On June 24th of this year I purchased an external DVD writer. Though I would have preferred firewire, I was limited to USB. No worries though, with my dilapidated laptop, I doubt firewire would have sped things up a noticeable amount.
I love Linux. It doesn't matter what I buy, I just plug it in and turn it on and it works. In the case of the DVD writer, I did have to install writing software (I tried many, and settled on k3b as my primary GUI burner), but other than that, hardware recognition and accessing was effortless.
There is one stipulation with the burner. When I was shopping for it I happened across a technology known as Lightscribe developed by Hewlett Packard and standard-I think-on all HP DVD writers. So that's what I bought, only a cheaper one on sale at Staples from I/O Magic. The problem? So far, there is no free Lightscribe software available for Linux. Nero sells the software, but since Lightscribe ain't all-that, I'm not in the least bit interested in it.
On August 5th, of this year I went shopping for a PCMCIA network card and a PCMCIA modem. I found a combo unit at a Surplus Computer Depot in Pocatello, Idaho.
As I looked at the card I noticed the Xircom brand, which I did not recognize as a popular brand. I made a comment to the sells rep. asking him if he thought I would be able to get Linux drivers for it. Big mistake. I don't know what I was thinking, after all, I have never been in a computer store where the the sales reps knew anything about computers.
The idiot said well, Xircom is made by IBM so it is unlikely that they will have Linux drivers because IBM is kinda in bed with Microsoft. He went on to misinform me that I would have the same problem with 'winmodems'. He concluded that the network adapter part might work under Linux but that the modem part would not.
Now, I had already been aware that Linux has support for every PCMCIA modem card out there. What I didn't know was whether the network card portion had as strong of support. But as soon as the salesman said Xircom was made by IBM, I knew I wouldn't have much problem with Linux drivers if any at all because, even though Microsoft used to be a subsidiary of IBM, IBM manufactures software-independent hardware, all tested on Unix/Linux type computers. It's a major mass-market, worldwide brand and that guarantees Linux support.
And what the guy said about "winmodems" well, I knew right then he didn't know anything at all about Linux. We in the Linux community refer to winmodems as linmodems. All they are is software driven modems. The whole myth about software modems (winmodems) not working in Linux has been debunked almost since the myth was first start.
As it turns out, I couldn't get the combo card to work in Windows (I have a dual-boot system with 98), but for my Debian Sarge, it worked immediately from the first boot. I can even remove it or insert it any time without crashing the computer, unlike windows.
It took me several hours to get the Xircom REM56G-100 RealPort Ethernet 10/100+Modem 56 to work under windows. I was able to do so only after a bit of research proved that the driver program on the store-made CD provided the incorrect drivers. I had to download the correct self-extracting driver program from IBM. The store provided XBEM_314-2.exe, which extracts into a few incorrect drivers, but the correct file is xem_270-1.exe, which extracts into a 14 MB installation CD structure.
Next on my list of purchases? I need to get an external hard drive, or at least a external caddy for a hard drive. I think I'll go with the former.