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Major PC Vendors Push For Open Source Drivers

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the sudden-outbreak dept.

Linux Business 232

hweimer writes "Remember the heat the Linux Foundation took for allegedly not giving enough attention to Desktop Linux? The latest events at the Foundation's annual summit paint a different picture. Industry heavyweights like Dell, HP, and Lenovo 'announced on stage that they will now include wording in their hardware procurement processes to "strongly encourage" the delivery of open source drivers.' The move specifically targets desktop and mobile products."

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232 comments

So... (5, Interesting)

Uncle Focker (1277658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245222)

What will these same vendors do if these strong encouragements just get ignored? Will they actually apply some economic pressure as some force for these hardware vendors to relent? Otherwise this just seems like nothing but sword rattling. I applaud the effort though and hope it has some effect.

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

flymolo (28723) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245712)

1)Start with picking products that have open source drivers for Linux machines
2) then all machines
3) then if certain products still don't have an open source driver option threaten to get in the market
4) last resort do it yourself

OEMs have a lot of power if they use it

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246904)

I posted about this yesterday and I was flagged a Troll for some reason. I guess it was the wording I chose though...

Indeed, when buying hardware the first thing you have to check is whether it is supported by the OS you run. When I bought my PC, I made sure that the hardware was supported by the software provided by Fedora Project, my OS of choice. It even turns out that stuff I expected not to work actually worked.

Since everybody in my house runs Linux, we don't buy Broadcom wireless cards, we buy HP peripherals, we buy Intel chipsets, we buy, in general, stuff that is known to work. Which is why I said "Linux works, if you are too stupid not to have it work, then you are too stupid to own a computer on the first place" meaning that you should have checked whether the stuff you bought was actually supported before handing out the money.

I for once hail OEMs for making this move. Hopefully companies like nvidia and Broadcom decide to catch on, or they'll be left behind.

This won't make the difference. (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245734)

What will make a difference is that the managers who make decision in data centers are more likely to regard Linux as supported by the hardware vendors, even though nothing has really changed. This will lead to Dell, and the others calling for more open source drivers, being in a position to make more sales. Now, as soon as that starts happening, as soon as serious money starts changing hands, drivers will be written for Linux. Not necessarily open source, in fact probably not open source, but drivers nonetheless. Hardware vendors are like sharks and lawyers - they can smell blood from incredible distances.

Re:This won't make the difference. (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245820)

Data centers? Server hardware already has 100% Linux driver support; the problem is on the desktop.

Re:This won't make the difference. (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245990)

linux != open source.

Opensource drivers, especially open documentation is far far better.

Re:This won't make the difference. (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246270)

linux != open source.

Opensource drivers, especially open documentation is far far better.
And running is better than crawling, but you have to do some of the latter before you can do the former.

Closed drivers at first, but when the market is sufficiently important, open drivers can be pushed for. Dell stated some time ago, that they would take closed drivers when there was nothing else, but open drivers were preferable. Preferable to Dell means thousands of units a week, so the hardware manufacturers tend to listen to Dell's preferences.

Re:This won't make the difference. (2, Insightful)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246668)

Are you a time traveler from like 6 years ago or something?

The industry norm today is to provide open drivers and/or open specs. There are no types of common hardware components for which there isn't already a player on the market who is doing that - anyone who is screwing around with new proprietary Linux drivers in 2008 has missed the bus and is basically just wasting their resources for no good reason.

The time for screwing around with closed drivers is over. There are a few holdovers: Nvidia and Broadcom are the only ones that matter. It will probably make sense to sell Nvidia cards for another six months while the RadeonHD drivers mature. Aside from that, companies that fail to release open source drivers and/or open specs are simply at a competitive disadvantage - and this article indicates that that disadvantage includes selling components to major vendors right now.

Re:This won't make the difference. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246582)

Server hardware does NOT have 100% support, or anything like. I won't list all examples, but here's a few you can think about:

  • Broadcom BCM91250
  • Non-Mellanox Infiniband
  • Some Compaq RAID controller modules
  • PCI Express 2.x (full specification)
  • Infiniband 3 (full specification)
  • VME and VXI busses
  • Fieldbus support is minimal to non-existant
  • SCADA support is negligible to non-existant
  • BACnet support is negligible to non-existant
  • VAX architecture (it's still used, so it's still part of that 100%)
  • ARM-based AMULET CPUs
  • Most TCP Offload Engines
  • LEON support is abandonware

Some of these you may argue are not "server". They're not webserver or database server, perhaps, but a data acquisition device that stores and later delivers specified data on request is damn well a server. The fact that it's stored, specified and on demand, rather than digested and passed on, distinguishes a true server from any other type of (usually) headless device. If you specify a category narrow enough, there will always be 100% support for it. If you want to guarantee that, start with the 100% and change the definition to fit. If you prefer something a little more useful, then take the definition and explore how things in the Linux world work within that definition. Traditional servers are almost entirely passive when it comes to external connections. Something else has to initiate a connection. Modern servers sometimes do a little bit of active networking - broadcasts and multicasts to identify services, for example, and in clusters, servers will routinely push activities and data to other servers. However, they are fundamentally passive on networking and highly active on processing and data crunching. Streaming servers and VOD servers are generally transmitting on-demand, so are still passive recipients of the request. They don't do anything on their own. Sites streaming webcams by multicast or whatever are blindly sending in a way that's not much different than an announcement. In both cases, it's intended for processing by clients but not replying to. It's not part of an exchange, it's just a blind send. Thus, such systems are also servers.

Clients may passively receive broadcasts and multicasts, but actively initiate all conversations (with the special case of PUSH technology, but there the client really becomes a temporary server, and the server a temporary client, so the definitions still hold true - besides which, when was the last time you saw anyone use PUSH?!)

