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Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough" - Updated
Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:36 PM EDT

Linux Electrons tells the story:
Novell Offers New Linux Device Driver Process

Novell has said that the company has developed a new process that solves Linux® device driver compatibility issues. The new driver process allows customers to obtain drivers independently of Novell® kernel updates and supplies a straightforward approach third parties can use when developing device drivers for Novell's SUSE® Linux Enterprise products. The new Linux driver process developed by Novell allows hardware and software vendors to provide Linux drivers and driver updates for their products to customers directly and transparently, in a way that is completely integrated with SUSE Linux Enterprise delivery and support.

Novell spokesperson Kurt Garloff, head Linux architect for Novell, says in the press release, "We will continue to support third parties delivering open source drivers to kernel.org for release directly with our Linux products, but this new process fills the driver gap between releases that can be critical to customer and partner success."

Here's the FAQ for the Partner Linux Driver Process", which I haven't read yet myself. Here's Novell's press release. I also now have a statement from Novell.

[ UPDATE: ] Novell's Kevan Barney writes to me:

Many developers in the kernel community consider kernel‑level modules to be subject to the GPL terms. Novell respects this position and has a policy of distributing kernel modules that are compatible with the GPL. Novell continues to work with vendors to find ways to efficiently provide users functionality that may currently only be available through non‑GPL kernel modules. These efforts include designing an open source solution or creating an alternative means for users to access the functionality.

Our announcement yesterday is the followup to our promises and includes the mechanism to provide kernel‑level modules which can then be consumed electronically as well as via physical media by our users by using our unique YaST and ZENworks capabilities in add-on packages handling as well as patch and update management.

When the vendor is directly distributing a kernel‑level module to our users, the vendor is responsible for support, which in many cases is done in close collaboration with Novell, as well as compatibility with the GPL of any code delivered.

He also points to this segment of the FAQ:

"As an active member of the open source community, Novell's position is clear: The best place for partners to develop kernel drivers is upstream in the kernel.org source tree, where kernel driver code benefits from thorough review and community involvement. Novell promotes having all Linux device drivers be a part of the official kernel.org source tree. However, we recognize that some drivers are not there yet or have been integrated only after a kernel release has happened. For this case, we offer a way to get a supportable and certifiable driver anyway using the Driver Process described here."

***************************

Novell Delivers Device Driver Breakthrough to Accelerate Linux Adoption

Wednesday May 17, 8:30 am ET

New Device Driver Process Improves Hardware Support for Partners and Customers, Making It Easier to Integrate Hardware and Software With Linux

Novell today announced availability and details of a process that solves Linux^ device driver compatibility issues. The new driver process allows customers to obtain drivers independently of Novell® kernel updates and supplies a straightforward approach third parties can use when developing device drivers for Novell's SUSE® Linux Enterprise products. The new Linux driver process developed by Novell allows hardware and software vendors to provide Linux drivers and driver updates for their products to customers directly and transparently, in a way that is completely integrated with SUSE Linux Enterprise delivery and support.

"The new process is simply another way for us to help customers run their businesses reliably and cost effectively," said Kurt Garloff, head Linux architect for Novell. "Working with the open source community and our hardware and software partners, and welcoming the participation of other Linux distributors, we are allowing customers to efficiently obtain needed drivers independent of our SUSE Linux Enterprise release cycles. We will continue to support third parties delivering open source drivers to kernel.org for release directly with our Linux products, but this new process fills the driver gap between releases that can be critical to customer and partner success."

The new Linux driver process reflects Novell's ongoing commitment to easing and facilitating Linux adoption and delivering value to the open enterprise. Third-party hardware and software vendors will also benefit from a simpler driver provision process and more customers being able to update hardware and software without waiting for Linux platform updates.

Support from Partners

Reza Rooholamini, Dell director of Enterprise Solutions Engineering, said, "Novell's driver process will help continue Linux's momentum in the enterprise because it greatly reduces the complexity of enabling new devices between kernel updates. Customers can now update to the latest drivers for our hardware, without the cost and resource related to rebuilding kernel drivers or waiting for kernel patches."

