Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The fglrx debacle, or: the future of proprietary drivers in Linux

First of all, let me state here once and for all that I appreciate ATI's and AMD's effort in bringing the Catalyst drivers to Linux, how meager the quality of the driver might be: if it wasn't for ATI and AMD, we would have nothing at all. And you have got to applaud AMD's releasing of documentation to the radeonhd project.

Now, to the point. It has taken the fglrx guys almost 6 months to bring 2.6.29 support and now that they did bring it, it does not work on the one distro that uses a 2.6.29 kernel: Fedora 11.

Apart from that, it seems to be pretty hard to code the fglrx driver towards the new X architecture in F11. I'm in a bit of a rush now, but to me it seems that this proves the days of the proprietary driver and coming to an end. The pace with which open source software develops will in the end too fast for most hardware manufacturers. The only thing that remains then is to depend on open source projects to provide drivers, like radeonhd. If AMD would put a bit more effort in supporting the radeonhd project, even with coders possibly, I feel radeonhd would be up to par in a relatively short time. And that would mean a more stable, more portable, more rapidly developing, more open driver for ATI graphics cards. Now, who would not want that?ra