The technologies I listed are not client technologies, they are server technologies, although there's no reason a client couldn't have those hardware components. It'd just be a very heavy client.

How about pushing for open specs instead? (5, Insightful)

vivin (671928) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246518)

By Open Source, they unfortunately mean only "Linux". I use FreeBSD. I have Marvell chipset on my Dell that FreeBSD doesn't recognize. Marvell's own FreeBSD driver doesn't recognize it either. Instead of having just Open Source drivers, how about they open up the specs for their hardware? No one is asking them to give us their trade secrets they so jealously guard. Just enough information to let the open source folks write a decent driver instead of painstakingly reverse-engineering Windows drivers, or inspecting the hardware. Linux gets a lot of attention, but there are other open OSes out there that would also benefit. I'm not jealous or anything. I use Linux from time to time, but I just happen to fancy BSD more. I think opening up the specs would actually benefit open source instead of just creating "open source" (Linux) drivers. I guess one could examine the Linux drivers to figure out what they're doing and then port it over to [insert your flavour of OS here]. But if you have the open specs, you don't have to do that extra step.

Re:So... (2, Interesting)

javilon (99157) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245746)

This doesn't look some random words from a random executive. It looks more like they have found the right time to dump an uncomfortable business partner (Microsoft) when it is weakest. It is in the best interest of the big hardware manufacturers not to be controlled by the 300 pounds gorilla. If they get Linux desktops rolling, they will be able to get a bigger margin on sales and/or bigger market share just by dropping the M$ tax. And they will be more in control.

Now, if that is their goal, they'll find ways to get their providers to help.

Re:So... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246332)

"hey will be able to get a bigger margin on sales and/or bigger market share just by dropping the M$ tax. "

ummm.. No.
All it will do is lower the cost by the amount the license costs. And it will apply to all the PC makers. So the cost of all PCs drop by about 20 bucks. Maybe not 20 bucks, but these PC makers do not pay retail, not by a long shot. When I was in that business, Win NT cost 15 bucks from MS.
The biggest cost is the installation and configuration of the OS.

Re:So... (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246720)

20 bucks is non-trivial if you're shipping a hundred thousand machines that retail at $300 each.

But the real thing here is simply flexibility. Dell isn't going to stop selling Windows any time soon. Lenovo hasn't even started selling Linux. But having the option to push Linux on any product line at any time is huge for these vendors.

The biggest cost is the installation and configuration of the OS.

That's... false. Getting disk images onto hard drives is a solved problem, and making the disk image is a one time thing.

Re:So... (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246842)

lawsuits about anti-competitive practices of microsoft may have changed things.

I realize that at one point microsoft was giving $15 licenses to OEMS who agreed to only ship microsoft, but now there is an oversight committee that reviews every change microsoft attempts to add to windows, as well as every contract they sign with oems etc.

I'm not sure what they pay now, but microsoft can no longer include exclusivity clauses.

but keep in mind OEMs are the bread and butter of microsofts core business windows, basically, 96% of PCs sold are sold by oems and there is a very small enthusiast market who roll their own, or upgrade an older machine to vista etc.

also keep in mind, more computers are built every year than have ever been built before, at the current rate of expansion there will be over 2 billion new PCs built by 2013.

and computers are getting more and more power hungry, and many people leave computers on all the time... but anyways, 255 million oem licenses even at $20 is 5.1 billion dollars i don't think you could possibly throw 5 billion dollars at Linux in a single year. so yes, Linux IS cheaper than windows unless Microsoft is willing to charge $.01 cent for windows major oems like Dell will be throwing 306 million dollars per 6% of the global computer market share they have at the 'Microsoft tax' at $20 It's still $15.3 million at $1 and $153,000 at 1 penny. (for 6% market share) or at one penny, 2.5 million a year for the global PC market.

so, don't dismiss the fact that if desktop linux was a clear alternative for windows that DELL would still save something like half a billion dollars A YEAR. imagine 125 years of savings. over 125 years, that's 62.5 billion dollars. if they charge $20 for windows.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23245946)

Vendor A sees the encouragement from Dell and does nothing.

Vendor B sees the encouragement, makes open source drivers and advertises to Dell

Dell switches to Vendor B.

I see vendors who are trying to become component suppliers for Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc, to take these encouragements as meaning "If you can do this, we have a reason for choosing your product over "Generic PC part manufacturer 38321"".

Sure the big names may not budge (nVidia, Creative, etc) but hey how many PC's are shipped w/ brand name parts?

Re:So... (2)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246258)

It's even better than you surmise. When folks like Dell start shipping boxes with components inside that have Open Source drivers, it won't be long before the nVidia's of the world sit up, take notice, discover that there's money to be made, and then start producing drivers for their stuff too. They'd have to be mad, not to. There's a tipping point that's being approached, and once it gets crossed, the Open Source avalanche is on for real. And my gut reaction is that we're closer to that tipping point than most folks imagine.

Re:So... (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246444)

The problem is, the nVidias of the world are already losing to the Intels of the world. And they're firm in their belief that Intel is winning laptops because they're a low margin, low feature product. They're right, sadly. nVidia knows there's money to be made, but don't think sharing their driver code would make people pick them. It might lead to discovering a few interesting ideas in their drivers that propgate to other drivers, but more likely is a large set of bugs will be exposed and all those patent owners they don't pay will come looking to feed.

Re:So... (1)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246990)

What Dell and the others are saying is that they will place "availability of Open Source divers" in the set of selection criteria.

I strongly encourage my dog to shit outside (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23245236)



I strongly encourage my dog to shit outside

Re:I strongly encourage my dog to shit outside (1)

Xiph (723935) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245402)

Comments like these are why i still read at -1!

