Linux kernel developers offer to help program hardware drivers for free.

In a move that can only help to improve the Linux experience, provided enough hardware vendors take them up on the offer, the folks who develop the Linux kernel are offering to develop hardware drivers free of charge:

Drivers created by the kernel developers at the request of hardware vendors will be included in the Linux kernel source tree so that they are included in mainstream Linux distributions and made available to end users. According to Kroah-Hartman, the offer is available for all sorts of hardware ranging “from USB toys to PCI video devices to high-speed networking cards.”

In order to take advantage of this service, developers need only send specifications to the kernel development community and provide contact information for an engineer. The kernel developers are even willing to develop drivers without direct access to the hardware. Kroah-Hartman also states that the newly-formed Linux Foundation (previously Open Source Development Labs) will provide a legal framework for companies that require kernel developers to sign NDAs.

Here’s hoping the hardware makers out there take them up on this offer.

5 thoughts on “Linux kernel developers offer to help program hardware drivers for free.

  1. The company that develops a wireless card with a Penguin certification (ships with Linux drivers) will have a loyal following.  Yes I know some cards set right up but a logo would help me know which one.

    Broadcom cards are really difficult to set up in Linux without using an NDIS wrapper, which rather unesthetic.

  2. Not being much of a Linux person, hasn’t the Linux community offered to do this for years?

    It seems surprising to me to assume that the hardware venders are going to do this on their own. Again, I could be wrong, I don’t keep up with Linux news.

    Where do the current drivers come from?

  3. Personally my feeling is that if a device manufacturer wants to market to the open source comunity, then they are going to have to bite the bullet and enter the open source world…particually if they are getting free developers. Otherwise whats the point, we will be stuck with the same problem of closed drivers (if a company demands an NDA development process, surely they are not going to be willing to have a truly open source driver…

  4. To someone who can market an idea here’s one for you:
    Start an open source company.  One that manufactures products where the hardware and associated drivers and software are completely open source.  This company could then make a wide variety of products ranging from MP3 players, cell phones, mice, keyboards, to car radios, AM/FM radios, etc. 

    A company that produces products in this nature could make a killing since a lot of these devices can be tricky to get to work in Linux or with a Linux interface.  Such as the iPod.  Flashing it to get better functionality out of it can be tricky since all of the hardware is closed source.

    But the great thing with the idea is that even people who use Mac or Windows could easily take advantage of such devices.  Imagine an MP3 player you can buy where you can flash it with any image you want and have complete functionality of the device.  Having a totally customizable player.

    Imagine having one of those car stereos with the screens that pop out, having the ability to give you readouts of your’s car performance or whatever you want it to display.

    Since everything for these devices would be open source, it would be really easy for programmers to create images for the BIOS’ of these products.

    /wishful thinking

    Not being much of a Linux person, hasn’t the Linux community offered to do this for years?

    It seems surprising to me to assume that the hardware venders are going to do this on their own.

    I am not sure either, but I would assume that Linux devs have tried before.  But maybe this time they offer something that hardware companies cannot refuse (well hopefully).

    Regardless this is fantastic news and I hope at least some of the companies jump on the Linux Devs’ offers.  Who better to create drivers for Linux, then the Linux Kernel Devs?

  5. Linux people have been writing open-source drivers for as long as the system’s existed, more or less. However, when trying to write drivers for closed-source devices (such as a video card) the end result is usually lower quality than one made by the manufacturer. However, there are many manufacturers still caught up in the idea that Linux isn’t worth development money (like ATi) and as a result, performance on said hardware is very low quality.

    What these Linux developers are saying is, “we understand we’re not your employees – we will sign NDAs to do your work for you because we want your hardware to work better for Linux – because many of us use it”. Ultimately, I’d guess they see this as a bid for OS freedom. I don’t really know what these developers see in this as a long-term investment, though. Frankly, I’m a little baffled by it.

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