Sunday, October 6, 2013

Growing GPL/FOSS Loyalty Among Chinese ARM SoC Vendors

There are visible changes in how Chinese ARM SoC vendors deal with Open Source license compliance (words) and Open Source software at all (spirit) during this year. Not only western resellers of devices based on Chinese SoCs release GPL compliance packages, but many popular SoC companies themselves established GPL compliance/loyalty/support pages. Few go beyond just adhering to word of GPL by releasing kernel source blobs (by blobs I means large tarballs devoid of any development history and support files), but also establish git repositories, release Android trees, set up public bugtrackers.

Of course, they are still not exactly GPL compliant - scrutiny of any releases would likely show missing parts, binary objects for drivers, etc. But there's definitely a difference between plucking out WiFi driver out of flash image you have on you device and downloading "official binary" from a SoC vendors. It's also a good start, and there's a hope the situation with complete source availability will improve. And as everyone watching the area knows, the industry at the whole needs to improve - Western companies may comply with GPL by providing source for kernel shims, but that doesn't help users to support vendors' hardware if they just move binary blobs to userspace.

The changes discussed didn't come by themselves and at once. Lot of people paved the road to this via, via various leaks, etc. But critical change came with emergence of Open Hardware startups. They are led by people who strongly believe in Open paradigm, but also to do their ODM-like business, they need to provide sufficient documentation/sources to the customers. So they have little choice but request that from upstream SoC vendors, in redistributable form. So, thanks Rhombus-Tech, Olimex, Cubitech!

Anyway, here're the links to Chinese companies' GPL loyalty pages I know so far. Additions and corrections are welcome.
And as extra, community projects to support some of vendor SoCs from above list:

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