Vendors having these intentions are are good sign, but until it's more than a third of vendors (rtfa) it's not that hard a push, even though a few of the big ones are in.

To be perfectly honest, this article is much more about what linux foundation wants and needs, than about what vendors demand of suppliers.
I wish there had been some links to the actual story in the headline.

Nothing to see here, move along, and remember to encourage your dog to shit outside!

+1! (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245680)

Comments like these are why i still read at -1!

Exactly... often the fragments of genius are at either end of the spectrum.

Re:+1! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246768)

Exactly... often the fragments of genius are at either end of the spectrum.
This comment deserves to be moved to one end of the spectrum, guess which one?

M$ (1)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245312)

Re:M$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23245498)

"404 Not Found"

Of course. Microsoft can't view that page, so they won't know wtf Linux users are plotting against them. It's the perfect plan.

(Yeah, you can take off the trailing slash and the page loads fine.)

So what? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23245688)

I eagerly await a MS Linux. Why? Here's why. Direct X. Hassle free driver worries. Programs that install easily. Windows Media Player. The Windows GUI. Tons of games and apps (only for the MS Linux distro, may I add) The best part: NO MORE CRYING FROM LINUX ZEALOTS ABOUT WINDOWS. The icing on the cake: any security failure will be Linus' fault, after all he writes the kernel.

The day that there's an MS Linux is the day I switch to Linux.

So if you think that Linux triumphing on the desktop is the end of MS, you are going to be in for a RUDE SHOCK.

Re:So what? (1)

mbeans (1082073) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246208)

Windows Media Player.
What's the point of that? VLC is superior on any platform.

Re:So what? (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 5 years ago | (#23247002)

What's the point of that? VLC is superior on any platform.

VLC chokes on a lot of subtitles. They'll be displayed, but it will ignore font, size, positioning, and all the special effects that make them legible.

I don't have more information other than "subtitles are broken" - it's just my experience when watching my daily fix of my beloved Japanesian cartoons. Some of them just don't render properly in VLC, which is important to me since I only pretend I can speak Japanese.

But, Windows Media Player renders them perfectly, and the Vista Codec Pack [testbox.dk] makes it just as versatile. Maybe not as important for 99% of the population... But the lowest common denominator uses Windows Media Player anyway. (I wish it handled differing aspect ratios as easily as VLC player or Windows Media Center does, tho.)

Re:So what? (1)

Uncle Focker (1277658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246542)

I eagerly await a MS Linux. Why? Here's why. Direct X. Hassle free driver worries. Programs that install easily. Windows Media Player. The Windows GUI. Tons of games and apps (only for the MS Linux distro, may I add) The best part: NO MORE CRYING FROM LINUX ZEALOTS ABOUT WINDOWS.
Ugh. With all that bloat you might as well just run Vista.

The icing on the cake: any security failure will be Linus' fault, after all he writes the kernel.
Sorry, but no. Linus' code makes up only a few percentage points of the entire kernel code.

Re:M$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246158)

That is some of the most retarded bullshit I've ever read. Whoever wrote that has the analytical skills of an unripened avocado.

A difference... (3, Interesting)

MLCT (1148749) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245318)

There is a difference between "strongly encouraged" and "required". Until it is required then it is not going to change much - the big hardware providers hold too much sway for Dell et al. to cancel multimillion (if not billion) dollar contracts because they won't provide the source code for a couple of piddly little drivers.

A step in the right direction if they genuinely mean it, but if it is just disingenuous chatter to "keep the OSS camp happy" then it is just PR.

Re:A difference... (2, Insightful)

Uncle Focker (1277658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245346)

Another point is to get these vendors to release open documentation for their hardware as well. It's all fair and good to release open source drivers, but if they are like the crappy, obfuscated nv drivers that nVIDIA put out then I'm going to have to say no thanks.

Re:A difference... (2, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245484)

There is a difference between "strongly encouraged" and "required". Until it is required then it is not going to change much - the big hardware providers hold too much sway for Dell et al. to cancel multimillion (if not billion) dollar contracts because they won't provide the source code for a couple of piddly little drivers.
Obviously, but there's a give and get in negotiations. I've dealt with enough RFQs that I know it's a wishlist and a bargaining ground and all the wanted features have a value. It's not a matter of getting the contract or not, it's a matter of whether the manufacturers can use this to squeeze margins. If providing open source drivers costs them less than the alternatives (lower price, developing other features etc) then it'll happen, even though they'd get a contract regardless. When it comes down to it, unequivocally disqualifying requirements are few and far between.

Re:A difference... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245490)

I hold out hope that, at the very least, those vendors with decent OSS support will slowly start to be favored, especially for basic hardware like network or graphics cards. I can't tell you how annoying it is to discover that, with no warning from the manufacturer, I find a Broadcom wireless card in a computer and have to come up with a kludgish workaround. Vendors may not be able to simply cancel contracts, but they certainly can show favoritism, especially when there is not much of a price difference (for the most part, basic hardware costs are even across the board).

I do agree, however, that until there is a "requirement" rather than a "strong recommendation," we aren't go to see much real change. Hope...

Re:A difference... (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245510)

There is a difference between "strongly encouraged" and "required". Until it is required then it is not going to change much - the big hardware providers hold too much sway for Dell et al. to cancel multimillion (if not billion) dollar contracts because they won't provide the source code for a couple of piddly little drivers.

It does, however, send a clear message to the companies as they look for ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors that this is one of those ways, and that it will carry some weight.

