[sclug] sclug Digest, Vol 61, Issue 14

Alex Butcher lug at assursys.co.uk
Fri Oct 31 15:59:49 UTC 2008

On Fri, 31 Oct 2008, Neil Haughton wrote:

>>> So unless you have a bang up to date Nvidia card, upgrading to 8.10 will
>>> apparently break 3D acceleration. How annoying is that?
>> 1) This is one of the perils of buying hardware that is only supported (or
>> only /fully/ supported) by non-Free drivers.
> Er, in my case the hardware came first - and isn't one of the punted about
> 'strengths' of Linux that it supports 'legacy' hardware very well?

Depends, but this generally only applies to Free drivers. Futhermore,
increasingly the hardware requirements of both the kernel and significant
components of mainstream distributions are making older systems unsuitable,
particularly for 'desktop' usage. Some people make the claim you describe
about Linux; I don't - as far as I'm concerned, it's simple a FOSS UNIX

>> 3) This might be a short-term thing until nVidia release new legacy drivers
>> which work with the version of X.Org that Ubuntu have included in 8.10 (and
>> presumably other distros will start including RSN).
> Shouldn't Canonical make their OS work with existing drivers, rather than
> insist that others keep up with them?

No, that's silly for a distribution that makes no claims for long-term
support. Such an attempt would lead to stagnation.

Furthermore, the approach taken by Linux distributions is that backwards
compatibility is provided at the /source/ level, rather than the binary
level, and generally this is achieved. nVidia have chosen not to provide
either source code or programming information for their GPUs, so this isn't
even possible on a 'best endeavours' basis. Instead, it's for nVidia to try
and keep their drivers upto date with contemporary distributions, and
generally they manage a reasonable job of this. It's a second-best
situation, though.

> I mean, the damn thing works perfectly well with 7.10 and 8.04, so why
> should they deliberately break it with 8.10 - and then implicitly blame
> nvidia for not keeping up with them? And whilst we are on the subject, why
> *should *nvidia rewrite drivers for older hardware simply because
> Canonical have broken things?  I think that what annoys me most is that if
> M$ did this (and they do from time to time) the ponytails would be up in
> arms sticking their tongues out from the rooftops, whereas because it is
> *Canonical *we are all supposed have a warm gooey feeling about it.

Actually, Microsoft do this quite regularly, which is why hardware that was
once supported in earlier versions of Windows is no longer supported in
newer versions. Furthermore, this is increasingly likely to be the case if
the assertions and conclusions in
<http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/APIWar.html> are correct.

> Personally I think this whole 'proprietary is evil' thing is childish. Does
> anyone refuse to buy a Toyota (say) because they won't give you a copy of
> the manufacturing drawings?  (The answer is no, by the way :-) ). Nvidia
> produce a driver (yay!), it works (yay!) but you can't see inside it (OMG!)
> so we mustn't use it!  FGS who cares if you can't see inside it?

I do, if it means a vendor may decide that I can no longer use hardware I
bought and paid for, just because they don't think it's a worthwhile use of
their resources to keep their driver up-to-date.

FWIW, I don't think 'proprietary is evil', rather 'proprietary is a
compromise and will likely bite me sooner or later'. Sometimes the
compromise is bearable. With the exception of my 2002-vintage Geforce
2go-equipped laptop, all of my graphics cards cost no more than ??30 new. For
my MythTV system, particularly, I begrudgingly accept that nVidia's products
are the optimal solution. But they won't get me spending more than ??30 on
any of their products until I can get a decent guarantee of long-term

> Neil

Best Regards,
Alex Butcher, Bristol UK.                           PGP/GnuPG ID:0x5010dbff

"[T]he whole point about the reason why I think it is important we go for
identity cards and an identity database today is that identity fraud and
abuse is a major, major problem. Now the civil liberties aspect of it, look
it is a view, I don't personally think it matters very much."
  - Tony Blair, 6 June 2006 <http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page9566.asp>

More information about the Sclug mailing list