OSDL has many different member companies, and a number of different "sister" organizations in different countries. It appears that the Japan OSDL group is having a hard time coming to grips with exactly how the whole Open Source development process works, and the current OSDL management group does not seem to be doing a good job in educating them about this.

Case in point, a number of months ago, OSDL's director of engineering posted this public message, asking for help with a "Generic Kernel API" that would somehow provide a "stable kernel api" for companies to use.

Now I have written a lot about this in the past, and even pushed this information into the main kernel tree, as well as speaking about this in public numerous times.

So, for the head of OSDL's Engineering group to say:

I'm concerned that the current process doesn't scale, namely that the community will always update open source drivers when an internal kernel changes break them. As more and more drivers are open-sourced, this becomes a larger and larger effort.

shows a great disconnect as to their understanding of how the Linux kernel is developed and maintained over time (hint, the process scales very well, better than anything anyone has ever done before.)

Anyway, people outside of OSDL responded properly in that email thread, showing the error of their ways, and why this was both not a good thing, and that proposing this on some odd, remote OSDL specific mailing list was not the place to discuss it (it should be done in public, on the linux-kernel mailing list.) I thought this was the end of this proposal.

I was wrong.

I received the following "invitation" from OSDL's CTO a few weeks ago, to attend a meeting where they were going to be discussing this same proposal again:

Well we have 3 Japanese members who can't seem to understand the process for device drivers. (Fujitsu, NEC and Hitachi) They keep pushing their idea that they call Open Driver. All of us have told them the issues (I will find a presentation and forward it to you) but they keep coming back.

The message went on to explain that they had tried to tell their members that this was a bad thing, but they needed to hear it from "real kernel developers" and hopefully that would change their mind. So they want me, a non-OSDL person, to educate their own members as to how exactly this whole development process works, and why a stable kernel api for Linux will not work. Why they would listen to me, and not their own CTO and director of engineering, either means that these people do not understand the issues properly, or they are just lazy and want me to do their job for them (or something else about OSDL's management, but I'm not going to go there, yet.)

It gets worse...

I got a copy of the proposal, and it contains this lovely slide in the section about "vendor advantages":

click for full slide

Yes, you got that right, OSDL Japan wants a stable kernel api layer so they can write binary only kernel drivers, which are just so illegal it's not even funny. The fact that OSDL's management doesn't seem to understand this, makes me really worry about how well they even comprehend the legal issues behind the GPL, the kernel, and how the kernel developers feel about this topic.

So I'm about to go into a meeting with these people, and try to educate everyone just how wrong this proposal is, on so many levels (both technical and legal.) I'll write an update here to let everyone know how the whole thing went.

Or maybe I'll just say it sounds like a great idea, and why not just post the patch to the linux-kernel mailing list. Then I'll sit back and watch the fireworks, it's been a few weeks since we've had a big flamewar...

posted Thu, 03 Nov 2005 in [/linux]


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