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Linus Puts Kibosh On Banning Binary Kernel Modules

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the distribution-vs.-use dept.

Operating Systems 494

microbee writes "On LKML's periodic GPL vs. binary kernel module discussion, Andrew Morton hinted that he favors refusing to load binary modules in 12 months. Greg Kroah-Hartman then posted a patch to do exactly that. Surprisingly Linus chimed in and called it 'stupid' and a 'political agenda,' and even compared it with the RIAA's tactics. Later in the same thread Greg withdrew his patch and apologized for not having thought it through."

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Quote from the patch withdrawl (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17235672)

"I'm so sorry Mr. Linus! Please forgive me! I was a bad wittle boy."

LKML could be a soap opera (5, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235686)

This week on LKML 24. Andrew and Linus get into it over politics, while Greg watches from the closet. Watch it Friday at 8, 7 central, 6 a mountain.

Re:LKML could be a soap opera (1)

Salmar (991564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236286)

Funny you should say that; I live on a mountain in Utah.

And of course Linus is right... (5, Insightful)

Duds (100634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235698)

Seriously, there should be no "bans" of any code from Linux. That defeats the entire point. Banning people from loading their own kernal modules because YOU think there may be some weird legal issue is exactly the same as making your media player play only DRM files.

This should be a short topic, Linus' reply (which if you haven't read you should) should finish the entire conversation right here, it's a stupid and petty toys out of the pram act and I'm glad he shot it down.

Hopefully if it somehow does make it into the trunk, there will be very quickly versions with it removed releases as we go forward too because I don't think the wider community will have any truck with this at all.

Exactly (5, Interesting)

rastilin (752802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236040)

I'm already in a situation where most distributions don't even install because the nv drivers they try to load at default won't work on my Geforce 6800. Even the latest vesa drivers seem unbearably slow. If this patch got into the tree, I'd switch to windows the exact same day.

Re:Exactly (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236146)

If that's the case, I think I'll stick with my GeForce 5500...

Re:Exactly (4, Insightful) (653730) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236396)

Certainly you're not one of the brave hackers that didn't stop developing linux in the early days despite of the severe lack of drivers.

These days you can boot linux anywhere. But you know, there was a time (not that far ago) when Linux (and BSDs) didn't support almost anything. Those people really believed in open source, and they didn't mind spending many hours of their life reverse-engineering obscure hardware. They also didn't mind selling their incompatible hardware and buying linux-compatible hardware in order to run their wonderful open source OS.

And you plan to to switch windows if the linux developers plan to ban propietary modules. You aren't switching your graphics card and buying a linux-compatible one (something you can fix with money). You just plan to switch windows.

We're lucky that the early open source hackers weren't like you - if they had switched to windows every time they found a barrier we wouldn't have open source operative systems today. Linux has got big without the help of propietary drivers and despite of the ridiculous hardware support and the one way of getting even bigger is following the same path. We don't need propietary drivers, fuck them.

Re:Exactly (1)

rastilin (752802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236494)

Evidently. I've put up with a lot and I'm willing to go quite a ways to run OSS software. The problem is when people purposefully act to prevent me from using my computer at all. The nv drivers do tend to freeze my system. So my $4000 system becomes inert. Faced with this situation and knowing it's the result of someone's choice, would you stick with them?

Re:Exactly (1)

yagami (128902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236882)

so ..... you switch to window .. land of the free !

Re:Exactly (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236422)

Why do you want to use Linux instead of Windows? If you are going to run closed, proprietary, unaudited code in ring 0, what benefits do you think you are going to get from running a Free/Open OS?

I'm sorry if this sounds like a troll, but it's a serious question. If you install / Cygwin, then you can pretty much run the same software on Windows that you would on Linux, so do you gain from running Linux? Worse driver support?

Re:Exactly (1)

rastilin (752802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236564)

I do believe in the cause, just not to the point where my system becomes unusable. The nv drivers aren't just bad, they don't work at all. Which means I can't do anything, at all. Since I use this system for work, it's either the binary drivers and the associated risks (nearly 0) or what? Bearing in mind I can't change hardware in any shape or form.

Re:Exactly (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236754)

the associated risks (nearly 0)
I take it you missed the fact that the nVidia drivers had a remotely-exploitable ring 0 arbitrary code execution vulnerability in them for almost 2 years, which was only fixed a few months ago? And that the fix isn't available to anyone with some older GPUs?

Re:Exactly (1)

rastilin (752802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236814)

How many times was this exploited? It seems to me that OSS only works for people with LOTS of free time and little responsibilties. Even if I had known, it wouldn't have changed anything, the nv drivers never worked, I still need binaries, therefore I still need the nvidia binary drivers, regardless of their problems.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (1)

andphi (899406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236184)

>toys out of the pram For those of us who don't speak the Queen's English, does this refer to a baby throwing toys out of the baby carriage? I think that's what pram means, but I can't be sure.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236448)

They are shorter versions of parambulators

Re:And of course Linus is right... (0)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236238)

There is a huge advantage when everything is open source, because then anyone can fix anything if found broken.

The point of the ban is to motivate people to submit open source drivers. If the system is not open source, you could as well call it Microsoft Windows and hey, that already exists. So if you prefer closed source drivers, then by all means, use Windows. Currently there are only few closed source drivers in Linux, so the system is working pretty well. Hopefully nvidia will also publish open source drivers.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (4, Informative)

damiangerous (218679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236574)

Currently there are only few closed source drivers in Linux, so the system is working pretty well.

If that were the case this patch wouldn't have been submitted. If you read the withdrawal email you'll see that there are "hundreds".

[side diversion, it's not the video drivers that really matter here everyone, those are just so obvious. It's the hundreds of other blatantly infringing binary kernel modules out there that really matter. The ones that control filesystems, cluster interconnects, disk arrays, media codecs, and a whole host of custom hardware. That's the real problem that Linux faces now and will only get worse in the future. It's not two stupid little video drivers, I could honestly care less about them...]

