Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Full speed ahead for Linux drivers

Linux needs drivers more than Mars will ever need women. So, noted Linux kernel and Novell developer Greg Kroah-Hartman will be devoting all his time to helping create Linux drivers.

It's never been a secret that Linux needs more hardware drivers, since vendors all too seldom offer Linux drivers for their equipment and often don't allow access to the API information needed to create drivers. So, in an effort to kick-start Linux drivers, in January 2007, Kroah-Hartman offered "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."

At first, people were inclined to think that no one would take Kroah-Hartman up on his offer. They were wrong.

In a few weeks, the project was rocketing along. "The initial response to this was amazing," Kroah-Hartman said. "A measurable number of new Linux drivers will be created thanks to this program."

One reason why this happened was that Kroah-Hartman and his crew of volunteer developers were willing to sign NDAs (nondisclosure agreements). Kroah-Hartman also explained that the NDAs are "usually signed either to keep information about the device private until it is announced at a specific date, or to just keep the actual specification documents from being released to the public directly. All code created by this NDA program is to be released under the GPL for inclusion in the main kernel tree, nothing will be obfuscated at all."

In addition to these efforts, both the Linux Foundation and the Free Software Foundation have been reaching out to the IHVs (independent hardware vendors) for greater Linux support. These efforts have lead to some success. Intel has started up its LessWatts project to make Linux greener. In addition, Advanced Micro Devices announced it would provide open-source data and a development package to support the ATI RadeonHD 2000 series and ATI Radeon X1000 series of graphics processing units on Linux desktops.

It wasn't just the vendors that wanted Linux drivers. As Kroah-Hartman explained in his blog, "Way back in January, I announced a program to write Linux drivers for companies for free. When I did that, I never expected the response to be as large as it was.

"It turns out that there were two large groups of people who responded to the announcement, companies wanting drivers, and developers wanting to help out," Kroah-Hartman said.

As of this September, "It turns out that over 100 different developers offered up their services. Clearly this was a huge untapped group of talented people who wanted to help out." And, "the number of companies expressing interest in this has exceeded all of my wildest expectations. Already this announcement has caused a number of drivers to end up in the main Linux kernel source tree, with more in the pipeline."

Via (linux-watch.)

No comments: