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Qualcomm Calls To 'Kill All Proprietary Drivers For Good' 195

An anonymous reader writes "Next week at the sixth Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, two Qualcomm Atheros engineers will be making a stand for killing all proprietary drivers for good — across all operating systems. The Qualcomm slides go over their early plans. Do they stand a chance?"
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Qualcomm Calls To 'Kill All Proprietary Drivers For Good'

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  • chance or no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:05PM (#39513849) Homepage Journal

    I know where I'm throwing my money the next time I need such hardware!

    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 )

      I know where I'm throwing my money the next time I need such hardware!

      I could not have said it better myself. Thanks for the post!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by spxZA ( 996757 )
      Yes, I somewhat agree. I was excited seeing this article appear in my feed, but have since sunken into a depression. The only way that proprietary drivers can be killed off (and I'm not talking drivers for specialist hardware) is if all hardware manufacturers agree on sticking to standards. Even within manufacturer, there are vast differences in hardware configurations, interrupts, etc. (Yes, of course, SATA, PCIe, are all standards, but you know what I'm talking about. How long does it take to get a flavor
      • by bmo ( 77928 )

        How long does it take to get a flavor of *nix running 100% on a notebook?

        Half an hour. Even with a beta of Ubuntu 12.04.

        And nobody ever installs Windows, themselves, either, on a notebook. So don't even go there.


        • Re:Quick Answer (Score:4, Informative)

          by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:52PM (#39514435)

          Half an hour? You're doing it wrong.

          You can install Bodhi from a thumb drive in about 10 minutes. There's even a video floating around Youtube of somebody installing it in a virtual machine in less than 10 minutes, from first boot to working installed desktop. When I installed it on my Dell ultraportable, everything worked out of the box, no configuration needed. (though to be fair, the Dell came with Ubuntu preinstalled, so it's hardly surprising)

          Ubuntu can be done just about as quickly, in my experience. As long as you have a reasonably fast optical drive or are installing from a good quality thumb drive.

        • Re:Quick Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:08PM (#39514653)

          And nobody ever installs Windows, themselves, either, on a notebook.

          Boy I hope that's sarcasm. Otherwise I fear I must question my own existence, as I've done just that many, many times.

          Who in their right mind would leave the factory installation of windows on a notebook in the first place if they didn't have to? Why spend 2 hours cleaning all the adware bullshit off of it, searching the web to see what the hell half the start-up programs even are ("Gee, do I need kdjsdksjhdjsh.exe to run on startup? What about eroiuerrurrjkffl.exe???"), missing shit, and all of that, when you can spend 45 minutes doing a fresh install of Windows and then maybe another 45 minutes doing updates/driver installs and have a clean machine with all that bullshit removed from the get go?

          Step one on any new notebook I buy is always a fresh install of windows. I don't play that "recovery disk" bullshit.

          I know it used to be a lot more difficult in the past to find drivers and shit for notebooks, but it's really not that bad anymore. Certainly not in my own experiences.

          • Slashdoters are not your average person your average person is intemidated by the idea of working on a computer.

          • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

            The vast majority of windows users either keep the factory install (complete with all the adware bullshit), or have someone else reinstall it for them.

            People who are clued up enough to install windows would have no trouble whatsoever installing linux these days...

            Also "it's really not that bad anymore" is still a far cry from "works out of the box". Most users would have no idea how to find drivers, most wouldn't even be aware what make and model the internal components of their machine are and wouldn't hav

            • That's all well and good, but most != all. Therefore, the statement:

              And nobody ever installs Windows, themselves, either, on a notebook.

              is inaccurate.

              And what does "work out of the box"? Even an Apple device requires setup, linking to your various accounts, removing crap that isn't needed, and all of that when you boot it up for the first time. Maybe not as much adware bullshit as a typical vendor Windows install, but then again, I consider iTunes itself to be adware bullshit, and that's built right the fuck in to OSX and can't even be removed, so there's no clear advant

              • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

                You can remove itunes, i have done so on my work laptop..
                You can also elect not to install it when you install the os.

                By works out of the box, i mean the system is functional and all hardware features are working. Configuring your accounts is separate, you would have to do that on any device.