You as an end user just don't see them because they're all specialized for certain tasks or equipment. Most people just see the video drivers.

Hopefully nvidia will also publish open source drivers.

Not going to happen. NVidia and ATi have stated they couldn't open up the drivers if they wanted to. There's just too much licensed IP they don't have the rights to open.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (5, Insightful)

JPrice (181921) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236788)

Having the source code available is definitely an advantage. However, one of the other strengths of Linux is the amount of freedom that you have in how you use it. It seems a little hypocritical for members of the Linux community to criticize Microsoft (and, as Linux points out, the RIAA) for imposing restrictions on how you can use their software/content while imposing similar restrictions themselves. It doesn't matter that one group's motive is profit and another is some lofty political ideal... the end result is the same thing.

Banning binary kernel modules also has the potential for being the start of a slippery slope... if you're going to say that binary kernel modules aren't allowed, why not extend that to any piece of software that isn't open source? Maybe that would cause some people to open-source their software; I'd argue that it would also cause a lot of people to stop producing software for Linux altogether.

If you want Linux to be a paragon of open source virtues, banning binary modules is an excellent plan. If you want Linux to remain relevant in the real world, not so much.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236282)

Well actually, Linus is an fool who shoots his mouth off without thinking -- and he is massively wrong-headed about the GPL v3 (to the point where I suspect he's mouthing someone else's agenda). But in this case... he happens to be right. If I *choose* to build and load a binary module on the kernel that I am running... that's my business.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (1)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236458)

Looked to me like the patch just told you that you would be forbidden from loading the modules. I don't know that it actually put any technical limitation on loading those modules. Basically, every time you loaded nv, it would say "Hey, stop that." Also, Linus is no god, he's just some guy, and in the end his opinion doesn't matter a whole lot. Ignoring his clout, he has no more control over the kernel than I do, nor is he some all-knowing sage. That said, I agree with him fully on this issue - this is stupid. (I actually can't think of anything I've disagreed with him on. Can anyone thing of an instance where he took a blatantly stupid position on something?).

Re:And of course Linus is right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236706)

Bitkeeper springs to mind ;)

Re:And of course Linus is right... (3, Insightful)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236894)

If I remember right, the only reason it didn't work was because people got pissed off because of it. It was a bad idea not based on its merits, but based on the ideological stubbornness to accept something that is proprietary, no matter if it is better or not. You're talking about a group that would have rather used the US Postal Service to distribute/merge/collaborate on source code than Bitkeeper. If you want to go play pool, and all of your friends want to stay home, does that mean you had a bad idea? No, your friends just suck.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (2, Insightful)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236820)

Can anyone thing of an instance where he took a blatantly stupid position on something?

Bitkeeper. Linus is capable of the occasional misstep just like any mere mortal.

Re:And of course Linus is right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236642)

If NVIDIA stops making their driver for Linux because of this, I will be fucking enraged.

I don't care about all these religious dogmatic crusades against "non-free" whatever blah blah blah. I want an NVIDIA driver that works. Don't talk to me about the god-awful memory-leaking DRI crap--it has NEVER worked. NVIDIA's drivers work like a fucking charm. Don't like it? Then fix the DRI drivers--but I have never, EVER used any DRI drivers for any card I've had that actually worked reliably and didn't leak ram and/or lock up the entire fucking computer. THIS is why NVIDIA's drivers are just fine with me.

Not everyone that uses Linux is a zealot. Thank god for Linus.

typical lkml banter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17235730)

This type of shit happens every day...

Backpatching (4, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235778)

Besides, what's to stop anyone from back-patching the kernel so that it does accept binary module loads? Freedom to change it; that's the GPL. Or did you think Red Hat and Novell wouldn't remove that particular feature?

Re:Backpatching (1)

omeg (907329) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236504)

That's why Linus exclaimed that it "wouldn't happen" in /his/ tree.

Re:Backpatching (3, Interesting)

a.d.trick (894813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236966)

The point is the message that this brings across. At the moment people are pretty lax about binary dirvers. A ban on them in the vanilla kernel will go a long way in telling the driver vendors to make their specs free or get out of Linux land. Free drivers would be awesome, but I don't know if Linux is strong enough to actually influence the vendors at this point so we might end up with nothing. Plus, implementing this at the code level seems like the wrong place to be doing it. As Linus said, the license ought to control the distribution not the usage.

Not surprising at all (4, Informative)

bconway (63464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235780)

I'm not sure what kernel list the poster has been reading. Linus is a pragmatist. He has constantly favored using the best tool for the job over religious fanaticism. There's no surprise here.

Re:Not surprising at all (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236138)

Linus is a pragmatist. He has constantly favored using the best tool for the job over religious fanaticism.

From another perspective, Linus's algorithm for deciding pragmatism is based on a greedy algorithm - it always spits out answers that look reasonable in the short term. He may be an excellent programmer and good project leader, but he seems to lack a sense of perspective.

He has said many times that he has no interest in software politics. Unfortunately for him, software politics has a terrific interest in him. He ignores it at his own peril.

Re:Not surprising at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236454)

let's not all forget bitkeeper.

linus may just not be such a perfect person.

distro vs core (4, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235814)

This shouldn't be a part of the core kernel code. However, the companies providing commercial support may, of course, include such a restriction in their kernels. This would just be a step further from "we don't support your kernel if it is flagged as tainted." The user can remove them if they want, with the same consequences as removing those foil "WARRANTY VOID" stickers hiding the screw holes on electronics devices.

Linus was wrong on one point (4, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235820)

Linus was wrong on one point:

Oh, well. I realize nobody is likely going to listen to me, and everybody has their opinion set in stone.

