basically tech

74 One man writes Linux drivers for 235 USB webcams

Monday 30th April, 2007

I came across this eye-opening article on the Inquirer website. The author relates how he had problems with a cheap USB webcam he bought. Memory leaks with the provided driver meant he had to reboot Win2K on a daily basis. When he started to look for some other OS which might support them, he relates:

I found out last week that there are now Linux drivers for hundreds of those cheap "Made in China" webcams with strange brand names and a Vimicro chipset inside. The surprise was more shocking when I realized that drivers for 235 webcams -at the time of this writing- are the work of a single unknown hero who works from his home in France, does so with no corporate sponsorship, and what's even more outrageous, very few people know about the existence of those drivers and about the person behind them.

The author sought out and managed to interview the man responsible for these Linux drivers. Parts of the interview are quite telling, and show the difference between the motives which drive the communities and individuals who create open source software, and the companies which produce proprietary software. The interviewer in the excerpt below is FC. MX are the initials of Michel Xhaard, the "webcam driver" man.

FC: How do you feel knowing that there are a few really big corporations with million dollar budgets all peddling Linux, and you do all this critical work of helping Linux gain webcams support -by the hundreds!-, yet not a single one of those big firms has decided to formally sponsor your work?
MX: my work is not "Linux Kernel centred" my goal is to provided video input support for Linux users, and I am not sure that these big companies are interested in the end user :).

(Emphasis added.)

He's being sarcastic. Of course these companies are not interested in the end user. Look at how Vista tramples on your freedom and rights. It's the job of listed companies to keep shareholders, not customers, happy. Of course they'll try and do both, but if they have to choose, then the shareholders will be chosen over the customers every time.

I've heard some folk say that Linux or Free/Libre/Open Source software (FLOSS) "needs big business". That's claptrap. If anything, "big business" needs Linux/FLOSS. When big businesses go down (and they always do), Linux and FLOSS will still be around, maintained by the efforts of people like Michel Xhaard.

(Edited 4 May 2007: title changed: 352 -> 235)