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Update On Free Linux Driver Development

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the i'll-have-one-with-sprinkles dept.

Slashback 272

Remember the offer Greg Kroah-Hartman made earlier this year, to get Linux drivers written for free for any company that wanted them? Now an anonymous reader points us to an article up on linuxworld with an update to this program. Greg K-H, who leads the development of several kernel subsystems including USB and PCI, admits that the January offer was a bit of "marketing hype" — but says it has brought companies and developers together anyway. Twelve companies have said "yes please," one driver is already in the kernel, and five more are in the pipeline.

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272 comments

so did he write them for free or didn't he (3, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230603)

if he did, good for him, if he didn't he just like every other lieing software house out there.

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230645)

the volunteers write them without charging the OEMs, yes.

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (2, Insightful)

bobo mahoney (1098593) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231851)

Volunteers working for free? Now I'm no genius but isn't that a bit redundant?

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (2)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231957)

You've never heard of a paid volunteer?

1 down, 1.2 billion to go !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232457)


1 down, 1.2 billion to go !!

Oh, wait, wrong macro. 1 down, 12 thousand to go !!

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (-1, Redundant)

Peter Marsh (1105755) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230703)

With the exception of the open source software houses.... right guys?

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19230987)

fuck you mods

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (1)

alfs boner (963844) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231571)

lol.

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232427)

you little bitch

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (5, Insightful)

Kelerain (577551) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230731)

The marketing hype was the fact that the kernel developers would do this sort of development anyway. This isn't a special program of any kind, it's standard procedure and they were promoting it somewhat like other people promote special "one time offers" and such. So yes marketing hype, and yes they do in fact do that. The helpful part is they have actual hardware samples and/or specs to work with, so it's a real win all around.

Re:so did he write them for free or didn't he (2, Funny)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231847)

Yes, how dare the bastard exchange currency for goods and services!

List? (4, Interesting)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230635)

A list of the twelve companies, please?

Re:List? (2, Insightful)

CasperIV (1013029) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231789)

The list of primary hardware is relatively short when you consider what is making real penetration. If the 12 that asked for drivers are any of the larger companies in the market, it could be a big deal. It would be like if Broadcom were to come to their door and ask for real drivers that work... that right there would cover most newer laptops.

List of the hardware devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232127)

More to the point, a list & short description of the hardware devices?

The more free drivers, the better (5, Insightful)

BluSteel (910709) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230639)

Marketing hype or not, I'm always happy to see more hardware supported by free drivers. Thanks, Greg.

patents, usability (3, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230727)

To me, the issue isn't so much drivers as patents and usability.

My daughter's mp3 player didn't need any special drivers, because it's simply a standard keychain drive that happens to be able to play mp3's. However, she totally couldn't figure out how to use it on her ubuntu box. There was one problem after another. Ubuntu tried to do the right thing by popping up a gui app when she connected it, but then we couldn't get the gui app to do what we wanted to do. Part of the problem was that getting the mp3 codec to work was a pain, and that springs directly from the fact that mp3 is patented.

My Brother HL-1440 laser printer is 100% supported in Linux. Brother hired the CUPS developers to write GPL-licensed drivers for all their printers. Joy! Unfortunately, I've run into one usability problem after another, all of which are basically problems with the usability of CUPS. I know I'm not the only person in the world who thinks CUPS is a pain, because I've seen other people criticize it for problems that are the same ones I'm experiencing. For instance, CUPS remembers too much of its state, and when it freaks out (e.g., printer spewing page after page of garbage), it's difficult to get CUPS back into a known-good state.

Re:patents, usability (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230867)

Perhaps you could fund an effort to get the patent invalidated.. or to buy a blanket license for linux.. or to get the patent owner to publically waive their right to sue anyone who distributes the codec or something..

As for CUPS, maybe you could narrow down the exact problem and submit a bug report.. or put together an effort to fund someone to work on it.

It's community software.

Re:patents, usability (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231007)

who wants to fuck around doing all that just to play some mp3's or print a letter? thats why windows wins.

Re:patents, usability (4, Insightful)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231031)

who wants to fuck around doing all that just to play some mp3's or print a letter?

Someone does. If I'm bored, I do. And only one person has to fuck around, come up with a fix, submit it upstream and get it merged for everyone else to have their problem solved.

It's very liberating to be able to fix your own problems instead of being at the mercy of a vendor who doesn't care.

Re:patents, usability (1, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231189)

it's rediculous to suggest such a practise will be accepted by the masses, thats my point. until basic basic shit like this works without a problem, pushing the linux desktop is a wasted effort.

