Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th Dec 2006 19:58 UTC, submitted by Michael Larabel
3D News, GL, DirectX "Nouveau is a community project that is working on producing open-source 3D display drivers for NVIDIA graphics cards. Nouveau is not affiliated with Nvidia Corp and is an X.Org project. While this project is still far from being completed, for this holiday special we are sharing some of our first thoughts on this project from our experience thus far. We would like to make it very clear, however, that the Nouveau driver is no where near completed and still has a great deal of work ahead for the 3D component. This article today will also hopefully shed some light on the advancements of this project so far."
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OpenSource drivers for hardware components that lack well documentated standardizations are crucial for alternative OSes, and that for very pragmatic, down-to-earth reasons (not that "purity" and "philosphy" are bad things, quite the contrary).

- Binary drivers for NVIDIA graphic cards are currently only available for x86 and x86_64 platforms. PPC (and in the future) Cell processors may not have a large enough total install base for NVIDIA to consider them important enough for support, but with an OSS driver at least partial 3d support is possible.

- Other alternative Operating systems can benefit either directly (if the license is compatible and porting the driver is accomplishable) or indirectly (by reading/learning/reimplementing, which is even more impoartant for fringe non-open source OSes) from this work. Given, that reinvention of the wheel is a common criticism of FOSS, this is a very important point.

- Most users (desktop, gamers are a different target group) will consider a significant performance penalty against the binary drivers acceptable, as long as current desktop enhancements (compiz/beryl et al) work reliable and competative. Since many users will expect this effects from OSes in the next years, FOSS drivers will allow the makers of distributions to at least provide a better out-of-the-box experience without the legal grey zones, that surround binary only modules (in the case of kernels covered by the GPL). This is esp. important for Live-CD's/DVDs/etc. based systems, since linking against the kernel currently has to happen essentially every time the system get's booted (although mechanisms like storing the linked module on the hard disk / sperate medium by the user is possible)

- One thing, that is imho too often overlooked in the context of the binary vs. open source kernel driver debate is the possibility to learn from open source projects. Open source drivers for current 3d hardware can be great learning grounds for compuatational sciences students or engineering students, which is something that at least I consider very important.

- Finally, as long as Linux et al have a market share smaller than 10 - 15% and the market for 3d graphic cards is left to essentially three large players, I consider open source drivers a necessarity, since binary-only support (or support for older kernels /architectures, etc.) can always be dropped because of economic pressure or changed marketing politics on behalf of the vendor.

EDIT: fixed typos and added the part with the Live CD's

Edited 2006-12-26 22:28

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