Steve Geary, HP vice president of research and development, Open Source and Linux Organization, said, "HP and Novell have continued working together to improve Linux integration and enable new hardware on Linux in the enterprise. Today's announcement is a big win for our mutual customers, allowing us to respond much more quickly, ensure consistency in supported solutions and provide even greater choice in Linux offerings from Novell and HP."

Scott Handy, IBM vice president of Worldwide Linux and Open Source, said, "Customers are asking for better ways to incorporate the latest device drivers to support our latest hardware innovations. The new device driver service in Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 is designed to make it easier for IBM's extensive network of worldwide business partners and customers to seamlessly integrate software and hardware in Linux environments."

Kenichi Hori, chief manager of the NEC OSS Promotion Center, said, "Novell's Linux driver process is a practical approach that enhances the maintainability of Linux systems. NEC welcomes the announcement as it will be beneficial for both customers and driver suppliers."

Availability

Novell's Linux driver process will be included with SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 when it ships this summer and is available now for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 SP3. For participation information and more technical details about the new device driver process, visit http://developer.novell.com/linuxdrivers.

About Novell

Novell, Inc. delivers Software for the Open Enterprise(TM). With more than 50,000 customers in 43 countries, Novell helps customers manage, simplify, secure and integrate their technology environments by leveraging best-of-breed, open standards-based software. With over 20 years of experience, more than 5,000 employees, 5,000 partners and support centers around the world, Novell helps customers gain control over their IT operating environment while reducing cost. More information about Novell can be found at http://www.novell.com.

NOTE: Novell and SUSE are registered trademarks and Software for the Open Enterprise is a trademark of Novell, Inc. in the United States and other countries. *Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. All other third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


  


Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough" - Updated | 156 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections
Authored by: dwandre on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:40 PM EDT
If any...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off-topic here
Authored by: alisonken1 on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:41 PM EDT

... If only I had one.

---
- Ken -
import std_disclaimer.py
Registered Linux user #296561
Slackin' since 1993
http://www.slackware.com
http://www.mutagenix.org

[ Reply to This | # ]

Marketing
Authored by: gvc on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:41 PM EDT
I don't like words like "breakthrough." I like technical
descriptions, which are conspicuously absent in this press release.

Linux has some problems arising from the fact that it is a monolithic kernel,
and a wrapper (like ndiswrapper, for example) might help. But let's see how
portable the wrapper is, how secure it is, and how much uptake there is.

A breakthrough? So far just press release jargon.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The problem, as always...
Authored by: jesse on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:47 PM EDT
Is still "Who can support the binary driver when it is no longer supported
by the vendor?"

I sometimes like the fact that drivers can be backported to earlier releases.
Can't do that here.

The kernel developers WILL NOT accept bug reports from anyone
using such a system.

No support from them.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Device Driver Breakthrough
Authored by: findlay on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:53 PM EDT
Why does this sound so much like this?

[ Reply to This | # ]

THIS STORY SHOULD NOT BE ON GROKLAW
Authored by: Felix_the_Mac on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:53 PM EDT

1. This article has nothing to do with Groklaw's purpose.
2. It is a press-release full off hype.(i.e. breakthrough ??)
3. The purpose of the SUSE's new process is to allow easier handling of non GPL
(binary only) drivers.

Please remove the article.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Either it is binary driver support or DKMS
Authored by: whoever57 on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:07 PM EDT
Either this is a system to support binary drivers, or it is perhaps something like DKMS(Dynamic Kernel Module Support)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Device Driver Breakthrough
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:11 PM EDT
Several things do not sound nice about this "breakthrough"
1) It is an addition to YAST, and so it is not a process solution for other
Linux distributers
2) It is the responsibility of the USER and Manufacturer to communicate with
each other to get the updates. Novell is not coordinating this process. It
almost looks like a way for Novell to minimize their efforts in integrating
device drivers into a system solution
3) No mention was made as to whether OpenSuSE will get this code.
4) If this process ONLY works with Novell (YAST), then it becomes one more
driver format for a manufacturer to keep track of to interface with Linux. This
may cause more work for the manufacturer, not less.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Binary Driver Compatibility is not the problem
Authored by: capt.Hij on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:11 PM EDT