No. Dell need the flexibility to change (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245528)

Computer companies need the flexibility to change their offerings to meet changing market conditions. The Eee PC has made consumers aware of Linux. Here in New Zealand, Linux-loaded Acer laptops are available at some retail stores and sell quite quickly - I'm using one right now. Even Apple has had a beneficial effect for Linux because they have encouraged people to look beyond Windows. Of course MS have helped too by shipping Vista and building a negative perception (whether warranted or not is beside the point - only perception matters).

The rise of Apple must be worrying for the PC vendors since they cannot sell Mac OSX. They need to build flexibility to give them alternatives and right now Linux is the only viable choice. Dell etc see these changes and realise that they need to be able to respond quickly with Linux products, should the need arise. Thus, they need drivers.

Dell etc already screw their hardware vendors hard. The hardware vendors will bend over backwards to get Dell etc business. If that means delivering a Linux driver too - well so be it.

Re:A difference... (2, Interesting)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245924)

There is a difference between "strongly encouraged" and "required". Until it is required then it is not going to change much

When a Dell or a Walmart "strongly encourage" that a supplier does something it is akin to the mafia "strongly encouraging" that the local Italian eatery "purchase its security services". Suppliers who ignore such customers' "encouragement" tend to disappear.

The only way a supplier can ignore such encouragement and survive is if they are significantly larger than the customer and can absorb the loss of the customer. Microsoft is probably the only such supplier in the industry at the moment...and look at what has happened to them: Vista sales plod along, XP will not die and MSFT has had to bend over and take it from their big OEM customers who insist on (big shock here) offering end users what they ask for (XP installed in machines after the product's end-of-life).

This is beyond warm-and-fuzzy feel-good stuff, and bigger than just Linux. Computer vendors want open drivers because they've been burned in the past with closed drivers. I think Dell, HP, Lenovo really hate having to sell a product that is full of software over which they have no control. If AMD or NVidia or Intel or Broadcomm ...or whoever...supply them with crappy driver guess who gets to be on the front line supporting the crap? It isn't the aforementioned suppliers, it is the PC vendor. The end user bought from the PC vendor, and ultimately they call the PC vendor's support.

In most other industries, having such lack of transparency from suppliers would be unheard of. I think system builders are starting to realise how outrageous it is that suppliers have the upper hand in controlling the design and flow of information. They will insist in having a certain level of knowledge on how the supplied subsystems work so they can build a product that competes at a quality level competitive with Apple.

Re:A difference... (1)

RazzleDazzle (442937) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245978)

Are you serious? A major change is not going to happen overnight. It is a slow and tedious process. End users had to be relentless to get PC makers to acknowledge there is desire, interest, and benefit to support OSS. What has happened in recent years? Major advancements in OSS proliferation. Dell and IBM are some big names that have really made some good progress towards brining OSS into the mainstream. Now they are bringing up the fight to hardware vendors. It takes time. Relax. Dont be so cynical.

Re:A difference... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246046)

the big hardware providers hold too much sway for Dell et al
You appear confused about the nature of the relationship between OEMs and the hardware vendors. Dell isn't at the mercy of some chipset or CD-ROM vendor. The hardware vendors are at the mercy of Dell. Dell says jump, LCD panels makers globally say "how high, sir?"

The bits and pieces integrated into retail boxes are highly fungible. Dell can decide to replace one sound chip with another based on whatever criteria they care too. Same thing with media devices, input devices, etc.

When Dell, HP et al. set a direction the industry must follow. I can't predict how much this will help open platforms, but it's hard to see how it will hurt.

Re:A difference... (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246336)

There is a difference between "strongly encouraged" and "required". Until it is required then it is not going to change much - the big hardware providers hold too much sway for Dell et al. to cancel multimillion (if not billion) dollar contracts because they won't provide the source code for a couple of piddly little drivers.

Then they should at least release binary versions of the drivers so that we at least have drivers for devices. Obviously most hardware is supported but there are still devices which do not have drivers. Binary drivers are better than no drivers at all (at least in my mind). They may not be perfect but at least my device is usable. An easier way to install drivers would be appreciated as well. Typing a command at the prompt is not my idea of user-friendly even though I'm capable of doing it. Not everyone knows what 'insmod' or 'modprobe' are for and they shouldn't have to know. Of course, with truly open source drivers users have to go through the extra hassle of *compiling* the driver prior to installation. What the hell are we thinking? If Microsoft or another vendor required that users compile their device driver prior to running through the simple install wizard there would be hell raised from all corners of the Earth.

Re:A difference... (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246784)

Of course, with truly open source drivers users have to go through the extra hassle of *compiling* the driver prior to installation.

Huh?

The last time I had to manually compile a driver for Linux was in like 2002, and that was because I had decided to compile a custom kernel (for no good reason).

A driver being open source has *absolutely* no negative impact on the end user experience.

Re:A difference... (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246648)

exactly what I was thinking since the OEMs can require stuff from their suppliers. But then I thought about how Microsoft dictates to the OEMs that they can't "lead with Linux". My guess is that this is the best they can currently do given the pressure from Microsoft and the desire to grow Linux product lines without threatening the million is kickbacks they get from Microsoft marketing programs.

The OEMs are in a tough spot and with Microsoft's Windows revenues down 24% this quarter, they are going to be getting more pressure this quarter and the next.

LoB

Re:A difference... (1)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246746)

If somebody who is going to buy 10 million parts a year from you "strongly recommends" something, you can bet your backside the vendor will comply unless it is partically impossible for them to do so.

Re:A difference... (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246830)

Dell was probably startled by the EEE...

Went to their software team and asked if they could do the same thing if it came to it... they were probably told something like "we could probably get most of the companies to give us drivers, but there would be a strong incentive to hold out until the end then try to negotiate against the value of the product line."

You just don't want someone else to be able to destroy you with software. Looks like Dell got a lesson in IP that being chummy with MS didn't teach them.

