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Free Linux driver development offered

From:  Greg KH <>
Subject:  Free Linux Driver Development!
Date:  Mon, 29 Jan 2007 17:29:04 -0800
Archive-link:  Article, Thread

Free Linux Driver Development!

Yes, that's right, the Linux kernel community is offering all companies
free Linux driver development.  No longer do you have to suffer through
all of the different examples in the Linux Device Driver Kit, or pick
through the thousands of example drivers in the Linux kernel source
tree trying to determine which one is the closest to what you need to

All that is needed is some kind of specification that describes how your
device works, or the email address of an engineer that is willing to
answer questions every once in a while.  A few sample devices might be
good to have so that debugging doesn't have to be done by email, but if
necessary, that can be done.

In return, you will receive a complete and working Linux driver that is
added to the main Linux kernel source tree.  The driver will be written
by some of the members of the Linux kernel developer community (over
1500 strong and growing).  This driver will then be automatically
included in all Linux distributions, including the "enterprise" ones.
It will be automatically kept up to date and working through all Linux
kernel API changes.  This driver will work with all[1] of the different
CPU types supported by Linux, the largest number of CPU types supported
by any operating system ever before in the history of computing.

As for support, the driver will be supported through email by the
original developers, when they can help out, and by the "enterprise"
Linux distributors as part of their service agreements with their

If your company is worried about NDA issues surrounding your device's
specifications, we have arranged a program with OSDL/TLF's Tech Board to
provide the legal framework where a company can interact with a member
of the kernel community in order to properly assure that all needed NDA
requirements are fulfilled.

Now your developers will have more time to work on drivers for all of
the other operating systems out there, and you can add "supported on
Linux" to your product's marketing material.

This offer is in affect for all different types of devices, from USB
toys to PCI video devices to high-speed networking cards.  If you build
it, we can get Linux drivers working for it.

For any questions about this program, please feel free to respond to
this email, or contact me directly at  I will also be
available at FreedomHEC 2007 <> held
adjacent to WinHEC, if anyone wants to bring devices and work


greg k-h

[1] for the CPUs that support the bus types that your device works on.

(Log in to post comments)

Can he really promise all CPUs?

Posted Jan 30, 2007 22:14 UTC (Tue) by hazelsct (guest, #3659) [Link]

Promising that a driver will work on all CPU architectures is easier said than done. For example, I recall Daniel Jacobowitz' work on the Debian PPC stock kernel a few years ago, where he painstakingly enabled options one by one and recompiled to determine which would even *compile*, let alone run correctly. And PPC is a relatively popular architecture among Linux users, much more than e.g. PA-RISC, S-390 or SuperH.

Can he really promise all CPUs?

Posted Jan 31, 2007 0:29 UTC (Wed) by proski (subscriber, #104) [Link]

Things have improved a lot since Linux started using git. Besides, making one driver compile for all architectures is not that hard. The hard part is making all (or many) drivers compile for a given CPU.

Free Linux driver development offered

Posted Jan 31, 2007 12:08 UTC (Wed) by penguin (guest, #36771) [Link]

I hope many hw manufacturers will take this offer. How do one setup a PR campaign to reach companies worldwide for free?

Perfect message, and just in time!

Posted Jan 31, 2007 12:53 UTC (Wed) by jabby (guest, #2648) [Link]

This message is perfect! It frames the proposition so device-makers can see that it is purely beneficial for them to jump on the Linux bandwagon. And once they perceive that their competition can do the same thing to *their* benefit, logic would suggest that they will _flock_ to this opportunity, tripping over each other to be the first to accumulate this particular advantage.

The next question is, what needs to happen to make sure that this process plays out in time for the x86-64 OS decision gets locked in?

If Linux misses this coming deadline (predicted to arrive sometime in 2008), it may have to work very hard for a very long time to gain any ground. If it catches this wave, it could be swept into the lead position on the world's commodity hardware and be the de facto standard OS for decades. It's up to us. If we decide that we want that, then this is the first major step on that path.