In fact, I had never understood his point until reading that post. As he points out, it clearly is hypocritical to object to the RIAA tactics (which I do) on the one hand and then propose using exactly the same sort of technological barriers to fair use on the other. If people object to binary only drivers, the sollution is for those people to refuse to use them, not for them to try to game the system to prevent other people from using them.


Re:Linus was wrong on one point (1, Interesting)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235970)

This isn't meant to be a troll, but will probably be taken as such, oh well.

I think he was wrong at simply /I realize nobody is likely going to listen to me/

It's either false modesty or ignorance [not using the word as an insult]. There are enough people who worship at the altar of Torvolds that no matter what he says, someone will listen. His work has affected a lot of lives to their benefit (directly or indirectly), so it does make a lot of sense.

And, although I dislike his OS (I use another OSS OS that gurantees at least 1 troll vote whenever I mention it), I do very much agree with his other statements in that article as well.

Re:Linus was wrong on one point (4, Informative)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236042)

I think he was wrong at simply /I realize nobody is likely going to listen to me/

I think he was referring to the RMS crowd, who won't.

Re:Linus was wrong on one point (5, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236196)

I think he was referring to the RMS crowd, who won't.

You mean the GNU/Linux crowd, right?

Re:Linus was wrong on one point (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236506)

If he was, then he's an even bigger tool than I have previously taken him for. Lots of people seem to think the FSF is a radical organisation of long haired hippies who don't listen to anyone but Stallman.

You should listen to Eben Moglen talk that was recently posted on slashdot. Not only is he repectable, smart and eloquent... he's also informative about the way in which the FSF has gone about their task: they've done it by being reasonable all the time.

They set out their views at the start... right out front... and no matter how people like Gates and Ballmer try to twist it, they are not radical or anti-capitalist, or any of that crap. The GPL has no hidden tricks, no sneaky licensing traps, no patent bombs, no shaking people down for money when they don't comply (Moglen's report on how he approaches companies in violation is an eye-opener) -- compare with Microsoft. Openness, freedom, cooperation and collaboration all the way through -- including the development of the GPL v3.

If Torvalds was off on another FSF bashing kick, then he's losing more credibility by the day... because his views don't match reality.

Re:Linus was wrong on one point (1, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236696)

There are plenty of respectable people in the Open Source community - I've dealt with quite a number of them. I don't know specifics on the internals of the FSF, but I would hope/expect that it constitutes mostly/entirely of that group.

However, there are also the zelots, fanatics, and lemmings who do more harm than good to the cause by being hipocrites who say "everyone should have the freedom to choose" in words, but in actions append "the same thing I chose, and nothing else".

Unfortunately, even in the best of OSS groups that I've been around, I've seen that a lot. I certainly would not hold it against Linus for sticking it to that sub-crowd.

Re:Linus was wrong on one point (1)

synthespian (563437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236586)

No, the GNU operating system crowd.

Re:Linus was wrong on one point (1)

realnowhereman (263389) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236292)

Perhaps out in Slashdot land, Linus is worshipped. However, from what I see of the mailing lists he posts on people are perfectly willing to disagree with him. On that basis, it doesn't seem like false modesty at all.

Linus have a right to his opinion (4, Insightful)

GauteL (29207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235880)

But the fact is that there is a large number of copyright holders for the Linux kernel, not just Linus himself. Not all of these copyright holders accept binary kernel modules, and thus they should be considered illegal to distribute with the kernel.

However, refusing users to shimmy in a binary module themselves is wrong. The GPL clearly states that it only covers distribution, not usage, so users are perfectly entitled to do whatever they want to the kernel as long as they do not distribute it. Adding a check to refuse loading of binary modules would only lead to a fork of the kernel, which is unproductive and unhelpful.

If a binary kernel module contains absolutely no code from the Linux kernel in the form of headers or anything like that, the FSF would have a hard time claiming it is derivative work, thus it should be perfectly legal to distribute. The GPL may say otherwise, but this may be an over extension of the powers of a copyright holder.

Re:Linus have a right to his opinion (3, Informative)

rkcallaghan (858110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236486)

GauteL wrote:
But the fact is that there is a large number of copyright holders for the Linux kernel, not just Linus himself. Not all of these copyright holders accept binary kernel modules, and thus they should be considered illegal to distribute with the kernel.
The kernel accepts binary modules by design and default. Even if the "other copyright holders to the Linux kernel" mattered in this case (they don't, see below); they submitted their code and efforts in agreement with things as they stood then, not some potential future version that Morton might want to make. So you're wrong on that point, despite any arguments they might make or political positions they might support, when the chips were down they did support kernel modules and there is no reason at all they should be illegal.

Further, a large majority of said other copyright holders wouldn't matter if they wanted to. A contributor might have given something great and valuable to the linux kernel. Unless they're the maintainer of the portion that actually handles loading modules, too bad so sad. If I'm not mistaken that's Torvalds and Morton. Everyone else, no matter how great their bluetooth subsystem is, can no more demand linux "make binary modules illegal" than you could of Microsoft.


Re:Linus have a right to his opinion (1)

Nitage (1010087) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236922)

It doesn't matter if distributing a binary kernel module is a breach of copyright. The issue is that the proposed pathc would not only stop people form using binary kernel modules that violate the GPL, but would stop people using binary kernel modules that don't violate it (remember, GPL doesn't require source code distribution unless the binary is distributed - internal/private/personal software isn't affected by it). This is the same as DRM - not only does it stop you doing illegal things, it also stops you doing legal things.

-1, Not a zealot (1)

Klaidas (981300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235882)

It's not distro vs use - It's more like distro versus zealots.

Linus is sort of an anomaly (5, Insightful)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235892)

This is the strange effect brought on by the following situation:

  • The GPL is the tool of a political movement, using it is a political statement
  • Linux is one of the big poster childs of this movement
  • The actual author of Linux doesn't really care about any of this

Re:Linus is sort of an anomaly (1)

quarrel (194077) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236030)

No no no.

