back to article Google's Android code deleted from Linux kernel

After removing Google's Android driver code from the Linux kernel, Novell Fellow and Linux developer Greg Kroah-Hartman has argued that the mobile OS is incompatible with the project's main tree. Kroah-Hartman deleted the Android drivers on December 11 - Android code is no more as of version 2.6.33 of the kernel release - and …


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  1. twelvebore

    Forking hell

    Google in embrace, extend, exterminate shocker . Who'd'a thunk it?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Looks like

    the conspiracy theorists were right.

    Google's whole sparkly 'We <3 Open Source" and "We will contribute" messages were simply marketing ploys with no more than token gestures made to following through.

    Should have known it was too good to be true.

  3. asdf Silver badge

    google ftl

    Google if it could, would just as soon push for everything to be under BSD licenses and outright steal it like Apple and M$ do. This pretty much assures Android's contribution to OSS ecosystem will be minimized. I guess that is the way Google has always operated.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    He's had to do that to IBM & MSFT too

    Basically, if he's totally ignored by the developers for the code, gets no replies to his emails, etc. then he just drops it on the floor, because he doesn't have much choice.

    Google apparently wants to look like it's contributing, but not actually doing it, then blame the kernel developers for "oh, they wouldn't accept our lovely code!" - other people have done this too, it's not a new dodge.

    What part of "has dependencies on code that only lives in Google's kernel tree" do they not understand? Why aren't they contributing all the code?

    1. RegReaderrr

      An evil fork?

      Seems like the fruity guy was right, something does stink about this story. Goodbye Nexus. Nokia, here I come...

      1. Anonymous Coward

        LOL - you 'tard

        Why would a dispute about source code and branching make you choose a Nokia over an Android handset?!?!

        So dumb.

    2. Anton Ivanov


      Some of Greg's argument is that he wants Android to start modifying kernel internals at the same maddening pace as the 2.6 mainline tree. That is a "no way in hell" item and I am glad that a company that is large enough to say "no way in hell" has finally said "no way in hell". Applause.

      It was about f*** time for someone to take offence with the current practice where every distribution maintains its own kernel fork, there is no stable tree and no development tree. That may suit Linus very well, but it does not really suit anyone who uses Linux in production or has to try to port a driver once in a while.

    3. Eddie Edwards


      Er, so why didn't they just base it on OpenBSD, then?

      As for Google, the fork is still GPL-encumbered, so it's just as much part of the OSS ecosystem as the non-forked kernel, RTLinux, uCLinux, etc. etc. The counter to the position of the Linux developers is that maybe server-grade Linux is not the best choice for a mobile OS, just as it's not the best choice for a real-time OS, or the best choice for a microcontroller-based OS. The kernel devs are right not to have a problem with this; forks are one of Linux's strengths, not one of its weaknesses.

      BTW, if you use BSD-licensed code commercially, that's not stealing. You're explicitly allowed to do that. BSD and GPL reflect differing philosophies. The GPL philosophy is not some sort of universal default.

    4. Nigel 11

      That's overstating it.

      As long as Android stays open-source (GPL) then the world still has access to source code for mobile-phone hardware. So if someone decides that they want to port Linux onto hardware on which Android runs, they'll have access to working copylefted code. Some parts of it will be reusable. Other bits won't be usable except as documentation, but at least it's documentation that's been tested and de-bugged on the hardware, rather than a figment of a document-writer or translator's imagination.

      I once connected hardware to VMS, given the source code for interfacing it to MS/DOS. None of the code was portable, but the working source was nevertheless a great help compared to the (hopeless) English language hardware documentation (translated from Japanese?)

      And I think the jury is still out on whether one O/S (Linux) really can scale across everything from a mobile phone to a datacenter cluster. The phone environment is one where you pay (in battery life or weight) for inefficiency in the software, and maybe the linux kernel represents too much of a handicap. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      WTF are you smoking?

      The google code is open, it was posted to the tree but NOBODY did anything with it, it went stale and Linux Admins removed it as stated.

      To all and sundry who are slagging google try reading the article.

      IT is a sad day, in terms of compatibility. Perhaps if the open source comunity would have embraced and not let it fall from the tree then we would all be happier.

      However thsi is not the end of android and it is not the end of it being open source.

    6. asdf Silver badge

      points well taken

      I suppose you are right about just using BSD and I do acknowledge that google contributes somewhat to the OSS movement. Whether they contribute in fair share to the massive revenue they generate by building out the worlds largest OSS structure could be debated. I will agree also though that Linus (and associated henchmen) though a great contributor to mankind can be a bit of petty tyrant as well (cough bitkeeper). Still I hope both continue even more so to make Linux such a joy owned by all of mankind.

