With Nvidia, you do not have an option. With AMD, the situation is much better, but the free driver still has plenty of room for improvement. They released the specs, are helping the development, but they are keeping their special secrets for themselves. Fine.
What I find really difficult to comprehend is people who come on a Linux forum and keep insisting that open source is wrong and people demanding open drivers are stupid.
No, I don't mean you, but you've read these posts too.
To speak to those others who do insist that closed drivers are the devil incarnate, I think they have things a bit confused when comparing running them to be essentially functionally equivalent to running Microsoft Windows.
If you have a situation where the open drivers don't have the performance you might need and you insist that closed drivers compromise the purity of the Linux experience such that they should never, ever be used then you're left with two options.
- Run your Linux system with the open drivers but modify you're requirements to suit the resultant performance of the software/hardware config you're running no matter how impractical or sometimes impossible that might be, or
- Switch to Microsoft Windows where you're not "polluting" the purity of the ecosystem.
I prefer the third option which becomes available when you're prepared to make a sensible compromise which is an open, Linux based system with all of the benefits that it provides which is then further enabled by a closed driver from the same manufacturer of the graphics hardware I happen to be running.
I get the feeling that some people think that by running a closed driver you're somehow not worthy of running Linux and should "go back to running Windows". That's an absolutely ridiculous position to take. At least I could still have some respect for them if they were to also be running fully open hardware. At least that would be consistent.
If Linux was all out proprietary then I would be running Windows 7. The only reason one would run Linux instead of Mac OS X would be the FLOSS part.
Now I do not see the need for replacing any functionality whatsoever with even one bit of proprietary code.
That said Mac OS X is always behind on the latest FLOSS code. Apple uses quite a bunch of FLOSS code and so all a hacker would have to do is subsribe to the FreeBSD mailing list, find a fix to an exploit and use that as a HOWTO manual on how to remotely exploit the latest version of Mac OS X. He sure has a bit of time before the hole will be fixed. So that said Mac OS X is a complete joke, security wise...
So I guess I would be running Windows 7 instead.
Just putting it out there. But that's just my personal opinion and my own standpoint. There are ofcourse people who need blobs for their Disney Pixar Linux rendering farms and so they will have to have nVidia blobs because Ati doesn't make FireGL cards for which the drivers are crap. That is why AMD is not making any profit in that sector and that is also why AMD keeps selling FireGL cards, because nobody buys them.
Also: nonconstructive replies to this post containing nothinbg but "You are wrong because you are wrong" simply will not be answered by me.
People talk of "just a driver", but the nvidia driver is larger than the linux kernel itself. It replaces large portions of the X server, all of Mesa, kernel DRM/DRI stuff and many other open source parts of the system. My Nvidia laptop died, so I can't check (you probably can), but I seem to remember that the binary module was around 9MB in size (the compressed archive on Nvidia.com is 23 MB, but that includes other things). The compressed linux image is around 4MB in size.
The frustration with the blob comes from the fact that Linux cannot function as a desktop system without it. So, while this is not equivalent to MS Windows, you can not speak of a "Free" operating system anymore, even though much of your kernel and userspace is Free. In fact, this is similar to running Cygwin + Emacs + KDE apps on a Windows system. Not quite the same, but located on the same continuum. And, since there is no viable Free option available, Nvidia has the power to kill Linux desktop on Nvidia hardware whenever they wish.
I am practical in the sense that while I choose to run as Free a system as I can, I don't have a problem with people running other things. Even binary drivers, if their specific application requires them and there is no alternative (performance reasons, DRM stuff, OpenCL...)If you have a situation where the open drivers don't have the performance you might need and you insist that closed drivers compromise the purity of the Linux experience such that they should never, ever be used then you're left with two options.
But there HAS to be the option of running without them.
so yes, fglrx is fairly big. I don't think code size in isolation provides a good reason to not use it though. If code size was a main determinant that would rule out various open solutions where their closed counterparts, even where less disirable for other reasons, had smaller memory footprints. I for one am prepared to run open code even where it's closed euqivelent is smaller unless there are other more compelling reasons to choose the closed package.Code:fglrx 2432887 127
But here's the kicker. If a Linux solution with purely open drivers can't provide the required functionality then a purely open solution effectively doesn't exist. It then becomes a question of what is the best, most open solution to the problem for those seeking an open solution.
So given that the only truely high performance solutions are provided by AMD/ATI and nVidia, the entirety of Linux high performance graphics is held in trust by those two companies. But considering that they also provide the hardware, either way without them we are effectively stuffed!
Seriously, verything that resembles a physical desk, works with with the FLOSS drivers. Linux even beats Mac OS X and Windows to it. The only thing that does not work is 3D graphics which has never been part of a desktop. When was the last time anybody took his superman piyama out of the closet and jumped on his/her desk to pretent being a super hero?