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Know Any Hardware Needing Better Linux Support? 518

Dev Null writes "The Linux device driver project has hit something of a snag: they have lots of developers, but few devices to work on, so they're looking for input concerning which devices aren't well-supported in Linux. If any of you know of devices that could use better support, you can help out by listing them on the project's wiki."
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Know Any Hardware Needing Better Linux Support?

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  • First (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DJ_Perl ( 648258 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:17AM (#21145363) Homepage
    ..of all, why are they excluding printers? The fact that Linux printing is done is userspace is not an excuse. When I want to print or scan on a Linux machine, I don't want to hear that technicality. I just want it to work.
    • Re:First (Score:5, Informative)

      by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:24AM (#21145401) Homepage Journal

      why are they excluding printers? The fact that Linux printing is done is userspace is not an excuse.
      Because these are Linux developers, not CUPS developers or SANE developers. Let the people who specialize in userspace handle userspace.
      • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

        by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Sunday October 28, 2007 @02:24AM (#21146051) Homepage Journal
        Your point is a good one, but the tension here is not the why but the what.
        Joe User wants (the what) simple booklet printing, for example.
        The fact that Person A hacks the kernel, whereas Person B hacks CUPS (the why) amounts to minutia.
        • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

          by speaker of the truth ( 1112181 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @02:35AM (#21146085)
          But you shouldn't ask person A to do Person B's job. it would be like asking a programmer to develop the latest GUI (something better left to graphics designers). Joe User doesn't care who does it, but that doesn't change who should do it.
          • Re:First (Score:4, Interesting)

            by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday October 28, 2007 @07:50AM (#21147251) Journal

            But you shouldn't ask person A to do Person B's job.
            When you speak of "Linux developers" I assume you are referring to the many "hobbyists" who strive to advance Linux as an operating system to be used widely.

            Well, until we can do everything a computer can do with Linux, it's not going to be as widespread as it should be.

            I'll have to explore this term, "userspace" because it's not familiar to me (I'm just a Ubuntu Studio user, and a fairly new one at that. I'm not a Linux expert like many of you here), but whatever this "userspace" is, it sounds like it's something that someone in the Linux development community ought to handle.

            Maybe the difference between a successful OS and one that's not so successful is how well it integrates the "userspace" experience.

            But I'm just guessing.

            And before you tell me to RTFA, It's only 6:30am and I'm waiting for the coffee water to heat up. I'm not R'ing any F'ing A until I've had one or two cups, thank you very much.
            • Re:First (Score:4, Informative)

              by fritsd ( 924429 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @09:42AM (#21147753) Journal
              Probably other people can describe it much better, but here goes:

              From an end user's perspective, "userspace" is what you see, the programs you start up and interact with. "kernelspace" is something you only encounter when the system crashes or a floppy drive is stuck or a line printer on fire etc.

              From a technological point of view, Unix-like operating systems have a clear separation between "kernelspace" and "userspace". The kernel is a program that always runs and "does everything". It is supposed to only do the low-level tasks, close to hardware, such as scheduling (which userspace program is allowed to run next) and I/O (send bits to a parallel port printer and wait x microseconds).

              Between kernel and userspace is a software library called the system library; for Unix-like OSes usually written in C, libc. This contains functions like write() and read() that are implemented by sending commands to the kernel to do something via "system calls". Whether those commands are actually executed then depends on the permissions model, because programs using the system library are all run as if executed by a "user".

              This brings us to userspace: an end-user wanting to print something in the gimp program presses a button, the gimp program is running under the privileges of that end user, the userspace programmers who wrote gimp tied the "print button press" action to a gimp function which at one point does a libc call write(printer, data), the C library function write() takes the data and <start handwaving> invokes the kernel's SYS_write() call (I think) with permissions from that end user and a pointer to the data in user memory and a pointer to the printer device special file (everything looks like a file in Unix) and then the gimp program will just sleep and halt and be activated again when the kernel decides to give it another slice of CPU time (for example, after the kernel has done the actual printing, or at least called the kernel functions to get the actual what-have-you brand printer driver functions to do their voodoo with the user-presented data).</end vague handwaving>

              But as you can probably tell I'm not a real system programmer so I'll gladly let someone else correct me from here :-)