The problem with hardware compatibility in open source operating systems is not the difficulties in plugging in binary drivers. The real problem is the refusal of hardware companies to open up their propietary source code. This is not a good thing because it will make it harder to get companies to open up their source code. Closed code is bad for software whether it is a word processor or a driver. In fact, it is worse for a driver because a faulty driver can crash a whole system while a buggy word processor only crashes itself. Novell is on the wrong track on this one. It can only lead to bad things.

A view on this can be found here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

You amaze me PJ
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:18 PM EDT
So, this is your new strategy. When you don't know what to make of a particular
press release, you go ahead and put out an article about it, so *we* would tell
you instead, right?
:)

Groklaw rules! (... and no, I'm not being sarcastic).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Device Driver Breakthrough
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:23 PM EDT
Geez. Microsoft and Novell offered this years ago -- called binary drivers. PJ
must really be desperate for web space to call this a "breakthrough".


[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Not PJ - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 07:20 PM EDT
Novell's Device Driver Breakthrough
Authored by: mash_morgan on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:23 PM EDT
Are we sure PJ posted this breakthrough story.. I had to pinch myself it wasnt
slashdot or digg ???

Has groklaw been hacked ??

[ Reply to This | # ]

This is not binary module support
Authored by: jjon on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:32 PM EDT
Basically if Novell/SuSE are trying to troubleshoot a problem that a customer is
having with a kernel driver, there are 3 things that could be causing the
problem:

1) The customer downloaded the wrong driver source code.
2) The customer compiled it incorrectly. (There are plenty of subtle things
that can go wrong and cause a mostly-working driver, like a wrong .config file
or a slightly-incorrect version of the compiler)
3) There's a real bug in the driver.

This is a way of providing pre-compiled binary drivers, to eliminate problem (2)
entirely. Note that normally source code would be provided too, in the same way
that 100% of the progams in any [non-Gentoo] Linux distro are distributed as
precompiled binaries with separate source code.

It also helps with problem (1), as the pre-compiled binary driver has a nice
well-defined name and version number, and it's installation is tracked and
managed by the standard "rpm" tool.

Novell say that they still want drivers to be submitted to kernel.org so they
appear in the next full SuSE release, but this is a way of getting Linux drivers
usable as soon as the manufacturer ship a new piece of hardware.


Note that the whole source code thing is slightly different if you're an
enterprise paying Novell for support. Novell aren't going to be able to support
you if you've made random changes to the code and recompiled. They need you to
be running the known, tested and reproducible binary packages that Novell
shipped to you. If you find a bug, you're paying Novell to use the source code
to fix the bug and ship you a fixed binary (and fixed source too). You still
have the source code as an escape hatch in case Novell's support isn't good
enough.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Device Driver Breakthrough
Authored by: julianne on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 06:39 PM EDT
Perhaps one approach to providing device drivers that are somewhat independent
of the kernel is to relagate the drivers to user mode. Yes, this brings
performance hits, but so does a system crash! What is needed is a standardized
method of installing the drivers in user space and providing them with the
resources needed to operate. For instance, the drivers need access to PCI
addresses, device interrupts need to be routed to user space, and so on. If we
have a library of pseudo kernel function calls to use, the driver can call those
which are relayed by proxy to the real version. There are lots of issues to
work out, but it would give another avenue to the device driver problem.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Enterprises will never be Open Source purists.
Authored by: Brian S. on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 07:09 PM EDT

The new driver process allows customers to obtain drivers independently of Novell® kernel updates and supplies a straightforward approach third parties can use when developing device drivers for Novell's SUSE® Linux Enterprise products. The new Linux driver process developed by Novell allows hardware and software vendors to provide Linux drivers and driver updates for their products to customers directly and transparently, in a way that is completely integrated with SUSE Linux Enterprise delivery and support.



