James Gosling on why there's so few drivers for Linux

Well, sort of. He was talking about Google vs Oracle, but I think he’s hit the nail on the head:

(NOTE: This was transcribed from an audio by theserverside.com)

I would guess that the Oracle lawyers did their homework. They almost, because they use open source, it’s really easy for the Oracle lawyers to go out and hire third-party experts to do the comparison. So they probably actually have a fairly solid case. I mean this is one of the reasons that hardware manufacturers often don’t open source their drivers. Because if they open source their drivers, then other hardware manufacturers will look at that and go, oh, well your hardware must stomp on this patent device.

I’ve had more than one hardware manufacturer tell me that.

The Basement Coders - James Gosling Interview Transcript

Yet again, patents getting in the way…

I read the article yesterday. It’s worth your time.

Software patents are dumb. They are exploited by those who suffer from excessive greed and moderate amounts of stupidity and should not exist.

The title of this thread may create a completely wrong impression. In fact, there are a lot of drivers for linux. Have a look at all the hardware which is supported by the kernel drivers. It is a huge list.

I had to buy quite a lot of new hardware within the last few weeks. It came with a pile of CD’s and DVD’s containing drivers which are obviously needed for the installation of some other OS. I threw it away without even looking at it. Every single piece of HW was supported by 11.3 right out of the box.

Certainly the linux HW buyer has to avoid those (few) devices that are know to be not supported. But I do not see any reason to claim that there are “so few drivers for linux”.

On 2010-09-30 15:06, vodoo wrote:

> Certainly the linux HW buyer has to avoid those (few) devices that are
> know to be not supported. But I do not see any reason to claim that
> there are “so few drivers for linux”.

You have been lucky. I have bought a lot of things in the past that do not work in linux. Let me
see… the first one was a V90 “compatible” modem, in 1999. The “compatible” meant that it did the
thing in a software driver (dos/win), not in hardware. Impossible to use in linux. I was lucky to
resell it at half the price, and had to buy a real one at double the price.

From that day, I have to do my shopping very carefully. Lesson learnt.

Like when buying a printer… cheaps ones are winprinters.

Often buying for linux means more expensive, or slightly older hardware, to give time to the free
devs to buy one, hack it, and add support to the kernel.

Or, trust the manufacturer “linux support”, which sometimes is an almost closed driver thing that
they only support for some linux distros and versions for a limited time. There are some printers
like that.


Cheers / Saludos,

Carlos E. R.
(from 11.2 x86_64 “Emerald” at Telcontar)

From that day, I have to do my shopping very carefully. Lesson learnt.

Agreed. When I go back to 1999 (or even 1994 when SuSE 1.0.9 was current) I can remember a few HW items which did not work with linux. OTOH nowadays RTL chips connect to the world and they are supported (with source code from the manufacturer).

Like when buying a printer… cheaps ones are winprinters.

As I am typing this I sit next to a Brother HL-2040: cheap, reliable, sold in quantities and fully supported with drivers from the manufacturer. It’s rather the “big iron” which is not supported. HP is a positive exception, but my Canon copier/scanner/fax machine valued at ~15’000 US$ is not supported at all. Canon really sucks.

Often buying for linux means more expensive, or slightly older hardware, to give time to the free devs to buy one, hack it, and add support to the kernel.

Again: I agree here. Sometimes we have to stick to proven concepts while buying, but what’s so bad about it? My point was not “everything is supported” but rather “there is a driver for (almost) any HW which is a de facto standard”. That’s good enough for me.

I know but the title has a limited number of characters. Really I meant so few well supported and/or open source drivers for linux. But regardless, I think you’re taking us on a tangent. The point is Gosling has talked to ACTUAL companies that acknolwedged that patent-lawsuit-fear is why they have not opened the source of their drivers. That’s a pretty powerful argument against patents.

On Thu, 30 Sep 2010 14:12:15 +0000, Carlos E. R. wrote:

> Let me see… the first one was a V90 “compatible” modem, in 1999.

Well, Carlos, that was 11 years ago. Things have changed a lot since
then.

Winmodems, Winprinters - the name pretty much screams to me “don’t even
think of trying this with Linux”.

Kinda like if I were to by a peripheral for my old C64, I wouldn’t expect
to be able to use it with Linux on a PC. :wink:

I bought a $300 Wacom tablet and it works fine with Linux. I don’t get
display on the OLED buttons (there was a patch to do it, but the devs
wanted to rewrite it so interfacing to it was more user friendly), but
the device works just fine. Brand spanking new device, with drivers
developed under an OSS (GPL, IIRC) release.

The caveat always has been (regardless of the OS) that you should make
sure the device is compatible with the OS you’re using. Go to an Apple
store and buy a peripheral for your PC under the assumption that it will
work - if/when it doesn’t, don’t complain to Apple that you bought
something for a Mac and assumed it would just work because you run
Windows.