              • (follow up; sorry) (Score:3, Informative)

                by fritsd ( 924429 )
                Following up to myself here: maybe the foregoing was confusing, because printing is a bit special because the low-level functions (how long to wait etc.) are presumably standardized (either standard parallel port or send it over ethernet I guess), but here the high-level functions (i.e. how to encode the data to be sent to the printer) is not. And this high-level encoding is done in user-space by a program library called CUPS [cups.org]. And if the printer maker refuses to give the documentation necessary to write a C
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by HiThere ( 15173 )
              You can think of "userspace" as the programs which can be run without special priviledges.

              I think that few devices can be programmed in userspace...but device drivers can be accessed and instructed (I want to say programmed, but in this context that's ambiguous) from usersapce.

              CUPS is one particular very complex driver. It's got it's own special project just to handle printers, because handling printers is complicated. (And the manufacturers don't make it easier.) It's also because handling printers is o
        • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Sunday October 28, 2007 @03:07AM (#21146229) Journal
          Joe User wants

          This hasn't been set up for Joe User.

          It's been set up so that manufacturers can easily have their hardware supported.

          Joe gets the benefit later, when (s)he buys supported hardware.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JohnBailey ( 1092697 )

          Your point is a good one, but the tension here is not the why but the what.
          Joe User wants (the what) simple booklet printing, for example.
          The fact that Person A hacks the kernel, whereas Person B hacks CUPS (the why) amounts to minutia.

          Only if you don't understand how Linux (as in the whole distro) is put together. The Kernel is a completely different project to CUPS or SANE.
          A Windows analogy would be complaining to Microsoft because there was no driver for your particular model Epson printer.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mce ( 509 ) *

            A general linux user does not care how the distro has been put together. He or she just wants it to work.

            I respect anyone's choice to work only in kernel-land if they so desire, but collecting hundreds of people who say "I only can or want to do kernel" only to then complain that these folks don't have enough work to do while on the other side of the wall there are Himalayan mountains of work left over is just plain ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous, is to claim that "the linux driver problem is ove

      • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

        by walt-sjc ( 145127 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @09:20AM (#21147611)
        I agree, but there is another issue here. the LDP (and Novell) is willing to work with manufacturers and sign NDAs in order to get info needed to write drivers. While USB scanners (and printers) don't require "kernel" drivers, they still require drivers and the same NDAs that traditional driver devices need in order to convince manufacturers to work with the developers.

        Why aren't the LDP people and the SANE people working together? A device is a device no matter what the interface. The end user doesn't really care how "device X" hooks up, or how the driver is loaded. They just want it to work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I could not agree more. What a pompous tagline...."many developers, few challenges" (or however they're trying to pitch it) and then a disclaimer that they can't be bothered to work on the MAJOR printer driver issue (*cough--Lexmark--cough*) because printing takes place "in userspace"? What the hell does that even mean? Look, I have no problem with the fact that there aren't drivers for every proprietary piece of hardware in Linux, I get it, I realize it's volunteers for the most part. On the other
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Trelane ( 16124 )

        These are kernel developers, not userspace developers. Hence, userspace issues are outside the scope of their efforts. It doesn't mean that they're ignoring it; it's just not what they do.

        Wikipedia has good links to tell you more about kernel [wikipedia.org] and userspace [wikipedia.org], if that's your sticking point.

      • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:39AM (#21145481) Journal
        What sort of clown mods this "Insightful"? It's just whiny astroturf.

        What a pompous tagline...."many developers, few challenges"

        TFA says it really clearly. They have 300 developers lined up and 6 devices submitted for driver development.

        then a disclaimer that they can't be bothered to work on the MAJOR printer driver issue (*cough--Lexmark--cough*) because printing takes place "in userspace"?

        These are KERNEL driver developers. A completely different skillset. They say that very clearly on the wiki, and even provide a link to the printer driver project for the Google-challenged.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nikker ( 749551 )
          You have to cut the users some slack, when you tell them there are people ready and waiting to start making drivers but their drivers don't count then why the big fuss about the kernel programmers in the first place?