Go read the GPL. Linux is upholding the freedoms the GPL delivers to users.

The GPL fundamentally covers distribution. Users have freedom. We should all fight for that freedom.


Re:Linus is sort of an anomaly (1)

bigtomrodney (993427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236092)

This has always been a problem for the Free Software Foundation. Linus as mentioned has always been more pragmatic. He use the GPL because it did what he needed, but the Stallmanites have pushed their own agenda with his face on the front. It's back to the old GNU/Linux argument. We all know linux is just the kernel, but there is no need to go against common usage and force the GNU prefix in there. They didn't call it GNU/AIX or GNU/HP-UX when the GNU utilities were used there. Thankfully Torvalds is strong enough to speak for himself.

Re:Linus is sort of an anomaly (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236248)

Very often people characterize Linus as 'not caring about the politics' or 'being a pragmatism not an idealist.' Yet if you read his post you see that he's very much thinking about rights and freedoms. He very much does care about the freedom issue. His stance just happens to be a bit different than others (RMS for instance).

Frequently I do not agree with Linus on issues, because his general view is to avoid meddling with things until absolutely necessary (whereas RMS, for instance, tries to think as far down the road as possible). However in this particular case Linus is dead right: putting code into the kernel for non-technical reasons, purely to limit the *end user* and specifically limit what they can do with their computer is very much "anti-computer-freedom" and should never be done.

So Linus is effectively saying "if we do this we limit the freedom of the end user, just like the RIAA is doing with DRM..." and he is quite right.

Re:Linus is sort of an anomaly (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236778)

That anomaly is why linux works well as a poster child, in a sense.

Linus wants his code to be free, on a share-and-share-alike sort of basis. The GPL enforces this nicely, and is the right tool for the right job. Being a remarkably smart fellow, Linus also feared stallman might get too greedy and set the kernel on a static license rather than have it evolve to the last license version by default. That keeps it on its original objective: sharing.

What better poster child than the work of a man who just wants his code out there in this most selfless manner, and stalwartly refuses to play politics?

Re:Linus is sort of an anomaly (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236908)

The actual author of Linux doesn't really care about any of this

That may be true, but this incident doesn't prove it. Article 6 of the GPL states among other things "You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."

This does not expressly prevent such restrictive kernel modifications -- so long as the kernel is distributed in source code so people undo the restriction. However, the technical restriction is pointless without the legal restriction.

That's the problem with "free" (4, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235896)

You have to choose exactly what level of free you want.

The GPL has clauses in it that seek to prevent people from making it non-free. That's fair enough, but it's a compromise. You could make the licence more free by removing these clauses. That would enable others to limit your freedom. Linus seems to tend towards offering more freedom to make Linux less free.

But does a no-binaries patch matter? Those who want to add binary-only modules are free to customise the kernel to allow this. I hope this patch remains available. choice is good.

BSD (2, Insightful)

javilon (99157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235920)

The way Linus talks, I think he would be happier with a BSD license than with the GPL.

Re:BSD (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236120)

And in fact, he has stated in the past that he picked GPL more out of convenience and "general agreement" than as a political statement that he fiercely encouraged. At this point, the license can't be changed due to the number of authors and inability to get ALL of them to agree to any change (or even FIND them. Some are dead.)

Licence terms (1)

mungtor (306258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236278)

If they're dead, then they should have no control over what the license can be changed to.

Or is the GPL a magic copyright that should be extended indefinitely past an author's death?

Re:Licence terms (3, Informative)

saforrest (184929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236406)

Or is the GPL a magic copyright that should be extended indefinitely past an author's death?

What gives you the impression that copyright does not extend past the death of the author? It most certainly does.

In the United States, it is life of author plus 70 years (see How long copyright lasts [] ).

So if you wanted to change the licence to BSD, you would need to contact the heirs of these dead people.

Re:Licence terms (0)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236432)

The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 says that copyright exists for life of the author plus 50 years. For more info see this article [] .

Re:Licence terms (2, Informative)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236484)

Whoops - I'm wrong and the other responder is right. It's life + 70 years (I misread the article.)

Re:Licence terms (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236466)

No, but the GPL is the only thing that stops copyright from applying "in full". This means that the legal heirs to those authors would have their say regarding relicensing for the next few decades.

Re:Licence terms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236562)

If they are alive they should have no control over the license that can be changed to.

This is because regardless of the license the code is placed under the people who wrote are not in any way impacted. You still have your code chugging along in whatever capacity you want. Software licenses, even the GPL, are as evil as software patents, copyright, or any other form of intellectual property protection.

The viral nature of the GPL is itself evil.

Re:BSD (3, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236350)

No, Linus very much agrees with the "quid pro quo" of the GPL. He believes that if you take his code and extend it, you should have to contribute back. He believes in sharing (even if he's not as concerned as RMS is about fundamental freedom). In the linked post Linus says:

"If people take our code, they'd better behave according to our rules. But we shouldn't have to behave according to the RIAA rules just because we _listen_ to their music. Similarly, nobody should be forced to behave according to our rules just because they _use_ our system."

Clearly Linus does like the GPL restricting those who would distribute code (whereas BSD causes no restrictions). The point Linus is trying to make is that we have to distinguish between limitations to distribution and limitations to the end user. The proposed patch would mostly have limited the end-user (making it annoying for them to run binary modules). Linus is saying that we shouldn't try to limit the freedom of the end-user with technical restrictions. But (as quoted above) he clearly does like the fact that the GPL forces people who "take the code" to "behave according to the rules."

Hence Linus would not be happy with a BSD license.

