Re: We need a good and simple hardware database for Free Software users.

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Exile In Paradise wrote:
> Put that in the FAQ then "just use the free drivers that come with XFree86
> or you will be ridiculed off the list!" Fair enough.

Clearly you are being facetious as you are still on the list to complain
when I talk about software freedom.

> I don't understand the attitude displayed here that NVidia was "hurting"
> anyone by making a decent video chip, putting it on the market cheaply,
> and even going as far as writing a driver for Linux... which in the
> Riva/early TnT days I did not see anyone else doing, especially with a
> GL core that took advantage of that (then) new hardware.

Learn about software freedom.  You've probably only thought of computers in
terms of practical advantage, and not to cherish the freedoms to share and
modify software.  Typically it takes a problem (like a security breech, loss
of privacy, or some other calamity) to get people to value software freedom.

I encourage you to read (Why
Software Should be Free) and (Why Free
Software is better than Open Source).  If you prefer, give a listen to RMS
or Brad Kuhn's talks about software freedom in any of their speeches (and
following Q&A -- see
for more info).

> I understand people's licensing objections and I am not arguing with
> that...

Yes you are, but perhaps you don't realize it.  The most natural things to
do with a computer program are run it for any reason, modify it to suit your
needs, and share it with other people.  Licenses that don't allow you, the
user, to do these things are keeping you from doing things you can do.

With any proprietary software, you have no idea what that program is really
doing.  You can't fix it when it breaks, you can't get anyone else to fix it
for you, and you can't even change the underlying software on which the
software depends without waiting for the proprietor to release a new version
of their software that works with your new software.  This is reducing
capable people to dependency.

> I don't work for NVidia or ATI, and am not paid by either to "recommend"
> or endorse either card.

Neither am I nor is that anywhere close to being the operative issue here.
I believe we should work with manufacturers that work with us.  I think it
is good to promote beneficial corporate behavior.

> But its hard to break what's already working for me, especially when it
> has been working for me for years under RedHat thanks to years worth of
> support from the manufacturer.

As I think RMS argues quite well, what you have is not really support.  It's
dependence.  And how ironic it is that with Red Hat's GNU/Linux you are
benefitting from an entire operating system filled with software community
can support, but you choose to throw that away for a video card driver.

> It really comes down to this... meany people want to run Fedora, they
> have NVidia cards, and they want to get their box up and running without
> having to worry about getting into an inane holy war in the process.

It's not beneficial to argue for laziness and short-term convenience. What
happens when NVidia stops supplying drivers or someone wants to improve or
debug their drivers?

There's nothing inane about software freedom.  Keeping our collective eyes
on software freedom is what built our community long before the Open Source
movement was formed (not to suggest that the Open Source movement talks
about freedom, because they don't).

> They post a question to the list to get help and get on with their
> life... they want to know how to get the OS they want to run  on the
> hardware they already have.

It really comes down to what will make users free.  Proprietary software
doesn't give users freedom.  Often users don't need expensive parts to gain
freedom, they just need to know what to buy.

There's no need for you to become angry or surmise that you are being called
stupid.  I'm not calling you stupid and it's perfectly reasonable to call
attention to a driving principle that helped build what we have now.

> Fix the box, then tell me why I need to buy someone else video card, not
> the other way around.

If the hardware you have is "fixed" by adding proprietary code, nobody will
be around to listen to a better way to really fix it.  People listen when
there are problems that need fixing, not when they're comfortably using what
appears to be a solution.

> ATI didn't care about Linux until they noticed it was costing them sales.

Precisely my point--thanks for repeating it.  So long as people placate
NVidia and give them sales without demanding anything else of them, NVidia
will never have any incentive to treat you any better.  Businesses don't do
what you want merely by asking, they respond to a lack of sales driven by
organized effort.

> I find it hard to believe they just suddenly "came to Stallman"
> and realized that open source was the "One True Way" out of the sheer
> grandness of their corporate heart.