Re:patents, usability (4, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231621)

it's rediculous to suggest such a practise will be accepted by the masses, thats my point.

Your point draws exactly the opposite conclusion to that of the GP, who says:

And only one person has to fuck around, come up with a fix, submit it upstream and get it merged for everyone else to have their problem solved.

[emphasis mine]

FOSS has worked this way from day 1. And it continues not only to work, but to prove itself superior in many ways to proprietary software approaches. It particularly excels at dealing with software quality. In FOSS, code quality is one of the core metrics[*] of the value of a project, whereas security, debugging and testing are dealt with as externalities (i.e. cost centres to be minimised) by many proprietary software makers. Drivers are a perfect place to make significant investments in FOSS, because then hardware vendors won't be stuck owning the entire problem, and innovative uses of their products will allow them to sell into niches that they never could have afforded before.

----
[*] This is not to say that all FOSS software is quality software. Just like everything else in the world, 95% of it is crap. But the best FOSS software is very high quality indeed in terms of stability, resource usage and suitability to the task.
----

Is Linux ready for the desktop? In managed environments, the answer is an emphatic yes. Ease of administration is many times greater under Linux than under the other offerings, and this means that in-house support and developers can focus on making things better rather than simply fighting fires. A number of organisations have discovered this, and more will do so in the months and years to come. I think time will show that document formats are not nearly the bugbear that people currently think them to be.

Is Linux ready for the desktop at home? It's ready in potentio, but it will take time for vendors to work out how to package it on new machines. This will be a tough slog, not for technical reasons, but because Microsoft will do its very best to ensure that they have every incentive not to move from a Windows-only sales model. Having open source drivers provides one more bit of leverage against this inertia.

Re:patents, usability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232189)

Yes, but of course in some cases this one person doesn't exist and rejecting useful contributions has also been the way FOSS has worked "from day 1".

Re:patents, usability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19231631)

You make a common mistake. Linux is NOT Windows [oneandoneis2.org] !

Re:patents, usability (4, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232595)

until basic basic shit like this works without a problem, pushing the linux desktop is a wasted effort.

This stuff nearly all works without a problem on my Linux desktop -- Suse, which is quite a nice distro regardless of what you think of their parent Novell. I've certainly had a hell of a lot fewer problems with plugging and playing stuff into a Linux box than with Windows (got driver disks for that? that support your particular version? and don't require you to download something from Microsoft's web site that ends up requiring you to register for Windows Genuine Advantage?). By that measure, Windows isn't ready for the desktop.

Re:patents, usability (3, Insightful)

enos (627034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232173)

The thing is, things don't stay fixed. The same old problems constantly get revisited when someone looks at something semi-widely accepted and decides the code is too ugly and makes a rewrite that doesn't add anything from the user's point of view but forces them to relearn another system.

It's one thing to go through several days of Googling and HOWTOs when setting up a new OS for the first time. It's another to do that every single time there's a new version out because they decided to change/rewrite so many things for just some trivial improvements.

Re:patents, usability (2, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232519)

The thing is, things don't stay fixed. The same old problems constantly get revisited when someone looks at something semi-widely accepted and decides the code is too ugly and makes a rewrite that doesn't add anything from the user's point of view but forces them to relearn another system.

Hmm, that reminds me of a sad story.

http://www.smcc.demon.nl/webcam/ [demon.nl]

Re:patents, usability (1)

ssintercept (843305) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232283)

It's very liberating to be able to fix your own problems instead of being at the mercy of a vendor who doesn't care.

the best comment on slashdot in over a year.
however Greg Kroah-Hartman gets greater compatability with hardware (legally) the better.

Re:patents, usability (1, Troll)

pilot1 (610480) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231099)

I don't know.. maybe people who value their freedom?

Re:patents, usability (0, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231227)

RMS is that you? or are you just another zealot who believes not having the gpl on my mp3 player will steal my babies and put me in jail?

Re:patents, usability (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231287)

Seriously, arguing against software freedom in 2007 is just absurd. We've all had this discussion already. I'm sorry you missed 1998, but we're really not interested in reliving it. Go read The Cathedral And The Bazaar and all the other stuff written back then.

Re:patents, usability (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232219)

There's a difference between having a discussion and having a consensus conclusion. If you were really so sure that FOSS was destiny, you wouldn't have bothered to post at all. The fact is that you're still trying to convince people in 2007, you're just using a very poor argument to do it.

