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Re: Possibly offtopic : Binary only driver

On Sun, 2004-11-21 at 19:48 -0500, Sean wrote:
> Perhaps Linux is not ready for this market yet, someday we will be.   Why
> should the developers drop everything and service this segment today?

Because you can't ever service them if things don't change.  Try reading
what I wrote...

If Linux isn't ready *now*, then obviously that's because something is
wrong.  That something is what I addressed.  Either it changes, and
Linux becomes ready, or it doesn't change, and it never becomes ready.

> > I have build, configured, and administrated numerous Linux machines for
> > friends and family over the last couple years, and *each* and *every*
> > single one of them are now Windows boxes.  And the exact reason why is
> > *entirely* because of the installation of software (ABI doesn't matter
> > to anyone but the end users, which Open Source developers don't ever
> > seem to care about) and driver installation.
> There are already cheap computers that can be purchased at Wal-Mart that
> come with Linux pre-installed and the user need never know or care about
> Linux or configuring hardware.

Yes.  Practically no-name brand computers that very few people buy, and
most who do are very likely to install Windows down the road.  I've
watches *many* people gladly pay $200 for a copy of Windows to install
on the dirt-cheap Linux-based computer provided them.

> > Driver installation is only getting worse in Linux.  In-tree drivers are
> > only useful if the driver exists in the version of the tree the user
> > has.  Sure, some mythical company releases fully GPLd drivers, or usable
> > specs, a six months before their hardware is released.  The kernel has
> > it in-tree a couple months before the hardware is released.  Six months
> > after the hardware is released, a distro is released that actually *has*
> > that kernel.  Several months after that you might be able to expect 5%
> > of the non-uber-geek OS consumer base to have a distro using that
> > kernel.
> Driver installation is getting worse?   By what measure?  It seems to have
> more in-tree coverage today than it has ever had.   And the kernel
> developers have never put much effort into helping the closed-source
> driver people.   Again, why should they?

Did you even read a single word in the above paragraph past the first
sentence?  You just asked a series of questions that the entire
paragraph is dedicated to.

> > Meanwhile, in the BSD, Windows, Solaris, whatever world, the company
> > releases a driver, and it works for 90% or more of the users.  Sure,
> > some drivers fail on XP, some drivers don't work on 95/98, but you are
> > still, with a single driver, hitting far, far more of the user base than
> > you can do with Linux.
> Look, Linux follows a different model than those systems you talk about.  
> It would be just as easy for those companies to release an open source
> version that could work for 90% or more of Linux users.   But those

What, BSD isn't open source anymore?

> companies for various reasons choose not to, again that's their decision. 
>  Why should open-source people change?   Let those companies change if
> they want to be a part of the open-source operating system world.

> > I don't care about this proprietary vs open source issue.  I fully
> > believe that Linux can *thrive* with a policy stating that *NO* non-GPLd
> > modules may *ever* be loaded into the kernel.  That's what the Open
> > Source and Free Software activities truly want.
> Totally agreed.
> > The problem is entirely that fact that even *with* a fully GPLd driver
> > there is no reasonable way for a user to be capable of using it without
> > living on the bleeding edge and suffering through all the instability
> > and work that requires, as well as having the knowledge to do it all.
> I think you've overstated things here.   There are hundreds of millions of
> people using Linux every day with no problem or suffering when they issue
> a Google search.  Just because Linux is not perfect for every end-user
> situation is nothing to worry about or use as a basis to throw away the
> fundamental things that make Linux important.

What fundamental things?  It being GPL?  There are dozens and dozens of
open source operating systems around these days.  Linux is only being
discussed on this list, and only of interest to those hundreds of
millions of people, because it got to a point of being actually useful.
Linux's fundamental point to many people is that it's a great OS from a
technical perspective that is usable to many people.  Open Source is a
means to that end.  It is not the end itself.  To some, perhaps, but not

> >
> > A stable kernel ABI is not necessarily important.  I have argument for
> > it, but it's not paramount.  A stable API, which the kernel also lacks,
> > *is* important.  Alan mentioned DKMS - abso-fricken'-lutely useless with
> > an unstable API.  Sure, the vendor releases the driver source for DKMS,
> > a nice graphical install tool is written for DKMS - too bad the driver
> > only compiles and runs on a handful of kernel releases.  The new
> > "development model" just makes this problem even worse.
> It's only a problem for people who won't or can't play by the open source
> rules.   If this excludes a large number of end-users today why should the
> kernel developers do anything but continue ahead to reach a point where
> things are better?   Hardware isn't always going to fluctuate and change
> so wildly.