Jim

Jim Henderson
openSUSE Forums Administrator
Forum Use Terms & Conditions at http://tinyurl.com/openSUSE-T-C

But regardless, I think you’re taking us on a tangent.

This may be true.

The point is Gosling has talked to ACTUAL companies that acknowledged that patent-lawsuit-fear is why they have not opened the source of their drivers.

No. He is jumping around. He is talking about .NET and greedy lawyers, and switching the focus to Google, and then – all of a sudden – mentions HW manufacturers and patent fear and then, they discuss T-shirts.

This is a very bad interview and an even worse transcription. I can see no valid argument why publishing driver code would expose the HW manufacturer to an increased risk of patent claims against his hardware (unless it’s evidently infringing patent laws).

I have installed 3 different Canon printers and have used the Canon linux drivers for all of them with great results. At least Canon offers some drivers and decent printers, unlike Epson which offers neither.

Also what the manufacturers (or rather the reps he has talked to) tell him may not be the whole truth. He has no special insight on this. It may be a convenient excuse. For a lot of generic hardware there are no patent issues. It may simply be that the manufacturer is not geared up to work with open source, being used to writing their drivers in proprietary ways. Notice how awful some opened sources are when they get released by newcomer manufacturers to the paradigm? They are not used to having peers look at their code. I’ve heard of one case where the real reason for not releasing was that the code was embarrassingly bad and the company felt it would reflect badly on their engineers.

A lesson learned the hard way.
I remember, in the days, that you may fall into the trap to buy a winmodem. There is no chip controlling the hardware and its outsourced to windows. Thats why you need windows to control the modem. They also do not work on Mac either.
I am not aware of printer going the same route, but i seldom buy a printer. My old Brother HL-2040 still works with linux. I am very glad about that.
In the case of the modem, that is what broke my neck in the early days, since i did not consider this and had no knowledge of it at the time and i am sure i wasn’t the only one.

On 2010-09-30 23:36, Jim Henderson wrote:
> On Thu, 30 Sep 2010 14:12:15 +0000, Carlos E. R. wrote:
>
>> Let me see… the first one was a V90 “compatible” modem, in 1999.
>
> Well, Carlos, that was 11 years ago. Things have changed a lot since
> then.

I gave that as an example than taught me that I had to be careful when shopping for linux.

> Winmodems, Winprinters - the name pretty much screams to me “don’t even
> think of trying this with Linux”.

But you know you have such a crap after you buy it, and after you start asking in forums why your
new gadget does not work. Not before buying.

>
> Kinda like if I were to by a peripheral for my old C64, I wouldn’t expect
> to be able to use it with Linux on a PC. :wink:

Actually, there is a greater chance that old hardware, if popular, works in linux, than new :slight_smile:

> The caveat always has been (regardless of the OS) that you should make
> sure the device is compatible with the OS you’re using. Go to an Apple
> store and buy a peripheral for your PC under the assumption that it will
> work - if/when it doesn’t, don’t complain to Apple that you bought
> something for a Mac and assumed it would just work because you run
> Windows.

The problem is that hardware do not advertise that they work in Linux (they only mention windows and
macs)). My printer works perfectly in linux (it’s an hp), but the box says nothing, and the
manufacturer web page says nothing.

The thing is that HP does not give, officially, linux support for their printers. It is true that
they do drivers, but they do it outside of HP and unofficially, no guarantees.

To learn if a device works in linux often we have to ask other users, because the manufacturers do
not say.

For example, my motherboard comes with a good audio card (SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio), which does not work
in linux. It is recognized, some drivers load (snd-hda-intel), but it does not work. I had to buy an
extra sound card to get sound working. The rest of the mobo works perfect, except this. And the
manufacturer said nothing.


Cheers / Saludos,

Carlos E. R.
(from 11.2 x86_64 “Emerald” at Telcontar)

Some printer manufactures do state if its linux compatible. I remember seeing Samsung, Brother and HP stating in on their box. Not every printer, but some. But i think on laser printers, not sure about inkjets.

