Eric Fleischman's WebLog

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"VGA"-like drivers for networking

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One of the things that has always impressed me about keyboard, mouse and monitor support is that it just works. That is, you can plug in almost any keyboard, mouse and monitor, on basically any video card, and it there is some level of support provided by your OS/BIOS/etc. Independent of the OS. Independent of the generation of hardware.

This makes perfect sense. Without at least two of these three (some might argue that the mouse is optional, but I would disagree when you consider non-advanced users), you can’t bootstrap the system. You need to see something in order to load a better video driver. This was a feature born out of necessity.

 

Times have changed. User expectations around their PC have changed. Networking is mainstream now, not just for corporations. The # of high speed internet connections in the home is growing. Many, many people have and use NICs on a daily basis.

 

My wish

I think we should have a similar, fallback mechanism to bootstrap NICs to get users online. In the absence of a driver, I should not be required to find a floppy disk (if my PC even has a floppy drive….my new one at home does not to my knowledge) or burn a CD on another machine to get a good driver. I should be able to get online with basic functionality on a basic connection. I further expect my cable modem / dsl / etc. to work in this configuration. I expect this much to work. Then we can let something like WU or downloads from the manufacturers website give us the better driver.

 

I don’t know anything about writing drivers, so I ask you, the universe. Why does this not exist?

Comments
  • Something like this does exist - for the longest time, just about any network card would work if you installed the Novell NE1000-compatible driver - note, not the Novell NE1000 driver, because that was specifically for the real NE1000 cards.
    The big problem was always 3Com, whose 3c509 cards were great, but finicky.  You couldn't even install the 3c509 driver on a 3c509 card if you had the wrong version of driver for your exact version of card.
    These days, yeah, Windows takes care of most of that, bundling a number of different network drivers - but it would be nice if the card were always auto-detected and upgraded to current standards.

  • Here here... How about this for disk drive controllers as well... I can't load Vista on my latest and greatest machine right now because it can't, for some reason, read or doesn't, for some other reason, like the drivers available either on floppy, CD, nor USB.

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