          Its kinda like (as far as car analogies go) finding the car industry has the researchers to discover amazing millage and horsepower then we have ever had, but telling the consumers we don't make their kind of car. Just sayin....
      • User space defined (Score:5, Informative)

        by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:39AM (#21145483) Homepage Journal

        they can't be bothered to work on the MAJOR printer driver issue (*cough--Lexmark--cough*) because printing takes place "in userspace"? What the hell does that even mean?

        Linux is a kernel. Almost every other program running on a Linux-based system, be it GNU/Linux or uClinux, is an application running in user space [wikipedia.org], a part of memory separate from "kernel space". The drivers for printers are "filters" for an application called CUPS [wikipedia.org], the drivers for scanners are modules for an application called SANE [wikipedia.org], and the drivers for video cards are modules for an application called X.Org X11 [wikipedia.org].

        The people who made this request for proposals are interested in projects that need specific support from kernel space. The kernel side of scanning and printing is solved through libusb.

      • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:43AM (#21145513) Homepage
        It's funny because the call for more devices at desktoplinux.com mentions:

        It's not just the Linux Foundation; users, as can be seen in early results from the Linux Foundation's continuing Linux desktop survey, also want better driver support. Specifically, they want better support for printers, scanners, USB storage and Wi-Fi devices.
        What's not supported by this project? Well, printers, scanners and USB storage... While it's in some ways good that we don't need more kernel drivers, it's bit like saying "Well, we now got 100% support on floppy drives. Anyone got unsupported floppy drives? No, we only do floppies." when there's obviously a huge demand for other types of drivers. They should rename themselves the "Kernel driver project", not "Linux driver project" because they only deal with a small fraction of what everyone else thinks - Linux drivers = drivers for Linux.
        • They should rename themselves the "Kernel driver project", not "Linux driver project"
          The kernel is "Linux". The operating system is "Ubuntu" or "openSUSE" or some other flavor of GNU/Linux. USB imaging devices generally already have a Linux driver; they just need a CUPS or SANE driver.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kjella ( 173770 )
            By your god-awful definition, Linux has perfect open-source support for nVidia graphics cards because the kernelspace shim exposes the memory to userspace, which is all the kernel needs to do. Well, for me and the 99.9% of the rest of the world that don't play word games, drivers are about functionality. "Does it have a Linux driver?" == "Is there a system, running the Linux kernel, where this device works as expected?" If you can't get results then it doesn't have support in any meaningful way I can think
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by cheater512 ( 783349 )
              Its about using the correct tool for the job.
              Would you prefer printer drivers being in the kernel?

              There are already appropriate projects which handle the bits which the kernel driver team are excluding.
              Dont have a supported printer? Talk to the CUPS guys.

              I can see where the fustration and confusion is coming from.
              I just dont agree with it at all. These guys are kernel developers not CUPS or SANE developers.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by X0563511 ( 793323 )
          Well, the issue here is that what "everyone else" thinks is wrong. LINUX IS THE KERNEL. Period. End of story.

          Writing code for a kernel takes a completely different skill set than required for writing printer drivers, etc.

          Notably, libusb supports reading and writing arbitrary data to arbitrary USB devices. If libusb can see it, no [i]kernel[/i] driver is needed, that would be duplicated (wasted) time, effort, and resources.
          • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Score Whore ( 32328 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @02:48AM (#21146131)

            Well, the issue here is that what "everyone else" thinks is wrong. LINUX IS THE KERNEL. Period. End of story.

            I'm curious. Where are you when all the stories saying linux is better/faster/more stable than windows get posted? Or when people bitch about DRM preventing them from playing mp3s on linux? I would think that when people are talking about LINUX THE KERNEL doing things that LINUX THE KERNEL clearly can't do, you'd want to be right there fighting the good fight. On the other hand LINUX THE KERNEL is nothing compared to even the shittiest versions of Windows or even DOS. I mean a particular arrangement of bits on a hard drive that is entirely unable to load itself into memory, or even create a filesystem in the first place, is entirely useless and valueless.

            Or do you only turn into a pedantic snobbish asshat when it's convenient to dodge criticism of your preciousssss.... preciousssss...

