Linux Hackers Offer to Create Device Drivers for Free

Ask Linux users what they find most annoying about Linux, and many will complain about device drivers. While the vast majority of PC components and peripherals work with Linux, some don't work at all, and others are marginal. A leading Linux kernel developer has come up with a solution. In a recent blog and e-mail posting, kernel hacker Greg Kroah-Hartman wrote, "The Linux kernel community is offering all companies free Linux driver development. No longer do you have to suffer through all of the different examples in the Linux Device Driver Kit, or pick through the thousands of example drivers in the Linux kernel source tree trying to determine which one is the closest to what you need to do." That's a significant point. While many hardware vendors don't want to open up their devices' APIs (application programming interfaces) and ABIs (application binary interfaces) to the open-source community, it's often not because they have any real secret ingredient.

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Linux needs a LDM
I think this week offer won't work better than before. I understand HW companies' concern about having to invent and tune all the binary information their device will have to exchange with the PC, then to lend all this work to a tier, who may forward it to their concurrent (an NDA is a weak barrier for a *hacker*).

Remember when W95 came, with, right on the CD, modern 32-bit virtual drivers already written for 95% of the devices on the market that year, and with its WDM (Windows Driver Model), making easier for HW manufacturers to write more drivers for newer devices. Sure a huge improvement, yet still not enough as we know; and Linux remains still far behind that; offerring to write drivers is a good step, but not enough - and IMO won't work anyway.

What Linux needs first is an LDM (Linux Driver Model), carefully thought and designed with hard work and hard drive from an abundant team of devoted guys, then widely hyped so everyone knows it exists (or it remains useless); this way, HW makers can write just one driver for each device, without bothering about 30 distros, 2 CPU families, etc.

Versailles, Sat 3 Feb 2007 01:21:40 +0100

Why is windows so buggy? The amount of hardware it is coded for.

Why is Apple more reliable? Only specific hardware coded for so easier to locate and fix bugs.

Why is Linux lagging behind a bit? Lack of coded drivers.

So what is the best distro of Linux so far? I want to play games btw.

I really feel this is Linux's year. Thanks to the push to create powerful user friendly distro's such as Ubuntu, it has made Linux far more accessible and usable for the average joe.

I think nailing down hardware support is what they need to really crack down on so hopefully this will help make Linux even better.

well my scanner works with linux, sadly my pc don't, when i try to install linux i get kernel panic =( acpi=off installs suse then kernel panic on boot

Linux already has great hardware compatibility. Both AMD and Intel processors worked for me, and other devices like tv cards, printers, usb and ps2 mouse, etc.. also worked for me.
What type of devices are they discussing?
They said "some don't work at all" in the article. Someone care to explain?

For some companies the support cost involved in having their devices running on Linux.
Imagine having to provide support for a new OS. How much would that be, compared to
the sales this would generate.

Ummm... Do you realize what this article is about?

It isn't asking companies to write and support Linux drivers, at all.

It is the Linux kernel developers saying "we will write your drivers for you". The companies won't need to offer any more support than they do now (which is, well... nada).

The Linux kernel people will write in the drivers, so they are the ones taking on support for making it work as kernels update, or fixing bugs.

No corporate "support" is needed.

If I where a hardware developer, I'm not sure I would want to give out all the information on how to communicate with the device to an untrusted third part.

contracts and and that doesn't help **** when you are still the opwer and the one who ar eutlimately responsible for yoru product, and it's not like you can trust someone elses servers and developers the way you can your own, and theft of these thigns will very quickly lead to pirate developement of hacked driers andf all kinds of things.

so I doubt many of the bigger more serius ones will pick up this offer. too many risks and such

That doesn't seem a very real-world perspective to me. You can't trust a guy who is offering to do a job for you (and for their benefit as well, obviously) for free, but you can trust someone you happen to pay to do it?

Companies with any sense to not implicitly trust their employees any more than they would a hacker off the street. That's why NDAs already exist for those employees: if someone leaks any of the trade secrets, they get sued into penury and whoever received the info is heavily sanctioned against using it.

The exact same terms of employment would be applicable to these jobbing hackers, just with the more conventional employer-employee terms (like obviously pay and, I imagine, aggressive productivity targets) left out.

Now of course another term of contract often forced on devs is the undertaking not to defect to a competing company. I wonder how well the unpaid hackers would take to that: "After you've done your thing on our driver, you can't go and do it for companies X, Y or Z..." That bit sounds like a turn-off for many, much moreso than the NDA.

Let's also put things into a bit of perspective. This "hacker" (as the article calls him) is a long-standing Linux Kernel Developer, not some Joe Shmoe off the street that writes code every other Sunday with a prime number date.

HawkMan said,
so I doubt many of the bigger more serius ones will pick up this offer. too many risks and such

??? This doesn't particularly apply to "bigger more serius" (sic) hardware manufacturers. Most of these already have in-house Linux device driver development. This applies to organizations that don't already have the resources. Plus, NDA's apply to volunteer labor just like they do for paid vendors. No difference.

david13lt said,
Linux is for free... :)


I'm pretty sure he was just being ironic...

/edit - beaten to the punch.

I hope the hardware companies get some sense and accept it. This could do a lot of good in the coming years for Linux.

Well, the kernel developer who is offering this has made arrangements for legal discussions with the OSDL and TLF legal departments to write up NDAs where the company may want a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

why would it be? It's about the manufacturers themselves lending a small hand and giving permission to do the work for them, for free.

Kushan said,
why would it be? It's about the manufacturers themselves lending a small hand and giving permission to do the work for them, for free.

The Linux kernel community is offering all companies free Linux driver development.

hehe :redface: didn't read that...thanks for clearing it up