As I've documented here previously, the Linux kernel community
has had a few issues with OSDL in the past, so they got together, and
worked out how they felt they could help resolve the different issues, and
also provide some way for the kernel developers to solve some general issues
that they feel need to be addressed.
A whitepaper was created, shopped around to the board members of
OSDL, and yesterday, we gave a presentation to the full board,
about what we felt could be done to help.
As people have been asking us what happened, and what specifically we
proposed, here's a short summary. It was created by 17 of the top Linux
kernel developers, and has their implicit backing. If anyone wants more
details, please just let me know:
Proposals for how OSDL can help serve the vendor community
Create a program that can be used to get hardware specifications that are
only available under a NDA to individual developers. This will entail
creating a legal entity under OSDL that can sign the NDA with the company,
and provide the individual developer that needs the spec with it. Also, if
the developer moves on to do something else, OSDL will still have access to
the spec if another developer wants access to it.
Provide some way for developers to access hardware before it is publicly
available. This will help the company by allowing kernel developers to help
out with drivers and code before it is released to the general public,
which will help them with their deadlines of releasing working drivers at
the same time hardware is available. It is also very difficult for most
companies to give hardware to individual people, but very easy for them to
give hardware to other companies.
A lot of time, when a vendor tries to get code accepted into the Linux
kernel, it is a very frustrating task for both sides. Large code changes
are sometimes just dismissed as they do not take into consideration the way
the kernel is developed (small changes over time), or they just do not
follow the basic rules (coding style, submission process, etc.) We need an
approach that will make it easier for everyone involved, and one proposal
to do this is to have a training conference. Kernel developers and
subsystem maintainers will be willing to provide training on what the
proper procedures are, and case studies of what has failed in the past,
and why. It will also allow vendor developers to meet directly with the
kernel developers to help ease any tension that might occur over email, and
will provide a neutral ground for everyone involved.
In the past vendors use "requirements" to control operating system
development. This was how all of the UNIX variants were created, but this
process no longer applies to Linux. Code and ideas that are implemented
are how to control and modify Linux, not providing a specification and
telling other people to go follow it. This too is a big educational issue,
and can probably be addressed at the above mentioned conference.
Proposals for how OSDL can help nurture the Linux kernel community
We really need a technical writer dedicated to help keeping the in-kernel
documentation up to date and relevant. The kernel developers are much
better at writing code than documenting it, and if there was someone
watching over this, and bugging the developers to keep it up to date when
it lapses, it would help out immensely. The fact that the in-kernel
documentation is not properly up to date, causes significant vendor pain
when they try to go create a new driver or change, and are confronted with
The current OSDL fellowship program has been very successful,
employing Linus and Andrew to do vendor-neutral tasks without worrying
about any controlling company. We feel that this program should be
expanded to cover aspects of the kernel that are in need of attention.
Specific fellowships with limited time periods could be funded (even
separately from OSDL) to help complete needed tasks. Example areas where
help is needed is the PCMCIA and Firewire subsystems, which are known to
have issues, but no one vendor is willing to step up and fund development
The development community usually does not have any access to travel
funding in order to go to different conferences, or to go to meetings to
interact with other developers. A program of creating travel grants to
address this would help solve this problem.
Linux user groups represent a very good base of where future and current
kernel developers can be found. We need to find a way to nurture these
groups, provide a way to fly kernel developers to speak at these groups,
and just be a general resource for them to use for the different issues
There is no Linux technical conference in the US anymore. If this could be
addressed with a conference much like ALS used to be, it would be a very
good thing. We need to nurture the technical community across the US with
regional conferences that are easy to access in order to help seed the
creation of new developers for Linux. The different BSDs do this very
well, and we need to also fill this gap. This isn't restricted to the US
alone, South America, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world also need
to have these types of meetings if we are to successfully thrive over time.
How to formalise the relationship between OSDL and the kernel community
A technical advisory board should be created at OSDL which consists of
members of the kernel community. This board will act as an input
mechanism from the community to OSDL internally. It will help oversee all
of these different proposals and provide a line of communication from
OSDL's sponsors back to the community.
A kernel community at large member should be created on the OSDL board of
directors. This will allow the community to ensure that these proposals
are properly implemented, and also prove a way for the community to have a
stake in the way OSDL is run. It would be a visible sign of a trust bond
between OSDL's sponsors, and the kernel community.
We realize that funding for OSDL is limited, but almost all of these proposals
can be funded independently from OSDL's main budget. For example, the
fellowship program can be sponsored by individual companies that want to see a
specific task completed, and the conferences, if run properly, should be
We found out yesterday evening that the OSDL board of directors had "agreed to
implement all the proposals". So now comes the hard work...
And yes, Dan Frye, see, I spelled your name correctly :)
posted Thu, 26 Jan 2006 in