I hope that people begin seriously discussing this deadline. Is it real? Do we need to care? What should we be doing to try to outflank proprietary software?


Perfect message, and just in time!

Posted Jan 31, 2007 13:51 UTC (Wed) by foo (guest, #1117) [Link]

It's always helpful to check the record of previous predictions
for these sorts of prognosticators. They're generally -- and
in this particular case -- not impressive.

Free Linux driver development offered

Posted Jan 31, 2007 13:46 UTC (Wed) by pbardet (guest, #22762) [Link]

Ah Ah AH,

I can already hear the buzz of courriers flooded by hardware documentation sent to GKH... Can't deliver them all at the same time...

A little early for an april's fool joke, isn't it ?

Free Linux driver development offered

Posted Jan 31, 2007 14:19 UTC (Wed) by Hanno (guest, #41730) [Link]

Congratulation to Greg. This message is perfectly written: A polite invitation, not the usual grumbling and mumbling device manufacturers usually are confronted with.

I hope it will be effective.

Free Linux driver development offered

Posted Jan 31, 2007 14:34 UTC (Wed) by sasha (subscriber, #16070) [Link]

For some hardware manufacturers, it is important to get drivers for _existing_ enterprise distors, not for _future_. In such cases, this offer does not help: it is not easy to backport driver from the latest kernel to the old kernel used in, say, RHEL3. So, hardware manufacturers in any case have to fix/maintain the driver themselves. And they'll see no need to provide specs/code in such a case.

Backporting vs forward porting

Posted Jan 31, 2007 15:04 UTC (Wed) by proski (subscriber, #104) [Link]

Actually, backporting of the driver is usually easier than "forward porting". Many API changes serve the purpose of making drivers easier to write with less errors. When backporting, the missing code and definitions can be taken from the new kernel.

When the driver is written for an old kernel, it may not fit the model of how the driver should behave in the future kernels. It's harder to take the missing pieces from the old kernel, because some of them were removed with the purpose to forbid or to discourage some behavior or to force the driver developers to recheck some assumptions.

A recent example is the new INIT_WORK with two arguments. It's much easier to go back to the three-argument INIT_WORK just by using the first argument as the third argument as well. Going forward to the two-argument INIT_WORK actually requires changes in the worker function so it can assess the data it needs.

The same applies to sparse annotation. It's easier to provide a replacement for __le32 for old kernels than to actually do the annotation and find a couple of actual bugs in process.

It would be easier for manufacturers to concentrate on backporting and new features, and let the kernel hackers do the routine API updates of the driver.

Backporting vs forward porting

Posted Jan 31, 2007 19:37 UTC (Wed) by grouch (guest, #27289) [Link]

It would be easier for manufacturers to concentrate on backporting and new features, and let the kernel hackers do the routine API updates of the driver.

Easier still is for manufacturers to take GKH up on the offer, let the kernel developers deal with maintaining the drivers for new kernels and let the distributions take care of the backporting. My guess is that the developers at Red Hat, as one example, would much rather backport an open, working driver than to get calls about closed drivers they can't fix.

Free Linux driver development offered

Posted Feb 2, 2007 10:24 UTC (Fri) by lacostej (guest, #2760) [Link]

Something I would like to see is a place for matching demand and offer to help.

E.g. I have a digital camera that I could use as webcam. Unfortunately this mode of functionning isn't supported by Linux.

It could be reverse engineered, but I don't think anyone's done it. I cannot do it, at least not alone.

But I could help by preparing the setup required to do the reverse engineering, maybe making USB communication logs, but I cannot give my camera away for a long time as I need/want it to take pictures...

But maybe there's someone out there who would like to help, even if it doesn't have access to the hardware.

So if there was a place where people could register their needs, and some (would be) developers on the other side would pick up offers, maybe we could get better support for our unsupported hardware ?

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