Debian Dropping A Number Of Old Linux Drivers Is Angering Vintage Hardware Users
Written by Michael Larabel in Debian on 21 April 2020 at 07:23 AM EDT. 94 Comments
DEBIAN --
More than a few Phoronix readers have written in over the past few days expressing outrage that Debian GNU/Linux is dropping a number of old hardware drivers.

Earlier this month the Debian "X Strike Force" team decided to drop a number of obsolete input and video drivers from Debian. The basis in dropping these old input and display drivers is "They are either unmaintained upstream or provide no value to the distribution."

Among the drivers affected were for Mach 64, ATI Rage R128, Savage, Silicon Motion, SiS, Trident, and NeoMagic graphics hardware. This is for hardware like the ATI Rage 128 that is more than 20 years old along with many of the other hardware supported by these drivers. Originally the Geode display driver was also set to be removed but later kept in. Input drivers for Elo touchscreens, MuTouch, and others were also dropped.

Among those jumping in on the bug report and mailing list were pointing out the r128 driver is used by old Apple hardware and others saying that Debian supporting old hardware is important.

Upstream these X.Org drivers are still "maintained" in that they may see a release every few years to fix compiler warnings or compatibility with new xorg-server releases but are seldom actually tested on the actual hardware by the developers -- often with those maintaining these drivers upstream not having hardware access -- and sometimes these drivers upstream end up sitting around broken for years.

Fedora meanwhile dropped many of these drivers years ago as have various other Linux distributions especially at a time most desktop Linux distributions have gone x86_64 / AArch64 only for new installations and done away with their vintage hardware support.

Those in the Debian camp wanting these vintage hardware drivers to return would need to step up in maintaining them to get them reintroduced to Debian.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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