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Linux users have long gotten used to the standard hardware in their systems working perfectly. Recently, however, things have gotten dicey for webcams supporting the MIPI specification. We’ll tell you why and what to do about it.

Linux and hardware haven’t always been the best of friends. Just 20 years ago, you couldn’t just buy a mainstream computer and expect it to work when you installed Linux. If wanted to be sure that your new acquisition would play nicely with Linux, you often had weeks of very detailed research ahead of you. Which chipsets were supported? Which modems, printers, sound cards, and network adapters had the necessary drivers?

If you didn’t check carefully, the worst case is that you would be left with hardware that was practically impossible to get to work with Linux. Just remember the notorious winmodems (Figure 1) or printers that did nothing without binary drivers that the vendor didn’t bother to provide for Linux systems. If you are looking for proof that not everything was better in the past, the Linux hardware saga is a rich source.

Fortunately, the times are changing. Individual computer components are increasingly merging into a single logical unit. Sound cards became standard components at some point and supported use on Linux with appropriate drivers. Graphics chipsets, also an eternal nuisance, now come with support from NVIDIA or AMD. If you don’t play games, you can make do with the chipsets integrated in AMD and Intel CPUs, which also perform reliably on Linux. Hardly anyone needs modems anymore, but LTE or 5G modems can usually be fed at commands via an emulated serial interface. Printers usually have their own network connection and offer support for KPL/PD or PostScript. Even for devices connected locally via USB, wide ranging driver support exists today. All is well, you might think, in the world of Linux and modern hardware.

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