Tips and Tricks for Ubuntu Drivers: Page 2

These tips can help you find and install the Ubuntu drivers you need for video cards, printers, scanners and wireless devices.
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Lexmark printer support used to rarely work on a default Ubuntu installation; however, in recent years it has gotten a lot better. Ubuntu drivers for Lexmark printers can be matched from the Lexmark printer model page.

Like Lexmark, Canon printers have been historically difficult to match up reliably on compatibility. Even the download page for Canon drivers indicates there is zero Ubuntu driver support for your Canon printer. If it does happen to work out of the box, consider yourself very lucky as Canon printers are not Linux-friendly by any means.

The process installation of printer drivers depends greatly on whether or not your printer is supported with a default Ubuntu installation or not. If it's provided immediately with good support, then you only need follow these directions to activate the printer driver for your select printer:

  1. From the Unity Dash, search for printing. Then click on the icon that looks like a printer.
  2. Next, you'll need to click on the Add button.
  3. Select your printer, click forward and then apply.

If your printer isn't detected, then odds are you'll need to use the above linked resources and install the needed driver. In most cases, this installation will be provided by a Deb package, which will be installable via the Software Center. Simply download the package, then double-click on it. The Ubuntu Software Center will take care of the installation for you.

Wireless Device Drivers

Wireless device drivers usually fall into two distinct categories – natively supported devices and drivers requiring the use of Ndiswrapper. My recommendation is to seek out wireless devices that are natively supported. Chipset vendors that fall into this category include Atheros, Ralink, Realtek and Intel. Over the years, I've used the Wireless Kernel website, which has a tremendous list of wireless drivers that makes figuring out which devices are best supported on Ubuntu a whole lot simpler.

Once you have an idea which chipset you wish to match up with a wireless device, simply use an Amazon search or Google to find wireless devices that match up with that wireless driver. For example, if I wanted to match the rtl8187 Realtek driver up with a device, I can search Amazon.com for devices using that driver and a number of possible matches will appear. Ubuntu compatibility lists are horribly out of date, which also renders them useless, so those who rely solely on compatibility lists for Ubuntu are both wasting their time and often working with bad information.

If you're stuck with wireless devices that require a Windows driver, this means you're going to need to learn to use the Ndiswrapper installer available with Ubuntu. So install Ndiswrapper from the Ubuntu Software Center. With Ndiswrapper installed, go ahead and check to see which chipset your wireless card is using. From a terminal, run this command:

lsusb -v

The end result may look something like this:

 idVendor            0x0586 ZyXEL Communications Corp.
 idProduct           0x340f G-220 v2 802.11bg
 bcdDevice           48.10
 iManufacturer       16 ZyDAS<
 iProduct            32 ZyXEL G-220
 iSerial             0 

The actual text may be much longer, and you will have to dig through a lot to locate the following: ZyXEL G-220 v2. This is the brand and model of USB dongle being used. To figure out whether a driver is available or not, you can run this command:

hwinfo –network

If a native driver is available, it might look something like this:

32: None 00.0: 1070a WLAN                                       
  [Created at net.124]
  Unique ID: 
  Parent ID: 
  SysFS ID: 
  SysFS Device Link: 
  Hardware Class: network interface
  Model: "WLAN network interface"
  Driver: "zd1211rw"
  Driver Modules: "zd1211rw"
  Device File: wlan0
  HW Address: 
  Link detected: no

You may notice the driver and driver module are both detected as zd1211rw. This means that the ZyXEL G-220 device has a natively supported driver called zd1211rw labeled under device wlan0. In other words, you can connect easily with network manager.

If the results of the above command don't present you with a driver, you will need to install a Windows driver for your device using the details gathered from your previous lsusb -v command.

For the next step, you'll need to installed a simple-to-use front-end to Ndiswrapper called ndisgtk. Using this database of usable devices, locate your USB wireless dongle and then follow the installation instructions for extraction. With everything extracted, you can then use ndisgtk to setup your device. Simply start the software, click on Install New Driver, then browse to the correct directory to select the appropriate Windows driver file. Finally, click Install.

Final Thoughts

If there is one takeaway from this article it's this—buying a new computer with Ubuntu pre-installed is always the easiest option. This may not be a solution for everyone, but it will mean you're never going to be troubled with Ubuntu driver hassles so long as you own that computer.

For those of you with existing PCs and notebooks, this guide will help to shine some light on dealing with common Ubuntu driver considerations and how to make the best out of a computer that likely came with a Windows sticker affixed to its keyboard or case.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, printer, scanner, drivers, wireless devices

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