Re:patents, usability (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232227)

Oh, we're still trying to convince people.. unfortunately we have explain why "anyone" would be interested in working on Open Source to these people. They make the same arguments from 10+ years ago and when we say "go read X" they refuse. Or, alternatively, we say "well obviously they are, otherwise we wouldn't have all the Open Source software we have now" and they start denying that we have any software.. or just ignore us.

Re:patents, usability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232483)

I'm not going to even bother to post, and I am a million people.

Re:patents, usability (0, Flamebait)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231325)

Hmm, I have to fuck around for quite a while to get printing to work in Windows (gotta download bloated, crappy drivers that replace all the native interfaces), or to get codec support (codec? what the fuck is a codec? this is a fucking movie/song! /Joe Sixpack). Nice troll.

Re:patents, usability (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231407)

I wasn't able to get a printer working under Windows XP 64 bit Edition for about 9 months. Only last week did I figure out how to force windows not to try to use the drivers from the print server (which is 32 bit XP) and to stop it from overwriting the 64 bit drivers with the 32 bit ones. I guarentee it is because the date-time stamps on the drivers were out of wack.. in 3 weeks time they'll probably magically stop working again.

Re:patents, usability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19230941)

The Gaim (now Pidgin) developers said it best... "Patches welcome!"

Re:patents, usability (3, Interesting)

arodland (127775) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231145)

Maybe I'm a bit simple but I don't see where CUPS even has "usability" to complain about. You install it (if, oddly, it isn't already), you tell it what and where your printer are (preferably using the KDE print config thing because it's amazingly simple, but the CUPS web jigger isn't bad either), and then from then on you print, and you forget that CUPS exists. Where's the hangup?

Re:patents, usability (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231195)

I think he's refering to gnome-cups-manager.. which is pretty weak in some parts at the moment. I believe there are some improvements in the GNOME CVS tree that have yet to filter down.

Re:patents, usability (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19231441)

CUPS was written long before USB was a twinkle in Intel's eye and behaves like it. I had a Linux box that I used as a print server via CUPS. One printer was LPT, one was USB. The LPT, man, I could turn it off, turn it on, unplug it, send it into the next timezone and bring it back, no problems. If my server went to sleep, still no problems. The USB printer? I had to write a fucking hotplug script for it that removed it from CUPS every time it was disconnected (either unplugged or turned off) and then reinstalled it when it was connected. 4 times out of 10 CUPS freaked out and I had to log into my print server via SSH and dink around at the shell just to get it to work.

Last I heard, the CUPS developers say that's not a bug, that's a feature, but it'll be fixed in the next major release of CUPS due out 2 weeks after Duke Nukem Forever...

Re:patents, usability (2, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231569)

Maybe I'm a bit simple but I don't see where CUPS even has "usability" to complain about.[...] Where's the hangup?
Problems I've had:
  1. the problem I described in my original post
  2. Upgrading ubuntu to a new version made cups stop working.
  3. The web interface says administrative functions are disabled. Because of that, I tried editing the config file to accomplish what I wanted. I also downloaded drivers directly from Brother, because that was what people on the ubuntu wiki suggested, but that actually didn't work because of poor packaging. Eventually I figured out that the web interface actually did work, and started using that instead.
  4. After I tell the web interface my printer is a Brother, it lists a huge number of drivers, including a very large number for my printer. I initially picked the wrong one, and it sort of worked, but sort of didn't. Later I noticed that one of them was marked "foomatic, recommended." Well, OK, maybe I should have noticed that that one said "recommended," but I had no idea what "foomatic" was, and didn't know if I wanted foomatic or not.
  5. Every time I try to print more than 5-10 pages from a GNOME app, the printer freezes. (This never happens with lpr printing from the command line.) When this happens, clearing and restarting the queue doesn't help. Rebooting doesn't help. The only thing that unfreezes CUPS is to delete the printer in the web interface, and then reinstall it.

Re:patents, usability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232229)

I wouldn't blame CUPS. OS X uses CUPS for printing (as the back end - Apple's GUI interfaces to CUPS), and OS X printing is the easiest, most trouble-free I've ever used (and I've used printing under Linux, Windows, Solaris, and OS X). This is with a USB printer, which I can plug and unplug at will... even whilst a print job is being spooled!

