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Novell bans proprietary Linux modules

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SUSE

In a change of heart, Novell has ceased distributing proprietary software modules such as 3D video drivers that plug into the Linux kernel.

The change came with Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10, released in July. With the move, Novell is aligning itself with the Free Software Foundation, which shuns proprietary software in general but in particular loathes proprietary modules that run as a component of the open-source Linux kernel.

The Linux kernel comes with numerous open-source modules that handle everything from storing files on hard drives to communicating with networks. However, a few companies offer proprietary modules that let Linux communicate with various hardware devices. Among the most widely used proprietary modules are video card drivers that provide 3D graphics support.

Although customers can still install proprietary modules on their own, Novell's ban reflects a new balance between the open-source and proprietary realms. The Linux kernel is governed by the General Public License (GPL), written initially by Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman and now being modernized.

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