It's about quality control. (1)

iiiears (987462) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245344)


    More likely to be compatible and if they aren't quickly made so. Errors can be easily seen and fixed and it's much more difficult for an offshore company to introduce a back door.

Though my question, Will it make any difference to open source developers if the source code is covered under a restrictive commercial license?

Re:It's about quality control. (1)

Uncle Focker (1277658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245360)

Well with persistent enough developers the source code could be used as the basis for reverse engineering truly free drivers. Just like what the nouveau developers are doing with using the obfuscated nv drivers as a branching off point for their driver.

Recognition of F/OSS, especially Linux (2, Interesting)

suck_burners_rice (1258684) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245388)

This is definitely a step forward for the F/OSS community. Not only is most hardware supported already under Linux (even "obsolete" stuff and processor architectures that are no longer produced), but now the major box builders are taking steps to make sure your hardware will be recognized. Sure, this doesn't necessarily mean that drivers will be available for all products, but it does essentially mean that these large companies are standing with the F/OSS community (especially Linux, as this is the best known piece of F/OSS software in non-technical circles). This statement by the companies serves to help the recognition of Linux as a major software platform, which is good no matter what F/OSS software you use and for what purpose you use it.

Re:Recognition of F/OSS, especially Linux (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245434)

Most hardware? Which hardware is "most". Not wireless drivers, not graphics cards properly, does bluetooth work right, how about mobile phone access beyond seeing it as a mass storage device? Linux needs similar support from many many companies before you can make a statement like this.

If I had a operating system software company (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245438)

I would SUE the hardware makers for not giving information/specs for their stuff.

The reason being is that they are only supporting Monopolysoft with drivers.

Re:If I had a operating system software company (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245690)

Sue them for what ?

What kind of damages could you possibly claim ?

There is no law requiring a hardware manufacturer to release the source code for their drivers or to support multiple operating systems etc. (whether there should be is a whole different topic). Not to mention that to sue someone is to take them to CIVIL court to get compensation for damages that they caused you and has absolutely nothing to do with criminal or anti-trust matters etc.

Microsoft got in hot water because they abused their monopoly. The anti-trust laws that they violated only govern their own actions in the market place. There is nothing wrong with device manufacturers continuing to release products that only work with Microsoft's software. There would only be an issue if Microsoft were forcing device manufacturers to only support their products (which has happened in various ways and for which MICROSOFT gets in trouble not the device manufacturers who are free to make whatever products they want to so long as they're law abiding).

Re:If I had a operating system software company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246088)

> There is no law requiring a hardware manufacturer to release the source code for their drivers or to support multiple operating systems etc.

Please stop equating information/specs to drivers. Drivers are OS-specific. Programming specifications are not. It is stupidity to fight for creating a world where hardware manufacturers release a dozen different drivers for dozen different Operating Systems. Document your hardware; Any OS-maker will then have a fair chance to make his OS work with the hardware.
If you are not publicly documenting your hardware, but only providing drivers for a _finite_ list of OSs (Whether Linux is included or not is irrelevant... finite/infinite is the important issue), then it is certainly evil.

Re:If I had a operating system software company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246610)

Not that I think a lawsuit is a good way to go, but you could allege Collusion on the part of hardware and software manufacturers.

All the evidence you need is in the market information already.

X manufacturer makes Y product only for Z OS. End of case.

Re:If I had a operating system software company (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245700)

Good luck with that.

Many (all?) hardware vendors have proprietary designs. Darn. nVidia and ATI/AMD might sport over open source drivers and be happy about it, but Broadcom has a long history of not wanting to open-source their firmware. They consider it a competitive advantage, apparently, and too precious to give away.

I hear Broadcom WiFi hardware is becoming less and less popular these days. A lesson being learned?

Still, if the hardware vendor wants to protect their IP, sometimes this will collide with the desire for OSS drivers. the marketplace may speak. Certainly Dell can excercise some clout and spec OSS-friendly hardware. There should be alternatives.

Yeah, we'll see.

Re:If I had a operating system software company (1)

EvilRyry (1025309) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246254)

We're not talking about designs, we're talking about drivers. Two totally different things.

Also, neither NVidia nor ATI produce open source drivers although ATI recently released specs to aid in development of open source drivers. Again, these are just specs how to interface with the card, not super top secret details about the inner workings of the card. There is nothing valuable about the interface.

Vendor's Real Intent (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23245536)

Did anyone notice ballmer say no more xp because the customers do not want.

Then Dell stood up and said I want. balllmer conceded and recognized his master.

No Linux or other desktop OS means MS could have said no, you do not want; and so dell would have not wanted, for there was nothing.

Vendors using Linux means they may say I DO NOT WANT to microsoft in the future and microsoft would EPIC FAIL. bill has aids to cure in africa, no time for MS

Re:Vendor's Real Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246890)

win lol!

While I understand the cynicism... (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245564)

that some people are have towards the "strong recommendation", I point out that this is how businesses negotiate. It starts with "we want you to", followed by the vendor response. It's the, "I asked you nicely approach"...

If the vendor doesn't respond, then the ante will be upped. The PC sellers need more market. Things are pretty cutthroat for the Dell's and HP's of the world. If the vendor doesn't help in the company in its move to expand its market... yeah, pressure will be brought... and in this case, Linux does owe MS (so to speak), the failure of Vista to gain market share means the PC sellers have to look elsewhere

Be positive, it is a step in the right direction.

Re:While I understand the cynicism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23245618)

WAHOO!!!!

I've had problems with NVidia proprietary drivers before, hence no 3D effects in Ubuntu :( , but hopefully better days may be ahead for us all

Re:While I understand the cynicism... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246050)

I have the nVidia drivers running fun on Mint; I tried out the fancy-schmancy 3d things for a while, then realized that I really didn't want them.

