Open Letter To NVIDIA

I'm all for Openess. In my last blog post I talked a little about Open Documents, this time I'm going to talk about something different: hardware. While it doesn't shock me that hardware plans are kept close and secret, I think that hardware specs should be allways open. Hardware specs is what will enable anyone to interact with the hardware you make and using all its features. A great example of why this is needed is NVIDIA: their graphics hardware don't have their specs open, and so the experience of using their hardware in systems like GNU/Linux are far from perfect. To convince NVIDIA to change their policy, there's an Open Letter to NVIDIA, saying:

We the GNU/Linux community and the undersigned, kindly request that you, NVIDIA Corporation, increase your efforts in better enabling the open-source community to develop free software drivers for your graphics hardware. Your major competitors in this market, AMD/ATI and Intel, have not only supported the community in open-source driver development efforts but they are now openly releasing hardware programming documentation.

While we are grateful that your company provides one of the best closed-source graphics drivers for Linux, it is not without its problems and prevents many users from having a truly free software platform. You have shown an open-source passion in the past when dropping the nforce-net binary blob in favor of the community-spawned forcedeth driver for Ethernet support on your motherboard chipsets. There has been a rumor that you may be developing an open-source strategy for your graphics products, so if that is the case please let us know your true intentions. Even if you were only able to open a subset of your Linux driver, this still would show a sign of solidarity to the free software world.

We stand united under the name OpenTheBlob.com, but realize that legally it may be next to impossible to open-source the binary portion of your graphics driver due to patents and preserving some intellectual property in this competitive market. What we are, however, asking you for is to support the open-source community to the fullest extent possible. The open-source "nv" driver that you provide for X is an abhorrent disaster that is limited to 2D acceleration and doesn't come without its share of limitations and shrouded code. We look to NVIDIA for providing concise programming documentation to willing open-source developers that is not encumbered by Non-Disclosure Agreements or other legal restrictions.

There is an interested group of developers at hand that are willing to contribute towards an open 3D NVIDIA driver. The Nouveau developers are committed to these free software ideals to the extent that they have spent years reverse engineering your hardware without ever receiving any funds for this immense work, but rely upon community donations. An official open-source driver could complement your binary driver, in order to provide a better "out of the box" experience on many Linux distributions and satisfying the customers -- including corporate clients -- who mandate open-source software.

In a steadfast manner, we request knowing your true commitment to the GNU/Linux and open-source communities. For everyday that you stand by idle, your competitors are continuing to refine their open-source drivers and pushing out more documentation that is better enabling the open-source community. Please let us know what is going on and join the open-source community in this effort.

If you agree with this text, please consider signing this open letter.