Day 3: Conferences: Standalone Device Drivers in Linux

In this talk, Ted Ts'o makes the valid point that it now makes sense to ship some drivers independantly of linux kernel releases. It is true that when the kernel is mostly stable, and new releases are far apart, some drivers are updated faster than the kernel.
It also doesn't make too much sense for people to run unstable kernels, so some new drivers are backported to old kernels but it doesn't always happen and it takes time, so distributing some drivers independanly may make more sense.


One could notice on Ted's badge that it says "VA Research", and he actually announced it. Yes, VA is really on a hiring frenzy, they've gotten a bunch of great people. If you are a valuable linux coder, be careful, they might come to your door one day and try to throw money at you :-)
Anyway Kudos to VA Linux Systems on those recent hirings, and thanks for all the fish^H^H^H^Hshirts :-)

I have to apologize for not having any more notes; I actually had many pictures of his talk, including all his slides, but because of a user error when I used GNU photo to dump all the pictures (I forgot to change directories, that's what 4 times of getting up at 07:00 in a row will do to me... ), Gphoto happily overwrote the ones that were in the current directory, and those were more pictures of Ted and the slides.
Ted did submit a detailled paper on his talk, and it's available in the proceedings, and hopefully soon on the linuxexpo web site

The few notes that I got were:
Ted seems to like Slackware at least as much as I do. For him, as a programmer, it's been a huge support nightware because it didn't ship kernel headers that matched the binary kernel that was included (which breaks any kernel module that you try to compile). Funny, as a sysadmin and "answer-guy", I have the exact same feeling about slackware: it's a support headacke.
Please, do yourself and everyone else a favor: unless you've been using it for the last x years, and you both enjoy and know how to fix and upgrade the outdated libraries in slackware, run some other distribution.

Ted recommended the Serial driver and the Rocketport drivers are two examples of drivers written in a way that they'll work on different major versions of the kernel.
There was also some mention of UDI, the Uniform Device Interface. It is meant for binary compatibility between Unices on PC, but it real life it is mainly an advantage to other Unices, like SCO, and it will add a possibly sizable overhead for linux compared to native drivers, so for now only SCO is working on this and the linux community shouldn't be overly worried about this even if it'd be nice to have drivers for non speed critical devices that would also work on FreeBSD and affiliated.

Ted finished by mentionning that even when you've taken the necessary steps to get a portable kernel module, you still have to take care of the installation on the actual system, and he gave an example of shell script that works both on RedHat like and Debian systems, and mentionned that here again that Slackware is a pain since it doesn't have Sys V style initscripts.
All this will hopefully get much easier as the LSB efforts go along.

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99/05/23 (20:29): Version 1.0