Mad Propz to van Doorn, Wu and Realtek (3, Informative)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230743)

This post brought to you by these two patches, against 2.6.22-rc2:
http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.linux.kernel.wireles s.general/2368 [gmane.org]
http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.linux.kernel.wireles s.general/2369 [gmane.org]
The little WG11v2 [netgear.com] is a happy interface. Figure I'll need to stockpile a couple them critters.
Now, how is it that I'm off the hook for managing any of that bad, bad firmware with this wee beastie?
Ivo or Michael, though I'm nowhere near as cool as you dudes, I'll buy you a beverage if I see you in Ottawa next month.
Dunno if GKH's driver program actually helped in this matter, but the general trend in hardware is positive, and I feel Realtek and Netgear deserve a free shill.
Best,
Chris

Re:Mad Propz to van Doorn, Wu and Realtek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19231111)

I feel Realtek and Netgear deserve a free shill.

Realtek is on the good list.

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=213726&cid=173 74372 [slashdot.org]

Re:Mad Propz to van Doorn, Wu and Realtek (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19231867)

It's too bad that Netgear does not specify on their web site the chipset that is used for that hardware. One thing that drives me insane about wireless adapters is that there is usually no indication on the packaging or website what chipset is used because the hardware manufacturers don't necessarily use the same chipset for a given model. One must dig very deep to find out what chipset goes with a given hardware revision of a model and pray to FSM that the hardware revision is printed on the packaging. Otherwise, there is no guarantee what chip will be in the thing and one only finds out after it gets unpacked. Furthermore, it would be nice if Linux were mentioned on Netgear's list of supported operating systems to give a little more assurance to new Linux users who are actively trying to find supported hardware but just don't know where to look. Perhaps these details will be sorted out in the future.

Fishing for Drivers (1, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230775)

How about a driver for this ATI All-In-Wonder 3D Rage II +DVD PCI card I can't find drivers for?

Re:Fishing for Drivers (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231253)

doc you may want pipe the output of lspci to a file and see what chips it has (your driver may be included in X.org 6.9/7.0) for example
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc Radeon RV200 QW [Radeon 7500]
is my card and i think that there is a couple rage drivers in the gatos project

Re:Fishing for Drivers (1)

WeblionX (675030) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231475)

Oh, I have one of those. It'd be great to get VIVO working on it.

Discontinued projects (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231619)

Yeah. The GATOS [sourceforge.net] project would have worked with this, however it seems to be discontinued for modern kernels. Even if it weren't, the documentation seems pretty horrid, so I couldn't tell either way.

vaporware is hype (1, Interesting)

phrostie (121428) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230789)

this is productive

Criticism from the peanut gallery (3, Funny)

tyler_larson (558763) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230885)

FTA:

While one developer of a competing open source operating system has criticized the NDA approach...
While no mention was made of the identity of the criticizing developer, 10:1 says that the "competing" operating system has the letters *BS* right there in the name.

Re:Criticism from the peanut gallery (0, Redundant)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231019)

i bet my millions that it's THEO, the iron fisted overlord of openbsd

Re:Criticism from the peanut gallery (1, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231119)

If only there was a casino that would cover this kind of action.. you could make a lot of money betting on things that happened 5 months ago.

Re:Criticism from the peanut gallery (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231307)

It is only linux that considers NDAs acceptable for open source. They say they espouse Openess of information, but actively seek NDAs that prevent it. That makes no sense.
A NDA would be acceptable if it allows you to release fully commented code, i.e. sufficient for anyone to rewrite the driver for any OS or in any language.
All products should have their specs as html on public servers.

BURN all NDAs. Now.

(I wonder who has burnallndas.com? No-one? Wow. Makes me want to take a trip to my nearest registrar!)

Re:Criticism from the peanut gallery (3, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231455)

The purpose of the OEM getting the driver developer to sign an NDA is so they can just give the developer all their documentation, including stuff they would prefer their competitors never see. If they don't do this, they have to get someone to sit there and go through everything that is being released and censor it. You can't just expect a company to hand over their product secrets so you can write a driver without any assurance that you're not going to immediately sell their documentation to their competitors.

A[n] NDA would be acceptable if it allows you to release fully commented code, i.e. sufficient for anyone to rewrite the driver for any OS or in any language.
And that's exactly what the Software Freedom Law Centre will be requiring from OEMs.. poorly commented code doesn't live long in the kernel tree.

Why... (0, Troll)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230913)

one driver is already in the kernel,

Why are drivers cluttering up the kernel? Doesn't that mean that the kernel is ever-increasing in size and complexity as more drivers are added to the kernel? Two things that a reliable kernel should avoid?

