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The Linux Kernel and Open Source Drivers

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Linux
OSS

There has been a lot of talk about the Linux kernel and Open Source drivers this week. Most of it was about Microsoft. Much more interesting is the discussion on Phoronix about the case of the new VIA Chrome 9 DRM (Direct Rendering Manager).

The gist of the story is this: VIA has a binary 3D driver for it's Chrome 9 IGP, but they want that some of the code (the DRM) is entered into the Linux kernel. The DRM code is open source, but not the driver itself. Now without the driver the DRM is useless, meaning that if it is accepted the kernel would contain some code whose only purpose would be to run VIA's binary driver.

This raises a lot of issues: how would this code be maintained? What if the kernel part of the code needs to evolve and updates to the driver are required? What about security? VIA could solve some of these issues by providing a complete documentation of the binary Chrome 9 driver, but currently this documentation is not available: critical pieces are missing.

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