Novell are an enterprise employing thousands of people to develop, sell and support solutions for other enterprises.

Enterprises just want things to work using as few highly paid software experts as possible.

Enterprises will never buy a printer because it's driver software is Open Source. They will buy the printer with quality print and no reliability problems at a price they can afford.(Try selling them if you're not HP or Epson)

Novell must deliver what the enterprise customer wants or they will go out of business.

Of course this is marketing and non-technical. It's aimed at Novell's partners and corporate customers.

I am surprised PJ supports this in view of her criticism of Linspire but I think it's a compromise Open Source has to make to gain wider acceptence.

The UK National Health Service isn't going to waste part of it's £20billion buying hundreds of thousands of printers if the nurse at the blunt end can't get her printer sorted out quickly and easily be it an Open Source or Proprietry driver problem.

Hardware has no ethics, its made out of silicon and plastic, costs a lot of money to produce and is out of date before it goes on the market.

Brian S.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I don't think this is about proprietary drivers
Authored by: Prototrm on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 07:15 PM EDT
There are a lot of Linux users these days who cannot (or don't want to) compile
code, whether that be a driver or an application, and simply want to install the
binary for their machine and distro. I for one never download source unless I
don't have a choice, because I never use it. If you're someone who, for one
reason or another, uses it, then that's another story.

What Novell is doing is providing an easier mechanism for those binary drivers
to be applied by the user. I guess it *could* be used with proprietary drivers,
but that's not how I read Novell's intentions.

Now, it doesn't look that earth-shattering a change to me, certainly not a
"breakthrough", but I'm probably missing something. It's been a long
day.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough"
Authored by: red floyd on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 07:58 PM EDT
How is this any different from Linux in a Binary World - A Doomsday Scenario, which you referenced in the Freespire article?

---
I am not merely a "consumer" or a "taxpayer". I am a *CITIZEN* of the United States of America.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Misconceptions about this announcement
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 08:31 PM EDT
A lot of people have been commenting about this article. 2 main points that
are being made are:

1) This isn't really a breakthrough.

2) This means closed-source drivers are being packaged and supported by Novell.

Both of these have threads of truth, but miss the point.

The main gist of this announcement revolves around vendor driver support. Where
I work, we use a LOT of HP equipment. Typically, HP finds bugs in certain
hardware (usually storage-related), and tells us we have to use the latest
driver to continue to be a supported solution. However, going to the latest
kernel to get this small bug fix seems silly, so instead, I have to compile new
driver code that they supply. To avoid having compilers everywhere, I have to
build the driver on another machine, then make a package and install it on the
other machines. Note that these drivers do make it into the kernel.org tree, it
just takes longer than the vendors can afford to spend (otherwise they wouldn't
distribute separate drivers in the first place).

What Novell did was to make a standard way of packaging the drivers (which helps
preserve package and system integrity) for a compiled kernel MUCH easier. It
also means that if they have to patch the kernel in a way that breaks drivers,
they will tell these vendors so they can make new drivers before the patch goes
out to the world.

I also got the hint that Novell might make some kind of web service that allows
vendors to post their desired driver code, and Novell will spit out the proper
binary package. Easier for vendors that way.

So, with that in mind:

1) It's a "breakthrough" (gotta love PR spin), in that no other
commercial distro vendor really does this, and I wouldn't be surprised if Red
Hat comes out with something similar soon.

2) It's still going to be hard for closed-source drivers. Hybrid drivers like
NVIDIA can take full advantage of this, but Novell is still frowning on it.
Check out http://en.opensuse.org/Bugs:Most_Annoying_Bugs#SUSE_Linux_10.1_RC3
This is an example of them removing drivers that are non-free.

So, I honestly think, that while not a huge technical breakthrough, it is a step
forward for enterprises with lots of servers or workstations (this feature is in
SUSE 10 as well as SLES 10 and, to a certain extent, SLES 9). It also offers
more flexibility to end users. Although this can be used for less than honorable
pruposes, it's still up to the user, which is all you can ask for.


.