Re:BSD (2, Interesting)

molarmass192 (608071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236542)

I disagree, Linus does care about derived works. Much as I admire the altruistic nature of the BSD license, it offers absolutely no protection from derived works. What Linus doesn't care for is imposing the derived work status on non-derived works. To put this in perspective, if Linux is a DVD player, Linus says you have to show any bits you change in the DVD player code, but he's not going to force you to show the bits on the DVDs you play. Personally, I think the BSD license is not a good choice for platform type code, it's too tempting to create an incompatible closed source fork as a competitive advantage. However, I think it's great for application type code, where you don't have this scenario of having rely on potentially closed-source BSD fork to run some software.

Re:BSD (1)

nick.ian.k (987094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236700)

The way Linus talks, I think he would be happier with a BSD license than with the GPL.

So Linus effectively saying that preventing end-users from loading binary drivers to make things go is stupid equates with giving developers license to do whatever they please with given available code how?

Re:BSD (2, Interesting)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236832)

I don't think so. He seems very vocal about the "not imposing limitations to usage" side, but the part where if you use his code you have to share yours seems to be important. I'd sum it up as saying: Linus is happy with the GPL v2 license rather than the GPL v3 one.

Look at it from the dev's POV (5, Informative)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235948)

Before people start bashing those who proposed this, think of the devs who put so much of their time and effort into getting us Linux. And note that the proposal arose from a technical issue, not from a 'everything must be Free' stance. From the last thread /. links to, part of Greg's retraction:

It's just that I'm so damn tired of this whole thing. I'm tired of
people thinking they have a right to violate my copyright all the time.
I'm tired of people and companies somehow treating our license in ways
that are blatantly wrong and feeling fine about it. Because we are a
loose band of a lot of individuals, and not a company or legal entity,
it seems to give companies the chutzpah to feel that they can get away
with violating our license.

So when someone like Andrew gives me the opportunity to put a stop to
all of the crap that I have to put up with each and every day with a
tiny 2 line patch, I jumped in and took it. I need to sit back and
remember to see the bigger picture some times, so I apologize to
everyone here.

And yes, it is crap that I deal with every day due to the lovely grey
area that is Linux kernel module licensing these days. I have customers
that demand we support them despite them mixing three and more different
closed source kernel modules at once and getting upset that I have no
way to help them out. I have loony video tweakers that hand edit kernel
oopses to try to hide the fact that they are using a binary module
bigger than the sum of the whole kernel and demand that our group fix
their suspend/resume issue for them. I see executives who say one thing
to the community and then turn around and overrule them just because
someone made a horrible purchasing decision on the brand of laptop wifi
card that they purchased. I see lawyers who have their hands tied by
attorney-client rules and can not speak out in public for how they
really feel about licenses and how to interpret them.

Please think of the coders, and the shit they have to put up with while making your free operating system the next time you start clamoring for these closed source binary blobs.

Re:Look at it from the dev's POV (2, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236144)

I'm tired of people thinking they have a right to violate my copyright all the time. I'm tired of people and companies somehow treating our license in ways that are blatantly wrong and feeling fine about it. Because we are a loose band of a lot of individuals, and not a company or legal entity, it seems to give companies the chutzpah to feel that they can get away with violating our license.

I don't understand -- if he sincerely thinks there are genuine violations of his copyright, he can get a lawyer and do something about it. It's not like there's any shortage of legal representaion available to a linux kernel developer. Locking out all binary modules hardly seems like an appropriate solution.

Re:Look at it from the dev's POV (1)

div_2n (525075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236516)

Because legally wrangling over gray areas in copyright requires some fancy lawyering that he as an individual is unlikely financially capable of supporting. Unless he has millions and millions of disposable income sitting around waiting to be burnt.

The cheapest and best way for developers is, as Linus said, to work closely with and thus rewarding vendors that play by the rules and play fair. In other words, pressure companies by exclusion. If, for example, ATI were to cozy up closely with kernel developers to get high quality and highly optimized open source drivers in the kernel, what graphics card do you think would get installed in graphics workstations around the world?

Re:Look at it from the dev's POV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236210)

As a coder, they don't have to put up with technical shit. As a coder, his only qualm is with the copyright problem.

He wears another hat, as a system support guy. As a system support guy, he has qualms. Guess what? All system support people do. I'm tired of answering why hardware drivers don't easily exist for Linux. End users don't give a shit that the driver may or may not be derived and thus may or may not have to be open source. It really doesn't help their wireless or video cards work.

Re:Look at it from the dev's POV (1)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236434)

It still is a hobby for a lot of people, maybe a paid one. If you don't like writing code, don't. If you don't feel it is worthwhile to contribute to linux kernel, because other companies abuse the code then don't do it anymore. Abuse of a licence is an arbitrary thing and very very political one. Like in a swamp you can sink with your stern reasoning, just like a large rock.
I'd say leave the politics to Mr. Stallman, he has been in that game for a long while.

I prefer binary drivers to no drivers at all. Having no binary drivers means no NDIS loader, no wireless support for alot of people. Like with company provided laptop for example made by acer i can still use wireless, because i can load windows driver. Personally i think from tech standpoint is coolest thing ever, because of tremendous code reuse. You don't have to write thousands of drivers. And thats where politics is so tricky. It is so easy to generate so much ill will poliking, then by just writing code and being servant of the people. Whoever they are.

Trying to fight corporations is useless unless you have a clear cut case where you can prove where they have broken the licence. Like say if they come out with "Boonix" thats a copy of Linux code with some modifications and completely different licence.

Unstable guardian (0, Flamebait)

amightywind (691887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235972)

I am amazed kernel developers let Torvalds get away with these rants. He is a most unstable guardian of the kernel. Will Torvalds be President for life, like Castro, or will he eventually hand over the reins? Morton seems like an excellent choice?

