linus torvalds finland 06 2012It’s a bit of a “mission accomplished” for Linus Torvalds as he generated enough bad press to get NVIDIA to react to his “Fuck you NVIDIA” remark that we covered and debated last Sunday (video in the full post). Here’s NVIDIA response to Torvalds’ remark.

“While we understand that some people would prefer us to provide detailed documentation on all of our GPU internals, or be more active in Linux kernel community development discussions, we have made a decision to support Linux on our GPUs by leveraging NVIDIA common code, rather than the Linux common infrastructure.  While this may not please everyone, it does allow us to provide the most consistent GPU experience to our customers, regardless of platform or operating system,” (Nvidia)

NVIDIA explains the benefits of its current approach, and seems to confirm that its overall policy towards opening up its driver code will remain the same. The company did not mention intellectual property issues, nor resource allocation issues, and chose to focus on end-user benefits of its closed, and proprietary approach.

According to NVIDIA, the net benefit of its approach is three-fold:

1) Linux end users benefit from same-day support for new GPUs , OpenGL version and extension parity between NVIDIA Windows and NVIDIA Linux support, and OpenGL performance parity between NVIDIA Windows and NVIDIA Linux.

2) We support a wide variety of GPUs on Linux, including our latest GeForce, Quadro, and Tesla-class GPUs, for both desktop and notebook platforms. Our drivers for these platforms are updated regularly, with seven updates released so far this year for Linux alone. The latest Linux drivers can be downloaded from www.nvidia.com/object/unix.html.

3) We are a very active participant in the ARM Linux kernel. For the latest 3.4 ARM kernel – the next-gen kernel to be used on future Linux, Android, and Chrome distributions – NVIDIA ranks second in terms of total lines changed and fourth in terms of number of changesets for all employers or organizations.

I doubt that this will appease those who would like to see NVIDIA open-source its drivers. FYI – NVIDIA does provide Linux drivers that are refreshed fairly regularly but their Linux drivers don’t have a level of feature-parity to Windows or Mac OS X that satisfies the critics. The answer, they say, is: “open-up your intellectual property, and we’ll do the coding”. In the past, NVIDIA has been reluctant to disclosing proprietary information. Intel and AMD have open-source Linux drivers (full or partial).

The most adamant critics say that NVIDIA has a “moral responsibility” to “give back” to the open source community because their Tegra chip powers Android devices that are built on an open-source OS. Giving back means either adding feature parity with Windows, or opening-up the driver code, depending on who you talk to. Critics say that in some sense, NVIDIA is making money on the back of the open-source community and therefore is morally bound to restitute something.

NVIDIA would rather avoid a strained relationship with the Linux community, and the company goes on, saying: “Supporting Linux is important to NVIDIA, and we understand that there are people who are as passionate about Linux as an open source platform as we are passionate about delivering an awesome GPU experience”

The way that I understand it is: “our priority is to make an awesome GPU experience, and doing what you ask for isn’t really helping to fulfill that objective”. Obviously, you can see it in any different way because it is quite vague. You can watch the video below at 00:49:00 to see how this all started.

What do you think?

1/ Does NVIDIA have a(n unfulfilled) moral responsibility to give back to the open-source community by open-sourcing its code or providing feature-parity?

2/ Or does NVIDIA has the legitimate right to choose how to allocate its resources and choose what it wants to contribute (or not) to the open-source world?

Filed in Computers. Read more about linux and NVIDIA.

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