Not sure you're missing too much.

Re:While I understand the cynicism... (1)

njcoder (657816) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245854)

This is also how businesses appease a loud but small market segment. They make some noise, but don't actually do anything. When the hardware manufacturers don't comply, they can shift the blame on them.

No way of knowing what will really come of it.

The End Of MS As We Know IT (4, Insightful)

venolius (409629) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245596)

I have a feeling that this vendor push of open source drivers combined with falling prices of hardware (because of increased penetration around the world) will lead to the end of MS as a leading OS supplier for desktops. If more open source drivers are available, this will lead to cheap commodity boxes that run Linux, and these boxes will target users that use a computer only for the Internet and Word Processing (this is already happening with Wal-Mart computers). The base for the Internet/Word processor computer is growing so fast that it is inevitable that MS will falter.

Once the base of household Linux computers becomes big enough (I'm guesstimating 3%), commodity application developers (low cost applications first) will see Linux as a market, the prices of these boxes will fall further, and both these factors will contribute to further increased market share for Linux. More drivers for external peripherals will also become an industry practice (many leading companies already have Linux drivers for peripherals like printers and all-in-ones).

At some point, premium application developers for Apple and MS platforms will see that it worth their time to make a Linux port (it may happen quicker because of how relatively simple it would be to make the port from Apple to Linux). Again, this will be followed by increased market share for Linux.

Once the Linux market share becomes substantial (I don't know how much, say 10%?) the corporate world will realize the gazillion dollars in savings, and make the switch, and MS's fall will be complete. I don't know what will happen to Apple, I think they will be around with the largest desktop share if Jobs is around, considering how well he's boosting market share for Apple (with his history, he might even buy MS out of spite).

Bill Gates charities look a little smaller now, a pity actually, but Buffet will remain strong, so Gates will still have a good job.

Re:The End Of MS As We Know IT (1)

fat_mike (71855) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245748)

How's the air up there in the clouds?

Operating Systems, Drivers, Market Share...not relevant.

Third party software vendors (i.e. the companies that make the software that industries actually rely on)...very damn relevant.

A lot of you fail to understand that businesses do live or die by Microsoft Office and Windows. There are three major management system providers for the insurance agency industry. None of them have anything written that will work on anything other than Windows.

Insurance companies, Medical companies, Finance...the run a ton of stuff that was developed in house.

Most business users could give a damn whether they use Office, OpenOffice, CoolOffice923432 as long as it lets them type their letters and email them. But take away their 3rd party app that really does the work and they shit.

That's where the problem is, convince those companies to rewrite their software and we'll see what happens.

Re:The End Of MS As We Know IT (1)

kjots (64798) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246652)

How's the air up there in the clouds?

Wonderful. How's the shit down there in the mud?

Operating Systems, Drivers, Market Share...not relevant.

Facts, Figures, Trends ... nah, you're right, it's nothing.

Third party software vendors (i.e. the companies that make the software that industries actually rely on)...very damn relevant.

Can't argue with that. Oh, wait, yes I can.

A lot of you fail to understand that businesses do live or die by Microsoft Office and Windows. There are three major management system providers for the insurance agency industry. None of them have anything written that will work on anything other than Windows.

Gee, that sound's like more like an opportunity then anything else. Y'know, I used to work as a programmer in the insurance industry ... I wonder ...

Insurance companies, Medical companies, Finance...the run a ton of stuff that was developed in house.

Yes, for DOS and Windows 3.1. Seriously.

Most business users could give a damn whether they use Office, OpenOffice, CoolOffice923432 as long as it lets them type their letters and email them. But take away their 3rd party app that really does the work and they shit.

Most business would only have a need for Office, Email and Internet. Everything you've described is specialist shit.

That's where the problem is, convince those companies to rewrite their software and we'll see what happens.

I doubt there's a need to rewrite anything. Anyone used WINE recently? I've been playing Civ4 on my Linux laptop all week - it rocks!

I can't see any way that this move could damage OSS, and there is, in my opinion, a better then average chance that it could benifit us. So why is everyone here acting so cynical and paranoid (I mean, more than usual)? Cheer up for fuck's sake!

Re:The End Of MS As We Know IT (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246316)

Firefox is barely hanging on with 10-12% web browser marketshare, and it's avalible on all computers past and present, including those with windows. Apple hovers between 3-7%. I'm reasonably sure that linux is less than 1% of the desktop market. I can't really see Linux eating into Windows' share, more like eating into Apple's. I'm getting ready to switch from apple to linux as soon as they fix the voicechat bug in wine for TF2. There are already lots of developers for posix compliant OSes. Really you only need a market of 10,000 to start attracting developers.

Re:The End Of MS As We Know IT (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246810)

Firefox is barely hanging on with 10-12% web browser marketshare, and it's avalible on all computers past and present, including those with windows. Apple hovers between 3-7%. I'm reasonably sure that linux is less than 1% of the desktop market.

I'm not sure where you got your numbers, but my psychic powers (which are unquestionably accurate) told me that NetBSD has 60% of the desktop market and OS/2 has 35%... so your numbers must be wrong.

Re:The End Of MS As We Know IT (1)

cbart387 (1192883) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246932)

I'm getting ready to switch from apple to linux as soon as they fix the voicechat bug in wine for TF2. There are already lots of developers for posix compliant OSes.
If your rationale for switching is POSIX, it would be better to stay on OS X. They're fully POSIX certified whereas Linux is not. Or... something like opensolaris...