Re:Unstable guardian (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236186)

Maybe because these are not so much rants, as someone putting their foot down. Hey, at least he is not throwing chairs. []

Re:Unstable guardian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236520)

I know that you not serious, but the difference between Linus and a dictatorial regime is that there is no coercion to agree with him.

If you don't agree with him an fork the kernel, he is the leader because people have faith in him.

*Distribution* license (4, Insightful)

quarrel (194077) | more than 7 years ago | (#17235982)

The bottom line here, that Linus and so many other often ignored people are pushing, is that the GPL, and all other *copy*right licenses, are only licenses that effects distribution.

Putting artificial measures into the Linux kernel that affect users of Linux, even when they're building their own kernels is BAD. Technology rules, ok?

Even RMS would recognise that the GPL is about freedom to do WTF you want with it once you've got it, but if you want to offer it to others, you damn well better give them those same freedoms.

Unfortunately, as any longtime /. reader knows, almost any license discussion degenerates into the idiots that think being GPL means you CAN'T do what you want. As Linus so well pointed out, the RIAA sux, why do we have to?


Linus should have just went with BSD license (1, Interesting)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236010)

Because, his RIAA objection is flawed. Using free code that links/attaches into GPL-ed code is the license _requirement_, just like payment is a requirement for RIAA music. It is NOT about telling how to use that certain code as he argues. This is definitely a copyright issue and the RIAA's equivalent would be NOT selling music to someone who didn't pay for it, not the DRM crap.

If Linus doesn't think that the terms of the license should be uphold because of his convictions, maybe he should have went with a different license in the first place? I think that in retrospect his beliefs are closer to the BSD license than to GPL. That's ok, he's a technically minded engineer. He doesn't have to have an agenda, even if that agenda is keeping freedom. I am generally opposed to practicalism as it focuses on short term, but I can certainly understand that different people have differing opinions.

One reason is why I'm opposed to the patch is given by Linus though: the closed-source people would just move their proprietary stuff into userspace and communicate with the kernel by a gpl-ed shell in kernelspace. It wouldn't solve the moral problem ("free/open code"), these companies will only open source their drivers when they think it is advantegous for them. A kernel modification will certainly not force them.

They have a point, but.... (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236012)

I understand why those that want to ban binary only modules. It causes hell for everyone on the kernel dev team.

But.... banning them instantly pisses off every single company that is barely putting out a hardware driver for Linux already (nvidia for example) A ban will not make these people go "oh,ok... we'll release the source code." they will simply flip off all Linux users and tell them to pound sand.

Re:They have a point, but.... (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236786)

So what you are saying is that banning binary only modules would.
1. Cause grief for the people that use Linux.
2. Reduce hardware support.
3. Provide no real benefit because companies will then just choose to ignore Linux.

I don't think that you see the big picture. It is about freedom and we must enforce our view of what freedom is on those that are not as enlightened as ourselves! We must educate the masses that these short term setback will not stop our glorious revolution!

Yea you and Linus are right. Frankly I would like to see a stable binary driver interface as an option as well as a user space driver interface.
Even with a pure FOSS driver it would be nice to not have to worry about recompiling the driver for a kernel upgrade. It would be really nice if hardware manufactures could include a binary driver on a CD for Linux that would just work.
The idea preventing users from doing things you don't agree with with software is DRM. Not letting users choose to load a binary only module is no different than preventing a user from putting music from a CD they bought on to their computer.

Oh irony (3, Informative)

Improv (2467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236020)

"Let's put it this way: if you need to ask a lawyer whether
what you do is "right" or not, you are morally corrupt.
Let's not go there. We don't base our morality on law."
        -- Linus Torvalds

Apparently our morality is simple pragmatism?

Re:Oh irony (3, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236732)

Morality is not based on law, but perhaps law should be based on morality.

Non Sequitur Alert! (1)

The Monster (227884) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236776)

...We don't base our morality on law." -- Linus Torvalds

Apparently our morality is simple pragmatism?

That does not follow. We would hope that our laws are based on some theory of what constitutes moral behavior toward others, but it is naive to assume that all of them are. As we all know, laws can be bought (See *AA).

Take a peek at a history book: It used to be legal for one man to own another. Did that make it moral? Hardly.

Re:Oh irony (1)

Gregory Cox (997625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236898)

Linus's position is both moral and pragmatic.

The pragmatic side is not alienating people, and keeping Linux popular by not placing restrictions on its use, only on how you can copy it. That boils down to giving users as much freedom as possible, which is the same basic principle espoused by RMS.

To borrow the music analogy Linus uses in the post: thousands of Slashdot posts have said "DRM music is evil and hurts the consumer." and also "Putting DRM on music hurts its popularity because people won't accept the restrictions." Given that stance, a company which seeks to become successful by selling non-DRM music would be both pragmatic and non-evil. Linus is trying to do the same thing.

Actually reading TFA (2, Interesting)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236054)

Actually, Linus's comments are not very negative. When he's negative, he capitalises and underscores and asterisk-ises words all over the place, and uses the phrases "NEVER", "fundamental", and "so lets not even talk about it".

This particular way of blocking proprietary drivers has been withdrawn, but the idea seems to still have support, or at least be open for debate.

Question regarding binary drivers. (4, Informative)

BigBuckHunter (722855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236066)

If Nvidia doesn't release their source because it's not "derived" from the linux kernel (they only use a GPL kernel interface to bridge it to their driver), then why TF do they have a seperate driver download for linux? Why don't they didn't they just build a kernel interface to their windows driver? When their driver stops working with newer kernels and they patch it to work again, isn't that patch "derived" from the linux kernel, otherwise where esle would the patch be derived from?

What Linus is saying may not exclude the possibility of a single kernel dev suing Nvidia for GPL license violations or possible copyright infringent.

Just a thought,

Re:Question regarding binary drivers. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236312)

Why don't they didn't they just build a kernel interface to their windows driver?

