Very many materials are recognized by “the recent Linux diffusion”. But there is often a time between the exit of a new material usable under other operating systems and the exit of the pilot adapted to Linux.
If the diffusion that you chose does not recognize the whole of the materials established on your laptop/pc, you will be able, generally, to recover the necessary pilots either on internet specialized sites, or on the sites of the manufacturers.
The update of your system by these pilots is done in a simple way.
Maybe, you buy a new material, then in general not to have problem of compatibility:
Avoid the very new material, appeared on the market there is less than 3 months,
Avoid the material eccentric, go towards the standards,
In case of doubt check the compatibility of your diffusion and your material,
See on the Net if the complementary pilots exist.
Or maybe, you wish to establish Linux on an existing material, then you have to know the types of the cards and peripherals installed on your PC.
For your research, some information available:
The Mandriva distribution, give you a search engine which help you to determine: for a version of its diffusion, by manufacturer, type of material the level of compatibility of these materials.
Not to forget the sites of the manufacturers and to see whether they offer the remote downloading of the Linux pilots for your material.
If you want to install Linux on a laptop, it is better to ensure you that somebody already made an install of Linux with the same diffusion. The Linux section of my site count by manufacturer what is possible in this field (what besides is not exclusive). The laptops are often equipped with Winmodems which are interdependent of the motherboard, and they are generally not recognized.
The following site indicates those to you which are supported http://www.linmodems.org.
For modems DSL prefer the external ones connected via Ethernet, their installation is transparent.