Letter to NVIDIA: Please release the specifications for NVIDIA graphics cards

I sent the following letter to Andrew Fear, who has stated in the past that NVIDIA's customers simply aren't asking for open-source graphics drivers. Well, I am a customer of NVIDIA and I want free graphics drivers; but NVIDIA have no way of knowing that unless I tell them about it.

From: Sam Morris <sam@robots.org.uk>
To: Andrew Fear <afear@nvidia.com>
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 00:38:48 +0100
Subject: Please release the specifications for NVIDIA graphics cards

Dear Mr. Fear,

I am writing to you to respond to your widely-publicised statement1 that "[NVIDIA] customers aren't asking for open-source drivers".

While I do not expect your company to release the source code for its drivers under an open-source license, I want to make you aware that I am a customer of NVIDIA, and and that I am asking for your company to release the specifications for its graphics cards so that others can create their own drivers that will be free software2.

I have purchased NVIDIA graphics cards since 2001 because they have always offered the best compromise between quality, performance and price. However I am now seriously considering both stopping the purchase of NVIDIA hardware for the machines I build for myself and others, and stopping recommending NVIDIA hardware to others.

There are three reasons I have become dissatisfied with NVIDIA products:

  1. Regressions in the quality of NVIDIA's proprietary Linux graphics driver that I am powerless to fix, such as when all my available video modes disappeared3.

  2. The recently-revealed critical security flaw in the NVIDIA proprietary Linux graphics driver4. Since the driver is just a meaningless binary blob, I have no way to know how many other flaws I am exposed to when using the driver. I was particularly dismayed to find out that this flaw was first discovered almost two years ago.

  3. The gradual emergence of alternatives to NVIDIA and ATI's proprietary graphics drivers, such as: Intel's recent announcement5 that their graphics cards will be accompanied by drivers that are free software; the Nouveau project6, which aims to reverse engineer NVIDIA hardware to produce a free software driver; and the Open Graphics Project7, which aims to produce both graphics hardware and software under free licenses.

I hope I have succeeded in drawing your attention to the fact that your customers do want open-source drivers, and that those drivers do not necessarily have to be written by NVIDIA itself. We merely request that you release documentation for your hardware so that we can do the job ourselves.

I would love to continue to purchase NVIDIA hardware and recommend that others do the same, but the continuing absence of free software drivers for NVIDIA's graphics cards is making this more and more unlikely as time goes on.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Morris

PGP key id 1024D/5EA01078
3412 EA18 1277 354B 991B  C869 B219 7FDB 5EA0 1078

NVIDIA never bothered to reply to me. I can only assume that the reason they think there is no demand for free graphics drivers is because they are not actually listening to their customers.

robots.org.uk: LetterToNVIDIA (last edited 2008-06-29 11:17:02 by sam)

© Sam Morris <sam@robots.org.uk>.
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