Re: How to Install GPIB driver NI-488.2 on Ubuntu 8.04
IANAL (caveat) so let me just parrot some things as I understand it...
far as getting interop between open source libraries (specifically GPL
license) and NI products, the question of licensing you won't even be
able to get a consistent answer from a lawyer. GPL v2 and LGPL v2
depend on definitions of derived works that isn't tested in law and
isn't fully defined. That (and some loopholes) were the crux behind
the creation of GPL v3 and LGPL v3. The ambiguity causes complications
to things and fear, especially when it comes to a corporation trying to
protect its competitive advantage and IP.
There is no problem with the LGPL license and linking proprietary code to such libraries. Remember that e.g. LabView (and many closed source user space applications) also link to many LGPL libraries, so there can't be a problem. On the other hand, there is a problem with the kernel, which is under the GPL license. Most kernel developers think that loading proprietary drivers into kernel space is like linking, in which case NI violates the GPL license by distributing non-GPL kernel drivers. Of course, this is not yet proved in court, but it is one of the reasons other large hardware vendors develop GPL drivers. Even Microsoft came to the conclusion that they have to distribute they hypervisior driver under the GPL!
This is only my personal view, so please correct me where I'm wrong.
Concerning IP and open-source, in the "ms-world", a kernel driver does a lot more than only interfacing with the hardware. There may be algorithms included, which could be related to some form of "intellectual" activity. In the "Linux-world", these algorithms belong to user space and the kernel driver only acts as a "dumb" interface. I think the real reason for NI not do distribute a GPL driver is that they need to develop a completely new driver, because the current one is just the windows driver (with all the IP inside) and some glue layer. Basically, a Linux driver could be written with just the hardware documentation of the relevant registers, which I doubt is part of the IP. In the past, NI even distributed this information for free, but today, I and find it for any new hardware. Some Comedi drivers could only be written, because only this information was available, but not more. Providing register information would be a step in the right direction.