  5. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not great, but not terrible either

    It's not great that the android drivers can't be put into mainline... I think it'd be better overall if they were. But, I do agree that if they are using their own locks, their own framebuffer code, slapping in an extra security model, etc., and not really trying to use what's in the kernel (or make a good reason why they NEED seperate code), then it's better to pull it out... every platform having it's own platform-specific lock types and etc. would be a huge mess before long.

    It's not terrible either though, it's fairly common for odd platforms to have their own kernel versions... MIPS and PA-RISC did for quite a while (the bulk of the MIPS or PA-RISC support was merged in, but it took a while for the bugs to be worked out of mainline, requiring platform-specific kernel patches to actually yield a bootable kernel.) A lot of embedded platforms have their own branches, with lower memory and CPU power than a typical desktop or server, the branch can be cut down in ways that are not portable but speed up the kernel for that platform; embedded platforms (including Android) also don't have expansion slots, so the user is not going to put some new card in then lament not having drivers from a newer kernel.

    Ultimately, if there's enough interest, I suppose the Android code can be made to use regular locks and framebuffer code, and then be merged into the mainline kernel. If it turns out the performance is lower or something (maybe the special locks sped things up...), people would then still have the choice between a "stock" mainline kernel and an Android kernel.

  6. jake Silver badge


    "preventing anyone except a Google employee from making the changes"

    So much for Android being open source.

    Just say no to google. They are an accident waiting to happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Google is Evil

      Google are an accident that happened already. They were once quite innovative, but to be honest they are like MS in terms of stealing / parasiting good ideas from elsewhere and using their financial muscle from their advertising success to enter and eventually flood other markets / products.

      In my view Google are worse than MS because everyone has known what MS' game is all about, whereas Google have been ever so sneaky, playing the nice guys whilst all the time using that image, to con people.

      Just look what they did with Mozilla. Supported it and then stuck up 2 fingers once theyd achieved a critical mass to launch their own browser.

      El Reg, we need a new icon "Google is Evil"

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Rings a bell?

    "...this fork is "much worse" than the typical fork. ...are locked out from ever contributing it back to the kernel community,"

    A bit like BSD code which gets lifted by the Linux people, and then GPL'd so any changes can never be contributed back to the original BSD code.

  8. John Sanders


    Linus will regret no having the kernel under GPLv3... He'll soon see why.

    I was somewhat expecting this.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      BSD license allows for this, it's perfectly legal

      Microsoft and Apple are also doing it, so what exactly is your problem ? Oh, and one more thing, GPL license also makes sure you contribute back to the community.

      To make this clear to you, the GPL license is not free in the same way you are not free to take away other people freedom. Get it?

      1. Bilgepipe

        His problem...

        "Microsoft and Apple are also doing it, so what exactly is your problem ?"

        His problem is exactly that - Apple and MS are doing it. Quite a few Freetards have issues with Apple's use of OSS, despite Apple's contribution to WebKit - you know, the best browser engine out there by far. Freetards really think everything should be - and *can* be - free, and that no-one can make money from OSS, licenses be damned.

        Microsoft are of course paying OSS lip-service in exactly the way Google does. "Don't be seen to be evil."

        1. windywoo
          Jobs Halo

          Best browser engine by far?

          Based solely on the Sunspider benchmarks I am sure. Who makes those benchmarks again? Hmmm I think it might be Apple. And the scores are never better "by far", usually ms differences. You seem to forget that webkit was based on KHTML and there were long disputes between Apple and the KHTML people before webkit actually satisified both sides. Not to mention that they implement quick and dirty fixes so that they can pass ACID tests.

      2. Chronos Silver badge

        Re: BSD license allows for this, it's perfectly legal

        "Microsoft and Apple are also doing it, so what exactly is your problem ?"

        Just this: The hypocrisy. Do as I say, not as I do. There's enough of that about without infecting open source with double standards.

        What part of "Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer" do you not understand?

        Relicensing is NOT an option. BSD code stays BSD licensed. Extracting strings from the Windows XP nslookup binary proves that Microsoft have fulfilled their obligations. Relicensing BSD code under GPL, however, is not compliant.

        But who cares? It's only BSD, right?

      3. Peter Kay
        Thumb Down

        It's legal, but morally dishonest.

        The BSD license is good, precisely because it doesn't push people into a constrained model of software distribution and development (which both closed source and the GPL do). I have no problem with commercial/closed source organisations taking BSD code, doing something useful with it and hopefully furthering its visibility even if nothing is contributed back. Sometimes companies do contribute back to BSD code anyway, which is is always useful.

        Taking away someone's freedom in order to push your own viewpoint is an extremely dubious definition of 'free' - this is precisely what the GPL does, because it is limited in ways the BSD license is not. I'll grant that there is perhaps a limit to how far proponents of the GPL are morally obliged to contribute back to the original BSD source, but I would suggest that the limit is considerably above zero.

