Keeping the Kernel Klean

Operating systems drive devices. Linux is driven by open-source imperatives. So, naturally, Linux's kernel developers have a problem with closed-source kernel modules. And, just as naturally, they've hacked up a statement they hope will discourage the closed and encourage the open.

On his blog, Greg Kroah-Hartman explained, “As part of the Linux Foundation Technical board...we wanted to do something that could be seen as a general 'public statement' about them that is easy to understand and point to when people have questions”. Here it is:

Position Statement on Linux Kernel Modules, June 2008

We, the undersigned Linux kernel developers, consider any closed-source Linux kernel module or driver to be harmful and undesirable. We have repeatedly found them to be detrimental to Linux users, businesses and the greater Linux ecosystem. Such modules negate the openness, stability, flexibility and maintainability of the Linux development model and shut their users off from the expertise of the Linux community. Vendors that provide closed-source kernel modules force their customers to give up key Linux advantages or choose new vendors. Therefore, in order to take full advantage of the cost savings and shared support benefits open source has to offer, we urge vendors to adopt a policy of supporting their customers on Linux with open-source kernel code.

We speak only for ourselves, and not for any company we might work for today, have in the past or will in the future.

Below that are 176 names.

The Linux Foundation has a slightly broader statement:

The Linux Foundation recommends that hardware manufacturers provide open-source kernel modules. The open-source nature of Linux is intrinsic to its success. We encourage manufacturers to work with the kernel community to provide open-source kernel modules in order to enable their users and themselves to take advantage of the considerable benefits that Linux makes possible. We agree with the Linux kernel developers that vendors who provide closed-source kernel modules force their customers to give up these key Linux advantages. We urge all vendors to adopt a policy of supporting their customers on Linux with open-source kernel modules.

Either way the message is clear.

 

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal.

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