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Silicon Motion Has Open-Source Driver, But Fails

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  • Silicon Motion Has Open-Source Driver, But Fails

    Phoronix: Silicon Motion Has Open-Source Driver, But Fails

    For those that don't closely follow the various development lists, at the end of February a Silicon Motion developer came to the DRI list announcing he had "a kernel driver for all our graphics chips" that he was looking to mainline. It sounds nice, but in the end it's a let-down and the most you'll probably get out of it is a few laughs...

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=MTA2OTk

  • #2
    Unrewarding

    I understand this article regarding the licenses, but I find this type of article unrewarding to corporations who wish to get started contributing to the linux kernel, and in return to the linux community. Every developer has his expertise and workflow, and for one, I personally use git repo for anything i collaborate on, but to use the lack of training in a repo in a negative sense or the inexperience in kernel contribution is just plain nit picking on a n00b in the field. Instead of sharing such information in negative light we should point out ways in which they can contribute and sources on how to contribute, provide them with proper definitions used within the community etc etc. If we shed such things in negative light then the following can be expected in future:

    * Proprietary Companies will not open source if their coding may or may not meet the standards of the community
    * Proprietary companies will only contribute to the kernel if they hire someone experienced in kernel contributions, and why should they hire someone for such a specific task if they are just putting their feet in the water

    I'm not saying we should give them soft cushions and baby walk them through the processes, but giving bad publicity for a good intentioned effort is not the way to go. Just a few pointers will do.

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    • #3
      What, after trying to work with the kernel developers for the first time, you don't expect to get roundly mocked by unrelated people for being unexperienced?

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      • #4
        This article just sounds mean-spirited. Bad form, Phoronix.

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        • #5
          I do think the article was a little rough and the community was being more harsh than it should have been, but developers need to realize that just because linux is a relatively small community, it doesn't mean you can slack in quality and expect anything is "good enough". It also doesn't mean that you can get everything to change priorities just because you want them to.

          This is exactly what this developer was doing - he was kinda being an ass (albeit, accidentally) about what he wanted and seemed insultingly uneducated.

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          • #6
            Personally, I think that the devs where mostly quite helpful and very understanding. Reading that list-thread I didn't feel that they 'failed' or anything negative.

            I got the feeling that they where trying, but didn't know quite where to start and what to do. It seemed they where just quite uninformed on what linux is and how the community behind it works.

            Handholding, up to a point, why not. These are just people doing a job and maybe feeling overwhelmed. Maybe don't have the technical knowledge we'd expect. Also not speaking their native language.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by oliver View Post
              Personally, I think that the devs where mostly quite helpful and very understanding. Reading that list-thread I didn't feel that they 'failed' or anything negative.

              I got the feeling that they where trying, but didn't know quite where to start and what to do. It seemed they where just quite uninformed on what linux is and how the community behind it works.

              Handholding, up to a point, why not. These are just people doing a job and maybe feeling overwhelmed. Maybe don't have the technical knowledge we'd expect. Also not speaking their native language.
              Not to forget to mention that its out of their usual workflow. They obviously have a different style in house and different workflow, so this is new waters. I have nothing against how the mailing list responded, but this article just seems a bit of a slap on the wrist. I love phoronix, don't get me wrong. I just feel we should be pointing people in the right direction rather than slapping them on the wrist. If they are expecting to be baby stepped through then thats a different story.

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              • #8
                I agree to everything written in this thread. He is mostly a newbie to linux driver writing, so this is to be expected. However especially newbies must be greeted and forgiven, or they easily get offended - even if it was misunderstanding. I appreciate his work, maybe he should study license deeper if they have no IP department, but its good he is actually participating in development and submitting patches no matter the quality. The thing with the copyright string - he owns the copyright, so it is just that he is new, lived it that way. This is really good anyway, more good devices are really welcome.
                Last edited by crazycheese; 03-13-2012, 12:03 PM.

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                • #9
                  Uh, well. Mailinglists on kernel are sometimes harsh, yes.
                  But then, the attempt was really bound to fail with such a lot of coding errors and lack of experience with the tools Kernel devs use. Maybe they should gift him a book explaining git and writing drivers for the Kernel.
                  Anyway, what makes me cringe somewhat is the thought that here we see the mistakes openly in the source. But what if companies (and they probably do) release such drivers as blobs? Or other software - not just drivers. Ouch.

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                  • #10
                    yes very sad story i hope they will bring this to an end any opensource driver is good!

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                    • #11
                      Yeah, another vote for not mocking the people who are *trying* to do things the right way.

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                      • #12
                        I think Michael was going for the humor of the situation but the article was quite condescending from a reader's point of view, especially since Michael is making the mistakes of these devs more public than it ever should be (I can't believe you included his name, poor guy).

