DECENT VIA GRAPHICS DRIVERS FOR LINUX
VIA Technologies, Inc.
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Many PCs (Desktops and Laptops) all around the world are built using VIA hardware (from motherboards to Video/Audio Chipsets). While these are considered to be "cheap" on-board hardware, not supposed to deliver a fantastic performance (no one expects that from on-board hardware from any brand), it is supposed to work decently.
Many Laptops, due to size and power limitations, depend on the use of this sort of on-board chipsets, relying on manufacturers such as NVIDIA, ATI, Intel, VIA and others. The truth is, a large portion of the existing PCs in the global market depend on such hardware nowadays in order to fully work.
This chipsets, however, are not standalone entities: They depend on drivers, that act as a gateway between the operating system of choice (Windows, Linux, etc) and the hardware, thus allowing it to function up to its specifications (provided by the manufacturer), delivering the performance expected by the PC buyer.
While VIA has been on the market for a lot of time and claims to support Linux, this is not actually true. VIA does not support Linux (any distribution), at least regarding Video Chipsets support, since it's Linux drivers do not allow users to use their hardware up to the chipset specifications. However, using the same hardware on Windows, the manufacturer specifications are met. This shows that current driver developing efforts by VIA consider only Windows users (again, Linux is *not* supported).
VIA does releases drivers for Linux sporadically, but those are not fully functional and aren't even comparable to the Windows drivers. Using VIA official Linux drivers produces many errors, incompatibilities, poor performance and security bugs.
It is important to notice that this is not Linux fault at all: Other manufacturers, such as Intel, cooperate with the Free Software community providing Linux drivers as good as the Windows ones, understanding the importance and respecting Linux community.
The Open Source community has tried to come up with workarounds. Some projects, such as OpenChrome and Unichrome have been trying, for some time, to develop drivers for this VIA chipsets with some level of success. However, it seems VIA never truly committed to helping such projects with direct code or hardware specs, in a way that even community drivers are not fully functional.
PC users all around the world are manifesting in Linux forums through thousands of posts in search for help. Nonetheless, this VIA customers end up frustrated to know that there is no real solution for this problem yet and that there is no official communication by VIA ever, meaning there currently is no hope for solving this problem. Users usually turn back to their PC vendors for help, but these vendors usually claim that drivers are a responsibility of the chipset manufacturer and not of the integrator brand.
Linux market share in PCs globally is increasing: Not only third world countries are benefiting from it in order to bring more PCs to the populations and public services (schools, hospitals, etc) but also top economies are seeing advantage in its adoption by large companies and the third sector. VIA hardware, due to its aggressive price policies, is present in a large part of such hardware. Consequently, the dissatisfaction of VIA customers about Linux support will definitely continue to increase.
Therefore, VIA is expected to take a position, as other manufacturers already did. There are only a few viable, reasonable or even rationale options:
1. VIA could develop decent Linux drivers that allow Linux users to experience the same level of stability and performance as Windows users do on the same hardware. This would show VIA respect for its clients and would not cost much: A small group of developers, with access to hardware specs, can improve current drivers easily and quickly.
2. VIA could release full internal hardware specifications to the Linux community, so that Open Source developers could develop working drivers.
3. VIA could simply say that it doesnt support Linux (which is true). This should be clear in all VIA communications (website, product boxes, etc). This would prevent misinformed buyers, which plan on using Linux, from buying hardware based on it.
Either way VIA decides to go, it would be better than doing nothing. VIA has a degree of responsibility with its clients. These clients should be honored by an official VIA communication channel with Linux users and a clear positioning (one of the above) by the company.
If you agree to the above, please sign this petition and spread this to your friends, family and coworkers. The extra information fields asked (Country, VIA Video Chipset, Linux Distro and Comments) are optional, and will only help us with our claims to VIA. If you don't know your chipset id, check it here: http://www.viaarena.com/default.aspx?PageID=5&ArticleID=68&P=5