Next Previous Contents

3. Other efforts

There are other groups and individuals doing their parts in trying to get various software and hardware vendors to support Linux. Norman Jacobowitz is a consultant working with SSC, Inc. on an advocacy project that approaches the same problem I'm addressing here, although from a different direction. Here's what he told me about his efforts:

SSC, Inc, publishers of Linux Journal, maintain a "software wish list" at <>. They are currently paying an outside consultant to use these results and other data to lobby marketing managers at ISVs to port their products to Linux. This is an effective, on going project to bring more native software to Linux; so please drop by the wish list and vote for your favorite software.

Andrew Mayhew has been trying to convince hardware vendors that making Linux drivers, or at least releasing the specifications so the Linux community can write the drivers, is a good idea. Here are his thoughts:

I go to conferences. I was most recently at Networld-Interop in Atlanta (which was shortly followed by the Atlanta Linux Expo). There at Interop I went to many of the vendors with two agendas. First, I was there as a respresentative of the ISP that I work for and was looking for solutions. But secondly, I was there find out who currently had Linux support and if they didn't have Linux support, why they didn't and was the company considering it. It is interesting to note, that in the large Novell section, there were actually two Linux related sub-booths. Additionally, Cobalt Micro was there with their thin server, along with RedHat and Caldera. Fairly small showings in a nearly completely non-Unix related conference, but a showing none the less.

Most of the companies that I was talking to are primarily hardware vendors. They already don't make any money off of their drivers. They just need to develop the drivers so that people will use their hardware. My typical approach to one of these companies was to first ask about the product in general, so that they could get through their marketing routine quickly, and then ask about driver support. When the only words out of their mouths would be Windows 95, 98, and NT, I would ask about other platforms explaining that I run in a multiplatform environment and would need interoperability between these platforms. In introducing the idea that they should support other platforms I would only slowly work in the idea of Linux as one of them. I found that introducing the idea that I wanted driver support for Linux right off typically got me a knee-jerk reaction which would basically have the person shutdown and try to find a way to get out of the conversation. But if you can get their defenses down then you can explain to them how, in general, all they would need to invest to get Linux drivers would be to openly publish the specifications for talking to whatever hardware and possibly providing hardware to key developers. The biggest argument to this, is typically, "We have some proprietary ways of doing X and don't want to have that information out in the open." The usual way around this problem is to explain that being able to talk and use a device does not normally mean having to know what proprietary tricks they are pulling. At least this fits with the wireless LAN and the Fibre Channel IP people that I was dealing with.

One smaller company, which I think may attempt to find someone in the community to help develop a driver for them came up with an interesting solution around the proprietary issues as well. This being that they would have the initial developers sign NDAs for the hardware documentation, but the source code could be open source so long as the documentation in the source was not just a copy of what the company provided the developer.

For software companies, I think it is a very good idea to point out that there is nothing or very little available of their kind of software; whatever that area of software is. But it probably should also be noted what does exist. Of particular interest would be the development tools, the development support available, and possibly information about other porting projects. In terms of these other projects they would be interested in the porting problems that they have solved or would similarly be tackling.

Next Previous Contents