Linus and his buggy Wi-Fi drivers

One trillion man hours have been wasted troubleshooting buggy Wi-Fi drivers in the Linux kernel. This is a problem Linus Torvalds must fix before that OS is going into most consumer PCs.

“The challenge on the desktop is not a kernel problem. It’s a whole infrastructure problem. I think we’ll get there one day,” said Torvalds at LinuxCon in 2014.

Well, one could argue that it is also a kernel problem.

The Wi-Fi hardware drivers live in the kernel, not in user-space.

And the giant Finn on top of the kernel maintainer pyramid is Linus Torvalds. The guy who have shouted loudly, called other people in the open source industry idiots for not doing their jobs.

OK, Linus, this is a message for you:

Wi-Fi is important.

Having stable and well-behaved drivers for the most popular Wi-Fi chipsets should be a top priority.

Failing the above is a failing kernel.

Repeat after me, Linus: Failing the above is a failed kernel.

I know it’s not easy, but it has to be done.

Yet, here I am, writing this on a Ubuntu Laptop. I’m still hanging in there, with Linux, after two decades of Wi-Fi trouble. This, of course, means that this OS is so brilliant in other areas that we forgive – forgive and forget.

But that is me. For the masses, the big masses of consumers out there, it just has to work.

With this particular laptop, a small and nice little thing from Samsung, it started out kind of nice. But I upgrade my kernel when they say so; and as such my computer goes from stable, to flaky, to stable … To non-working.

Then I had to get myself a USB-dongle. This worked, sometimes. It was a pretty standard Wi-Fi dongle from Netgear, so I was a little bit surprised about it turning against me. But doing the Google-dance I find several people doing full-time support on helping people with issues with this chip.

And in my case the solution was to drop the code that slipped through Linus Torvalds’ rigorous code review and compile the drivers myself.

So this is all for you, Linus. A little reminder that those drivers really do matter. And when you turn a laptop into a brick with one of your merges, that owner should be allowed to call you a Finnish, rambling sauna idiot.



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