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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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  • 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:Quick Answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spxZA ( 996757 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:21PM (#39514053)
    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 of *nix running 100% on a notebook? Fiddling with acpid.conf, patching, reverting, etc, etc)
  • 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.

  • Re:chance or no... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:38PM (#39514277)

    Too bad that while their hardware may be fine their drivers thoroughly suck, which kind of undercuts their point. Thousands of commits to the FreeBSD Atheros driver in the last year, basically thrashing around and playing at being competent while seldom actually fixing anything or improving it.

  • 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.

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

    by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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