X.org, distributors, and proprietary modules
Posted Aug 15, 2006 2:26 UTC (Tue) by drag
In reply to: X.org, distributors, and proprietary modules
Parent article: X.org, distributors, and proprietary modules
Got "RMS envy"?
You can 'be strong and not stumble' if you want. You just have to do things that people from the 'best tool for the job' crowd thinks is completely irrational; which is to be willing to sacrifice for your ideals.
As far as hardware goes there are four groups of manufacturers of hardware in reference to open source software.
1. Vendors that are willing to support with documentation and/or drivers.
2. Vendors that simply want to make sure their stuff works in Linux.
3. Vendors that want to make their stuff work as long as it's binary only drivers.
4. Vendors that don't care.
So on Linux and Free software support it realy depends on what your goals are. Are the goals of Linux distros to be the most popular usefull Operating system possible? Or is it the goal of Linux distros to be the most popular and usefull Open Source/Free software operating system there is?
Remember that right now there is no obvious legal, technical, or financial reason why drivers need to be open source. Among the most supported and popular hardware out there it is supported by mostly closed source drivers. Atheros for Wifi. ATI or Nvidia drivers for Linux. Nvidia drivers for their motherboards.
These drivers are often considured the most featurefull and best performing drivers out there by many people. Anytime somebody asks about wifi they are told by at least a couple people to buy atheros cards. Anytime somebody asks about video cards they are told to buy Nvidia.
So vendors in group #2 are the pivitol group. They will more likely choose to go closed source if they can, but they will choose to go open specs or open source if they can.
If you deny binary only drivers then you will get open source support for vendors in group 1 and 2, but will loose the support of vendors in group 3.
As a "for instance" Texas Intruments was interested in support Linux. They wanted to make sure their wifi was supported. So obviously they had a desire to see this happen, and if closed source was unnacceptable then they probably could of been pressured into support a open source driver. But they don't have to have a open source driver for linux because people don't object to binary only drivers. So they went and worked with Conextent and made sure that their wifi driver was compatable and released a press release saying that they supported Linux.
However if you want the support of group 3 you will get binary only drivers from group 2. So if you support group #3 you gain teh support of groups 1, 2, AND 3, but most drivers will end up being closed source.
So for distros and developers to think about is:
A. do they want the most support of vendors possible, then in that case they support binary only drivers.
B. do they want the most open source drivers support possible, then in that case they deny all support and use legal restrictions to avoid having group #3's support.
Of course it's not all black and white like that. But it is true that many vendors will support binary-only drivers if they can get away with it, but will release documentation and driver support if they have no other choice.
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