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Discouraging binary kernel modules in Linux

© August 2004 Tony Lawrence

Referencing: Vanishing Features of the 2.6 Kernel

This is an older article that I came across while researching something else. This caught my attention:

Most observers foresee a tightening of the limits on binary modules.
This may very well break some rather expensive commercial Linux
products, but that doesn't seem to bother most kernel developers.

Well, "break" is perhaps too strong. If somebody really wants to stay binary only, they can. It may cost them much more in compatibility and support because they would be apt to need new versions constantly, but high incentive trumps hard work.

Still, it's interesting that kernel developers seem to want to do some social engineering to at least encourage openness. It just may work, especially as Linux becomes more popular. Probably at least some binary modules are so only because of habit and policy. Make it hard, and policy may get re-examined, and some may realize that there is really nothing in their code that needs hiding anyway.

Last years flap about Linksys ended with Linksys releasing source, but not for the wireless interface itself, so they apparently still felt they had something they needed to keep secret. The whole area of binary modules has been a source of confusion for some time.

I confess that I really don't understand why hardware manufacturers have this reluctance to expose their interfaces. You would think that making it easy for others to write drivers would just lead to greater use of the hardware, but few seem to think that way.

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