Incorrect Identification

Sometimes a configuration tool simply fails to recognize that your system has a particular hardware or software component. If you've installed a depended-upon package without the benefit of the package tool, this type of problem is common when installing software via package managers, as described in Chapter 11, "Managing Packages." This problem is also somewhat common when dealing with hardware configuration, particularly with older Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) cards, very new cards, or otherwise exotic hardware. Sometimes the system recognizes that you've got a given type of hardware, but it misidentifies the specific type. This problem can be particularly irksome when combined with inflexibility in options, as described in the upcoming section, "Inflexible Options."

Some configuration tools suffer from another problem: Incomplete identification. In this case, the problem isn't that the configuration tool has narrowed the field of options incorrectly, it's that the field isn't narrowed at all. For instance, Figure 9.1 shows the web-based configuration tool for the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), which is described in more detail in Chapter 13, "Managing Printers." At the point shown in Figure 9.1, you're supposed to pick a printer port from the available options—all 25 of them. (Some systems present even more options.) This particular computer has just two printers attached to it, and it even lacks the device files associated with some of the options shown in Figure 9.1. Of course, this particular problem isn't alleviated by bypassing an automatic configuration tool. If anything, it's made worse—you must know more about your available devices than you would need to know when using a configuration tool. Nonetheless, as the configuration tool is supposed to make things easier for new administrators, presenting confusing or nonexistent options can be a problem.

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Figure 9.1 : Some configuration tools present too many options to administrators.

As a general rule, bypassing an automatic configuration tool can help avoid problems with failure of identification by enabling you to force the issue. If the system insists on configuring your MegaSound audio card as a GigaSound card, you can dig into the configuration files and correct the matter. Of course, doing so requires that you know where to go digging—a topic that's covered in subsequent sections of this chapter. You must also know how to correct the problem—a topic that's covered in other chapters of this book.

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