|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Strange News this week
Microsoft frees Linux drivers; other closed-source vendors to step
up? The three drivers were released under the GPL v2.0 license
July 20, 2009 (Computerworld) Microsoft Corp.'s move to release
three of its drivers to Linux, however technically modest it may
be, could put pressure on other closed-source vendors to follow
The uneven availability of drivers for Linux has long contributed
to the open-source operating system's forbidding reputation among
non-techies, and -- despite its free price tag -- to its slow
According to Greg Kroah-Hartman, a longtime Linux developer for
Novell Inc. and the head of the Linux Driver Project, Linux today
"supports hundreds of thousands of drivers."
"We support more devices than any other OS ever has," he said.
Citing the announcement last month that the coming USB 3.0 technology
will be supported by Linux first, Kroah-Hartman said "for huge
classes of devices, we usually get drivers first."
At the same time, Kroah-Hartman conceded that Linux users still
have a "harder time" getting drivers for some "brand new devices."
That's because hardware vendors don't prioritize support for Linux
due to its small desktop market share.
Moreover, some vendors who do release Linux drivers decline to make
them open-source. Doing so would allow the drivers to be included
in the Linux kernel, making the installation process much smoother
for users. It would also make it possible for outside developers
to tinker with and fix them.
Holdouts include virtualization vendor VMware Inc., Wi-fi chipmaker
Broadcom Corp. and, most notably, graphics chipmaker Nvidia Inc.
Nvidia has said it prefers to fix driver issues internally. Others
say Nvidia, and others, are more interested in protecting their
code from competitors.
Last year, more than 200 developers signed a petition created by
the Linux Foundation demanding that all drivers created for Linux
also be released open-source.
According to Kroah-Hartman, Microsoft's move publicly affirms the
philosophy that "all Linux drivers should be released to the
community.... Not all companies agree with that."
Neither VMware, Broadcom nor Nvidia immediately responded to requests
Microsoft's drivers, which help Linux virtual machines run better
under its own Hyper-V virtualization software, are already available
for enterprises to add as a patch, and will be available in several
months via the next major update of the Linux kernel, Kroah-Hartman
"This shows that their customers have been asking to run Linux,"
It also shows, in a posting to Slashdot by Sam Ramji, Microsoft's
head of open-source strategy, that the company is not trying to
undermine Linux or bolster its 2006 claim that Linux violated its
"Our use of the GPL v2.0 license, as requested by the Linux community,
means we will not charge a royalty or assert any patents covering
the driver code we are contributing," he wrote.
Others, however, were more cynical.
"Microsoft's Linux code? You got chocolate in my peanut butter.
[These are] unnecessary drivers for running Linux on Windows,"
wrote one Linux user, Scott Gilbert, in a tweet.