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Red Hat and USB devices

By Mark Nielsen

  1. Purpose
  2. The Emperor Linux Computer I have and USB
  3. The USB Optical Mouse
  4. USB HP PhotoSmart 318 camera
  5. BUSLink 40G USB external hard drive
  6. Suggestions for Future
  7. Conclusion
  8. References


The Purpose of this article is to get my USB mouse, USB camera, and USB hard drive to work with Linux.

The Emperor Linux Computer I have and USB

I started to use Red Hat 7.3. Although it has come a long way and I really like how all the Linux Distributions are turning out, Red Hat 7.3 makes me mad for only a few reasons:
  1. OpenOffice doesn't appear to be in the distribution. Whatever the reason is, it needs to be overcome. KDE Office and Gnome Office are cool, but not including OpenOffice is a big big big mistake. OpenOffice is one of the key suites to convert people to Linux. Having the choice of 3 office suites, Gnome Office, KDE Office, and OpenOffice (along with lots of other cool software like GIMP. Mozilla, Evolution, PovRay, etc) can really convert people over.
  2. The kernel under /usr/src/linux for Red Hat 7.3 doesn't seem to be configured the way they installed the kernels onto your system. I tried searching on Red Hat's website, but I didn't anywhere. Isn't it a little stupid that that don't supply (or make it easy to find) the configs files they used to compile the kernels? Perhaps I am blind, but it wasn't obvious to me where their custom config file was. It makes me mad because whenever I try to compile the kernel, I can never get all the features I want without it being too large (even though I try to modularize everything).
  3. The kernel installed apparently won't let you add modules that you create yourself. At least, when I tried to compile the usbide module outside the source tree of the kernel, it was giving some weird error saying it wasn't allowed to do it. However, on the computer I bought from Emperor Linux (Red Hat 7.2), I didn't have that problem (the kernel was compiled by the company and I was able to compile the usbide module without recompling the kernel).

Even though my USB camera and mouse works in Red Hat 7.3, because I couldn't use the usb hard drive with it (without compiling a new kernel from scratch which I always screw up), I decided to use the usb hard drive and camera with the Linux laptop I got from Emperor Linux.

The USB Optical Mouse

I have 3 USB optical mice (different brands) and they all worked with Red Hat 7.3, Red Hat 7.2, and my Emperor Linux computer. I don't know if the default kernel in Red Hat 7.2 works with the optical mice because I compiled different kernels (to get my wireless network cards to work right).

NOTE: Whoever likes to use trackball mice compared to optical mice has to be an idiot. The optical usb/ps2 mice are very cheap these days and the balls on the standard mice always get cluttered with junk and wear out. Go out and replace the stupid trackball mice with an optical mouse today.

The USB HP PhotoSmart 318 camera

My HP PhotoSmart 318 camera really rocks. Here is a help page I found.

It rocks because on a price/performance ratio, it was the best camera out there for $179. All the other cameras that could do the same (or even less) were easily two or three times more expensive. I think the market changed and a lot of older models haven't dropped in price yet. For my needs it was perfect. It had enough resolution, it saved jpg images, and I could get memory expansion if I needed it (8 megs is fine so I will never need to get the expansion).

Bottom line, in Red Hat 7.3 and my Emperor Linux computer, just as the article said:

  1. Changed the camera to hard drive mode.
  2. usb-uhci worked fine (in the article it didn't).
  3. In my /etc/fstab,
      ### for my camera.
    /dev/sda1 /mnt/camera vfat noauto,sync,nosuid,user,unhide 0 0
  4. mkdir -p /mnt/camera
  5. mount /mnt/camera
And then the images where at "/mnt/camera/dcim/100hp318/". I didn't test deleting the images. I will just delete them when I use the camera, but I copied them over just fine. I am able to get about 14 images without additional memory expansion.

I think ultimately most people will be using digital cameras within 5 years and the standard camera industry will be dead except for photographers and the little cameras you buy for one-time events. Digital cameras will be able to contain so much memory in the next few years, hopefully within 5 years you can store hundreds of images on a simple small camera. Why would you want a film camera?

BUSLink 40G USB external hard drive

My USB external hard drive was a pain in the butt. It was easy once I found this webpage, It was a pain because I kept on trying and trying to figure what to do to get it to work.

  1. Downloaded usbide-1.2.2-b.tgz
  2. tar -zxvf usbide-1.2.2-b.tgz
  3. cd usbide
  4. make
  5. make install
There were a few problems,
  1. I had to make a symbolic link from /usr/src/linux pointing to my copy of the Linux kernel source.
  2. The hard drive can only have one partition because it won't save changes if you try to change the heads/sectors/cylinders.
  3. When I stress-tested the hard drive by copying lots of data over, after 1 gig, it froze on me and gave me a weird error. I haven't had a problem since.
  4. For whatever reason, the standard Red Hat 7.3 wasn't configured right to let me compile my own module and add it to the modules under /lib/modules. Personally, I think that is stupid.
  5. For whatever reason, I couldn't find a config file for kernel compiling to get the exact same kernel Red Hat has installed on my system. If I had to compile a new kernel, I would want the exact same one with just a few of my changes. Maybe you can do it and their config file exists somewhere, as I didn't try that hard, but it wasn't obvious (which it should be). Thus I just used the computer I got from Emperor Linux.

Suggestions for Future

I have a webcam I was interested in trying out. Look at My IBM NetCam is not supported on that list, bummer. They are cheap enough. I will just consider buying a new webcam.


Using USB devices is really cool. I used to hate USB devices, but now that I can have tons of stuff attached to my Linux boxes without them using up all the resources, I like it. I just wish more companies would help create Linux drivers for their products. I would never use a USB hard drive for anything except backups and I wouldn't rely on USB for stuff that requires a lot of cpu power. Firewire is good for heavy stuff. All the other USB devices (mice, keyboards, printers, webcam, camera, etc) are a good match for USB because they require low overhead.

I copied over 3 gigs of data to my hard drive and I got seek errors. I thought there could have been bad sectors, so I ran mkfs with the "-c" option, and it took all day. Eventually, mkfs bombed, so I am going to wait a little longer before I use the external hard drive with Linux. Most likely, I will check hardware compatibility and go out and buy a new external hard drive (maybe firewire instead of USB).



Mark Nielsen

Mark works at which creates, delivers, and tracks personalized multimedia email, web, and newsletter campaigns. He works as a consultant delivering end products to clients, such as advanced customized statistical reports used for demographic or pyschological profiles for future campaigns. In his spare time, he writes articles relating to Free Software (GPL) or Free Literature (FDL) and is involved with the non-profit learning center

Copyright © 2002, Mark Nielsen.
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Published in Issue 80 of Linux Gazette, July 2002