            Yes, this is off topic and perhaps a bit of flame bait, but the entire loser crowd who jumps in and declares that linux is just a kernel whenever anyone says anything slightly critical of "linux", is tired and pathetic.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DaAdder ( 124139 )

            Well, the issue here is that what "everyone else" thinks is wrong. LINUX IS THE KERNEL. Period. End of story.

            We-ell, language is a living, breathing, evolving thing see.
            Do you refuse to use the term Xeroxing, except when making paper copies using a machine developed by Xerox?

            If the entire world outside of the Linux kernel developers are referring to the entire distro when they say Linux, refusing to acknowledge this won't do anyone any good. It certainly won't work in favor of broader Linux adoption and acceptance.

            I doubt you'll be able to educate the world, so you might as well get with the hip new lingo.

      • by j-pimp ( 177072 )

        What a pompous tagline...."many developers, few challenges" (or however they're trying to pitch it) and then a disclaimer that they can't be bothered to work on the MAJOR printer driver issue (*cough--Lexmark--cough*) because printing takes place "in userspace"? What the hell does that even mean?

        Lets just start with what the hell the drivers are in userspace means. It means they are not part of the kernel, do not use the kernel API, and kernel developers would not necessarily have the skillset to develop them. These people are about as qualified to write printer drivers as New York City firefighters are trained to handle the California Brush fires.

        Now the firefighter analogy goes leads nicely into the second issue, different areas of control. Those in charge of the kernel and those in charge of

        • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld@gmai l . c om> on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:58AM (#21145605) Homepage
          These people are about as qualified to write printer drivers as New York City firefighters are trained to handle the California Brush fires.

          If the brush is burning and the official fire departments aren't working on it, a New York City firefighter would be a damn good backup. I think the people here are overstating the whole kernel vs. userspace dichotomy; we're not talking about a plumber trying to rewire an electrical system. The skillsets aren't that far away from each other.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Torvaun ( 1040898 )
            How about an electrician working on sensitive electronics? Even as close as they are, electrons making circuits or not making circuits, there is a wide gap between the people who work on 220V mains and 5V chips.
    • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dch24 ( 904899 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:32AM (#21145459) Journal
      I agree with you on scanners. What about ATI video cards? The specs are being published. Surely there's a great demand for developers there. Or, contribute to the Nouveau project [freedesktop.org] for nVidia cards.

      I haven't been really impressed with the ALSA project's driver support, either. But it's probably not for lack of interested developers.
  • How about supporting parallel tape drives? Those were a pain to get working ten years ago. Oh, wait a minute. Newer computers don't have parallel ports, and 40MB tapes don't hold squat. Never mind.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:23AM (#21145399)
    Know Any Hardware Needing Better Linux Support?

    Pretty much any Windows PC, I'd say.
  • Ha ha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:26AM (#21145411)
    OK, how about NVidia graphics cards for a start?

    No, I mean drivers that support 3d acceleration, and docking and undocking, and xrandr, and xv, and suspend to RAM, and power management, all without crashing. I've been waiting for years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by smithdc ( 1119795 )
      NVidia cards? What about ATI - the latest release of their Linux drivers perform even worse than the previous version. At the moment, as an ATI Linux user, my next gfx purchase it definitely going to be an NVidia card as their drivers are currently far superior.
    • Re:Ha ha (Score:5, Insightful)

      by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @01:07AM (#21145667) Homepage Journal
      Too bad that is not a kernel issue.

      The kernel already supports direct access to video cards with DRI. It's up to the X.org / X11 folks to get the "language" the card speaks right and talk to it through DRI.

      These guys might be able to write a kernel in their sleep, but completely unfamiliar with the layout, architecture, nuances, and conventions used in the X system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MrTheBunny ( 728979 )
        3 words: Open Source Bureaucracy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by runderwo ( 609077 ) *
        Uh, 3D acceleration may not be a kernel issue (for the most part -- the kernel is still responsible for securing concurrent DRI access), but the rest of GP's list most definitely is.
  • 310 developers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by microbee ( 682094 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:28AM (#21145429)
    Hmm, that's a lot. However, how many of them actually will end up doing real work when real work comes? But still, very impressive number.
  • DPMS support (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blaskowicz ( 634489 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:31AM (#21145451)
    Maybe that's an X thing rather than a Linux thing but why is it so that in 2007 that feature looks broken? most times any flavor of win9x or NT correctly detects the screen and allows to choose res and refresh according to the monitor limits. I'm part of an association that builds PC from parts donated or lying in the streets, we use more or less crappy CRTs.

