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SubjectRe: [Off Topic Conspiracy Theories] RE: UDI and Free(tm) Software
On Wed, 07 Oct 1998, David Parsons wrote:
>> >One perspective that hasn't been discussed is that UDI may *force* hardware
>> >vendors to write better drivers... if they don't someone else will (at
>> No need. You can just specify in the specification that in order to obtain
>> certification for a UDI conformant device, hardware vendor must either provide
>> an open source driver or provide hardware specs for the device in question such
>> that someone else can write an open source driver instead.
> You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

And you catch even more flies with honey and vinegar than you do with just

> If I was a device driver writer and I was given this odious choice,
> I'd tell you in no uncertain terms what you could do with the
> certification.

No need. Nobody can, nor will, stop you from writing and shipping a
non-certified driver. You just can't stick the 'UDI conformant device' label all
over the product. So that customers know what they're buying, just in case they
want a guarantee that they'll be able to produce a suitable driver on their
own effort for their UDI conformant platform/OS if one doesn't exist yet (or is

The point of certification is not to establish and control quality of the
drivers. It's point is a guarantee that you can 'roll your own' UDI conforming
driver for a UDI conforming device if you don't like, or can't use, drivers
that already exist, or if you don't want to use them simply because they suck.

> If, instead, you have a published interface vendors can write to the
> interface _once_ and, over time, see that their competition is not
> toppling over the edge into bankruptcy, but is actually benefitting
> from having source available drivers, they will eventually realize
> that source available drivers is a competitive advantage (and may
> realize before then that's it's a lot cheaper to release the sources
> and let third parties write and maintain the drivers.)

They may, in which case everything is fine since everybody wins. Then again
they may for some reason not care about this particular competitive advantage
and just do a binary driver. In order to be sure you get to benefit too, you
make sure you are at least _able_ to produce your own driver if the hardware
vendor doesn't feel like doing it - for whatever reason. And you need a
reference source or hardware specs for that, unless you'd like to resort to
practices like reverse engineering.

It's of little use to the open source community if you can write a driver only
after you've signed an NDA because that means that you can't share the source.
On the other hand, commercial vendors may not care so much if they have to sign
an NDA - they just want to ship to the customer a binary driver for a particular
platform and particular UDI environment that they're selling, one that is
radically different than the one you're using. This means that now commercial
vendors have competetive advantage, ie they have drivers which you don't, which
is not the intention of UDI, and certainly not the reason to accept UDI now is

As has been pointed out before, open source community needs to do exactly
nothing about UDI and still benefit from it by simply implementing a UDI
driver layer for binary-only drivers while concentrating on developing and
licencing its own native drivers under GPL, meaning that commercial vendors
can't use them. I sincerely doubt UDI representatives had this in mind when
they stated that they count on Linux community to help out in the effort. So in
order for them to benefit, drivers have to be licenced in a different fashion
which will enable everyone to use them. Drivers are a pain in the butt of every
operating system out there - everybody needs them, yet nobody has them all.
Having one, standardized driver layer can help a lot but source and
documentation availability can help more, because even though you _can_, you
don't _have_ to stick to one single interface (which may or may not be
completely suitable for your operating system) but can optimize the driver for
your particular OS implementation as it evolves. Since sources are available,
everyone can benefit from the optimizations that you have done (this is why
Linux drivers are so good btw).

UDI makes sense. The only questions that remain are who is to benefit from it:
one, some, or all parties in the deal; how much and for how long - last two
depending proportionally on the answer to the first question.


Andrej Presern, andrejp@luz.fe.uni-lj.s

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