Face it: Linux is still intimidating to most PC users. And that has nothing to do with the occasional Linux snobbery that newbies can encounter when searching message forums for basic help in getting up and running.
All of those distros and all that command-line scripting for basic tasks have made those who are less than eager to dedicate hours to fine-tuning a PC keep far away from Linux.
The Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon" release last year began to change some of that with much easier end-user functionality than ever before. That's continued with the current Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" version. But full-blown driver support—of the kind the market came to love with Windows XP—is still lacking on the Linux desktop.
Auto-NDISwrapper is a derivative of NDISwrapper. NDISwrapper is deployed to get wireless network cards, routers and USB modems to work in Linux by using Windows drivers. The problem with NDISwrapper, though, is that it is convoluted and time-consuming to use, and a user needs to hunt for windows drivers for their device to get it to work. Not to mention, there are plenty of grumblings about system crashes after installation.
With Auto-NDIS Wrapper this process is automated—or so the developers claim. It is a version of NDISwrapper with all the Windows drivers included and will even search the Internet for drivers not included. It automatically detects the Wi-Fi card installed, and will auto-install the proper drivers. System requirements include NDISwrapper and Python (installed by default on most versions).
We gave Auto-NDISwrapper a try out in the Test Center lab using Ubuntu 7.10 desktop, which is not even the most recent version of Ubuntu (that's the Hardy Heron 8.04 release.) We wanted to see if the program could auto-install drivers for an Aten Wireless-G USB Adapter, Model Number WUG2700. The software was downloaded from: Softpedia.' The extracted folder from the compressed download gets copied into the home folder. The following command line, per the downloaded instructions, was then run:
sudo python ~/Auto-NDIS-0.1/auto-ndis.py " Note the flag 'h' can be appended to the end of this line to display a variety of options like the version, to turn on debugging or to reduce output.
When the command was run, this is the output we received:
Sorry, card not yet supported by Auto-NDISwrapper
While it was disappointing, it was understandable. Developers may not be focusing on more exotic adapters like USB yet, especially 'G" adapters.
We tried again, this time using a small form-factor Acer Veriton with an onboard Atheros AR5007EG Wireless Network Adapter. This time around, Hardy Heron was installed. The computer also had a wired internet connection. The OS detected the wireless card but reported it as a restricted device because there were no Linux drivers for it, only proprietary drivers, rendering the wireless card useless.
Auto-NDISWrapper was initiated. This time around the message came up:
The program fetched the driver from a Fujitsu Web site. The site was in another language (looked like German). We were able to decipher the link that had to be clicked to download the driver. We were then prompted to extract the downloaded .inf and .sys file to the directory Auto-NDIS created upon installation. The program found and installed the driver successfully.
But . . .
We could not get a wireless session enabled. This could be an inherent problem with the driver and Ubuntu 8.04 (like maybe a firmware issue) rather than with Auto-NDISWrapper, which seemed to do the job the developers designed it for.
Still, this is an exciting product that might make an impact on Linux deployment. If the trend continues toward easing device driver headaches and making Linux more "user-friendly" without sacrificing stability and security, then the time may come where Linux will be known as if not the Vista, then perhaps the Windows 7, slayer.