Welcome mo (was Re: [Wolves] tv card)

Aquarius aquarius-lists at kryogenix.org
Mon Dec 15 11:11:48 GMT 2003

Jono Bacon spoo'd forth:
> We were basically discussing the problem that you
> cannot whack a driver disk into a Linux box to install
> a  driver for some hardware. I had an idea that the
> kernel should have a mechanism where source code can
> be stored on the driver disk which will check what
> features are enabled in the kernel, and it will first
> enable those features automatically and then compile
> the code and enable it. This suggestion got around
> some issue with binary drivers. Aq did not like this
> as it causes problems with some devices such as PDA's
> that Linux runs on. I then had an idea that you could
> have stock cross platform linux code and then extras
> that bolt on to support this kind of feature (similar
> to the current system but some more platform specific
> extras - even though this feature would basically work
> on any platform that can compile the source code on
> the system).
> Aq did not see it this way as he was basically wrong
> and had an invisible beard. Nevermind. :)

Oh, that argument has convinced me. I don't think :)

Essentially, my complaint with Jono's original suggestion (which he
mentions) is that you need the kernel source lying around. Hands up
those of you with Zauruses who have space for the kernel source?
No-one, right :)

The argument segued into a further point, where a fundamental
disagreement between Jono and I reared its ugly head again. We can sum
it up with the following question; read the question first, decide on
your answer, and then read the bit afterwards.

----------------- the question ----------------
If someone came up with a feature which would noticeably improve Linux
on one platform, x86 (a standard PC), should that feature be part of
the mainline kernel?

Decided on your answer?

Does your answer change if that feature would cause *other* stuff to
take longer to appear in the kernel because kernel developers were
concentrating on the new feature?

Does your answer change if the feature applied to some other hardware
platform that you don't have, rather than x86?

The reason that Jono and I disagree here is[1] that he believes that
Linux should be the best that it can be on each possible platform,
which means that different platforms may have different capabilities
(because there might be stuff you can do on x86 that you can't do on
sparc, say, and that's no reason to not have it *do* those things on
x86 if it can). I believe that one of Linux's main strengths is that it
is genuinely cross-platform in everything; you can sit down at a Debian
box and not have to care, or even know, whether it's x86 or sparc or
arm or mips. If you have features on some platforms and not others,
then everything that depends on those features suddenly also becomes
non-cross-platform, and you lose the benefit of being able to jump
between architectures without applications breaking. My major worry is
that pretty much everything that's suggested in this vein is an x86
feature, and I think it'll disenfranchise other platforms until you
essentially have "Linux" and "Linux x86" and they are a lot different.

I'd be interested to hear what other people think about this...


[1] I'm putting words in his mouth here, but he'll no doubt pipe up if
I'm misrepresenting his views :)

Don't panic (even if your terminals start printing "all your dialup
accounts are belong to us" repeatedly)
	   -- bambam

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