[ Reply to This | # ]

content-free press release
Authored by: rsmith on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 09:02 PM EDT
Strange how press releases, which one would suppose are there to inform, are so
completely devoid of any content.

Don't worry too much about binary drivers. Since Linux doesn't have a stable
driver ABI (and for good reason; to prevent backwards compatibility kludges and
bugs on a Microsoftion scale), binary drivers are hard to maintain and tend to
break with kernel upgrades. Such a scheme will not work better, and may even be
buggier then Windows.

My only worry is that such a scheme tarnishes the reputation of open source
before it dies.

---
Intellectual Property is an oxymoron.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough"
Authored by: cventers on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 09:05 PM EDT
I think many are misinterpreting this Novell announcement.
This is not about binary drivers.

I think LWN has a great take on it in this week's
edition... in essence, Novell is offering consulting
services to driver authors in order to make sure their
drivers work on all of their versions of Linux. They will
advise vendors of API changes in new kernels and at the
top tier of support they will also take care of
forward-porting drivers to new APIs when need be.

They state on their site that they strongly promote
mainline inclusion for all drivers and all vendors.

LWN seems to imply this could actually be a good thing,
and I would agree.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Now
Authored by: Tufty on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 09:25 PM EDT
at what point are we to set the divide between hardware and software? That is a
more crucial question. Do we need to go into the microcode of the graphic card's
GPU or the embeded code, on the board, that drives it? Does the split occur at
the AGP or PCI Express slot or do we allow creep back into the programs running
on the PC? We are talking about a piece of hardware that ties in VERY closly
with the motherboard and its systems. I guess the matter is a little delicate
for the manufacturer.

Let us not, simply, beat them over the head and say that everything should be
Open Source but rather work towards a solution that will gradually push back the
boundary towards the card. It may need a new concept for the on-card software
and how it relates to the motherboard. I think it will take time and there will
need to be steps, on the way, from both sides.


---
There has to be a rabbit down this rabbit hole somewhere!
Now I want its hide.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Geez Guys
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 09:43 PM EDT
PJ isn't claiming this is a "breakthrough" per se; She's quoting the
Novell press release, hence the reason she put breakthrough it quotation marks.
She's making the Groklaw community-at-large aware of the development. She isn't
claiming technical superiority, she's appealing to all of us for
<b>CONSTRUCTIVE</b> criticism. I have must say that many of the
comments I've read here today are mean spirited. Come'on! Give PJ a break,
will-ya? GEEZ!

th80

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough"
Authored by: Carla Schroder on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 10:08 PM EDT
this tells more: FAQ_for_the_Partner_Linux_Driver_Process
"How does the Partner Linux Driver Process relate to the kernel community?
As an active member of the open source community, Novell's position is clear: The best place for partners to develop kernel drivers is upstream in the kernel.org source tree, where kernel driver code benefits from thorough review and community involvement. Novell promotes having all Linux device drivers be a part of the official kernel.org source tree."

Essentially they want a hardware driver delivery process that is independent of distro releases, and uses YaST. Doesn't sound bad at all.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Slow News Day?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 10:47 PM EDT
I personally think that SuSE will overtake RedHat as the #1
"Enterprise" Linux distribution. That being said, I'm not sure why PJ
posted this unless there's just nothing else going on today. This announcement
by Novell means they will accept, maintain, and support patches submitted by
folks who may have had their submissions rejected by Linus.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm fine with the article
Authored by: BC on Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 11:13 PM EDT
I for one thought I was an interesting post, and I'm glad PJ put it up. Thanks,
PJ!

It's in line with some of the current FOSS issues. It involves Novell who is
one of the more central commerical FOSS vendors. It might help improve the
adoption Linux.

Anyway, if we're going to start posting over whether this worthwhile -- put me
solidly in the "Approves" column.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wouldn't be better a ReactOS distribution?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 18 2006 @ 03:36 AM EDT

If we don't mind to install propietary drivers, we could do it in Reactos (a
windows clone)

Maybe would be better a Novell distribution of Reactos, instead of adding
propietary stuff to their Linux. And for sure, this would hurt microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Non-open drivers
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 18 2006 @ 07:35 AM EDT
I have commented fairly extensively about this. This Post might help with some background.