Re:Why... (5, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230965)

1. They're loadable modules.
2. You should maybe leave the kernel development to the kernel developers.

Re:Why... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231103)

Maybe you should try to understand that some people ask questions in an attempt to learn, and not to troll.

Re:Why... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231219)

Maybe you should try some humility instead of phrasing your question like you're a know-it-all.

Re:Why... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231247)

The question mark at the end of the sentence indicates humility. I admit that I do not know, therefore I ask. Thus is the reason for the question mark.

Re:Why... (2, Informative)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231341)

Then you need to learn how to ask questions better.

Re:Why... (2, Informative)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231369)

I believe it's because you mentioned that they are "Two things that a reliable kernel should avoid?" That makes you sound like you know better, so that's the troll-like bit. Also, everyone on /. is assumed to know everything about everything when posting unless said otherwise...

Re:Why... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231485)

I believe it's because you mentioned that they are "Two things that a reliable kernel should avoid?"

I think that ever increasing size and complexity are things that a reliable kernel should avoid. What is wrong with that?

Re:Why... (2, Informative)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231651)

If you had said "I think" or "I thought", you wouldn't have sounded like a "knows-better-than-you" kind of person. Linguistics and all that.

Re:Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232335)

You are again trying to be a smartass

Re:Why... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232367)

Nothing really - you've just missed that the drivers are the kernel - that is where they belong. An operating system is there to let the applications talk to the hardware after all. With linux it has been possible for a long time to have them in seperate files (a modular kernel) as distinct from one big file (a monolithic kernel), which is how a linux distribution can install on a wide range of hardware and how you can often upgrade stuff just by moving the hard drive into a newer box. Compiling in support for everything is possible if hardware is detected and modules loaded when required - so long as enough is there in the first file to be able to mount the first filesystem and load in the drivers for the rest of the hardware.

With MS Windows drivers still run in kernel space but are often produced outside of the control of Microsoft.

Re:Why... (4, Insightful)

Darby (84953) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231863)

Seriously, I don't know crap about kernel development, but:
1) I knew the answer to your question since the first time I even tried to compile a kernel. By "compile a kernel", I mean run make menuconfig, flip through idiot proof menus and say yes when it tells me to.
2) You proposed a bunch of dumb ideas implying that the people who actually do know how to develop one are idiots.
3) asking questions in a dick way and then appending a question mark in no way indicates humility, or even politeness.

Seriously, asking dumb questions is fine, but *you* need to actively treat them as dumb questions if you want them to be treated as legitimate questions in a problem space in which you're ignorant. Don't treat the people you want answers from as dumb preemptively.

Re:Why... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232625)

People are only getting defensive because you're asking them difficult questions.

Inside the kernel, the software interfaces are subject to change without notice.

http://lxr.linux.no/source/Documentation/stable_ap i_nonsense.txt [linux.no]

So the only approved way to get support for a driver is to GPL the code and get it included there. Then, if one of the kernel maintainers feels like doing some refactoring it's their responsibility to make sure your code builds after the change is made.

Now the next question is who's responsible for running the unit test to make sure the code is really OK after the kernel was refactored. Is it the guy that wrote the code originally, has hardware samples and knows how to run the test, or the kernel maintainer who knows about the change but doesn't have hardware or the time/knowledge to test it?

And the answer is I don't know.

Your sig (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231457)

BTW, you may wish to go easy on john. On the Saturn, they lost a few of the engines on the way up. Fortunately, they did not blow, but plain and simple, they did fail. As you pointed, Spacex and Armadillo is looking to place a large number of identical engines along the line of parallel server. But they are not the first. In addition to USA, the Russian have been and still do. [wikipedia.org] As long as the engine is well developed, this makes sense. In fact, I think that both Amadillo And spacex are doing it right.

Re:Your sig (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231497)

I think I did go easy on him :)

It's not really Carmack who is the one on the pipe, it's the people who are suggesting that you could make 100x100 module first stages to support 25x25 module second stages. But still, the reason why that is insanity (unobtainium would be needed to hold the modules together) is also a good reason why 5x5 or 8x8 configurations are a bit loopy.

But hey, I don't mind.. Armadillo is a fun effort to watch.

Re:Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232463)

Only, there would be a perfectly reasonable alternative of having a stable API (come on, by now the kernel devs should have enough experience with the domain + maturity to come up with a good, modular, stable API).