I'm talking about Free Software, not Open Source.  Also, you have already
answered your own point--they did it to spur sales.  I would be happy to
recommend NVidia's hardware if they acted more in line with user's freedom.
But they don't and they won't so long as you and others give them money to
treat you poorly.  I don't see how ATI's former lack of specs makes them
unrecommendable today.

> They saw a market, and are jumping in and more power to them. NVidia's
> policy is now costing them sales as they lose Linux people to ATI...

Apparently not--I haven't seen anyone else steer people away from NVidia's
hardware.  I've only seen people give shortcut advice that turns a nice Free
Software machine into a proprietary one.

> I didn't think I needed to get that far into it, but it seems people
> have to be very very specific nowadays, or they get blasted as "stupid
> newbies" for no good reason.

And more misquotes.  I never used this language so I don't know who you are

> Some of the posts on this list, especially regarding NVidia's driver
> policy has made it easy for me to see why the BSD and Solaris guys I
> know complain about "the holier-than-thou Linux guys" with bad
> attitudes.

What they're often reacting to is either a complaint that software freedom
isn't as practical as they'd like (which is true but not in any way damaging
to the Free Software movement for reasons described in the second essay I
pointed to above) or that the chief Free Software license (the GNU GPL)
preserves freedom while the new BSD license does not (which is also true but
for a very good reason--when one is concerned with software freedom, one
typically wants to make sure everyone has software freedom, not just the
people who get the software from the copyright holder).

> Yes, except that this NVidia thread has made it all too clear that *even
> if* a manufacturer writes drivers for Linux OSes, they will be punished
> for it unless they only make it open source and give away any and all
> rights and research dollars spent etc etc etc"

ATI is doing just fine by sharing specifications.  They don't need to make
their drivers free software at all, they only need to stop hindering people
from making their own drivers.  Hardware manufacturers make money on the
sales of the hardware, not the software that comes with it.  Nobody buys
only a copy of the NVidia drivers.

Software freedom doesn't require "giv[ing] away any and all rights and
research dollars".  You apparently don't understand that free software
licensing means there is still a copyright holder (after all, that is who
would enforce the license against infringers; that is why we're dealing with
a license and not, in most cases, a work in the public domain).  You're
repeating the fearmongering Microsoft has used to argue against the GNU GPL.
It wasn't true then and it isn't true today.

> That punishment is easy to imagine... they won't even be listed, even if
> they bothered to support the OS at all.

Nor would they deserve to be listed--this database is a Free Software
database for users who want software freedom.  One doesn't owe all
businesses assistance just because the business exists.

> The XFree supported card list is rife with manufacturers who could care
> less[sic] about Linux... they don't even have to because the "community"
> did their work for them and let them off the hook... and they get card
> sales based on the fact that XFree supports them on Linux... not the
> manufacturer themselves.

Actually, the phrase is "could not care less".  If you "could care less" you
would still care.

But you're correct about the generous XFree86 folks writing the code for the
manufacturers.  As I understand it, these developers did this by reading
specs made available by the card manufacturer.  Specs like the kind that
NVidia is keeping secret.  These other manufacturers work with our community
and have earned our support.  NVidia does not.

> Honestly, why should a manufacturer even care about supporting that last
> 1% of computer people who run Linux instead of the 92% who run Windows
> and the 4% who run Mac? (numbers courtesy of the Google Zeitgeist for
> whoever wants to take issue with them.)

Because sales are sales and sharing specs will not reduce the sales to any
of the people who would have otherwise bought the video card.  As more
people contribute to a Free Software database of supported hardware, more
people will learn why software freedom matters and will choose to make it a
buying point (just as people are increasingly learning why doing business
with Wal-Mart actually hurts a community, despite Wal-Mart's low prices
which are often on the backs of the manufacturers and Wal-Mart's own staff).

Ethical concerns matter.  For computer software, ethical concerns include
the freedoms to share and modify software. 

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