That's more or less what they are doing. At one point someone running "strings" on the nVidia kernel module found several references to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and other stuff related to the Windows registry.

Re:Question regarding binary drivers. (1)

baryon351 (626717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236418)

When their driver stops working with newer kernels and they patch it to work again, isn't that patch "derived" from the linux kernel, otherwise where esle would the patch be derived from?

I don't see that makes it derived from the kernel, rather that it's compatible with it. If that definition truly made it derivative, then any app that runs in Linux that depends on features of the kernel may be seen as a derivative.

Re:Question regarding binary drivers. (2, Insightful)

cnettel (836611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236596)

Does this mean that you think that any software, written for Windows, that breaks with a new release means that the author of that software has violated the copyright of MS? Even if the developers of the binary blob never looked at the Linux source, it would be trivial to create a dependency on some behavior that eventually changes, especially as the policy of the kernel team is to be quite ignorant regarding preserving behavior that only affects kernel-mode code.

Heck, there are even hacks in Vista to fix an issue that first appeared in Samba with early beta releases. Do you want MS to take them out, because it would be a violation of the Samba license? (Note again that they don't need to read the code to get these issues in, nor to take them out.)

Surprisingly? (1)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236086)

How is this a surprise in any way, shape, or form? This is the way Linus has always been. Anyone who didn't see that response coming is a complete moron. In fact, reading the summary, as soon as I saw the phrase "Surprisingly, Linus chimed in" I was expecting to see that he supported the motion, merely because that would be so surprising. Move along people, this isn't news.

A Benevolent Dictator... (1)

Giant Ape Skeleton (638834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236114)

It's probably a truism at this point that the Open Source model's greatest strength (its openness) is also the basis of its greatest weaknesses (dogmatism and ideologically-driven decisions. Whatever you may think about his personality or his motivations, Linus is a much-need voice of pragmatism. If you look at competing *nixes in terms of technological currency, development activity, and install base, you can see the value of benevolent dictatorship - as opposed to just plain demagoguery *cough* Theo *cough*.

Re:A Benevolent Dictator... (1)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236708)

Guy writing most code wins!
Guy making most political statements looses!

So it goes. We aren't microsoft to force our users
including corporate ones, to bend them out of shape
to be allowed to use our code.

I think the problem here is China syndrome, where
manufacturers now don't have a straight spec for
hardware, most of the time they look what they can
buy in bulk for cheap stick the same name on the
board and sell it under the same name. Drivers
provided for windows, but linux drivers suddenly
won't work. I think foundation of the point is that
linux will loose significant portion of debugger
community, because "dirty" kernels aren't supported.
The link is, that there is so much of varying hardware
on the market for which people would use binary
drivers, debugging workforce would shrink.

Let's look at a real-world case (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236188)

Had this gone in, vendors would write a very small kernel driver which they're not afraid of GPL'ing. This "driver" would do nothing more than expose the necessary IRQs and registers to userspace, where they can then have a proprietary driver which does the donkey work.

In other words, just as likely to break a system horribly as a binary blob, if not more so as now any userland program running as root can speak directly to the hardware. With the added bonus that you've just demonstrated to every hardware vendor out there that not only do you not like binary drivers, you'll go out of your way to make their life harder.

Yuo fail It... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236224)

it was always about technology (3, Insightful)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236232)

Linus has kept focus, that linux was, is and will be about technology and I agree with him on that. It is about providing wealth of options for software users. Not twisting their hand in very specific way. GPL protects linux kernel. Using GPL to blugeon other people's practices into extreme ways that GPL can be interpreted is silly.
See there is new and old world. In the new world code is the law. In the old world it is legalese like licences, laws for real people from standpoint of non-technical point. To Linus GPL is only a way to protect kernel code, like a tool. Nothing political. Whereas for Mr Stallman it is his life and politics. For linus gnu toolkit and gcc, came with added protection of GPL. And gpl for him is exactly like a tool.

When you are a carpenter, you don't think of societal and humane implications of using auto-nailer to a hammer. Same with Linus, his codebase is what matters first. He is driving politics from within the kernel, you might say in very meritocratic way and not from GPL and how morally conflicting it is with GPL, to load binary drivers. GPL is a cover from blatant abuse of the kernel code.

Linus has kept focus since beginning of the project and I stand with him on that. He is a coder first, and likes to provide things and services for other fellow coders, not be meddeling in world of politics.

Linus is a short-sighted prick (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236252)

It's one thing to be pragmatic, but Mr Torvalds hasn't met a princible that he can't shell out if it means a slight bit of convience. He's a complete fucking tool, and a hypocrite to boot. We'd all be better off if he got his shit together, stopped playing petty power games and provided a stable API for programmers to work with.

For myself, I can't wait for MS to give Torballs his cumuppence! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236298)

than 1ts Windows

Greg's patch was brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236324)

Thank you Greg, for forcing Linus to take a stand. Brilliant. Now we know exactly what Linus thinks, any previous equivocation about binary modules notwithstanding.

Linus believes that technology trumps the rules that govern civil society. The irony is that the very people Linus badmouths share the same objective - to improve the lot of society by promoting better technology. The difference is that folks such as the FSF believe that the social fabric matters. They believe that patent landmines hinder software development, for example. They believe that sharing ideas, rather than holding them close to the vest, helps us all. Linus himself stands as a poster boy for the benefits that these objectives make manifest. If politics and law are irrelevant, then maybe Linus should try forking a propriety version of Linux, to see how that works out.

Linus writes great code, and does an amazing job managing a globally distributed project. But as far as vision goes, I must say I find him shortsighted. Basically, Linus would rather have other folks deal with the admittedly disruptive consequences of attempting stricter enforcement of the project's license. That's certainly his right. If I were in Linus' shoes, I don't know that I'd want to embroil myself in politics either; hacking code is much more fun. But in the long run, we'll all be better off if someone with a little clout stands up and takes it in the chin. I just wish Linus would stop badmouthing the folks who are willing to do so.

