Google's Android code deleted from Linux kernel

'Go fork yourself!'


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 yesterday, with a post to his personal blog, he explained the move in detail.

"No one cared about the code, so it was removed," writes Kroah-Hartman. "As I've stated before, code in the staging tree needs to be worked on to be merged to the main kernel tree, or it will be deleted."

But the larger problem, he continues, is that Android uses a new lock type, new hooks for its "sometimes bizarre" security model, and a revamped framebuffer driver infrastructure. All this, he says, prevents "a large chunk" of Android drivers and platform code from merging into the main kernel tree.

Google, he ultimately argues, has forked its mobile OS.

Google did not immediately respond to our request for comment. But in a pair of posts to LWN.net, Mountain View open source guru Chris DiBona says that Android isn't in the main tree because the main tree doesn't want it.

"I think if the Android kernel were important enough to the mainline, then this wouldn't be a problem. The reality is that the mainline doesn't want the code, so a fork is a normal response to this," DiBona writes.

"This whole thing stinks of people not liking Forking. Forking is important and not a bad thing at all. From my perspective, forking is why the Linux kernel is as good as it is."

From where Kroah-Hartman is sitting, Google has built a platform that's incompatible with the Linux kernel. "Any drivers written for Android hardware platforms can not get merged into the main kernel tree because they have dependencies on code that only lives in Google's kernel tree, causing it to fail to build in the kernel.org tree," he writes.

"[Google is] effectively creating a kernel branch that a number of different vendors are now relying on."

And, he continues, this fork is "much worse" than the typical fork. "Because Google doesn't have their code merged into the mainline, these companies creating drivers and platform code are locked out from ever contributing it back to the kernel community," he says.

"The kernel community has for years been telling these companies to get their code merged, so that they can take advantage of the security fixes, and handle the rapid API churn automatically. And these companies have listened, as is shown by the larger number of companies contributing to the kernel every release.

"But now they are stuck. Companies with Android-specific platform and drivers can not contribute upstream, which causes these companies a much larger maintenance and development cycle."

According to Kroah-Hartman, Google "shows no sign of working to get their code upstream anymore," and he says that the company's cooperation is essential. "A number of [necessary] changes will affect the kernel/userspace boundry, so some changes to the Android userspace logic would also need to be changed if these kernel changes are made, preventing anyone except a Google employee from making the changes," he says.

DiBona bears this out. But he believes the fork is nothing but a good thing. "If you don't like how we architected android, don't complain that the code isn't being mainlined," he says. "You can't have your cake and eat it too. We get it: you don't like how we put together the kernel for android. We're okay with that. Other companies coming to you for help is fine, too, you can choose who you help. Others might see that as an opportunity, but whatever." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022