Richard Stallman, one of the main forces behind the GNU/Linux operating system and the free software movement, is in Taiwan fighting on a new front -- to get the island's PC makers to provide the specifications necessary for developers to write free drivers for their hardware.
"We just need the information about what their drivers have to do," Stallman said during a speech at the National Taiwan University in Taipei on Wednesday. Then GNU software writers can create code for open source systems, he said.
Last month, two Taiwanese makers of graphics chips released the source code for some of their drivers to the open source community. Drivers are typically small software files that contain information a computer needs to recognize and control hardware devices.
Via Technologies Inc. and XGI Technology Inc. both released source code for some products, mainly graphics chip and display drivers. The idea is that developers will be able to use the code to create drivers for operating systems not supported directly by the vendors.
Stallman said his efforts had nothing to do with the announcements by Via and XGI, but he cautiously applauded their efforts.
"I still haven't had a chance to look at what, exactly, they've done," he said.
He declined to say which companies he had met with, or to speculate on what kind of an impact his eight day trip to Taiwan might have.
"I've talked with (companies), but I don't know their answer yet," he said.
The GNU community will promote hardware from companies that offer free driver information, he said.
Aside from some company visits, Stallman is scheduled to speak at several universities and research centers in Taiwan.
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