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SubjectKernel module ethics.

The company for whom I work wants to make a linux driver for some of its
hardware. On my side I would like the driver to be completely open sourced,
and from a customer point of view, its a big plus (a real PITA to maintain
closed sourced drivers). On the other hand, the company wants a clear way to
make "profit" from the work while still catering to it's customers whish to
recompile the driver for just about any kernel version.

Here is what they propose... I do not know if what they are proposing is
"going too far" regarding kernel module ethics, but I thought I'd ask the
question here and see what other people think.

The hardware needs a firmware to run. Since this firmware is under NDA, the
first compromise is to write the main part of the driver GPL but keep the
firmware of the card in binary format. The driver can then load the firmware
separately and this should not infringe on the GPL and I'm quite ok with
this requirement. Now the problem is that any of our competitor's cards will
work with the same closed sourced firmware and GPL engine. In pure
capitalist thinking, the company finds this particularly troublesome...

The other compromise is to write a closed source part that would not permit
the driver to work with another card supporting the same chipset. Is this
kind of practice generally accepted or is it frowned upon? The motive of the
company is quite clear. If people want to "improve" the driver, they can
only improve it for their hardware, not the competitors. There is also a big
marketing sales pitch that goes like "we support linux, the others

It's like if Nvidia did not have linux drivers and ASUS wanted to ship a
card with a linux driver that only works with asus cards even though there
is one from leadtek with the exact same chipset (assuming that ASUS cannot
change the internals of the card).

Is the second compromise just "going too far"? Is this better than simply
having a 100% closed source driver?

Daniel Shane

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