                Another question is wether the system does everything you want/need out of the box, or do you have to install additional applications? And if so, how difficult, time consuming and/or risky is it to do so? Linux distros

        • It took a year to get my brand-new netbook working correctly with Ubuntu.

          First, the ath9k driver was written so that on hibernate it would set the sync to a random value. The fix was crtl-alt-t, sudo rmmod ath9k modprobe ath9k. This was fixed in 11.04, but required a patch until it was officially released.

          Second, and this is really a driver issue, is that it required 3rd-party support to get the Fn keys working correctly. Apparently this has something to do with Windows automatically shutting down the Fn

          • So the hardware vendors are incompetent and don't support their products in Linux, resulting in the experience sucking.... and it's the Linux community's fault. Got it.

        • And nobody ever installs Windows, themselves, either, on a notebook. So don't even go there.

          Yeah, for example i'm sure nobody has ever used Bootcamp on a Mac.

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          It didn't even take me that long to inatall kubuntu on my Acer. Well, after I figured out how to install from a thumb drive, that is.

      • Re:Quick Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

        by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:33PM (#39514217) Homepage

        The movement in this direction has already been creeping about. Big names like AMD/ATI are really doing a nice thing open sourcing their stuff. NVidia will be feeling even more pressure as time goes on and people continue hating them for not following in kind with ATI.

        One of the problems which causes these closed drivers situations is that the chip makers contract their work to companies where the terms of their work ends up with some sort of copyright and other restrictions. (I don't know this first hand, just what I've heard... but like "Hey, I want you to write some drivers... and instead of paying you for your work directly, we'll give you a cut of sales! How's that sound?" or something like that... I don't know... it doesn't make much sense to me in the first place. People buy hardware. The software is only there to make it work with an OS.)

        In any case, as far as standards and crap like that go? I don't think standards are much of an issue. As long as the software interfaces are documented, the driver interfaces between the hardware and the OS. The OS just talks to the driver and to the applications. That's all the "standards" I care about.

        • I like the way Intel is going with their graphics drives. While I generally loathe Intel, maybe they can push AMD and Nvidia in the same direction.

    • Longer answer (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Accomplishing such a feat would require the market to be largely informed and interested. Neither is the case.

    • by ArcherB ( 796902 )


      I don't understand why not. Hardware makers sell hardware, not drivers. Why protect something you stand to make no money on. What's the worse that can happen? Could someone write a better driver than the hardware company? So? Am I going to refuse to buy a video card because I can download good drivers for it? What am I missing here?

      The only think I can figure is that, say nVidAMD for example, is able to drop support for an outdated video card by ensuring that there are no drivers available for the la

      • Re:Quick Answer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Chatsubo ( 807023 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:41PM (#39514305)

        An example that leaves a particular bad taste in my mouth...

        I bought a set of LCD shutter-glasses years ago. I had an nVidia card that had driver support for them. I got these babies, got the special nVidia driver, and I was blown away.

        But soon I needed to upgrade my gfx card, and found nVidia no longer supported shutter-glass stereo on any of their new shiny cards. Weird right? All you need is software trickery.... but wait, yes.... Suddenly 3D LCD panels come out and nVidia simultaneously releases drivers that support them. And next thing you know, they have their own shutter glasses that cost way, way more than the ones I'd bought years before.

        And still, there's no support for my set. Support that already existed.

        My opinion: This is why hardware companies care about drivers, it lets them wrangle money out of people who'd like support for their products.

        • Hardware companies do this calculus all the time, and I'm not sure they're doing the math correctly.

          Assuming that nVidia didn't sign some sort of limited time licence for the old set of glasses they should have continued support. Yes, if you can't use your old glasses, you might buy new nVidia glasses. Most likely, you'll be pissed off and buy a competitor's product. If you old glasses work, it keeps money out of the competitor pocket.

