How did Linux become a second-class citizen on Arduino?

Using Linux with Arduino reminds me a lot of using Oracle with Perl; it works, but there’s a lot of things that aren’t up to the same level as other combinations. For Oracle and Perl, it’s somewhat understandable, as Perl comes from a FOSS background and Oracle, well…doesn’t.

That’s not true of Arduino however. Mac OSX seems to have better support than Linux, and Windows is almost seamless. I find it all very odd, because when it comes to most FOSS stuff, Linux support is easy, Mac OSX tends to work with minimal effort, and you’re a bit surprised when things work right on Windows. Somehow, Arduino has gone the other way round.

Just some examples I’ve come across:

  • I haven’t tried the latest versions of the IDE, but burning the Arduino bootloader to a fresh ATmega from the Arduino IDE doesn’t work. The reason is that the Makefile needs to know which of the USB ports to use, but it doesn’t even use the port that you selected in the GUI. The port that it does use is hardcoded to a Windows naming convention.
  • The Arudino IDE serial port monitor always crashes on me.
  • I’ve been playing with UnoJoy lately, which turns an Arduino Uno into a USB joystick. Which is great, but look at the instructions and download pages. There’s all the help you need on Windows and Mac OSX. There’s a wiki page for help on Linux, and it starts with “I really don’t know much about Linux at all . . . “
  • A while back, I was playing with HCDlib for controlling small toy quadcopters. When I tried to compile it, there was a compiler error about a missing arduino.h file. When I raised an issue with the author, he said my environment was screwed up. Once I dug a little deeper, the problem was that the proper name of the file is Arduino.h. Assbackwards compatibility on Windows means that you can get away with case-insensitivity like that, but not on Linux.

I suspect that these issues came about because Arduino was successfully marketed to people outside of the normal FOSS community. This meant a lot of people were developing and testing things on Windows and often Mac, but rarely Linux.

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