Re:The End Of MS As We Know IT (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#23247024)

just to be helpful, if OEMs pay $10 for windows, that's 2.5 billion a year to the Microsoft tax, if PC sales remain the same or increase and continue to sell in the current volumes, then by 2108 at least 255 billion dollars will have been saved by switching to Linux. realistically though growth has been rapidly accelerating, and the actual number goes much higher, if growth is 10% a year, every year, then in 6 years we make 2 billion new PCs, in another 4 years after that another 2 billion pcs, 3 years after that another 2 billion PCS, in 13 years, at $10 it's already 60 billion dollars saved. at that rate of snowballing growth, by 2108 the cost of the microsoft tax, at $10 per oem becomes a staggering 1.2 trillion dollars.

so 100 years of Microsoft would cost over 1.2 trillion dollars, still only 1/10th the national debt, but a staggering amount of money, they could never spend that much making Linux a viable replacement.

Makes sense to me (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245654)

I don't see why people think this is a bad thing. A big company like Dell can bankrupt smaller companies overnight just by failing to renew a contract or not ordering more parts.
They already squeeze them tight for the best prices and only pay them for any components they use - those stocks taking up space in Dell's warehouse don't cost them a penny until they go into a machine (That's already been paid for by the buyer).
So imagine if two companies had say...wireless cards. One has a major deal with Dell, but no Open Drivers, then the other announces they suddenly have Open Drivers. Is it anything on Dell's head to tell the first company to either cough up some open drivers or come and pick up their unused parts before they get discarded? I don't think so.
All it takes is for one company to start releasing open drivers and the rest will have to fall in line or risk loosing a lot of business practically overnight. In the end, everyone will benefit.

Re:Makes sense to me (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246196)

One has a major deal with Dell, but no Open Drivers, then the other announces they suddenly have Open Drivers. Is it anything on Dell's head to tell the first company to either cough up some open drivers or come and pick up their unused parts before they get discarded?

Yes. Dell needs to have multiple vendors in their pipeline so they can get them to compete where they really care, on price, as Dell usually buys the cheapest part X available on a given day from whomever. At least for consumer desktops, that is how they operate. I seriously doubt open source drivers are going to be a consideration on the low end and they sure haven't been in the past (speaking as someone who ordered hundreds of the same model from them only to find a wide variety of parts actually inside, some of which had OSS drivers like the test model we bought and some of which did not). More likely, Dell will push for this on midrange and higher end software where they actually offer Linux as a supported option and probably only then for machines targeted at business.

All it takes is for one company to start releasing open drivers and the rest will have to fall in line or risk loosing[sic] a lot of business practically overnight. In the end, everyone will benefit.

Except it actually does cost money to release drivers as OSS if you have to clean up the code or get rid of the hacks you use to work around your hardware flaws. In which case, it potentially amounts to costs raising for the first movers and people who don't plan to use OSS drivers still have to cover that cost (although it might be negligible on such a scale).

Its always darkest before it goes pitch black? (0)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245784)

With all thats gone on today, am I the only one sitting here waiting for the anti-Linux horror story that is the sum of all fears for Linux users? I keep thinking to myself: The next story is going to say something nightmarishly horrible, like -

"U.S. Government decrees that in the name of Jesus Christ, all Linux users are traitors to the US of A, and shall be imprisoned." or something that bad.

So, how about open source hardware? (1)

santiagodraco (1254708) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245826)

How about driver makers start producing open source drivers when the PC vendors start releasing the full design documents and specifications for all of their hardware? Yeah I don't think so either.

Strongly encourage? (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245892)

>> they will now include wording in their hardware procurement processes to "strongly encourage" the delivery of open source drivers

ooooh and if you don't provide linux drivers we'll still buy your hardware but we will wag our finger at you and tell your mom.

Why can't they just say that they won't even consider buying any hardware that doesn't have Linux drivers?

Re:Strongly encourage? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246300)

Why can't they just say that they won't even consider buying any hardware that doesn't have Linux drivers?
Saying "strongly encourage" with other big companies in a public forum like this is the nice, business way of saying "There are already Intel wireless cards with good open source drivers, if broadcom doesn't get with the program, we'll dump them; but we're not naming names because we're playing nicey-nice... for now."

What do hardware manufactures... (1)

boris111 (837756) | more than 5 years ago | (#23245936)

have to lose. I always wondered why device drivers are not open source. As they make their money on the hardware they're not losing anything by giving the driver piece to the open source community to enhance. It's worked for Linksys routers. I wouldn't have purchased my particular Linksys unless I knew I could put HyperWrt on it.

Re:What do hardware manufactures... (5, Informative)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246120)

I always wondered why device drivers are not open source. As they make their money on the hardware they're not losing anything by giving the driver piece to the open source community to enhance.

Reasons include: they don't like providing anything they do for free because a competitor might use it, they don't want to expose their embarrassingly poorly written code, they're afraid their poorly written code will expose their security flaws, they don't want consumers to know about the hacks they use to work around hardware flaws or which compromise quality for speed.

Re:What do hardware manufactures... (1)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246396)

Wish I had mod points for you.

Best answer to this question I've seen in a pretty good while.

Re:What do hardware manufactures... (1)

ydrol (626558) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246562)

Also they dont want Modders keeping the drivers working against new OSs working when they would rather consumers use the oppertunity to buy new hardware ..Cough.. Creative/Vista .. Cough.

Re:What do hardware manufactures... (3, Informative)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246824)

Also, they cut corners on development costs by buying some of the code and legally can't open source it - e.g. some proprietary codecs, or signal processing technology.

Re:What do hardware manufactures... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246874)

I always wondered why device drivers are not open source. As they make their money on the hardware they're not losing anything by giving the driver piece to the open source community to enhance.

