything except 3d stuff. Same story for ATI.

How do you know if you have the latest drivers? For video, look at the manufacturers web site. If it is a module from your distro, look at the package name. The distro has a way of numbering the package. Synaptics has an update option. Run that, it will tell you if there are updates available. Install them when they are made available.

This is getting rather long. Read it, and ask questions if I have not made something clear enough.

BTW, if a module is not loaded by the install process ( a lot of hardware detection is used during the install ) you can manually load a module with the command 'modprobe nameomodule'.

External devices such as printers, you normally add them after the install. There are sites like to find out if a linux module is available for a particular printer.

Hope this helps.


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