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Ask and ye shall receive Linux drivers

For those companies wishing Linux would work with their widgets, core programmers are offering to write the necessary software support for free.

Greg Kroah-Hartman, a programmer at Novell, announced the Linux driver program on his blog Monday. The "Linux kernel community is offering all companies free Linux driver development...All that is needed is some kind of specification that describes how your device works, or the e-mail address of an engineer that is willing to answer questions every once in a while," he said.

In an interview, Kroah-Hartman said the program is offered by the Linux Foundation, the industry group formed by the merger earlier this month of the Open Source Development Labs and Free Standards Group. The foundation has a program under which developers can sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) so companies can share proprietary information needed to build open-source drivers.

Those who participate benefit by seeing their drivers incorporated into the main repository of Linux; being included in the products of major Linux sellers; having their drivers run on the numerous processors Linux can employ; and getting ongoing maintenance from kernel programmers.

"Now your developers will have more time to work on drivers for all of the other operating systems out there, and you can add 'supported on Linux' to your product's marketing material," Kroah-Hartman said. "This offer is in effect for all different types of devices, from USB toys to PCI video devices to high-speed networking cards. If you build it, we can get Linux drivers working for it."