Monday, May 22, 2006

Closed source binaries

Just wanted to add my two cents into the ongoing argument over the use of closed source binaries, including modules, under Linux.

Me? I'm a mutt power user. I use whatever tool best fits the job. I have Linux running under Windows, Windows running under Linux, and misc. *BSD variants. And that's all on one system at home. I can tweak/fix other peoples' C code but can't write my own well enough that I'd show it in public.

While listening to the argument on TLLTS, I disliked the argument that we should wait for drivers to be legally reverse engineered as it keeps the kernel un-tainted. My argument is that I'm still the one that ends up on the short end of the stick.

Case in point: my Hauppauge PVR-250 card. I bought the darn thing when it first came out. Paid "handsomely" for it too. Was forced to run it under a crippled (translation: prone to destructive crashing) version of Windows because that was the only software that was available for it at the time. Waited 3+ years for the Linux world to develop decent drivers and software for it.

Can you guess what the problem is now? The minimum recommended system requirements for Linux is now greater than the capabilities of my system.

If Hauppauge had issued a binary for Linux when the card first came out, I'd still be running whatever version of Linux it required (at least on one partition). It'd be considered ancient by now but I'd have 3+ years of enjoying the use of the hardware. Now it's 3+ years later, I finally have the Linux software to access the 3+ year-old card and the software won't run because my system is too damn slow.

Yeah, Mr. Stallman, it's for the good of mankind that we suffer. (Hint: that was sarcasm.)