    Editing the xorg.conf and tell bullshit about frequency ranges to get 1024x768 85Hz gets boring. Also PCs with improperly blanked screens aren't a rare sight. There are many computers labs full of them at the university (X terminals, diskless VIA C3 PC with 17" CRT), wasting a ridiculous amount of energy displaying black rather than being stand by. That should be urgently fixed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cowbutt ( 21077 )
      If your monitor and VGA card aren't completely braindead, these days, X, if properly configured to do so, will use DDC to extract your monitor's make, model and claimed EDID specifications automagically, and use that to pick an optimum resolution. If your monitor lies about its specification, or can't do DDC (hint: my 15" Iiyama CRT from 1995 can), then you're out of luck. If your distro doesn't configure X to use DDC, again, you're out of luck.
  • by raphae ( 754310 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:31AM (#21145455)
    Powermanagement for laptops seems to have consistently been inconsistent. As someone who uses laptops regularlz, having basic functions like hibernation and going into sleep mode causing complete system lockups on a fairly regular basis is a pretty big show-stopper. While I'd love to see the range of supported hardware expanded, I would really love if existing things like ACPI and various suspend technologies worked better and more consistently. It seems every few releases it works for a while then it completely breaks again. I am about to downgrade a laptop from Ubuntu Gutsy back to Feisty for this very reason.

    Having the ability to quickly suspend my machine and bring it up again is extremely high on the list of priorities.
    • by deftcoder ( 1090261 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @08:05AM (#21147307)

      As someone who uses laptops regularlz
      German laptops, perhaps? *raises pinky to mouth*
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kaiwai ( 765866 )
      That has the one thing that has really put me of ever running Linux on a laptop (along with the terrible selection of commercial software) - its great on the server, great on the technical workstation but when it comes to the laptop and general purpose computing, it falls apart.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by owlstead ( 636356 )
      Yes, and don't forget that power issues are not for laptops alone anymore. I can see that it's hard to get around all this ACPI stuff and such, but this feature is too important not to get right. I am running a VIA EPIA mainboard, and I can currently not go to hibernation or suspend due to USB driver problems. So there you go: fix USB for VIA CN700 motherboards (it uses a VIA VT8237A South Bridge, also found on some laptops I head, so this fix might be for both laptop as well as "desktop" users).

  • Also, there are plenty of cards that work, but still have problems. My Audigy NX operates at the wrong frequency when playing UT2004. Everything sounds higher pitched than it should.

    Also, sound cards that support Dolby Digital Live hardware encoding. For that matter, it'd be nice if AC3 encoding worked well with alsa. Pretty gimpy last I tried it.
  • by mochan_s ( 536939 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:35AM (#21145473)

    For example, Presonus Firebox and Firepod. Not just support but proper latency support I guess ( if I can so bold to demand them )

    The USB keyboards ( like M-Audio keystations and others ).

    It would be really sweet to work on audio in Linux for us CS geeks ( write scripts for audio effects rather than knobs and bars in weird custom interfaces ).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:46AM (#21145525)
    These wireless cards are integrated in so many laptops, and using ndiswrapper is still pretty crappy.
  • by inflex ( 123318 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:47AM (#21145533) Homepage Journal
    Really, I have about half a dozen webcams here which I cannot use, alas I only have one of each so it sort of kills any gain for me to send them the webcam so they can develop the driver (Great, another webcam supported but not in my set of cams :( ).

    What's dreadfully bad about webcams is that even with the same model number/name you can end up with a completely different bridge or sensor chip inside either due to a revision change or locality, really, it's pot luck at best.

