imnuts' Blog
Random stuff from my mind…

Vista's Amazing Hardware Support

Over the past few days, I’ve seen several reports of hardware incompatibilities in Vista. The hardware that isn’t supported goes from really obscure things that are kind of specialized, like TV Cards, to really common things, like video cards, sounds cards, and on and on. Now, while some of this stuff is odd not to see support for, like video and sound, other things I can see why it isn’t supported. I mean, people complaining about a 10 year old piece of hardware not working, come on here people, get with the times. If it is a specialized item that you absolutely have to have, well, I guess that sort of means that there is no Vista in your future, at least for the time being.

Now, I have hardware issues the same as any other person out there. My hardware issues aren’t really major though, at least at this point. My only issue is the Promise 378 Controller which I can get around at least for now. Basically, my system is set for Vista and pretty much has been for some time now. My GPU is supported by default, and is pretty new, so ATi will continue to support it. I’m still running with on-board sound which is good enough for the time being. Other than that, I don’t really have anything special on my system. I do have the Logitech MX3100 keyboard and mouse combo which has a set of drivers and a configuration utility, but that is much less of a priority on the driver scale than other things. I’ve been running smoothly for months now, and since Logitech enabled support for Vista in their driver package, things have been even better.

What really annoys me though are all of the people out there complaining about hardware support. Some of it is warranted though. Setup not having any drivers that it can install that works with critical system hardware, like is happening with some nVidia cards, is something people have a right to complain about. But then there are these other people complaining about a printer not working, or a scanner or something else. Well, the last time I checked, Microsoft wasn’t in the printer business, so why should they be writing printer drivers, or any other drivers for that matter? Now you’re probably going to say, “What about Microsoft keyboards, mice, and the like?”. Well, I’m pretty sure that another company writes the drivers for those to. Not sure who it is though. You can complain about that to the folks over in Redmond as they should be on top of this one, I’ll allow that. But there are people complaining to Microsoft and the developers for their HP, Epson, Cannon, or any other printer not working, or a scanner. Creative sound cards have also had their fair share of driver issues in Vista. Why are people complaining to Microsoft to get their printer or sound card working though.

If you haven’t noticed, Microsoft isn’t making the majority of hardware that isn’t supported folks. Complaining and whining to them won’t get you far in getting supported drivers. While the developers can try and talk to the companies about supporting the hardware, and I’m sure they are, talking to the hardware manufacturers is going to get you further in the end. It isn’t Microsoft’s responsibility to make sure your hardware is supported, it’s the original manufacturer’s job to do that. So if you have a non-working printer, head over and have a chat with HP, Epson, Lexmark, or whomever makes the printer and have a chat with their technical support. If you and fellow testers that are having similar issues all start barking up the right tree, hardware support will come to you a lot faster. There have been several folks complaining to Creative for a lack of support on $2-300 sound cards, and that has actually brought some beta drivers out into the open. They aren’t working out to well from what I hear, but they are at least there.

My personal opinion is that you can just be glad there is support for older hardware. Look at Apple and the Mac line. They support hardware that they installed and a very limited amount of other hardware. They have left all driver development for anything they didn’t install or offer up to the manufacturer’s, and in the end it has brought out drivers. The less they support and the more people use it, the more the manufacturer’s have to worry about not displeasing its users for fear of losing business. Heck, there application support is even worse. Vista has a good bit of backwards compatibility, there is even a compatibility mode that can be used to try and get older applications working. It’s even pretty good at tricking some installers about the OS version. Apple doesn’t guarantee anything, and when OS X 10.4 Tiger came out, there were a lot of broken applications for a couple months. Then all the vendors pushed out updates and things went back to normal. There is very little support in the Apple/Mac world that I’ve seen for backwards compatibility.

So, what should Microsoft do about this? I would tell them to support as little as possible in the default install. Offer a base graphics driver that supports 1024×768 and 32 bit color on 90% of the video cards out there. If it doesn’t offer that, have 800×600 and 16 bit color as the backup to work on 99% of the cards out there. Then have a boat-load of built in IDE/SATA/RAID/SCSI drivers to support most of the common controllers out there so people don’t need to download and install them. A base set of networking drivers for both NICs and modems should also be included so that most folks can get online for activation and updates. The last thing that needs some support would be USB and PS/2 mice and keyboards. After that, leave all other support up to the hardware manufacturers. Do you really need sound, not really. There are instances where this is a necessary option though, like accessibility for blind users, so there has to be sound support, but I don’t think built in sound drivers should be required. This would force all the support to go to device manufacturers. If they have good support for the current operating system, at least one major version back of an operating system, and then start pushing out updated drivers for the next major version after the first beta drops, people will buy their products. If they have crap support for everything, people won’t buy their products and the company dies. It would be as simple as that to get all of this grief geared towards Microsoft about hardware support going in the right direction, but I doubt that any of us will see anything even close to this anytime soon unfortunately.

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