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    SubjectRe: Linux drivers management
    On Wed, Feb 08, 2006 at 08:52:15AM +0800, David Chow wrote:
    > I have no expectation the LKML will agree to my point . Because 99% of
    > the LKML are likely technical users and community developers. As said,
    > they only care about programming drivers in the kernel source. Freedom
    > of change is cool and fun for them.

    Actually, most of the developers work for some a distributions or a
    system vendor. I for example happen to work for IBM's Linux
    Technology Center. In that role, I do worry about the device drivers
    for the hardware devices that we sell to our customers. However, I
    also am a community developer, and with that hat on I care about Linux
    being the best OS it can be technically.

    I will say that my experience has been that binary kernel modules can
    easily turn into a disaster for our customers. It's a major issue
    when a customer needs to install an errata kernel issued by one of our
    Linux Distribution Partners for stability or security reasons, and
    they are using a propietary binary kernel module from some third party
    storage vendor which hasn't yet updated their proprietary binary
    driver for that errata kernel.

    Or there was the time that positively warmed my heart when I spent
    several very late nights trying to debug a situation for a very high
    profile, important customer trying to use a Samba file server running
    on IBM hardware being integrated by IBM Global Services, and the
    system kept on falling over. It turned out the problem was caused by
    a memory leak in a propietary, binary-only kernel module from an
    commercial anti-virus product that shall remain nameless.

    So I am firm believer in giving our customers access to source code to
    all kernel code, not because of any deep desire to "programming
    drivers in kernel source", or because of any "information wants to be
    free" religion --- but because it's the best way to keep our
    customer's systems running reliably and nearly problem-free --- and
    when there is a problem, I know that we have whatever is necessary to
    make their problem Go Away.

    Yes, I'm aware of the traditional arguments that a stable device
    driver API would solve all of these problems. Well.... at least the
    first problem; incompetently written propietary kernel modules filled
    with memory leaks and wild pointer dereferences and race conditions
    aren't solved by standardized driver API's; the only solution is
    source access so we can fix the idiotically written modules. But the
    reality is the way the Linux kernel is developed, a stable driver API
    would never work.

    - Ted

    P.S. Obligatory disclaimer: These are my own opinions, and not
    necessarily those of my employer.
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