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GNU is Not Unix Input Devices Graphics Open Source Software Hardware

GPL'd Driver and Linux Support For New H.264 Capture Card 119

Posted by timothy
from the to-those-who-wait dept.
azop writes "Almost a year ago Slashdot covered the story of a MPEG-4 multiple input capture card with a GPL Video4Linux licensed driver. Earlier this year, Ben Collins added H.264 support into the solo6x10 Video4Linux2 GPL driver. The H.264 PCIe cards are finally released and shipping to customers. The new cards support faster frame rates and sport a PCIe interface. The driver is available for forkin' on Github."
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GPL'd Driver and Linux Support For New H.264 Capture Card

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  • by dintech (998802) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @03:09AM (#36360188)

    Why is it important that linux drivers have source available but we don't worry so much about seeing the firmware source? Should we be pushing to see firmware source too? Instead should it not matter about seeing driver source? I'd love to hear your perspectives.

  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @03:24AM (#36360256)

    That doesn't mean firmware can not do evil things. Or does not need any quality vetting or so.

    The BIOS is a kind of firmware too, and there exist viruses that can exploit certain BIOS firmwares and to all kinds of bad things to your computer. Not sure about this specific piece of hardware but I'm quite sure that the trend is towards more and more reprogrammable firmwares, if only to fix bugs after release.

    Anyway I'd say the firmware is about as important as the OS driver. And having the source of the firmware will no doubt provide information to driver developers on how the device really works.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @03:25AM (#36360264)

    Open firmware is also good, but take it one step at a time eh?

    An open source driver for this is great news because it means the driver, and therefore the card, can be rebuilt for different architectures, can be enhanced over time, can do all the stuff that's great about open source. Not to mention serving as a learning aid for others.

    Open firmware would be a bonus because then people have the ability to alter the behaviour of the card itself. Some people do care about this stuff so you have projects like Openmoko's Neo phones. There are also sometimes license problems related to distributing closed firmwares if the OS needs to load them into the device.

    Driver source is more important IMHO, for now, because without it (or reverse-engineered OSS drivers) some of my projects with linux on ARM would not have been possible. One example was a wireless USB card attached to an NSLU2. Windows drivers through the old ndiswrapper were no good, it's only when open source drivers were available I could proceed.

  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:09AM (#36360404)

    Indeed.

    And the question on why we can not see (most) firmware source code will probably the exact same answer as why we can't see (most) driver source code: patents, copyrights, proprietary algorithms, DRM, whatever.

    Yet the biggest risk lies in the devices where firmware can be changed ("flashed"), and where the device and its software must provide certain security against that happening unauthorised. There exist at least proof-of-concept BIOS viruses, maybe also actually malicious BIOS viruses. There is no reason why such viruses could not target other parts of the computer, such as hard drive firmware to hide themselves.

  • by tempmpi (233132) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:29AM (#36360466)

    Often the firmware is what turns a bunch of cheap standard parts into a real product. Unless you want to go open source hardware, too, you need to keep your firmware proprietary, because most of the engineering is actually part of the firmware and pcb layout is just a small part of your product. And it is easy to do a compatible pcb from the scratch.

  • by GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:42AM (#36360484)
    And how exactly do you think they provide drivers for Broadcom NICs?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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