Was doing clean out of the cr** that accumulated over the years and came across the packaging for 4 printers (Canon Bjc4100, Canon Bjc2000, Canon pixma ip2600, Epson r200 photo-stylus with CDPrint). All 3 Canon’s state Windows, Mac compatible on the packaging but what is interesting is that in very tiny print on the pixma one it gives the Canon web address for drivers for UNIX, BSD, and Linux (with Linux in bold). The Bjc4100 openly states compatible with Windows, Unix, Mac, Linux, or any Computer capable of running a Centronix printer parallel port. The Bjc2000 has both a parallel Centronix connector and a USB1.0 With the parallel connection being compatible with Windows, Mac, *nix and the USB compatible with Windows 2k and above.
The Epson states Windows ME,2K,XP and Mac 8,9 compatible thru it’s USB only connection but then at the bottom it says Cups, kprint & Gutenprint compliant which as *nix users know are used widely in Unix, Linux, & Mac OS/X systems.
So I think that kinda answers whether or not mfg’s also sometimes state Linux compatible. Final note on the Epson, while it worked up until Windows XP, and when early Vista came out they also had a driver for Vista, they dropped support for windows Vista about the time of service pack1 and don’t offer drivers for windows 7 on this model. A third party program from Accudoc runs this printer under Vista but can’t be used in Windows 7. The printer inclusive of CDPrint works under Linux Kprinter (best), Gimp-gutenprint (next best), Cups (mediocre).

Not only Epson. Brother did the same thing after Vista came out. Before i was able to use duplex printing. Since moving to Vista (long time ago) this feature was erased from Brother.
It never came back. So supposedly duplex printing was not possible in Vista anymore or a cheap upgrade notice.
Welcome to the Windows World.
Like i said, Brother does supply drivers for Linux, but i can not say anything about inkjet, since i only use laser.
There are culbrits to overcome, no question about that. I the need to be informed.
On the other hand, its was in the old days the same. I tried one time to connect a epson dotmatrix printer to work on my Amiga. Took me a while to get it working. At that time there were no drivers (at least on Amiga) but a program like Printshop. The funny thing was that Commodore printers were Epson printers. Just not official.

My printer a HP just works. Minimal configuration was required, no chasing down obscure drivers. Setting it up as a shared printer was simple. ( Now if the system it used to be on would stop being retarded and use it as the default printer for KDE 3.5) My next printer is going to be a Laser printer. I am tired of paying in blood for HP ink LOL. Are some of you people still using dotmatrix printers? :0

I tend to buy chipsets that are a version or so back as they usually have Linux support. I avoid wireless entirely as it’s an added security issue looking to be a problem I don’t need to have. I don’t expect the latest new/shiny thing to have Linux support.

Linux is a tiny fraction of the desktop computing environment. There is not enough profit there to expect much vendor support. Server side is a different story.

Patents are a real problem and smaller players do have to worry about patent trolls. I can see this being an issue with Linux drivers. They don’t mess with the IBMs and HPs of the world as they would get squashed like a bug.

When is comes to technology like computing patents are dumb.

My whole problem with drivers is this, “Why should the manufacturer of the product dictate what OS you should be using”. If I buy a printer and software drivers come with it then there should be drivers on that disk for multiple OSe’s because I’ve already bought the product. I believe the HW Manufacturers fear is more about getting on the wrong side of Microsoft than anything else. Everyone has their hands in big MS money pie, just like the lawsuit stating unfare business practices from MS, we all knew that was going on, how did they get so huge (MONEY WISE) so quickly. I do believe however that HW manufacturers look at the vast amount of Linux OSe’s out there and scratch their head wondering how there going to write drivers for all those versions of Linux, perhaps that’s what’s keeping them out of the OSS game.

I seriously doubt MS pays anyone to not provide Linux drivers. Not getting sued into the ground by some patent troll or competitor who has a similar product is the real issue. Most of these companies can afford that. They also look at the market and beside servers Linux it is just not a big enough market to worry about. What they make off of the Linux desktop market doesn’t matter. It’s like the loose change in you couch. Insignificant.

+/- 1 Where M$ may not be guilty of paying to suppress Linux support, there are revelations in the local shops where the shops are told not to stock or support Linux or the deal they can get on M$ may be restricted. Best Buy and it’s affiliated parent Futureshop both have stated that they have discontinued Linux support specifically because M$ won’t continue to provide OEM support if they don’t.

As a NEWS story running here yesturday said something to the effect that with each market crash / recession in modern times one underlying tone repeats. The Billionaires get richer with little filtering down to the little guys that make the economy work. The reporter mentioned that as with most of the wealth, few if any actually did the real work but did reap the full benefits. Case in point While Microsoft is the largest OS company in the world, they developed less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the technology in code and tangible device development yet hold over 99% of all patents for the work that took over a century to develop.

Those types of OEM deals are illegal. Intel and Dell both got in trouble over them and I bet will be sued by stockholders over the money it cost paying off the fines. Someone needs to rat MS out to the man over this type of activity and heavy fines need to be paid if they are indeed telling people not to carry Linux computers or lose their good OS deals. I do know that MS made the cost of XP almost free for netbooks and that wiped that market out as netbooks could be sold with full function and play restricted media types. This made the devices more competitive and those companies are in business to make money. Business are not charities they need to make money to succeed and survive. Even Linux companies.

The fact that the elites that control everything escape from depressions unscathed is not old news. It’s really the same old story. No one should be surprised over that fact.