Resumée: Greg Kroah-Hartman on the Linux Driver Project

Apr 10, 2008

For over a year now, the Linux Driver Project (LDP) has offered free development of hardware drivers. Novell gave its employee and the project initiator Greg Kroah-Hartman a sabbatical for driver programming; Kroah-Hartmann recently published a status report.

In posts on his blog site and the LDP mailing list, Hartman emphasizes that there is very little hardware that Linux does not support. Drivers for most new devices are either developed by the manufacturers or in cooperation with the community.

The two areas causing the most difficulty right now are WLAN cards and video input devices. The latter category includes devices for digitizing video material, and TV cards. However, efforts are being made to solve these issues, and WLAN support in particular made considerable progress last year. For example, the Linux kernel now has a completely new wireless protocol stack. Additionally, many new hardware drivers have been produced; this is definitely a step in the right direction although some devices are still problematic.

An active developer community takes care of video hardware driver development, however, its development model is outside of the kernel; for example, Linuxtv.org still uses the fairly uncommon Mercurial version control software. Another obstacle is caused by disputes between programmers, none of whom works full time on driver development. This makes for slow propagation of the results into the kernel. The LDP developers are currently supporting efforts by actively working on drivers for various video devices; the results will be available for testing parallel to the next kernel releases.

For Kroah-Hartman the project's focus has now shifted to training and educating manufacturers. The primary aim is to help manufacturers during the driver development stage. Last year most effort went into tidying up program code and helping drivers make the transition into the official kernel releases. According to Kroah-Hartmann there is some talk of setting up a marketing department to encourage hardware manufacturers to develop Linux drivers.

The project intends to keep up this two-pronged approach in future. Besides developing missing drivers under the GPLv2, LDP will continue to be a port of call for enterprises seeking to develop hardware drivers for Linux.

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