    As for wifi cards, it's really more of a situation where a few of the current drivers are incredibly fickle - perhaps it's the nature of the beast? I've got a RT2400 type card which if it doesn't get its setup parameters within ~2 seconds of the module being loaded it utterly refuses to accept anything else until a complete restart. Things like that make me feel like I'm playing in Windows again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's the nature of the beast. Even some motherboard vendors swap chipsets without changing the model number of the board. I've had to take a jeweler's loupe to a motherboard, very carefully scrape off the obscuring hot glue, read the chip numbers off, and then hand it to my colleage with better photography tools to prove the difference. (Changing it was a violation of a particular contract with that vendor, since the chipsets did not use the same drivers and forced a painful hand-written kernel upgrade.)
  • How about webcams? I still can't walk into a consumer electronics store (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc...), pick up a cheap webcam, and expect it to work. And when they post the compatibility status for a camera, they should list it by the name on the box too, not just the name of the chip inside. When I walk into the Wal-Mart electronics department, I don't see a whole lot of Texas Instruments part numbers. I know that there are a lot of different brands of cameras that use the same parts internally, but the
  • Full Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Sunday October 28, 2007 @12:55AM (#21145595) Homepage Journal
    It's already been voiced in the thread, and is said very well in this post about the need for complete drivers [apreche.net] instead of just drivers that work - but not fully.
  • The fact that I have a Lexmark x7350 all-in-one printer is what keeps Windows on my machine. It isn't supported in Linux, and I _have_ to be able to print things. Sucks that they won't work on that.

    The only other thing I've encountered that I'd like better Linux support for is my webcam-- a Logitech Quickcam STX. It works in Linux, but the drivers it uses are inferior to the ones that I've got on my Windows install-- at least, I believe that would be the fault of the drivers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smash ( 1351 )
      Considered ditching the printer for something that works? yes, it would be nice to not have to do so, but given that the cost of the printer is far less than a Windows license... next time you upgrade O/S, get a new printer instead of paying for Windows?
  • PC532 (Score:3, Funny)

    by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @01:03AM (#21145641) Homepage
    There is a complete lack of PC532 [wikipedia.org] support.
  • Kernel/Userspace (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Since all the problems listed have been related to userspace... and if the kernel writers don't have enough to work with... can we not encourage some of the kernel writers to move to userspace coding?
  • Wireless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OverflowingBitBucket ( 464177 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @01:18AM (#21145715) Homepage Journal

    The current driver space for wireless components in Linux is an odd hodge-podge of ndiswrapper, madwifi (two versions), beta drivers external to the mainline kernel, minimal built-in support and blind luck. Cleaning this up should keep a good number of people very busy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jd ( 1658 )
      CAM drivers suffer from exactly the same problem (a multitude of alternative frameworks and incompatible drivers exist). Lesser-used devices (PCI-to-VME bus converters, for example) are beyond fragmented - drivers are written uniquely to a card and usually without reference to anything else out there, producing a completely unique API for every single implementation. It's a total disaster of train-wreck proportions in some cases. If the kernel developers are getting idle, trust me - it's not from a lack of
  • by anlprb ( 130123 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @01:21AM (#21145727)
    Why don't they go out to Staples, close their eyes, pick up a box in the wireless networking shelf, with preference to the 802.11n boxes and pick one and start writing. What about USB wifi cards? Those still are pretty well hit and miss. What about Broadcom wifi chips, you know the ones shipped with half of HP systems. Start working on a free driver or firmware or whatever is needed. Then, when all the wifi chips are supported and I don't have to worry about my new laptop not being able to get on the internet because HP locked the mini-pci slot to only one card, then we can take a walk down to the Video Card isle. Until you are done with Wifi, we will hold off on the hard stuff.

    Don't get me wrong, This is a great service. Just pick something that doesn't have X, be it firmware, a driver stack, whatever it may be and just start coding. I am serious, pick a random box at some store and start working. Look at the Sunday flyer, what is being put on sale. Find one of those devices and if it does not have linux support, buy it, start working on it.

    Why do you need to wait around for manufacturers to give you devices? Find what people can and will be buying and start supporting that first, the stuff that won't come out for a year doesn't matter if I can't go in a buy a 802.11n card now and get it to work. And if it doesn't support WPA2, I don't want to hear it, go back to your desk and do it over. I want to see the work this time. No doing it in your head. :)

    NDIS is not an option, it is not debuggable or portable across architectures. I have a few PPC machines I would like to use a 802.11n USB network card with.

