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Linux Journal: Use Binary-Only Kernel Modules, Hate Life

Jun 19, 2002, 23:30 (17 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Don Marti)

"During the 'Birds of a Feather' (BoF) session held on the evening of June 14 at the Usenix Conference, Linus Torvalds took questions about the present and future of Linux. One question came from a Linux administrator at a Very Large Company that is struggling with the issue of making a vendor's binary-only kernel modules play well with an up-to-date Linux system.

"'I'm a complete non-believer in binary modules,' Torvalds said, reiterating what has become the conventional wisdom of the Linux-kernel mailing list and experienced Linux support people. 'Most houses that use Linux a lot say that they won't support binary modules because they can't. They may work, but you're not getting the full advantage of Linux,' he added. On the legal side, there is no specific exception for binary-only modules. 'They're borderline legal. There's nothing in the license that says you're excused from the GPL,' Torvalds said.

"In response to the inevitable questions about the timing of the next kernel release and whether it will be 2.6 or 3.0, Torvalds said about a year and 2.6. 'The desktop is a really interesting area to work on,' he said. In order to get things working well on the desktop, developers end up solving a lot of problems for other classes of systems as well. For example, /sbin/hotplug and driverfs, both intended to allow desktop systems to build a representation of buses and the attached devices, also are useful for high-availability embedded systems. Despite the fact that he's developing for the desktop-class systems he uses himself, Torvalds says that Linux 'scales to any reasonable number of CPUs,' which got a laugh before he defined 'reasonable.' IBM, however, is running 32-CPU Power4 boxes with good results, he added..."

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