Improving Linux Driver Installation
Subject:   DoD: use the source, Luke!
Date:   2004-09-10 14:52:26
From:   MadScientist
Maybe I missed something. Why does DoD have to download a binary driver (assuming of course that the driver is not proprietary)? Why can't it just download the source to the driver, build it on the user's system, and install it?
Obviously this won't work all the time: if the driver source is too old it might not work with a newer kernel, and some kinds of patches might break some drivers, etc. But it would solve most of the problems relating to distro-patched kernels exponentially increasing the number of binary modules that need to be kept for download, and the DoD could hide all of this from the user and if the insmod of the newly-compiled kernel failed it could report this to the user maybe with a link where they could go to report the problem and get help.
Obviously there are some assumptions here, such as the kernel build needs to support external module builds in a robust way (but I thought 2.6's kbuild did this?); distros all would need to provide at least enough infrastructure to build external modules (which is not all that much really) and a compiler (but just C, not C++/Java/etc.) on every system as part of the base install; distros should release kernels with MODVERSIONS enabled (don't they all do that already?); kernels need to ensure their numbering scheme is lexicographically rigorous so you can associate versions of the driver source with versions of the kernel and pick the most likely fit.
And of course, as mentioned above, this does not much help proprietary kernel module vendors (although if the DoD wished they could allow binary modules to be distributed through the framework on a "best effort" basis, and give the vendor's contact info if the insmod fails instead of the OSS community info). This might even give yet more incentive for vendors to provide source rather than binary.
Just some thoughts...
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Showing messages 1 through 3 of 3.

  • DoD: use the source, Luke!
    2004-09-10 19:42:58  Welington [View]

    "Users just click" ???
    Why the people wants to make the Linux so similar to (R)Windows ?

    If the user wants just to "click" an see the things happening, use the SO made for that, but pay the price.

    If the user wants the better and cheaper SO, use the Linux SO and pay the price (learning a few about it). Is the minimum that he can do.

    Otherwise, in the future, when the (R)Windows will became history, we'll have just upgrade the software (SO), but the users (still) will be the same ...
    • DoD: use the source, Luke!
      2004-09-13 10:02:01  MadScientist [View]

      > Why the people wants to make the Linux so similar to (R)Windows ?

      I've been using UNIX since 1984 and Linux since 1993 and I have heard this "argument" made by some people since day 1. In that time of course, Linux has gotten much simpler and more straightforward to use for those who haven't spent any time learning to love UNIX. I can't understand why adding a user-friendly interface over Linux, or any UNIX, is so frightening for people. It doesn't mean that anything will change "underneath". No one is talking about removing the shell or making it less powerful. No one is going to take away your ability to compile your own kernel, go traipsing through Google and various murky sites from the far reaches of the world looking for a driver for your favourite obscure bit of hardware, etc. What is so intimidating about allowing people who don't have the time or understanding to still be able to use Linux if they want to? Why does the barrier to entry have to be so high that only the most intrepid will attempt it? What is gained by blocking out everyone else? I just can't understand this attitude.

      And finally, why does any mention of a graphical interface immediately invite comparison to Windows? Why can't we assume that the Linux interface will be significantly better? Just because it's graphical, it must be avoided, is that it? Sorry, I don't buy it.
      • DoD: use the source, Luke!
        2006-01-11 08:31:10  OlderSchool [View]

        I agree with your last statement, (and actually the spirit of everything you've said and questioned here), about the continuous comparison between any GUI and (R)Windows. Many people don't realize that it wasn't Microsoft or Apple for that matter that brought GUI to computers. It was Xerox, at PARC. Xerox brought us the mouse, GUI, Ethernet, IPX/SPX, and many other technologies that so many others have taken or been given credit for. I'm at a loss why Xerox didn't sue Apple when they came out with a system that had a GUI and used a mouse; instead it was Apple, years later, suing Microsoft as if they (APPLE) had originated GUI technology on computers.

        Just something to think about when associating GUI or ease of use with Microsoft. Xerox did it first, and the underlying operating system was Unix, or a Unix like operating system. From the web site:
        "Xerox PARC was the incubator of many elements of modern computing. Most were included in the first personal computer, the Alto, which included many aspects of now-standard personal computer usage model:
        the mouse1, computer generated color graphics, the WYSIWYG text editor, InterPress (a resolution-independent graphical page description language and the precursor to PostScript), Ethernet, and fully formed object-oriented programming in the Smalltalk programming language and integrated development environment. The laser printer was developed at the same time, as an integral part of the overall environment.
        Among PARC's distinguished researchers were two Turing Award winners: Butler W. Lampson (1992) and Alan Kay (2003). The ACM Software System Award recognized the Alto system in 1984, Smalltalk in 1987, InterLisp in 1992, and Remote Procedure Call in 1994. Lampson, Kay, Bob Taylor, and Charles P. Thacker received the National Academy of Engineering's prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize in 2004 for their work on the Alto system."