One, Two, Three, or More - View It with DisplayLink and USB
Among the biggest challenges for Linux developers — and one of the reasons we, at least, hear most often for not switching to Linux — is that Linux device support isn't as complete as some other operating systems. The reason for this, of course, has nothing to do with the abilities, inclinations, or availability of Linux developers — the reason Linux lacks support for many devices is because the device manufacturers refuse to provide the drivers, data, and design specs necessary for Linux compatibility.
Some manufacturers, however, are — slowly — moving to ensure compatibility between Linux and their products. Among the latest to do so is DisplayLink, a company that provides USB technology that enables high-resolution displays to be connected not through VGA, DVI, or S-Video ports, but ordinary USB 2.0 connections. The company's products are utilized in many USB-based devices, including projectors, monitors, and docking stations, and there is a plethora of possibilities for Linux devices to use the technology, if only the software-side necessities were available.
That's exactly the problem DisplayLink remedied this week, by releasing a library that will allow Linux developers to provide drivers, X Server compatibility, and other software to enable Linux support for DisplayLink-based devices. Eventually, DisplayLink expects that its technology will be support the full spectrum of Linux-based devices, from mobile phones and other embedded devices to notebooks, netbooks, and all manner of boxen.
DisplayLink is partnering with the Linux Driver Project and Novell to jump-start development of the needed software for Linux compatibility. The LDP, for those unfamiliar, is a consortium of some 200-plus Linux developers focused on establishing Linux compatibility with devices like those produced by DisplayLink — Novell is, of course, the force behind SUSE Linux and the primary corporate backer of the openSUSE project. It's not unusual for traditionally-proprietary firms like DisplayLink to partner with the more corporate side of Linux — companies like Red Hat and Novell that mix Open Source and business — though the fruits of these partnerships generally benefit not only those companies and the respective communities centered around them, but the greater Linux community as well.
Perhaps most encouraging is the license attached to the library. Unlike some firms, who provide drivers and other data under proprietary licenses — making their inclusion at odds with the ideological positions of some distributions and many users — DisplayLink has chosen to release its library under a tried-and-true Open Source license: the Lesser General Public License (LGPL), a close cousin to the perhaps even more recognizable General Public License, or GPL, under which Linux itself is licensed. By providing the library under the LGPL, DisplayLink has ensured that the resulting drivers and other software will have the opportunity to be free and open, unencumbered by the proprietary restrictions so often imposed.
Said DisplayLink Marketing Director Jason Slaughter: "By providing the widest possible support for DisplayLink devices under the LGPL license, we combine the ubiquitous connectivity of USB and the kind of universal device coverage only possible with Linux to creating an ideal breeding ground for innovation on DisplayLink’s hardware platform." And to that, we say: "Amen."
Justin Ryan is News Editor for LinuxJournal.com.
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