Reasons include: they don't like providing anything they do for free because a competitor might use it, they don't want to expose their embarrassingly poorly written code, they're afraid their poorly written code will expose their security flaws, they don't want consumers to know about the hacks they use to work around hardware flaws or which compromise quality for speed.

Yet if they provide the code, the open source community will fix it and consumers will have nothing to complain about.

Re:What do hardware manufactures... (1)

MrNiceguy_KS (800771) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246992)

Don't forget patent trolls. A hardware manufacturer opening up their drivers could be targeted by patent lawsuits.

Open specifications are more important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23245942)

While we all seem to agree that a hardware manufacturer who supplies drivers for only windows is not doing the right thing, many of us fail to observe that providing open-source drivers for linux is no different. In the former case, windows will have an unfair advantage over other operating systems and in the latter case, windows and linux will have an unfair advantage over the other operating systems. I fail to see any fundamental difference between these two situations. The only right thing a hardware manufacturer can (and should) do is to provide 100% complete programming documentation.

Re:Open specifications are more important (1)

Randall311 (866824) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246484)

windows and linux will have an unfair advantage over the other operating systems.
What other operating systems? BSD? OS/2? I think you're missing the point. If hardware vendors open source their drivers (even if only a linux version) than at the very least reverse engineering and tweaking to make it work with other OSes becomes much easier. At least we'll have something to work with, even if it's an undocumented mess like nvidia's open source. Open sourcing helps level the playing field, and I think that's what the OSS community is after. Let's face it, for personal computing on x86 hardware, 99% is either Windows or Linux, the rest is a hodgepodge of obscureness with maybe the exception of FreeBSD. Just check out BOINC's statistics [boincstats.com] for proof of that. They've got some form of Windows running on 2.5 million systems, Linux in second at 290,282 systems, and FreeBSD a distant third at 3,605 systems.

Please Sir, may I have a bowl of Flash support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246134)

It will be like new flocked wallpaper for the BSD ghetto I live in.

It's a warning shot (1)

pgfault (796282) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246192)

This is a shot across the bow to the likes of Broadcom, Intel, Creative, etc.

How many people have run into a problem where Manufacturer X creates a new rev of their chip, and that rev isn't recognized by the drivers shipped in SuSE/RedHat/Ubuntu/nameyourdistro? In cases of a new NIC rev you end up having to build a custom kernel (or just the driver if you're lucky), put it on bootable media, install your OS, and add the custom kernel/driver to the new OS installation before rebooting. Yeah, it's a real pain for the unwashed masses, as well as those of us who have bathed in Linux for the past 10+ years.

Re:It's a warning shot (1)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246430)

It's not any different for Windows. If the driver doesn't have the device id, it won't work.

The real question is what exactly do open source drivers mean. Does it mean Linux drivers? Does it mean windows drivers with source? There are big differences. If this article refers to linux drivers, it should say linux and not open source since I don't see drivers for *BSD from most companies.

early adopters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23246292)

This is the beginning of adoption. It's an ugly process and will be especially for the OSS community. When this goes full steam, there will be projects everywhere and different ways of profiting off of them (ie mainly google). You can sense it because the main distros have backed of some of their stance when it comes to desktop related software. This is where things get interesting.

portable driver specification (1)

sentientbrendan (316150) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246514)

One problem, is that even if there are "open source" drivers available, for what platform? Mac OSX? Solaris? BSD? Linux? Windows?

Or maybe they are drivers for an older kernel version? New kernels don't link against old drivers, and new versions of GCC don't necessarily *compile* old drivers.

And then of course, there's installation of drivers. Common stuff like video drivers tend to be included in distros... but what about things like fingerprint readers, USB printers, etc? Installing a driver, doesn't just mean running an installer. There's also the extra step of compiling for your exact kernel version. Which means you must have GCC installed, on a desktop machine that you may not want to do any development on at all.

Does this seem like a really bad system to anyone else? Why do we *ever* need to write the same driver more than once? Why not just have a standard interface for talking to X86 drivers for things like audio, video, printers, harddrives etc?

Then, one driver for Linux, OSX, Windows, etc can be passed around and we don't have to continually reinvent the wheel. Then a linux installer can get extra drives by pulling them out of a linux install. Then we can write whole new kernels without having to write tons of custom drivers for it.

Seriously, someone needs to the Linux kernel team about something called "software reuse" and "decoupling."

Re:portable driver specification (1)

Nushio (951488) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246688)

You're thinking ahead of yourself.

Non developers wouldn't care, they'd get their RPMs/Debs/MSI/DMG and let their OS do their magic.

Developers would and could read the source and do said RPMs/Debs/etc do their magic.

OSS Drivers save the Devs the hassle of reverse engineering.

Provide Source Code (1)

kentsin (225902) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246588)

Actually, any party which provide software (firmware) should provide source code:

1. If they want copyright protection
2. For security, it should be legislative to have all user have access to the code for inspection for security reason.
3. For inspect of stolen code.

The software industary is hurted by close source. The new generation is learning in the dark, every team have their own coding secret, no outsider can have understanding to their coding, it hurt the education and new comer.

Copyright law should benefit the flow of information and knowledge, not to ban it.

Allow others to re-use your code and modify your code for new feature or bug fix is your own decision and court's ruling.

Provide source code to gain copyright protect. No close source and copyright protection.

Provide source codes should be required by law!

GPL also bad!

Amen, Double that, Yes sir... (1)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | more than 5 years ago | (#23246886)

Please hardware vendors, please open source your drivers so everyone that have your hardware (purchased legally) can use your hardware on various OS like Linux, Macintosh and other OS.
This will help sales of your product in other than the Microsoft Window environment. Open your environment so that others can use your hardware.
End of soapbox.
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