          When a company supports an old product, yes they might be losin
          • by Arker ( 91948 )
            The thing is, they dont care. They know that most of the market will just go ooh shiny and forget about it. And they know that there is little choice. For instance for a video card you can pretty much buy nvidia or ati. And if you get pissed off because they ripped you off and tell them you are going to the competitor, they'll just smirk and say ok, bye bye. They know what will happen: you go to the competitor, they rip you off worse, and then you return to try them again cause what else are you going to do
      • Re:Quick Answer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:10PM (#39514693)

        I don't understand why not. Hardware makers sell hardware, not drivers. Why protect something you stand to make no money on. What's the worse that can happen? Could someone write a better driver than the hardware company? So? Am I going to refuse to buy a video card because I can download good drivers for it? What am I missing here?

        The problem is a lot of hardware is heavily patented, and the patents cover the hardware-software combination.

        A sound card would be the best example - you can have a basic sound card with open drivers (it's just a combination ADC and DAC on a board, after all). But then people want justification for their purchases, so you add in Dolby Headphone support to give you surround sound with headphones (patented, licensing fees to use). Or DTS/Dolby Digital encoders so people can get surround sound piped to their A/V receivers. Or HDMI audio injectors that support HDCP.

        Ditto video cards - HDMI+HDCP is a spec that does not allow for open drivers. A lot of 3D technologies are patented, heavily.

        Network cards - well the TCP offload egnines are considered "secret sauce" because a good TOE can ensure your host system can be full bandwidth and hardly take any CPU resources. And this can include onboard firmware for the onboard processors. LIkewise, WiFi is similar.

        Nevermind software controlled parts of hardware that cannot be modified for compliance reasons.

        Hell, half the hardware guys out there would kill if they can release the drivers as source and give it all away - less work for them to support (they can direct people to a community support page). Or just release the hardware and let the community write the damn driver for it.

        Of course, there's also the irony in that Qualcomm supplies a lot of binary blobs for stuff using their processors... especially with Android.

        • The problem is a lot of hardware is heavily patented, and the patents cover the hardware-software combination.

          This argument is totally wrong because it ignores the fact that patents exist in part to promote disclosure, not secrecy. If something is patented, it isn't a secret. How do you imagine publishing the driver source code going to make the patents disappear?

    • yes.

      It's going to have to be done. Whether the manufacturers like it or not - it is this exact reason why android phones are a major pain in the ass, buggy, unrelaible, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:08PM (#39513889)

    Killing software patents.

    • Killing software patents with fire.
    • Not necessarily. One commonly cited reason for the lack of open-source drivers is that there is 3rd party licensed code in there, which does not allow source-level redistribution. Patents have nothing to do with releasing source: Patents by their nature (are supposed to) reveal inner workings of inventions, for public domain use after their term has expired.

      It's copyrights, NDAs, and other contracts that bind all the code up behind blob-only drivers.

      • It depends on the specific patent...

        A lot of patents give only the barest details about the invention in question; not enough to actually implement it, but just enough to satisfy a court enough to use said patent to beat one's competitors into submission.

  • Android (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sonicmerlin ( 1505111 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:17PM (#39514007)

    This is the sort of thing Google should have pushed for with Android, but after a year of struggling with their OS I've come to realize Google doesn't care about the end user experience. By subsidizing and dumping Android they pushed webOS and MeeGo out of the market.

    • Re:Android (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bgarcia ( 33222 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:30PM (#39514187) Homepage Journal
      Android didn't push webOS and MeeGo out of the market. iOS would have done that on its own. MeeGo just wasn't compelling to end users, and webOS was late to the party and suffered from HP's mismanagement.

      Android is free. Google doesn't control the use of Android by telecoms and phone makers. It would be nice if Google could use their considerable influence to convince hardware makers to release open drivers, but you need to pick your battles one at a time. They managed to stop Apple from cornering the smartphone market and helped to accelerate the cost reduction in smart phones. Hopefully, with time, Google (and Qualcomm) will be able to convince hardware manufacturers to make their drivers open.
      • Android didn't push webOS and MeeGo out of the market.

        Rather, it ensured they had nowhere to go as it had gobbled up all the other vendors.

        MeeGo just wasn't compelling to end users

        Which is a statement I see repeated often but with not a shred of evidence behind it, usually spoken by those who don't understand what the goals of MeeGo were.

        Android is free.

        For varying degrees of free, up until Google closes the source for the newest version.

