Linux Condemns Binary Drivers

Posted Tuesday, June 24, 2008 3:14 PM by Nathan Zaugg

linux Recently, some Linux developers have condemned the practice of shipping drivers without the source in an open petition.  The reasoning for such a petition is that "any closed-source Linux kernel module or driver to be harmful and undesirable. We have repeatedly found them to be detrimental to Linux users, businesses and the greater Linux ecosystem."

This is the same kinds of growing pains that Microsoft had in the early days of Windows, esp Windows 95.  The Windows OS seemed to be riddled with bugs but the problem was (and always had been) the device drivers and graphics cards are the usual culprit.  However, stating simply and closed source drivers are "harmful and undesirable" is a lot like saying that the only to prevent accidents is to not allow anyone to leave their homes.  Very few device drivers for windows are open source and there has been tremendous improvement in stability over the past few years.  Microsoft has made enormous efforts to train device driver programmers for other companies and has released an extensive DDK and debugging tools.  Most recently they even made it so some drivers don't even have to operate in the kernel space but can exist in the user space.  This will greatly increase stability of the Operating System by protecting the sensitive kernel.  A similar concept could be adopted by the Linux Kernel.

Open source drivers may be a good solution for Linux but this petition makes it sound like it is the only solution for the longevity of Linux. There is a down-side to open access to source code including uncontrolled visioning which can cause worse problems.


--Nathan Zaugg


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