        In other words, many of the aims of BSD and GPL fans are identical, so expecting programmers to enhance and contribute to your code whilst refusing to do precisely the same to the original BSD source could be considered both hypocritical and abusive.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. Jad

        RE: BSD license allows for this, it's perfectly legal

        the BSD license does allow for code to be reproduced, however there are incompatibilities between the BSD and GPL licenses that mean you cannot take BSD code and re-license it GPL or vice versa.

        A good number of projects run dual licensing, but that requires the permission of the original authors.

        If you search the web you will find a fair number of projects that have arguments over this sort of thing, in both directions, just have a look for the bcm43xx driver project for OpenBSD (bcw driver) : and forum entries related to this discussion ... they get quite heated.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      RING RING.

      You realises that all the emo linux fa{ng} boys will mark you down. But yes it does piss me off how they just take BSD code, change it a little and then refuse any of the improvments (if any) to filter back to the BSD code. Would be like Apple taking a bookstore interface from another company and redoing it in such a way that they could deny the other company even thought of it at all. There again I've always thought of linux as the microsoft of unix's since version 2 onwards. So to read how the Linux kernel click go emo over some changes they cant fully steal and bastardises is frankly the most funneist and sadest things I've read this year.

      `"No one cared about the code, so it was removed," writes Kroah-Hartman` If we translated that into theo speak it would read "I cared so meh to the rest of you" :).

      That said the politics of kernel managment is very much onpar in its parrelesls to school playground politics. Just a clear observation there.

      FAO REG HEADS - were is my BSD icon, I want one now dammit Jayne.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @PXG (was: RING RING)

        I think that b0rked my parser ... Can anyone translate playground to English?

  9. John Tserkezis

    Open source?

    If google were any more open source, they'd be microsoft.

  10. Mike S

    Google's Code is still GPL

    They still have to produce the code if they're distributing it (and they are.)

    It might not be an easy import into the mainline, but it doesn't mean a clever developer can't look at it and try to merge it back in, or look at a device driver and try to port it back to the mainline.

  11. George Capehart

    Re: Forking hell

    Dang, that's exactly what I was going to say!

    Way to go, Google! Sounds just like Microsofties! fsck the collective wisdom! We're better and smarter than you are!

    Just understand that the diameter of limbs gets smaller and smaller the farther out one goes . . .

  12. The Islander

    Does this reflect the "Open Google"?

    Interesting to review Reg's December 23rd article - "Google 'open' memo betrays deep corporate delusion" - and the various comments following it. Seems to me, as an observer outside of the Linux community, that company deeds and staffers' words don't quite tie together ...

  13. Kaemaril

    Can we hear from a grown-up, please?

    "Others might see that as an opportunity, but whatever."

    Whatever? Oh noes! Like, dude, you're totally harshing on us.

    Is this chap still in high school?

  14. Matt Brigden

    It may be 3am but ....

    Im usually pretty tech savvy but this one went way over my head . Makes no forking sense to me at all . Thank you and goodnight !

  15. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Uncle Sam* playing Poker ... with Global Operating Devices who Certainly Do Play with Loded Dice

    Google is a Trojan Horse........ with Rabid Thirst and your Every Personal and Private, Public and Business Weakness and Desire for Exploitation and Heavy MetaDataBase Analysis/Deep Packet Inspection/Digital Rights Manipulation and Proxy Intellectual Property Theft and Plagiarisation? Nice ..... when One Knows All Evil, or even just Thinks that One Knows IT All ..... which is a Most Reasonable and Perpetually Wise Nagging Virtual Doubt best Safe Harboured in Order to be Eternally Protected against the Arrogance of Total Information Awareness, on Guard against Envy and Catastrophe which always Accompanies and Dogs the Lack of Humility in Perverse and Subversive Self Centred Intelligence.

    * Wall Street/Capitalism/Google/Sergey and Larry/Alien$-) ........ Uncle Sam, an Enigmatic Scarlet Pimpernel and Certifiable Manic Depressive/Yin Yang Bi-Polar Refugee/Asylum Seeker? ...... or Zero Day Hero?

  16. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    forking good move

    If they (Google) are not willing to work to make their stuff useful for the Linux kernel overall, then fork them.

  17. Il Midga di Macaroni

    Looks like the Penguin mob are trying to flex some muscle

    Smells to me of "This will create headlines, let's do it".

    Basically, is telling Google that it's big enough not to need all their money and donated employee time. Fine, go ahead. What happens when someone builds a laptop with a touchscreen and you want to provide touchscreen drivers? You can't have them because you gave them back to Google and told them where to stick it.

