An Open Letter To ATI/AMD

Written by David Stevens in Display Drivers on 27 June 2007 at 08:39 AM EDT. Page 1 of 1. 2 Comments.

David Stevens, a Linux user and Phoronix reader, had written a letter to ATI/AMD expressing concern over their lack of providing an official free software driver. David had asked this letter be made openly available and shared with our readers. You may share your thoughts on the fglrx driver and ATI/AMD's lack of an open-source driver in the Phoronix Forums. Like this letter, Phoronix accepts quality editorials and pieces written by the community.

Why I'm not buying an ATI video card (even though I really like both ATI and AMD products)

As you can see from the subject line, I am not spending my money on a high-end ATI card in my dual Opteron system, even though I really like both firms and their products.

I am 59 years old, semi-retired and a veteran of the software and hardware business, having most recently closed up my retail computer shop to concentrate more on my three year old granddaughter and a bit of custom computer consulting and environmental advocacy.

I find that for basically the first time in my life I can build the computer system I would like to have without having to worry about the cost. This has led me to use a Tyan dual Opteron motherboard (the s2932) and various solid-to-high performance components. The video system needs to be capable of high performance. I am not a gamer but some of the database visualisations I anticipate implementing will require lotsa horsepower.

ATI makes a nice range of chipsets that will give me this performance and from a number of OEMs; probably I'd go with ASUS, their manufacturing quality seems to be good.

I use Fedora linux and will use either that or Debian. With virtualisation I don't need to make too hard-and-fast a choice on that. I know the arguments for and against free software and am firmly of the opinion that I will only spend my money on this computer's video system if there is a free software driver solution that allows me to be both vendor-independent and able to fully exercise all the capabilities of the hardware. I have currently a 1650 PRO board which has lots of capability but no free driver. The experience of installing the binary blob was not either productive or fun. I don't any longer find it fun to try to force a piece of hardware or software to do what I want. In this case I just want to get on with the job.

I have been using AMD since they started making bit-slice processors (a LONG LONG time ago.) I really like the firm. Likewise with ATI, good products, good prices, a good firm to deal with, even through the OEM chain.

So what I've settled on is that I'll use the ATI ES1000 graphics that came on the motherboard for purposes of commissioning the system. Then, in early fall, I'll need to put the graphics subsystem in place. Until then I'll buy nothing. If at that time (early September, say) there is no solid support forthcoming from ATI for an free high-performance driver, I'll probably go with an Intel solution. I don't like the firm much and would like to have an ATI solution, but right now that isn't possible. Too bad.

If you care about my situation (which I think is representative of many others' too) please let me know if you decide to go with free software support. You could make a lot of friends that way - not just with me (and those I influence) but in the wider Linux community. Don't you want that market?

Dave Stevens

Editor's Note: While ATI does not provide an official open-source graphics driver or release their specifications to the public, there are open-source drivers for ATI's Radeon series that have been developed by the community (see ATI Has Open-Source Drivers Too and ATI R200 Linux Driver Redux). The driver in X.Org 7.2 currently supports up through the Radeon X850 series, but the Avivo Driver that is currently under development will support the complete R500 (X1000) and R600 (HD 2000) series. ATI's extent of supporting these community efforts is limited to the ES1000 graphics. Intel currently doesn't offer a discrete graphics processor, but the Larrabee Project will change that in the future. However, as to whether the Intel Linux developers will be able to keep up with producing a quality open-source driver when entering the discrete graphics world is not known. Nor has Intel released specifications to their latest IGP.

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