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Devs Discuss Android's Possible Readmission To Linux Kernel 151

MonsterTrimble writes "At the Linux Collaboration Summit, Google and Linux Kernel Developers are meeting to discuss the issues surrounding the Android fork and how it can be re-admitted to the mainline kernel. From the article: 'James Bottomley, Linux SCSI subsystem maintainer and Novell distinguished engineer, said during the kernel panel that forks are prevalent in embedded systems where companies use the fork once, then "throw it away. Google is not the first to have done something like this by far, just the one that's made the most publicity. Hopefully the function of this collaboration summit is that there is some collaboration over the next two days and we might actually solve it."'"
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Devs Discuss Android's Possible Readmission To Linux Kernel

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  • Re:Bad Marketing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by theshibboleth ( 968645 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:47PM (#31878400)
    Outdated webpages are the hallmark of a dying product
  • Backwards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:48PM (#31878406)

    Google must now balance any desire to respect the wishes of the Linux community for compatibility with the more diverse, competing - and not always logical - interests of those now adopting Android and its own plans.

    I did a double take on this statement.

    What I've seen on the kernel mailing list is more a conflict of commercial developer's desire for compatibility (across kernel versions) with the core kernel developer's more diverse (and not always logical) desire to push pet projects and make frequent cosmetic changes that creates a hellish torrent of code churn. The lack of well defined kernel driver interfaces means a lot of time spent chasing the latest changes instead of adding features or fixing bugs.

  • Cheaper costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:50PM (#31878420)

    It's a real problem -- Android is easily the most hackable phone out there. And that's exactly the kind of thing cell phone manufacturers in this country don't want. It's bundled services that they make their fortunes on -- selling overpriced phones, contract cancellation fees, locking in devices, and more. Android threatens to separate the market into service providers and device providers and up until now, the service provider dictated what the device providers could do.

    Imagine if you could just eject your SIM card from your phone, plug it into your computer, and browse the net, take phone calls, etc., then eject it like it's a memory card, slap it back into your phone, and go off to school, work, wherever. Or using bluetooth so that as soon as you get home, it automagically resyncs all your e-mails, text messages, and more. There's so much the technology can do -- and the only reason it's not happening is because service providers want to charge for everything, rather than simply flat-rating everything on a per minute, day, or megabyte use.

    My Sidekick recently lost the ability to send files to my computer over bluetooth. Why? Because of an OTA update that disabled that. So now I can't just sit my phone near my laptop and transfer my pictures out of it, I have to open the back up, eject the little card, plug it into my system, copy the files, and then do the reverse. Very cumbersome when before it was 'click icon, drag files'.

    It's complete and utter bullshit that cell phones are as powerful now as desktops were ten years ago sitting in the palm of my hand, and yet they have less than a third of the capability. And not a one of them is really interoperable with any other except on the most primitive level. Hell, the dialup days of computing offered more functionality and standardization than the cell phone market does. Why should a 14.4k modem and an antiquidated pentium 133 have more communication functionality than today's devices? Hell... it even cost less.

  • Re:Backwards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:56PM (#31878482)

    The only people I've seen clamoring for a static, unchanging driver interface are those writing proprietary drivers. Last I checked, changes to the interfaces by someone puts the onus on them to fix all the calls to it in the kernel, which is why getting your driver into the tree is considered better than keeping it closed.

    That said, if you're keeping your driver closed it's a problem you're bringing upon yourself.

  • Re:Backwards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Phillips ( 238627 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:57PM (#31878498)

    The truth is, Google doesn't really get open source even though its livelihood depends on it.

  • Re:Cheaper costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Friday April 16, 2010 @07:00PM (#31878522)

    It's a real problem -- Android is easily the most hackable phone out there.

    I'm not so sure... I think the Nokia N900 has got it beat.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @07:02PM (#31878552)

    Really? I come to slashdot to read about how Google is taking yet another piece of technology we have taken for granted for many years and turning it into an online, ad-based Clout 2.0 service and tunneling it through HTTP with JSON and SOAP to their servers for a nice intense data-mining session for better targeted ads and predicting future crimes one might commit.

    Unbridled capitalism and the apathetic and ignorant citizens are to blame for that. Your personal data can be aggregated and monetized, and for the foreseeable future, there's very little legislation to prevent this and very little awareness of how pervasive such technology is. My whole generation is living with software riddled with government and corporations that have put back doors into everything, freely share data with each other, and those living in urban areas (the majority of the population) are rarely out of contact with some device or another wired into the global network, tracking their movements, purchases, communications, relationships, and every aspect of your life. Remotely-enabled webcams, cell phones that can be turned on silently to broadcast everything it hears and sees, and laptops and routers that can be readily converted into eavesdropping devices, just to name a few of the many things that are out there right now. And the only reason it's not all interconnected more seamlessly is because the technology is still rapidly evolving and hasn't reached a stable plateau where convergence is possible, although the internet has made a giant leap forward in enabling that future. The NSA spends billions each year trying to keep up with infrastructure changes and only is able to harness a fraction of that potential.

    But I mean, comeon -- what do you expect from a world where we find it okay to setup metal fences with razor-tipped wire and cameras everywhere as "official protest zones", where we have passports, credit cards, (and soon ID cards) that can be remotely scanned to identify you... put it all together. Where do you think this all ends?

