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After what is said to have been a year-and-a-half of work, it appears that the first driver for USB 3.0 has been born.  Was it created for Microsoft Windows?  Nope.  How about Mac OS X?  Not quite.  As it turns out, Intel’s Sarah Sharp has created the world’s first USB 3.0 driver; and it’s for Linux.

The announcement came from her blog post on June 7th, stating “[it is] queued [for] the patches for 2.6.31, so Linux users should have official USB 3.0 support around September 2009.” So Linux will be the first operating system to have official USB 3.0 support.

So what does this mean for end users?  Unfortunately, not a whole lot—yet.  In order to utilize the soon-to-be new standard, users need two additional things:

  1. Onboard (or PCI-express or peripheral) USB 3.0 host controller
  2. USB 3.0 devices, such as iPods, flash drives, and the like

As a commenter from Digg.com pointed out:

“Am I the only one who finds it depressing that someone spent a year and a half making drivers for things that don’t exist?”

This is a valid point indeed.  Driver software does little good if you can’t use it with anything.  Fortunately, NEC is slated to release 1 million xHCI PCI express add-in cards in September, which takes care of one of the requirements.  As for when we’ll begin to see devices that actually use USB 3.0, only time will tell.  No major hardware manufacturer has released any information signaling that USB 3.0 devices are on the horizon.  For the early adapters, let’s hope for sooner rather than later.

The same commenter from Digg also left the remark:

“[These are] drivers that will immediately be made obsolete once a big company makes a USB 3.0 device.”

The statement is true and false.  Yes, it is correct that when you buy your future USB 3.0 featured iPod, Apple will ship it with its own drivers that you can install.  But let’s not forget that USB is supposed to be Plug-N-Play, with one-driver-fits-all.  Also, recall that this driver was written for the Linux kernel—not for Windows or OS X.  Most companies do not produce hardware drivers for Linux anyway; so who knows, Sarah’s work may stick.  And like everything else Linux, they are completely open source, and can be downloaded here.

Regardless of the near future, this is a major win for Linux and the FOSS community!  Way to go everyone, you beat the big boys on this one!  Now let’s see some devices that handle those 4+ Gigabit speeds!


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