A driver written to such an API wouldn't necessarily be Linux-specific (i.e., could be another license than GPL), would be more portable across different operating systems, it could be loaded into kernel-space (for efficiency), or loaded into user-space (for safety + security, also interesting for binary drivers, which EXIST, and have to, because of patent and IP issues, like it or not). Yes, you could have loaders to load one module in different places. Not exactly outlandish, such an idea, IMHO.

Oh, and any new kernel download would not HAVE to contain ever more drivers for obscure devices. Of course a distro like Ubuntu would care to carry at least the most widespread devices, with the rest maybe available as an automatic on-demand download.

Ulrich

Modules (3, Informative)

Tharkban (877186) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231005)

Modules. Pretty much all drivers are modules and not compiled directly into the kernel. They don't increase the kernel size unless you load them. Although they do increase the kernel source size (in their own files generally) so it is taking a little longer to compile all kernel modules, but that's a price I'm willing to pay for things just working.

Re:Modules (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231079)

OK, that makes sense. Thanks for the rational answer.

Re:Modules (0, Flamebait)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231097)

Next time, you might want to try a rational question.

Try researching before making outlandish statements.

Outlandish statements (2, Funny)

The Monster (227884) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232035)

Try researching before making outlandish statements
Welcome to Slashdot. If there weren't any outlandish statements, there'd only be a couple of stories a day on the front page.

Re:Why... (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231225)

Yes and no. For one, they can be dynamically loaded as kernel modules. Or you can custom compile your kernel without any dynamic loading, to have just the drivers you need. As long as driver foo isn't touching many systems, it doesn't drive up complexity to have driver bar that touches the same number of systems.

Re:Why... (2, Interesting)

Chirs (87576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232325)

If you compile your own kernel you can choose to either leave out the functionality entirely, build it as a runtime-loadable module, or build it into the kernel.

So the only permanent size increase is in the kernel source code. Assuming that the driver is part of a class of similar devices, there is basically no complexity increase as the driver will bind into the standard API for that class of devices.

So generally there is very little downside to adding new drivers to the tree.

And udev? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19230917)

I think Greg should be fixing that POS of udev instead of throwing marketing ads, and assuming other responsibilities that will result in yet-again broken results.

Can't copy GPL code? (2, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230925)

From TFA:

While one developer of a competing open source operating system has criticized the NDA approach, developers are free under the GPL to use the Linux driver as the documentation for a new one as long as they don't copy the actual code. "The drivers are generally better written than the specs," Kroah-Hartman says.

What? If the driver code is GPL, why can't I copy it?

I suspect he means "copy" as in "make a derived work" that would have chunks of code taken from the original. But still, this is what GPL is about ... being able to take an existing source and make a derived work from it (that presumably would be better), and redistribute that derived work also under GPL (so someone else can derive from that later on ... and on ... and on).

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (2, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230967)

What? If the driver code is GPL, why can't I copy it?
Presumably, the people he is talking about want to release code in under a GPL-incompatible license. So they can't just copy the code.

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231061)

Yes, you are absolutely right. This statement:

While one developer of a competing open source operating system has criticized the NDA approach, developers are free under the GPL to use the Linux driver as the documentation for a new one as long as they don't copy the actual code.
in attempt to be diplomatic has just added confusion. Allow me to clarify:

      one developer = Theo de Raadt.
      competing open source operating system = OpenBSD
      criticized = profanity

So to rewrite the sentence so it actually make sense:

While Theo de Raadt, has slung profanities at the NDA approach, he is free to write a driver for OpenBSD if he wants by using the Linux driver as documentation, but he best not copy any of the code from the Linux driver if he wants to avoid having to GPL it (which he almost certainly does).

Which makes this comment:

"The drivers are generally better written than the specs," Kroah-Hartman says.
make a lot more sense. But what the hell, I'll translate that too:

Theo, stop moaning about specs.. these companies are not going to give us blueprints to the damn hardware.. and whatever they do give us is going to be confidential. That's the reality. Deal with it. If you refuse to enter into a non-disclosure agreement with these companies then don't complain when the only documentation you have is a Linux kernel driver. The specs aint that great anyway.

Or, at least, that's what I read.

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231409)

Thanks for updating the facts on this. I didn't know Theo was the party involved. Now that makes sense. And of course he doesn't want OpenBSD to end up being GPL. Microsoft might have the same issue if they didn't already have their own means to get the technical details :-)

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (3, Insightful)

Darby (84953) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232125)

didn't know Theo was the party involved.

Heck, the OP might not "know" that (maybe he does) but I barely even noticed that I read the summary more or less how he translated it ;-)

That's very relevant to why, while I use Linux for my web, file and database servers, when it comes to my firewalls it's OpenBSD. *Every* *fucking* *time*.