While I would love all chips to completely expose their effective API (register maps and so forth), I also see why some do not.

Now Novell's position is clear; they want drivers to be part of the kernel tree (and open), but some hardware is not (and quite possible never will be).

Novell is at least trying to help those who have that hardware (amongst other things) by facilitating updated drivers. Of course, providing updated drivers independently of the release cycle also makes sense, whether the driver is open or closed, and that is a very nice added service.

The three primary reasons?

1 The spec for the device is itself not open. One example of this is the SDCard specification. SD Cards are becoming ubiquitous, but driver support has to come from someone with access to the full spec. One can get the simplified versions of the SD specs, but not the full version unless one pays a significant amount of money for it, and even then there is a non-disclosure requirement.

Although I personally find this puzzling as the best way to make hardware ubiquitous is usually to open up the spec, this is the way it currently exists.

2 A company does not want to reveal 10s of millions in R&D to a cloning outfit. This is a real concern when the development of a device costs significant sums of money. A fully open driver shows precisely not only what, but to a great extent how the hardware achieves that end. As the majority of the cost of producing new hardware is in the R&D end, companies want to keep it secret (as in trade secret) so they can recoup that and make a profit on top. Remember, these companies are in the business of making a profit, and they don't want to act as a free R&D centre for a knock-off cloning outfit.

3 The hardware may incorporate third party IP and the agreement for that may encumber the manufacturer to keep it confidential.

I've noted before that drivers would undoutedly be better if they were open, but these reasons (amongst others) work against it. Until there's a business case for opening the drivers that the business people involved can be convinced of, we will continue to have closed hardware.

Just my $0.02

PeteS [not logged in]

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 18 2006 @ 09:22 AM EDT
Lack of current driver support is one of the major
gripes thrown against Linux. Novell is offering up
a solution. It may not be a perfect solution, but
it will help. Nobody says that businesses shouldn't
make money from FOSS. Novell is a business, like
IBM, and is trying to make a profit. That is fine.
Nice thing is that they are trying to fill a gap
that needs to be filled and not trying to push some
useless, wiz-bang, rip-off-the-customer type of
service like some other major software company we know.

[ Reply to This | # ]

My company already does this
Authored by: rob.hughes on Thursday, May 18 2006 @ 05:15 PM EDT
We have our own linux distro to support our products. We backport certain
drivers and release just driver packages, rather than entire new kernels. So my
feeling about this is a resounding "meh".

[ Reply to This | # ]

Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough"
Authored by: TerryH on Friday, May 19 2006 @ 12:23 PM EDT

There seems to be a lot of tilting at windmills in this thread, though I suppose a lack of clarity in the press release is ultimately at fault.

My impression was that they are trying to reduce the rate of their release cycle by allowing driver releases to be independent of the distribution releases (and controlled by third-parties, hence no special coordination between third-party driver authors and Novell is required).

There's been quite a problem with this with Debian, for example, in that before ALSA drivers were incorporated into the kernel (with version 2.6), installing ALSA was a major pain. Theoretically, you could do it with binary packages, but it never worked for me -- every single time, I had to give up and recompile my kernel in order to make ALSA work (with 2.4 kernels and before, I mean). I can do this, and it even makes me feel "cool" and "clever" to be able to, but at the end of the day, I'd rather just use apt-get. ;-)

There's no way an "enterprise" customer is going to want to recompile modules every time they need a new driver that isn't part of the current Novell SuSE release (nor are they going to want to upgrade their entire distribution every time this comes up).

Debian eventually made this easier by providing the make-kpkg package, which automated the process of recompiling kernel modules.

The Novell thing being advertised here is something similar, but tied to a web application service, and probably even more automated.

I suppose the system might make closed-source drivers easier, but it isn't really clear from the press release, and I think it's a side issue.

Beyond this, I'm not sure what Novell is doing, but it does seem like news for Novell SUSE users. Oh wait, here's a couple of technical links about what they are doing:

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