                        I've been on many different mailings lists and new comers almost always ask what seems to be trivial questions (I've done this, I'm sure). But we need to be welcoming if we want to foster a friendly, open environment that everyone enjoys working with. Or everyone will leave and no work will ever get done.

                        In regards to the Silicon Motions developers, REALLY? There are hundreds of git tutorials and while I do appreciate your open-source work A LOT, please submit meticulously written code - most everyone else does, you are no exception. Then we can avoid these situations. Hopefully, we will be able to laugh about this situation over a beer someday.

                        Good luck to you!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Adarion View Post
                          Uh, well. Mailinglists on kernel are sometimes harsh, yes.
                          But then, the attempt was really bound to fail with such a lot of coding errors and lack of experience with the tools Kernel devs use. Maybe they should gift him a book explaining git and writing drivers for the Kernel.
                          Anyway, what makes me cringe somewhat is the thought that here we see the mistakes openly in the source. But what if companies (and they probably do) release such drivers as blobs? Or other software - not just drivers. [emphasis mine] Ouch.
                          This isn't a hypothetical "what-if" scenario. This is reality. Most of the proprietary software systems of the world consist of absolutely horrendous code quality, with tons of undefined behavior, legacy compatibility hacks to re-create bugs that were fixed 10 years ago, cargo cult coding, and lots of other horrid things. That's why proprietary software is usually extraordinarily brittle, meaning that it only works in a certain specific set of circumstances that were anticipated by the developer, and falls down easily when straying from the happy path.

                          It's no secret that open source code -- especially on large projects with a strong commitment to code quality -- tends to be more adaptable, more tolerant of user error and hardware bugs, and easier to maintain. This is in fact the main argument given by many proponents of the open source movement, in favor of open source software -- they argue that the development process itself is inherently inclined to produce better software. And of course they make a good argument that often reflects reality, or else we wouldn't be here on Phoronix talking about Linux code quality.

                          This is also why most wireless (802.11) devices simply refuse to work with one another. It's not that the hardware is electrically or physically incapable of behaving in a compatible way; it's just that the imbeciles who wrote the proprietary drivers tested their adapter with an extremely limited set of other devices (usually the company's own devices only) for compatibility and smooth, trouble-free operation. When companies interpret wireless standards differently and don't communicate their interpretations to one another in the form of open source drivers, this kind of problem is inevitable.

                          I have seen some pretty bad open source code, but none of it comes close to the unbearably low bar for proprietary software that's set within corporations that we rely upon for our daily activities, like Nvidia, AMD, Marvell, Atmel, Ralink, Intel, Cisco, VMware, and so on.

                          It's the Bazaar and the Cathedral. It's the Democracy and the Tyrant. When your work product is just a driver "that works", it is completely irrelevant how compatible your code is; how portable it is; how well it avoids undefined behavior; or how well-documented it is. As long as you can bandaid over any outwardly-showing flaws and hide or gloss over any remaining flaws, you get to keep your job and your hardware and its drivers get to launch on time. Everybody's happy.

                          Except the customer who tries your crap driver with a configuration you didn't anticipate, and has no way to fix your junior programming mistake because your company chose a 20th century business model / licensing model.

                          Steve Ballmer said once that Linux is a cancer. No, Steve; look yourself in the mirror. You are the very icon of the most cancerous ideology within the entire high technology industry: proprietary software / ideas.

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                          • #14
                            I don't think this article was too harsh.

                            Chucking shit over a wall with the intention to abandon it, and not releasing it under a license compatible with the kernel's is such a stupid thing to do that Silicon Motion deserves to be mocked for it.

                            If you want to mainline a hardware driver, you have to maintain it, the license can't be any more restrictive than the GPL 2, and it can't e utter crap with thousands of bugs that you have no plan to do anything aout. Where is that unfair exactly?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by DaemonFC View Post
                              Chucking shit over a wall with the intention to abandon it, and not releasing it under a license compatible with the kernel's is such a stupid thing to do that Silicon Motion deserves to be mocked for it.

                              If you want to mainline a hardware driver, you have to maintain it, the license can't be any more restrictive than the GPL 2, and it can't e utter crap with thousands of bugs that you have no plan to do anything aout. Where is that unfair exactly?
                              Do they want to abandon it? Do they want to keep the incompatible license? To me it kinda looks like "hey, you, I heard we should put our drivers into the official kernel, do that" "how?" "how should I know, that's your job, go and find out!" Maybe they do just want to dump their code somewhere, but if that's the case, this article doesn't support it (and neither do the mailing list posts I found).

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