        It would be nice if Google could use their considerable influence to c

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          Hi! MeeGO user here.

          It wasn't compelling.

          Yes, they close there source when new one comes out. They don't take the source you already have away. Feel free to add to it.

          I wouldn't be so quick to second guess Google. They have done a lot of interesting things better then the current status quo.

          • Hi! MeeGO user here.

            What are you using called MeeGo? Intel and Nokia did a bad job by trying to cover too many platforms.

            It wasn't compelling.

            Again, the average user would probably never know they were using MeeGo. It was meant to be a standard *nix starting point upon which compatible platforms were built.

            Feel free to add to it.

            And have it rot because there's no upstream.

            They have done a lot of interesting things better then the current status quo.

            But not when it comes to tackling the problem being discuss

      • MeeGo just wasn't compelling to end users

        Have you even tried Meego? I can assure you, if it had been properly supported and widely released, it would have been pretty appealing to end users.

      • Re:Android (Score:4, Interesting)

        by visualight ( 468005 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:44PM (#39515901) Homepage

        Android is free. Google doesn't control the use of Android by telecoms and phone makers.

        Google has enough to control to make sure all our boot loaders are encrypted and we get their video rental store rammed down our throats -and it updates itself regardless of what the tablet update settings are.

        Motorola Xoom comes unlocked. Google buys Motorola. Xoom2 is locked.

        I bought an unlocked tablet from Samsung who then two months later surprise locked it and installed Googles' Video Rental app. No explanation, not even an apology, unless you consider "Hey you fucked up. You trusted us" an apology. So I got a 500 paper weight sitting here, useless for the purpose it was purchased for. Will never buy Samsung again and neither will anyone I can influence.

        In my opinion Google isn't just not helping they're actively going in the other direction.

  • by bytestorm ( 1296659 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:19PM (#39514037)
    If Qualcomm starts with their cellphone baseband processors, I'll start listening.
  • One of the big problems here is that many businesses don't really want things to be open. Openness runs contrary to control, and even if the result is a net gain by every measure, people *hate* to give up control-- especially when it's a PHB who does nothing but meddle, and that accounts for most decision-makers.

    • In the particular case of hardware, control translates also quite directly to profit. An open piece of hardware (that is, working with Free as in freedom drivers) can be used for all its physical life if the owner so decides. A closed one depends on updates coming from the maker. That's why hardware makers prefer to pay the windows tax, when they could offer consumers very fast and cheap machines for office work with FOSS.

    • people *hate* to give up control

      I don't think that it has so much to do with control as it does with ROI. If you get a higher return on investment by not making something open, a business will be inclined to not make it open.

    • That's probably not the problem. If it were, everything under the sun would probably require a driver or some sort, fail to fall back on industry standards like VESA and so forth.

      The problem is that getting devices to interface with each other is *generally* hard. Yes, USB/Firewire/etc. devices "just work". But there's no interoperability standard for upper level 3D access in video devices or even getting sound cards to work with out drivers.

      It's both a technical and meatspace problem. Building that sta

      • It's hard, but if the major manufacturers came together and agreed to build open standards, it wouldn't be impossible. There are problems involving patents and licenses and copyrights and trade secrets. There would be technical disagreements about which methods and practices are best. There are disagreements about moving forward with new standards vs. legacy support. There are companies whose business models would be threatened. There's the presence of Microsoft to contend with-- a company that exerts

  • Step One: Convert PowerPoint to randomly switch colors every third word when using Star Trek-like background styles.

    (for those who rtfa on the slides)

  • This proposed metric for rating code during review is the best part of that whole slideshow!
  • Aren't there also some serious regulatory hurdles, particularly when it comes to devices that are intentional RF radiators? There are (1) limits imposed by the regulatory bodies (not more than x uV/m signal strength over frequency band y) but also (2) prevent of the guy who just wants his signal to get through (and damn you all) and cranks up the TX power beyond what the equipment is rated for, making adjacent bands useless for anything else. I see some of the restrictions on these things from that light, a
  • 10 years ago, I would have said no. However some thing have changed.

    People moving into management now have seen the value open drivers can bring.

