Getting Linux driver support for various hardware is hard enough, but now the FSF (Free Software Foundation) wants to start banning proprietary drivers? Stephen Shankland wrote this story on the proprietary driver debate among the Linux community and it tells of the struggle between the purists who want everything to be GPL and the pragmatists who believe proprietary device drivers are acceptable. Linus Torvalds is on the is on the pragmatic side and the FSF is on the purist side and this isn't the first time there has been a rift between these sides. Linus most recently parted ways with the GPL 3.0 crowd on the issue of DRM and he was savaged by many in the Open Source world for being a traitor.
To illustrate the challenges in Linux driver development, here is a snippet of Shankland's story:
With the existing fluid interface in Linux, programmers must provide drivers for numerous kernel variations, and old drivers--open or proprietary--stop working, said Miguel de Icaza, vice president of development at Novell. "Contrast this with Windows, where there is a stable interface for drivers in the kernel. A driver developed against NT 4 works on XP," he said.
Device driver support is critical in the adoption of any mainstream operating system. Forcing vendors to develop multiple drivers for multiple variations in the Linux kernel and breaking all of them with every new kernel is bad enough, banning Nvidia and ATI video adapter support or USB peripheral support only exacerbates the current situation. ATI went as far as saying "ATI accepts that as part of our day-to-day responsibilities in Linux", but telling them that the newer Linux kernels might start banning their drivers is just a slap in the face. With attitudes like this, is it a wonder so many people stay away from Linux?