Binary Blobs Attack – ELC 2012

Zach Pfeffer, Android Platform Lead at Linaro, talks about (GPU) Binary Blobs and the problems they cause at Embedded Linux Conference 2012.


Binary Blobs Attack!!! Most SoC vendors distribute binary blobs with Linux kernel shims. These binary blobs enable graphics engines, DSPs and other cores on ARM and other architecture SoCs. These binary blobs tend to be tied to specific kernel versions which limits unreadability and hackability and complicates device manufactures, which slows down innovation and the introduction of new and unique computing devices.

Here’s what I noted from this presentation:

  • Most of the issues at Linaro come from (GPU) Binary blobs, they delay projects and cause projects to cost more as FAE and more engineers must be involved in solving problems.
  • Blobs are here to stay mostly due to legal reasons (patents).
  • Binary Blob are usually OS independent, e.g. the same binary is used in Windows and Linux, in order to save development costs and this may cause problems.
  • To change the situation, Zach Pfeffer would like to cooperate with companies to have an open source GPU driver “lite” without all the bells and whistles but that is good enough for most tasks. Hopefully, this driver would become to default driver over time, as companies see the benefit of open source
  • Now most companies do many proprietary things, he would like that the open source community comes with a standard API for binary blobs to reduce the number of problems
  • He would also consider having an Open Source Lawyer organization to work around legal issues with such open source drivers.

You may also download the presentation slides.

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[…] tool that is mainly CPU bound, as they cannot optimize the GPU code since they can only access binary blobs.Apparently, most of the improvements were possible thanks to toolchain and code optimization (to be […]


[…] ever wanted to use Linux with proper 2D/3D GPU drivers on ARM, you are in the same boat, and even Linaro engineers complain about this (Linaro is an organization working on open source software for ARM SoCs, and ARM is obviously a […]