And this is where my point lies.  It is developers thinking like you who
are guaranteeing that Linux is a niche OS.  "Who gives a flying hoot
about users, let's just keep playing with our toy."

They are "not playing by the open source rules" ?  What are those rules?
You have to be a total dork who lives and breathes Linux and runs the
latest bleeding edge or builds your own kernels to be able to get any
hardware to work, and even then only if you're lucky?

> > The big argument for a stable ABI, even with a "all drivers are always
> > GPL no matter what" system, is mainly during system install.  I have
> > some system-critical hardware (disk controller, say) that my OS install
> > CDs don't support, install CDs do not have the environment to compile
> > big drivers, a stable ABI would let the vendor ship some CDs/diskettes
> > that the install can pull the driver off of to install.  Again, very
> > rare situation, most users in the real world do not and never will
> > install an OS on their own, not that important.
> Agreed.
> > At the very least, however, without a stable API, the Linux kernel and
> > its driver situation is just screwing users constantly.
> I think you're putting the blame on the wrong people.

I think you aren't reading my arguments.

> > General system ABI is another story.  If I can't install the app I
> > bought/downloaded/wrote even just a year ago because the glibc
> > maintainers decided to change something or the GCC developer found a way
> > to get a .05% performance boost with this piddly little ABI break then
> > there is a massive usability problem.  One could ship apps as source and
> > have them recompile on install, but for one, that is just far too slow,
> > for two, the system APIs change too, and for three, proprietary apps are
> > a reality that aren't going away anytime in the forseeable future.
> Proprietary apps are only a distant concern to the people building an
> open-source operating system.   The fact that they work at all has lead to
> this increased expectation.   All of the problems you list are pretty well
> non-issues for people who buy redhat enterprise products.  Hardware
> vendors could target drivers for that particular distribution etc.

No, they are not non-existent.  I run RHEL on many systems, and still
run into these problems.  Each version of RHEL is incompatible, and it
is not the only "enterprise" Linux OS in existence

> > No matter how much work the upstream people and distros puts into making
> > insanely usable GUIs, amazingly efficient systems, and superbly stable
> > and secure code, it's all fairly useless to anyone but a geek if you
> > can't install the OS or install any apps you want to run on it.
> There are a vast number of people who couldn't install Windows either and
> the number of people who wreck their Windows installation configuring it
> for themselves is further proof that the standard being held up doesn't
> even exist in the Windows world.   That said, hardware vendors could very
> easily provide source level drivers for Linux and solve most of the

Not if read the primary argument in my mail.  Source is useless to
people who cannot compile it.

> issues.   The wrong people are being asked to change their ways here.  
> The developers are busy building an open source operating system.   Those
> who want to play, need to conform themselves to the situation, not the
> other way around.

And one of the prime points myself and others have been making is that
an open source operating system is useless.  It's a political toy.  Many
kernel developers do *not* share your vision, and very users do.  Linux
is interesting because it is a powerful UNIX-like OS that is stable,
secure, offers an excellent development platform, and has many
interesting applications and operating environments like KDE and GNOME.
The fact that it's Open Source itself isn't of interest - it's just
something that helped Linux get where it is.

Absolutely *NOTHING* I argued for in my mail stops Linux from being an
Open Source operating system.  Nothing.  I even explicitly stated that
I'm fine with Linux (the kernel) becoming even *more* GPL-centric.  The
problem is that even *developers* have a difficult time because not only
to ABIs break, but APIs break.  You *have* be development-savvy and keep
on the bleeding edge to get anywhere with Linux in many cases.  And
there's *NO* reason for it.  None.   It is completely fixable without
breaking your vision of what is fundamental to Linux.

> Sean

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