    Of course it cuts both ways - if anyone finds a bug in the Linux kernel (unlikely but possible) and releases a patch, I don't get it on my phone until Google release their own patch - even though the code will be identical.

    1. Lan ser

      silly billy

      there were linux touchscreen drivers before Google came along and will be after

    2. Bilgepipe

      Not Identical

      The code isn't identical, that's kind of the whole point.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Google's Attempt at Taking Over Linux - Linux Wars Begin 2010

    Well, Linus and his followers managed to kick out Google... the question will be --- what will be more popular: Linus's Operating System or Google, who runs a huge portion of the internet's, soon to be phone dominator, soon to be tablet dominator, Operating System?

    Sounds like the beginning of the Linux Wars - in 2010

    1. Pandy06269
      IT Angle

      No war, no battle

      Linus of course. Google's chrome OS or Android mobile OS won't touch the hundreds and thousands of servers running Redhat, SuSE, Ubuntu, Novell distributions of Linux, not to mention the lesser-known ones like Mandriva and Slack. Tablets and mobiles don't run the Internet, they only use it.

      Novell and Redhat have both built highly profitable businesses from Linux (the kernel on it's own is not an OS.)

      Google do not run "a huge portion of the internet's operating system." If you're talking about the Google web server, only 2% of requests to the million busiest websites in January was to GWS. 67% went to Apache, and 17% to Microsoft.

      It'll be a long, long time before we have to worry about the Google IOS.*

      *Internet Operating System

  19. John Savard Silver badge

    Highly Unfortunate

    If Google's additions to the Linux kernel were so designed as to be only relevant to Android systems, then they would indeed cause bloat to the kernel, which should be avoided.

    However, this should have been addressed in a diplomatic manner, giving Google an opportunity to resolve the issue. Perhaps there would have been a way of making the Android-related code an optional extension to the Linux kernel, for example.

    If people find stuff from Google's Android useful, it may indeed happen that Linux will become history, and Android will replaice it. Is this spat with Google worth risking that possibility?

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Brutus

      Not really a problem...

      If people find stuff from android useful, they'll just borrow it. Open Source, you know :)

  21. Anonymous Coward

    @Il Midga....

    "if anyone finds a bug in the Linux kernel (unlikely but possible)"


    Linux code is 100% perfect?

    You could try visiting

    or this for general stuff

    You see, this is what we battle against, deluded people who bang on about something, with little knowledge about what they are talking about.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And so...

    ...the final nail is driven into the coffin of that penguin curiosity.

    Seems that even "open" Google agrees that proprietary code is the the best code.

    1. M Gale


      What part of "fork" don't you understand?

      It's still GPL licensed, and it's still Linux. Just a different version of. Like all the other different versions.

      Final bolt in the chassis of the Penguin's rocket sled more like.

  23. Rob Moir

    The only thing

    that surprises me about this story is the amount of people who have apparently only just worked out that Google are a "for profit" organisation the same as any other business structured the way Google are structured and "Don't be evil" is a marketing tagline just as much as "Think Different" or "Where do you want to go today".

  24. Colin Critch

    Lots more effort for Google

    I expect the Google will force them to do a lot of back/cross ports (security) from the Linux kernel. Wow that will take a lot more effort. Makes you wonder how insecure the Google phone will become. I expect Nokia (Symbian) and Istuff have the same problems with closed software.

  25. Robert Grant

    @Midga di Macaroni

    If you don't understand the technical reasons for a move, don't invent some political reasons.

  26. Bugs R Us
    Jobs Halo

    Google: Talk social...

    ...act brutal. But really, this should come as no surprise to anyone. Google needs to make money just like any other large software company. At some point you sacrifice the "be good" and have to "act a little evil" to keep up with the other big boys.

    Nice to see Google coming over to the dark side.

  27. alistair millington Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    ANYONE shocked by this?

    As soon as they started Android you knew it wouldn't last, and the amount of locks ins android has to google means you can't go back. You need a Gmail to sign up and use the thing in the first place and everything is 'google apps or not ' pretty much. They are doing what Apple do and it will just generate another bunch of fan bois nobody likes.

    It won't be "Is there an app for that?" It will be "Is there a google app for that."

    I just got the N900 and it suits me, I just hope Nokia don't take mamo, meamo (whatever its called) the same way later on.

    We need an icon for the "blindingly obvious" or "well I didn't see that coming..."

  28. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Dead Vulture

    What's the story here?

    Some code that wasn't being maintained is no longer part of the main branch. Neither party is particularly upset at the other and they each concede the legitimacy of the other side's position. There was no legally or morally binding agreement between them before, and they've managed to disengage from each other's affairs without any observable fall-out.

    How in the name of the spaghetti monster is this a story?


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