  • If hardware makers can't include third-party code or processes that they aren't permitted to sublicense as free software, then perhaps they won't write a driver at all. Instead of proprietary drivers, you'll have completely unsupported hardware.
  • by cynyr ( 703126 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @07:07PM (#31878604)
    yes, if it's enough of a market for them, they will make sure that they get support from upstream, if enough companies ask for linux support for subassembly Y then maybe it will change. If you really feel you need to keep it closed, do like nvidia, or handle it yourself.
  • Re:Backwards? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anpheus ( 908711 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @07:09PM (#31878624)

    Those proprietary drivers still have to be maintained against the rest of the kernel, and that costs time, and consequently money.

    Furthermore, many of these devices are protected by patents, and I'm sure you don't want code for a special model of capacitive multi-touch screen that only one phone uses to be added to the general Linux kernel. There's no point in it.

    So that's the problem. All these phones have highly specialized devices that may be protected by patents that in Europe have no weight, but in the US do, and could cause problems for the linux kernel potentially even if they were introduced. Add to that the fact that for many of these devices a generic, unifying framework doesn't exist that they can attach themselves too, and you could end up seeing the kernel with ten thousand different phone drivers, each of them so specific that all it does is bloat the kernel.

    So what's the answer? Well, the answer is that if Linux doesn't start building a good ABI, they're going to shoot themselves in the foot, or more literally, they'll end up sawing off their own leg because it decided to fork itself. And for all the babbling the kernel devs do about the difficulty of maintaining an ABI and how it constrains them, it also makes it very difficult for the generic, current Linux kernel to gain widespread adoption in markets that resemble embedded ones in all but name. What is HTC supposed to do, keep people on payroll perpetually to maintain their thousand plus phones and their potentially tens of thousands of drivers?

    Suddenly, Linux is starting to look a lot more expensive than free.

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @07:10PM (#31878630)

    What's your point, that we should encourage closed drivers by setting the APIs in stone for years on end? Allow the non-open to dictate the actions of the open?

    That's not -my- problem. It's theirs. They choose to stay closed, so when the APIs change no one else can fix it but them. They have no room to bitch about unstable APIs in an open kernel that is constantly changing, when they won't commit to being open themselves. Others do, and as a result don't have nearly the problems. It's a cost they must accept, or they can do as you suggest and stop.

  • Re:Backwards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @07:48PM (#31878946)

    The last thing Linux needs is a set-in-stone kernel interface...

    I can agree with this, but then again I don't see anyone asking for that.

    How about something in between, say a well defined interface that is stable for a reasonable period of time with clear points of deprecation and then replacement with improved interfaces? Windows's driver interface is not set in stone with never ending backwards compatibility, you can't use Win 9X drivers on XP. Yet a binary driver that works on Windows 2K has a reasonable chance of running on Vista.

    There needs to be a balance between improvements/changes and stability/maintainability.

  • Step one would be: don't shop at Best Buy, as you're probably paying too much.

    Step two would be: shop at home, online, where you can compare both prices and compatibility with your OS.

    I think these steps are valid whether or not you're a clueless end-user. Clueless end-users are more than capable of comparison shopping online (and if the end-user really wants to buy from Best Buy, they can look at Best Buy's website without leaving home).

  • Re:Cheaper costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:46PM (#31879364)

    Yeah, but who's heard of the Nokia N900, or even knows what that means, outside geek circles? On the other hand, billboards and TVs everywhere are blasting out "Droid does". For bringing a hackable system to the masses, Android has it beat.

    But "the masses" aren't interested in hacking it, thus making said hackability essentially irrelevant to anyone who isn't in "geek circles" anyway.

  • Re:Backwards? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HeronBlademaster ( 1079477 ) <heron@xnapid.com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:48PM (#31879386) Homepage

    No, but they're wrong for being unwilling to meet them halfway (even something as simple as a clear schedule for ABI changes and deprecation). There's nothing wrong with adding a little method to the madness.

  • Re:Cheaper costs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:01PM (#31879778)

    But "the masses" aren't interested in hacking it, thus making said hackability essentially irrelevant to anyone who isn't in "geek circles" anyway.

    They said the same thing about the internet, twenty years ago. And yet look what the hackers of the world built out of the refuse of wires and chips that the corporations of then said was useless and had no commercial value. Now they're fighting to tax it, control it, and some countries have declared it an inalienable human right to have it.

    Maybe it has no value to them, but that's because they don't know the value of it yet. It's our job to find it and tell them. You just haven't been around long enough to realize the purpose of your own learning yet. Your individuality, your knowledge and talents, are not for your own gratification. The purpose of the democratic process, which the internet comes closest in form and function, is not to create a great country, or great works, but to create great people.

    Hacking is therefore the highest form of the democratic process; Not because of what we do, but for what we share.

  • I am against this. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FlyingGuy ( 989135 ) <flyingguy AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:28PM (#31879916)

    And here is why.

    Google has proven to be benevolent, but I am not sure I want their hooks in my Linux kernel. Google exists to make money and do things in their own self interest. The problem is if their fork gets merged that they will become the maintainers for this. I believe as long as it remains in their self interest they will maintain the code but as soon as it is no longer in their self interest it will be abandoned and where will that leave us should we all decide to begin uses that functionality?

    I think they should put the parts that are different out there, lets us all examine them and then let us decide if we want their frankencode or not.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @12:11AM (#31880318) Journal

    It is entertaining that a tinfoil hat will work quite well at protecting your wallet from remote scans.

    Only if you keep your wallet on your head.

  • Where's the ROI? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Saturday April 17, 2010 @08:22AM (#31880716) Homepage Journal

    if it's enough of a market for them

    It isn't. Because GNU/Linux has roughly 1% of the desktop share, a lot of companies don't see the return on investment in getting support from upstream.

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