State of hardware support in Linux

I’m getting increasingly annoyed by the state of some aspects of hardware support in Linux.

My laptop (old Dell Latitude D610, Intel-based with ATI graphics) used to suspend/resume correctly with Linux 2.6.24 (ie, > 95% success rate). Later changes made the success rate drop significantly, and added a problem with kacpid taking 100% CPU because of an interrupt storm. And now, with 2.6.28-rc6, it’s completely broken. (partially documented in bug 11563, but I admit I gave up on this bug, because I’m going to change my laptop soon).

My desktop used to wake-on-lan correctly with 2.6.24 (but required some hacks, because it wouldn’t wake up if the NIC was DOWNed before shutdown), but changes in the r8169 driver broke it. (documented in bug 9512).

As a result, I’m forced to run old kernel versions on the two systems I have at home. I can understand that those issues aren’t considered high priority (not everybody use WoL), but the fact that in both cases, they are regressions, worries me a bit.

How many things are routinely broken during each kernel release cycle? Hardware support is difficult, of course, but are we really doing everything we could to make it suck less? Some things I really would like to see:

  • Distro packages for development kernel versions. For Debian, there’s this repository, but it doesn’t always contain the latest kernel versions. Maybe that’s something that should be moved to a umbrella and generalized to all distributions, to provide beta-testers with easy-to-install packages. git bisect isn’t that user-friendly.
  • Funding for driver developers to buy specific hardware. Many drivers cover a wide range of chips/cards, and developers often only have on a small subset of them, making it difficult to debug issues specific to one chip.
  • Better/updated bugzilla on Many bug logs are totally confusing, and cover different issues. They could maybe benefit from new or specifically developed bugzilla features (and more bug triagers, of course).

-vote@ discussions on DFSG violations

There have been 470 mails during the last month in the DFSG violations threads on -vote@, but only 10 posters have contributed more than 10 mails so far:

85 Robert Millan
51 Manoj Srivastava
18 Pierre Habouzit
18 Josselin Mouette
16 Thomas Bushnell BSG
14 Stephen Gran
13 Frans Pop
13 Ean Schuessler
13 Adeodato Simo
12 Russ Allbery

Is someone working on a summary of the discussions? I would really hate it if we were asked to vote on this, with a “for details, see the -vote@ archives” footnote. (Robert Millan sounds like a perfect candidate for this task :-) )

Living in France? Not an April member? You are WRONG.

I’ve been a member of April, the french association for promotion and defense of Free Software, for a bit more than a year, and I often regret not becoming a member earlier. (I was feeling so guilty and shameful about not being a member that I actually postponed becoming a member.)

Stop feeling guilty and shameful, become an April member today!

Why Is becoming an April member so important?

  • Clearly, April doesn’t address the same problems as your local LUG. April is a country-wide organization, and it works on country-wide problems. It’s the only group able to work on such problems at this scale (I’m not sure of the situation in other countries, but I think CCC shares a similar role in Germany for example).
  • Each time I talk to people really involved in April (which I’m not), I’m amazed by how powerful they have become. They are able to talk to french or european deputies or ministers’ cabinets, and are considered important. They are doing a fantastic job spreading what matters to us to legislative and executive powers in France and Europe.

Some of the things they worked on recently (from the top of my head):

  • Lobbying on :
    • OOXML
    • General announcements about politics (Plan France Numérique 2012, aka Plan Besson).
    • European telecom package and HADOPI law (french graduated response) law, through Quadrature du net. (OK, it doesn’t have anything to do with April, but most of the people involved in Quadrature du Net are also involved in April :-)
    • vente liée : the fact that it’s not possible to buy a computer without a Windows license. It’s illegal in French law, but still the de facto situation almost everywhere.
  • Organization of a campaign where candidates to elections in France where asked questions, or asked to sign a declaration about Free Software. In 2007, 8 out of the 12 candidates of the french presidential election answered April’s questions.

So, really, become a member today. It’s only 10 EUR, and you already know they will be well used. April is trying to reach 5000 members by the end of 2008.

(Apparently, if you use that address, April will now that you came from me. No benefit for me at all.)