    They understand the controlling the drivers has no impact on value, and has little or no return.
    If they, and others, include cost analysis arguments, then they have a chance.

    While we will still see official drivers, we will have other options . Plus, opening up drivers means you can maintain a tree to review and possible integrate other peoples changes. Of course e

  • Although Stephen Walt was talking about something entirely different, his sentiment seems appropriate: ...Moreover, why do discredited ideas come back
            into fashion when there is no good reason to
            resurrect them? Clearly, learning the right lessons
            - and remembering them over time -- is a lot harder
            than it seems. But why?

  • Too far. (Score:2, Funny)

    I think pushing for the genocide of tax drivers is asking a bit much, right? Or did I read this wrong...

  • Not a chance (Score:2, Redundant)

    I expect that a very large percentage of drivers are infringing on other companies' patents. Make the driver open source means exposing yourself to IP litigation. Only the larger hardware companies are going to be willing to spend the $$ necessary to audit their drivers and expunge all foreign IP.

    IMO we need to get rid of software patents before this will take off in a big way.

  • Project UDI? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:11PM (#39515463)

    Many years ago i was associated with Project UDI [], the Uniform Driver Interface. The goal was to make a uniform ABI/API for device drivers. On Machines with the same hardware target (say, 32 bit x86) you would have binary compatibility. The same driver works on Solaris or Windows. For other platforms, they'd be at least source compatible. It worked in theory, and somewhat in practice - I think UnixWare shipped this as their native Device Driver Interface.

    But you never heard of it. Part of it was the SCO/Caldera fiasco. 'Nuff said about that.

    But part of it also was the fact that people had vested interests in this failing. Most famously, Stallman [] didn't like it. For now you could ship drivers without source for all i386 targets (not that having the normal Linux DDI prevented that before). But it was fun that I worked on something shipped in a commercial kernel, and also something that pissed off Stallman.

    More importantly, the people who want this are necessarily in the weakest position. MS doesn't want this - everyone makes Windows drivers. They get nothing from it except lower exclusivity. (The fact that Gates and Stallman were on the same side of this should have given Stallman time to reflect). They'd never allow the UDI code to touch their kernel. One or two other big UNIX vendors feigned interest, but they had the same issue - they had exclusive (to UNIX) device drivers, and they'd lose exclusivity. Only Caldera used it. It was their project, and it helped their forked codebase - they had both UnixWare and OpenServer (very old) code bases they needed drivers for, and it made it an easier target for device makers.

    None of the issues were tech issues, they all were people issues, which haven't gone away in the intervening years.

    • The fact that Gates and Stallman were on the same side of this should have given Stallman time to reflect.

      No, I'm sure he would have been amused but satisfied in knowing that their reasons for opposing it were themselves diametrically opposed.

    • Re:Project UDI? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Arker ( 91948 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:50PM (#39515977) Homepage

      Stallman was just being consistent. Binary compatibility doesnt encourage source disclosure, after all. Although I would argue from my experience that in the case of a device driver they should be practically the same thing, that probably just shows my age. Back when I actively programmed C was considered a high level language and at least some of us still wrote important code like device drivers in hex instead of abdicating to an assembler. /getoffmylawn

    • by Xiaran ( 836924 )
      Hey. Just a show of support... I was very aware of UDI at the time and followed it with interest. At that time I was a device driver developer for various bits of hardware that need to run on Windows(old 9x model)/windowsNT/linux and QNX beleive it or not... I used to be a QNX4/6 developer. I wish it had taken of very badly at the time... would have made my life much easier :)
  • Funny seeing this coming from Qualcomm. I've been working on the HP TouchPad Ubuntu port and would love to see open-source Adreno 220 drivers with X support, but none appear to exist. I can't take them seriously on asking other companies to kill proprietary drivers when their own drivers are closed and unavailable (even TI's SGX drivers are available as a binary package with SDK and installation instructions for your kernel).

  • It won't happen. A lot of device drivers utilize patented code which is rigorously protected by many software companies. The GPL is not suitable for those who want to maintain control over their code. Proprietary drivers are a necessary evil if one is using a FOSS operating system with specialized hardware.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll