For the most part, modern Linux distributions will automaticlly detect and use your hardware upon installation. Some of the less friendly installers such as Debian have manual installs, so if you are putting Deb on a computer you are not internally intimate with, it can be a pain.
I have found two basic compatability problems with modern Linux. WinModems and USB.
WinModem support with Linux is hit and miss. Most Linux developors think they are not worth the effort, but I know of one WinModem for Linux page.
USB is supported, but the support is not yet plug and play (completely). Some items that you plug in will require some tuning and selecting, and possibly even re-building of the kernel.
Here are a few hardware Linux pages to get you started
Linux Hardware Compatability HOWTO
Red Hat Hardware Page
Mandrake Linux Hardware page
Linux.org Vendor Hardware Lists
Woven Goods Linux hardware list
SuSE Linux Hardware List
Hope to have some more in the near future.
Linux Amateur Radio hardware is a very diverse subject. Basically, if you want to use rig control, most of the software is handled by hamlib, and all you need is a proper connection cable, just as with Windoze.
If you want to interface a soundcard to your radio please see the sound card interface page!
If you want to use a tnc on linux, the
easiest way is set it to kiss
mode, if possible, and select the proper baud rate for your com port.
Use minicom to help set up the settings (similar to hyperterm in
Ham Hardware specifics
In Linux Rig control is usually done by hamlibs. Once you have the hamlibs installed, all you need is software that will work with the hamlibs library. There are quite a few starting to pop up including satellite, logging, digital modes etc.
Other programs such as Marote are rig specific. In Marote's
it is rig control software for the Elecraft K2.
There is handheld cloning software available at parnass.com
There are many soundcard apps that work
with the standard soundcard
interface for Linux whether you are using Alsa, or any other soundcard
These applications use the soundcard to generate "tones" that are transmitted and decoded by your soundcard. The caveate here is USE A SOUNDCARD ISOLATION CIRCUIT of some sort. See the soundcard interface page for more details.
Another soundcard application of note is
Tom Sailer's soundmodem
program. While it is a wonderful program, it will take over you
entire soundcard, so if you want to use this packet radio software
program, install a secondary soundcard that you can dedicate to packet
TNC's are easiest to install in Linux by using a "KISS" mode tnc. Use s terminal program such as minicom to set up the baudrate, handshaking, etc. and then just start you packet program of choice. Other modem types such as the baycom/BayPac modems may require a kernel module. It would be a good idea to check out the Linux ham radio readmes before deciding on a modem.
Since this issue first came to my attention from a member of the United States Coast Guard, with an interest in Linux and Search and Rescue, I would like to dedicate this page to all of those who keep us safe. From the Police officer who patrols the street, the Fireman who defies the flames, the medics who answer our prayers, and of course our Armed Forces, who lay down their lives for people they do not even know. But, a special thanks to the United States Coast Guard, who does all the jobs listed above, and so much more, without all the "Glory" that the other services sometimes get. Well done faithful servant, Well done indeed.