    How about any Broadcom wifi card, with firmware so the driver can be stabilized better than their engineers can.

    Just because you don't like how hard it will be shouldn't keep you from starting on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PingXao ( 153057 )
      Lack of wireless chipset drivers is one of, if not the most, serious impediment to growing the Linux user base at this point in time. Broadcom is one of the most popular brands but by no means the only one without proper support under Linux.

      Linux Device Driver Dev: "Hey, I need something to work on."
      Me: "Wifi drivers for 802.11n, WPA2 and Broadcom chipsets."
      LDDD: "Something besides those."
      Me: "Get lost and stop wasting my time."
  • Stabilize the API (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KC1P ( 907742 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @01:29AM (#21145765) Homepage
    A very good use of these folks' time would be to reach some milestones on the Linux driver API so that the dang thing will stop changing all the time. A fundamental assumption of Linux is that constantly changing interfaces is no problem because the legions of faceless programmers will gladly rewrite everything each time around. True (but annoying) for generic hardware that everyone cares about, but not at all true for oddball stuff.

    I'm maintaining a driver for a bus adapter interface (for connecting old minicomputer peripherals to PCs) and it's a much bigger time sink than it needs to be. The source code is on my web site, but the users are, well, USERS, so when a new kernel release breaks it they just chuck it back at me to fix. So much for open source taking care of itself by magic. I won't bother submitting this driver to the free driver project because it's kind of useless without the $3000 piece of hardware it works with (and that's not counting the crates full of minicomputer hardware needed for testing). I need mine and I don't picture these folks buying their own no matter how much they care.

    Anyway I understand why Linus needs the freedom to get better ideas in the future and doesn't want to be weighed down with tons of backwards-compatibility stuff, but I still think it would make Linux more useful to split the difference and occasionally define an interface (doesn't have to be the default as long as you can ask for it somehow) which is guaranteed to work for some number of years. Then flush it at the end but at least some large amount of rarely-used stuff worked OK in the mean time, w/o having to be rewritten ... by a tiny group of people ... every few months.

    OK so I'm still stinging from udev. Sure, it's cute. But it required driver hacking (yet again) *and* broke my user-mode application by changing some of the device names. That would be OK back in kernel 0.x days but this is way too late in Linux history to start breaking applications, and after 16-17 years it's really time for the external interface to the kernel to start quieting down too.
    • Re:Stabilize the API (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thue ( 121682 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @06:48AM (#21147023) Homepage
      I won't bother submitting this driver to the free driver project because it's kind of useless without the $3000 piece of hardware it works with (and that's not counting the crates full of minicomputer hardware needed for testing). I need mine and I don't picture these folks buying their own no matter how much they care.

      I seem to recall that one of the main kernel developers said they accept any drivers, and had a driver in the kernel with only a single known user. So it seems to me that they would accept your driver, since you seem to have many users.

      If you get your driver in the kernel then I assume the developers who change the interfaces would update your code automatically.
  • by bendodge ( 998616 ) <bendodge.bsgprogrammers@com> on Sunday October 28, 2007 @01:35AM (#21145791) Homepage Journal
    Almost all PIII-era Intel Integrated Graphics chips won't allow Live CD's to start. They just hang when you try to load the kernel.

    It would be nice to put all those old boxes to use.
  • by SamP2 ( 1097897 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @02:30AM (#21146069)
    I still think that the perspective should be just a LITTLE bit more oriented towards the user. The response of "it's not the kernel, it's the userspace, so go whine to someone else" is akin to the "You are in a hot-air balloon, Sir" joke - true but not useful.

    I'm a user. I have a printer/GPU/whatever. It doesn't work on my Linux-running machine. I don't know or care whether it's a userspace or kernel issue. Heck, I don't even know the difference between the two. Hell, my only association with the word "kernel" is "the part of the nut that you eat", and all the word "userspace" reminds me of that I really should try and get a bigger cubicle. I just want my friggin' printer to work! And as far as I know, either Linux (and to me Linux refers to the WHOLE GNU/Linux suit) either DOES it or it DOESN'T.

