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Old 08-02-06, 08:50 AM   #44
acreal
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Default Re: Opinions on driver license

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The decision about what is more work, maintaining a compatible interface or having it change at every version cannot reasonably be made by the developers.
Considering the developers are the ones doing everything, there really isn't anybody else to make the call. Maybe this decision does not suits closed source software well, but you really have to consider the sheer number of people involved in FOSS: in open source environments closed source software are a rather small minority.

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It is obvious that having some compatability means some extra work for them, but it is questionable of the total amount of work spent (by the developers, the external manufacturers and the end-users) will indeed be more. I think it will be less.
Well for one thing, fixing internal bugs and/or bugs caused by 3rd parties wrongly using the API without breaking it can be difficult. Another factor is that most open source software is written by volunteers, and, as you said, breaking compatibility is so much fun.

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In the early days I often tried to follow developments and contribute to it, but it quickly became impossible to do because everything is wired together. For every new kernel release there was a list of 20 other packages and the minimum release level, and invariably there would be 3 or 4 that you needed to update before installing this kernel. And those packages again depended on other packages that you needed to update.
So, like many others, I became a distribution user. SuSE in my case. Maybe once a year I update the entire system to a new distribution release and I run the kernel and X that comes with it.
I don't really see this as a problem. As for development, *some* people must succeed in following it. Clearly it demands dedication, and few people have the time to do it, but in the same time it show that this bazaar development thing isn't totally unrealistic, even on a large scale.

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What I don't get, is why an incremental update within such a distribution, e.g. a security fix in some networking protocol, needs to invalidate the compatability.
Come on, every security or bug fix release does not invalidate compatibility.

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Imagine the hell that would break loose when you would need to update your nvidia video driver on Windows for every visit to Windows Update. Nobody would accept that. But in Linux it is normal practice.
Well, i'm sorry to say this but the actual breaking is not caused by the Linux kernel, but by the Nvidia kernel-side driver (just a different pov).

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About opensource of the driver: I think most advocates of this are wildly underestimating the whole issue. The binary module is 4.5MB in size. The sourcefiles probably are something like 50MB.
It would be very naive to assume that this piece of coude would suddenly "maintain itself" after being released to the public. Every issue would still need to be tracked and fixed, and while some issues may be simple, there still will remain a large number of issues that are not so easy to fix.
Of course not, but if the drivers were still supported/developed by NVidia, it would let the time for X and kernel developers to grasp and adapt the code to what best suits them. Once fully merged, NVidia could still support support the drivers if they want to, and provide specs for their next generation cards. Why not even hire one or two of the kernel/xorg devs to participate a little ? Besides, open sourcing would allow NVidia to accept code contribution, fixing bugs and adding features without having them to write said code. Fair trade really. (again, this thread was not intended to talk about open sourcing NVidia's drivers )

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Look at projects that have been in open source for years, like Mozilla (now Firefox and Thunderbird). It has thousands of open bugs, and some very irritating problems have not been fixed even while they have been in bugzilla since 2002. So availability of the source certainly isn't the end of all problems.
It is. Open source is paradise, bugs flee away (to closed source software, where they belong). Of course not. And open source does not mean success or quality either.

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Besides, even when opensourcing may smooth the integration with new developments in X and the solution of problems that the manufacturer considers low priority, at the same time it will slow the development for new hardware.
You must be joking. This document lists the following as linux primers:
  • USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth
  • PCI Hotplug
  • CPU Hotplug
  • memory Hotplug (ok, some of the older Unixes did support CPU and memory hotplug in the past, but no desktop OS still supports this.)
  • wireless USB
  • ExpressCard
Besides, i think i remember the Linux kernel being amd64 ready before anyone else too (but i'm not sure though). Of course if you talk about the closed spec hardware, this isn't really a fair comparaison.

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Contributions for new hardware drivers will certainly not be released before the new hardware is in the shops. Now, nvidia can develop drivers for hardware that is still unreleased and have them released at the same time as the cards.
Why not ? Many kernel developers are willing to sign DNAs, just send in a prototype card and the specs for it, and they may just be happy to get you linux support (or else, this is not a linux world after all) for free. This is just something companies are not used to (yet).


We finally got down to a nice open source vs closed source thread, how unpredictable. Though i'm pretty happy with the thread. It kinda shows what i was thinking: on both extremes you and me (i'm not that extreme actually, and i guess you're not either ), and in between most people don't really care, or just think it would be good to have a free driver. Which just shows how much our computing experience/environment influence our point of view.
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