NVidia says no to request to release open source drivers, once again

Paula Rooney

June 23, 2008

Nvidia reiterated that it won’t provide open source drivers for Linux because the company claims there is no need for it.

Nvidia provides binary Linux drivers and has open sourced some drivers such as the nv X driver and other utilities that work with the proprietary driver, including the installer, config and settings.The company is a leading provider of graphics cards and software for the desktop and embraces a cross platform strategy.

“NVIDIA supports Linux, as well as the Linux community and has long been praised for the quality of the NVIDIA Linux driver. NVIDIA’s fully featured Linux graphics driver is provided as binary-only because it contains intellectual property NVIDIA wishes to protect, both in hardware and in software,” the company said in a statement released today, in response to Linux kernel [ http://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/?p=2586 ] developers’ criticism of vendors that produce only closed source drivers.

More than 100 Linux kernel developers signed off on a letter dated June 23 maintaining that closed source drivers are “harmful” to end users because it cuts them off from additional support and upgrades they might enjoy from the community. NVidia’s closed source ways was highly publicized [ http://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/?p=2587 ] and criticized in an essay published by the chairman of the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board Chair.

But in an email to this reporter, Nvidia shot back, noting that its own kernel development team supports Linux users and “NVIDIA doesn’t expect Linux kernel developers to debug issues in NVIDIA’s kernel module.”

Nvidia also noted that customers can gain access to open source updates from Linux kernel.org even if if they use closed source modules. “NVIDIA’s Linux graphics driver kernel module is structured so that all the code that is Linux-specific is provided in source code as a kernel interface layer. When customers upgrade their kernel to get the latest from kernel.org, they have everything they need to rebuild and even patch, if necessary the NVIDIA driver’s kernel interface layer,” the company said.

Reader feedback on an earlier piece on the issue is mixed. Some posted comments defending NVidia’s decision to stay closed source and protect its code while others say that Nvidia’s Linux drivers are faulty and in need of better support.

7:39 pm

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