    If there are too many kernel programmers for the kernel problems to solve, then maybe more should try to specialize in userspace drivers, or whatever happens to be the problem that currently needs to be solved (and PLEASE don't get started about how "they don't get paid so don't tell them what to do", because all you do is reinforce MS's primary argument to "why Linux isn't as good as Windoze").

    I like Linux as much as the next geek, but unlike the Fundamentalist Linuxist (who will undoubtedly mod me down as Troll for my insolent heresy towards the Sanctity of the Linux Kernel) I keep my eyes open about issues from the perspective of those who need those issues fixed, not in the Ivory Tower of Theoretical Separation of Kernel and User Space on which far too many people are sitting).
    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @02:54AM (#21146157) Journal

      The seperation between kernelspace and userland is NOT theoretical. This is slashdot and it would be like saying that the people who worked on your cars powertrain should fix the issues with the electrical subsystem. It then offcourse becomes obvious why this is idiotic, people who know engines don't need to know anything about electricity, yes both are "power" but at the same time totally different.

      The kernels task is to provide the base system that other software can then use to run on. You really don't want to tie to much stuff into the kernel, and if possible migrate stuff OUT of it and keep only the bare fundementals inside. Why? Windows is an excellent reason why. If the kernel crashes your are fucked, if a userspace program crashes, then you just restart that program while the kernel goes on.

      Take printers, the kernel does the USB protocol, but CUPS talks to the printer. The kernel handles the AGP bus, but is X11 that does the video work. Therefore the drivers for your printer and video card need to be part of these later projects. Offcourse it gets confusing with video cards because they ALSO need to be part of the kernel.

      Say you call up the electricity company to complain your PC don't work, they are very nice and send an engineer over. He will check the outlet, confirm it supplies the proper current and then leave. Your PC still don't work? Not his problem, not his job and most important, he may very well not even know where to start. Call Dell instead.

      Cups is a totally different project with its own team of people and own goals and ambition. To say that a kernel developer should just switch to that project instead is starting to smell a lot like extreme arrogance from your part. Who are you to say what an other person should do?

      People often start speaking of elitism, but what do you call it when a person like you expects everyone else to jump at their demands?

      The strength of Linux comes from its volunteers, who work hard on the stuff they are passionate about. Sadly there are also weaknesses in this which according to the reactions so far seem to be, don't buy Lexmark. I can live with that, if you can't. Well there is a small company called Microsoft operating out of Redmond. YOu might want to give them a call, I am sure they will JUMP at the change to develop drivers specifically for your hardware needs.

      Oh but wait. MS doesn't do that does it. Does MS provide code to run old software that don't wanna run on their latests OS? No. Does it provide drivers for hardware that has problems? No.

      Odd, that you are so undemanding of a product you pay for, but think volunteers should be at your beg and call.

      Next time something don't work, blame the company you paid for it.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @03:25AM (#21146299) Journal
    The 300 of you are all kernel driver devs but most drivers don't belong in the kernel. So 10 of you can hang around and maybe a few years before 2038 the rest of you will be needed ;).

    Meanwhile a fair number of us need:
    1) RAID monitoring tools (bad to have a RAID system but no way to know if a drive has failed)
    2) Temperature/fan/etc sensor monitoring.
    3) did I hear one or two mentioning printer drivers?
    4) Video drivers.
    5) Sound drivers.
    6) NIC drivers.
    7) Virtualization hardware stuff.

    The problem I see is for a fair number of these is you might actually have "drivers" (I use the term loosely) for say RHEL4, but not for RHEL3, Ubuntu or OpenSUSE, or whatever.

    The main problem I suppose is hardware companies not wanting to cooperate in ways that the Linux people want.

    But with 32 bit Windows, you can typically use the same drivers from Win2K onwards at least until that crap called Vista. Whereas with Linux, there's a fair chance that a kernel update would break something.
  • Just one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VincenzoRomano ( 881055 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @03:33AM (#21146335) Homepage Journal
    Things like ACPI, internal modems, infrared ports and card readers should work just like we see in the operating system with the four-colour-flag.
  • by LM741N ( 258038 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @09:00AM (#21147513)
    Need I say more?
  • by Isao ( 153092 ) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @02:34PM (#21149537)
    Better than suggesting, I'd like to pay a bounty for some drivers I need. Anywhere I can do that?

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel