Hardware companies to release their drivers open source

  • Author:
    n/a
  • Send To:
    The NVIDIA Corporation
  • Sponsored By:
  • More Info at:
The GNU/Linux (www.linux.org) community currently enjoys all the benefits of the open source (www.opensource.org). This includes linux kernel open-source drivers for the most available hardware.

But some hardware manufacturers restrict their customers right by not releasing linux drivers at all, not giving away datasheets or specification that would enable third-party open source developers to write their own drivers, or by releasing closed-source binary drivers, generally of quite poor quality and support. That, while easy to install to end-users, provides detrimental effects to the open source community. Without quality drivers and without their source that can be improved by many thousands of kernel hackers, the hardware is working crappy, not delivering all of its' features and performance.

Would these hardware manufacturers release the source for their existing drivers (if any), start accepting patches/bugfixes for them, give kernel developers hardware specifications, datasheets, samples - then the support for their hardware will quickly flourish, attracting more customers and pleasing existing ones.

We think that this wouldn't harm these companies interests at all, only benefit them. After all, the drivers they due some reason don't want to release are useless piece of junk without the actual hardware they drive.
People need to buy hardware anyway to make drivers cost anything. And since drivers are supplied free with hardware, the profits wouldn't subside if they make the drivers/specs open source. Even more - linux people who think badly of companies not willing to help their customer with their drivers will reconsider buying these manufacturers hardware. So, for the benefit of all.

The excuse many companies use is that their drivers are their intellectual property or commercial secret is actually bullshit, because many other companies have already released their own open source drivers or specs (and supplied developers with sample hardware) which led to the development of good steady drivers in the current linux kernel, and as stand-alone linux kernel modules. Statistics show that these companies at least haven't suffered from this course of action, if not gained some benefits from it. So other companies (with more closed policies) should be no worse than these.

We want these companies to release drivers and specs by claiming that we will not buy their hardware unless they do what we, customers, rightfully want. If a petition signed by 100000 people will be sent to such a company, they'll probably consider changing their views and policies. There are several such companies we know, to each a separate petition should be sent. We've created several petitions with almost the same content, targeted at each company. I'm sure there are more such manufacturers, so new petitions will probably be created later. If you know of such company, please mail the author of this petition.

This very petition will be sent to the NVIDIA Corporation (www.nvidia.com), one of the lead manufacturers in the field of 3d graphics cards for PC computers. They distribute closed-source binary driver (though their kernel module is seemingly open source, it's under restrictive NVIDIA license, and the main library which is the core of this driver is binary-only) for linux and freebsd operating systems. These drivers suffer from minor performance problems (windows drivers deliver more performance), and many bugs observed and reported back to NVIDIA by thousands of users, with no effect in many cases (e.g., the purple line bug and console switch bug were plaguing these drivers since the very first versions - they are still not fixed). Release the sources for these drivers, and many competent kernel hackers will quickly fix most of the bugs, improve drivers quality and performance. NVIDIA simply cannot do it themselves with limited programmer resources allocated to linux/freebsd driver development. Also, in the X Window System world, for which the existing driver is supplied, it's standard way to use 3d accelerators through the interface known as DRI (direct rendering infrastructure). It's a known, well-accepted standard, so drivers for all 3d cards should implement it. Unfortunately, this is not the case with NVIDIA. They employ their own standard, which basically does the same, thus reinventing the wheel (which is bad). Release drivers open source, and programmers will convert it to DRI. Many well-known 3d graphics companies, e.g. ATI and Matrox - competitors of the NVIDIA, have opened their specifications, and now there're open-source DRI drivers for their cards.
NVIDIA should follow, or be thrown out of the way. Actually, ATI cards are a great alternative to NVIDIA ones - there is a full gamma of them, low-ends being no worse than NVIDIA's low-ends ones while being cheaper, and the highest-end ones beating NVIDIA's leaders (at least at the time of writing) at price no higher than NVIDIA's. So, if you want a great 3d accelerator and want to sign this petition, go for ATI products.

By signing this petition, we refuse to buy NVIDIA hardware, and promise to tell our friends to buy cards of whatever company that have free, liberal drivers, policies etc. We will practice such behaviour until NVIDIA doesn't comply with our demands, i.e. release their drivers and specs/datasheets under truly open source license - GNU GPL or BSD license, or any other one matching the open source definition (www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php).
We believe that this wouldn't infringe NVIDIA's rights or profits, and most probably would even benefit them.