Re:Greg's patch was brilliant (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236758)

I hear this line of argument very often: "Linus is a good coder and project manager, but when it comes to freedom trust only FSF". I like Linus more than GNU, for these reasons:
  • Linus does not want your copyright assignment, FSF recommends that you transfer copyrights to them so that "they can protect your freedom".
  • FSF considers all proprietary software bad or "hoarders", Linus says "whoever writes the code is free to choose the license".
  • Linus writes simple, clean code, and is a very good programmer, the source code of GNU flagship projects like GCC(the sendmail of C compilers), glibc(see the headers) are horrible.
Feel free to correct me if I am wrong...

Shell Game (2, Insightful)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236416)

> it will only result in _exactly_ the crap we were just trying to avoid,
> namely stupid "shell game" drivers that don't actually help anything at
> all, and move code into user space instead.

Why is this bad? Separating out the kernel-space open source code from the binary blob is the only way to really ensure that the module will work with any kernel version. NVidia does it right, it works and it's binary. I don't even notice that it's not all open source because the kernel part is and compiles when I install it. Having that wrapper might not make it very fast, but it does at least WORK, and is supportable.

I'm frankly a little tired of devices that say they are supported, when they provide a binary-only module for one specific kernel version of RedHat.

Unfortunately, dropping binary module support in the kernel won't fix the problem. The real big players will just forward-port the support of those binary blobs into newer kernels, and now instead of just having to deal with binary drivers, we have to deal with distributions having different code support in the kernel. And who wants the commercial linux distributions to be more flexible than the free ones? Not I!

You can't be serious! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236476)

I mean, really, who would even want to do add binary modules to the kernel in the state it is now? If they really want to get things going in a more positive and Enterprise like way they'd be looking at making it easier to cross compile your modules. For example making it possible for me, end user, to develop and compile kernel modules on my current Ubuntu environment which are meant to be used on a Debian Stable environment. So basicly: Using 2.6.15 and working for 2.6.8.

In its current state this is totally impossible. They depend on specific gcc features (which can be overcome by installing multiple gcc versions. I personally consider this approach insane but thats just me I suppose). Next you have direct ties into system packages like bintutils, for example the assembler. If I have bintuils 2.16 around its impossible for me to compile something for a kernel which uses 2.12. Simply because bintutils is not backwards compatible with its ancestor. Summing up: I'd have to run a one on one copy of the system I'm working for in order to get development going.

Now... This is also a classic situation for developers willing to supply binary modules (IMO anyway). But when we're talking about these kind of specifics its not that unlikely that the server I'm working for has a completely different hardware setup than the one I'm developing on (for example; I use vmware-server a lot for these things) making it sometimes totally impossible to actually run such a kernel. And that can become really ugly, really fast, if the kernel I'm trying to develop for doesn't allow me to do any development on it (for example due to mission critical stuff). Alternatives? In the current situation I'd have to get myself double the hardware I suppose, that way I can "clone" the environment and then use that to develop a kernel module.

OR I could move on to environments like the BSD or Solaris variants which allow for much easier cross compilation and are by far less anal about binary 3rd party drivers. SO please forgive me if I laugh it up a little when people currently start talking about possibly allowing binary drivers while still sticking their hands in the sand when it comes to the real problems at hand.

If you really want to become more professional (that is at least my impression of the whole story) you don't start by stuff like this. Instead focus on a development cycle which doesn't re-invent the wheel suspension during every new release, thus making it impossible for tire manufactorers to produce a product which can last for several cycli. Untill that happens I really think things like these are funny and sad at the same time, and in the overal won't change a thing.

get real (1)

snarfbot (1036906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236496)

so if all binary closed source drivers are banned, the companies are gonna say, "ahh they wanna play hard ball eh? alright we fold, heres the source."

not likely,

and it certainly wouldnt make it easier to produce drivers for our favorite hardware, (read nvidia) there may be a little more incentive for developers, but still come on.

but then again, like was also mentioned above, if they are banned i dont really care ill use whatever bloody driver i want anyway.

the thing is though, that nvidia wont support linux, in fact i doubt any hardware vendor that values its own IP will, so it will indirectly screw me the user. super.

It has a familiar ring... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236608)

Morton: Give people 12 months warning ... then make the kernel load only GPL-tagged modules.

This reminds me of something the RIAA might say: "Give the people 12 months warning ... then make their music players load only DRM-tagged files."

question... why not LGPL the kernel then? (3, Interesting)

cies (318343) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236848)

okay in theory one cannot link any binairy blob with the kernel and redistribute it, this is forbidden by the (strong copy-left of the) GPL.
but if Linus wants to allow this why not put Linux under a license with a weaker copyleft, like the LGPL?

at the current situation i think the kernel devs are right when they feel the GPL is violated.

cies breijs.

Pro/con binary modules is wrong focus for LKML (2, Insightful)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236872)

That continual discussion on the LKML doesn't help anyone, and misses an important technical opportunity.

Does anyone seriously believe that all card and peripheral device manufacturers will go fully FOSS any time soon, or indeed ever? No --- nobody is that unrealistic, no matter how much we'd love it to happen.

So, since it's not going to happen, how can we best live with binary modules without suffering the many, very bad consequences of closed code being in our kernel?

This is how:

Find a *technical* way of containing binary modules within MMU-protected kernel domains, at the same level as the "real" kernel but with controlled/restricted access to it. This would make binary modules almost as safe as user-code but still able to communicate rapidly with the kernel resources.

If you do that, the entire religious or political issue disappears, and instead we would have a significantly more robust/resilient kernel in practical terms.

No more bitching. Just find a way to keep the inevitable binary modules under tight MMU control.
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