Yes, Theo can be abrasive. Yes, he's an absolutist on a lot of topics. Absolutely yes, that's the type of person I'll trust for the security of my network and my business. I'll install a binary blob driver for my desktop so I can run games, but security is not a game.

Given that the primary focus of his distribution is security, he's 100% absolutely *right* to refuse to allow binaries which he and his team can not audit to the extent that they do every other part of their releases.

So, they might be behind on support for some hardware, but when it's done, your confidence in its security is rightfully higher.

So, it's not just that he doesn't want it GPL. He doesn't trust people whose goal isn't security to write his code for him. He sure as shit isn't going to put his reputation and the security of the people who trust his OS in large part because of that reputation in the hands of some third party. So, maybe a lot of people think he has a reputation as a dick, but let's see them go up against him purely in a security context. They've had issues, but vulnerability for vulnerability he wins against damn near anything else. In the context of anything a normal person could get ahold of, I don't think anything else is even in the same league as OpenBSD. Not Linux, sure as hell not Windows.

Security and useability are in an inverse relationship. Some people are willing to adjust their balance on that scale and that's fine. A lot of good things can come out of that. It is absolutely a great thing that there is somebody out there who refuses to shift it away from security too.

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (2, Insightful)

huiac (912723) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232635)

So, from what you say:

You're fine with firmware that's soldered onto the board as a non-FRU mask-programmed ROM, but if it's loaded as a vendor-supplied blob that can (at least in principle) be updated as issues are identified, that's bad?

Interesting tradeoff...

John.

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (2, Interesting)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231421)

Only the American companies who confuse being hardware manufacturers with being software developers force these NDAs which result in drivers which are basically decompiled blobs. Projects like OpenBSD (and Linux even) have had better experience with Asian companies for example on getting documentation regarding hardware. Blueprints to the hardware are not needed to write a driver; just the op codes and messages you can send to the hardware to control it. For example, CPU architectures are quite documented when it comes to their op codes, so therefore we are able to have open source compilers (e.g., GCC). On the other hand, the op codes for GPUs in NVidia and ATI hardware, are kept completely secret for most likely bullshit reasons (or because they're already infringing on the other company's patents and don't want anyone to know), so therefore we're stuck with blobs or intensive reverse engineering processes that can take over a year to finish.

I think Theo has a better opinion on Free Software than any of the Linux kernel developers do. Now if GNU had actually written a kernel themselves rather than adopted Linux back in the early 90's, we wouldn't have this NDA/blob problem due to RMS. I don't know how far the "GNU desktop" would have come by now, so I don't know how much success they would have in getting hardware companies to provide documentation on how to use the damn hardware.

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232473)

Now if GNU had actually written a kernel themselves rather than adopted Linux back in the early 90's

Hang on. Gnu has the hurd - and until the late 1990's RMS was joyfully saying "linux, never heard of it. ha ha" in repeated interviews. I suppose it was funny to some at the time and nobody really thought he had never heard of it paticularly since it kept coming up in interviews. The LiGnuX renaming suggestion afterwards that later turned into the gnu/linux renaming suggestion could never be taken as a joke - linux is not the kernel for gnu and gnu did not adopt linux. They are different projects as some discord in gcc development showed.

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232221)

I guess it boils down to "How complete can a driver be documented and still comply with an NDA?". I mean, if the code is full of setting magic memory addresses to magic values then it's not really open source because you can't make a clue of it without NDA'd docs. On the other hand, if the bit registers and opcodes are all clearly laid out and documented in the source, isn't that exactly what's covered by the NDA? Software developers don't need any circuit layouts in the first place, they just need the interface.

Re:Can't copy GPL code? (3, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232305)

The point of the NDA is so that the OEM can just hand over all their documentation without having to sit down and censor it all so they're not handing over anything that might give their competitors an advantage. They clear the developer to disclose as much information as needed to make a device driver that is well documented and works. They don't clear the developer to turn over the secret algorithms that might be used in the hardware or the production methods that may be of interest to the OEM's competitors.. but they might give that stuff to the developer because it was in the same filing cabinet.

If the driver isn't well written, commented and documented, it will not be accepted into the tree. The NDAs are being drafted by the Software Freedom Law Centre.. you don't think they're going to get the best possible deal?

Otherwise, what would you prefer? Would you prefer the OEM hired a developer to make a binary-only driver? Which they'll stop supporting as soon as it is economically justifiable? Would you prefer they just don't release any drivers for Linux? Don't say you would prefer if they just sat down and wrote perfect developer documentation cause there's no such thing.

Software developers don't need any circuit layouts in the first place, they just need the interface.
Sometimes you do.. sometimes "the interface" just isn't defined and you need to sit there with an osciloscope to figure out what the hell this piece of hardware is doing.. and knowing what line is what kinda helps.

Translation (-1, Troll)

cperciva (102828) | more than 7 years ago | (#19230969)

Greg K-H ... admits that the January offer was a bit of "marketing hype"

Translation from marketing-speak to English: "Greg K-H was lying, knew that he was lying, doesn't feel bad about it, and will do it again".

This doesn't help the reputation of open source software at all.

Re:Translation (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231049)

Translation from marketing-speak to English: "Greg K-H was lying, knew that he was lying, doesn't feel bad about it, and will do it again".
wrong, wrong, right, right
You're only half wrong [slashdot.org] .

Re:Translation (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231101)

Well if nothing else it did accomplish something.
Not sure how anyone can exactly complain about that.

1 or 2 new drivers is better than the no drivers.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19231139)

This doesn't help the reputation of open source software at all.

Haven't you BSD trolls got something better to do, like stealing more GPL code?

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231171)

Uhhh.. no he wasn't. He wasn't lying at all.

Why would you feel the need to post a "translation" when you have no idea what you are talking about?

The fact that people are willing to write Open Source software without charging a fee for their services is hardly a new concept, but Greg did the smart thing of treating it like it is and, in doing so, attracted the attention of people who thought that it wasn't the case.

This was one of the biggest problems with the Free Software movement before Open Source came along.. no-one talked about the benefits that businesses could get from the community. For a while, no-one talked about anything else, and then it went quiet again. RMS will tell you that we need to talk about freedom. I happen to agree, but we also need to talk about the practical advantages of open software development too.

Re:Translation (1)

spikeb (966663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231209)

oh shut up

Re:Translation (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231265)

How exactly was he lying? They said that they would code drivers for free for companies that released their specs, and they did. The "marketing hype" was that they were making a big deal and advertising for something that they already did, and would have done anyway

Goodbye Yellowbrick Road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19232249)

Translation from marketing-speak to English: "Greg K-H was lying, knew that he was lying, doesn't feel bad about it, and will do it again".

This doesn't help the reputation of open source software at all.


Open Source tried to change the world and become the enemy. Microsoft will just step into the gap they leave behind. After all, Microsoft is accountable to the law, shareholders, and paying cutomers. Some stray Linux mouth just proves that open source are run by a bunch of chancers. Stallman is heading for the extreme loony tunes end of reality and Slashdot is a shrinking force online. Bye, bye GPL. It's been nice knowing you.

Hats off, people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19231365)

These are people the Linux community must be proud of. They are helping hardware manufacturers to consider Linux by showing them why open source code helps actually to sell hardware. Thank you guys, and keep up the good work!

Driver Groups (2, Insightful)

NaNO2x (856759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19231821)

I wonder if support could get out to little groups who are trying hard. I personally have a webcam with no driver and the group trying to develop one just doesn't seem to be there enough. If someone is offering this support then it would be nice if he found a group like this and helped out. It would be nice to have a website that brings together all drivers that are being worked on and make them easy to find for someone who really wants to help. Here is the driver I was talking about by the way: http://www.actiongames.co.uk/m560x/ [actiongames.co.uk]

Re:Driver Groups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19231991)

This is the reason Microsoft is dominant. I can't believe it. Example: Years ago I installed Linux - Red Hat and found that I couldn't get X working. Solution, get a video card that worked.

If your webcam isn't supported under Linux, stop whining, spend some of the money you saved by not buying Windows, and buy a supported webcam. It can't be that hard, Slashdot had an article about the guy that wrote xhundred drivers.

Cash talks in this marketplace, so vendors make sure they will sell their cards and make money by writing drivers for Windows.

Sure, I'd like to have everything supported on every free O/S, but get real.

Re:Driver Groups (1)

NaNO2x (856759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232583)

Actually, I am 100% not whining, I do have another webcam but that wasn't my point of this post. I realize Linux's shortcomings but that doesn't mean I need to get pissed about them, I try and help fix them personally. I just wanted to post an example and an idea for making things easier.

Re:Driver Groups (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19232537)

Is your webcam in this list [mxhaard.free.fr] .. if not, maybe you could contact that guy.

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