Video Card for FreeBSD 9.0 (RC2) AMD64

Matt Dawson matt at
Wed Dec 14 14:08:39 UTC 2011

On Tuesday 13 Dec 2011 22:21:55 Dieter BSD wrote:
> Matt writes:
> > [The n]Vidia binary blob and the support from nVidia on the forums
> > is generally accepted as a best-effort endeavour.
> Binary blobs are completely unacceptable, and there are multiple
> good reasons for this.  

There are advantages and disadvantages. I've already given one example 
of a binary blob that is integrated into the kernel for pragmatic 
reasons. There was ath_hal for a while. I'm sure if I look a bit 
harder, I'll find some more. iwi(4) springs immediately to mind. It's 
all down to weighing up the pros and cons. It's easy to become 
polarised on this issue but it really doesn't help when you are 
sitting in front of a box that you require certain functionality from 
that is sitting there flipping you the digital bird and stubbornly 
refusing to fulfil its general purpose computing remit.

Given the choice between the not-quite-fully-derrierred OSS support of 
the Radeon [1] and Intel integrated devices coupled with lagging 
behind in the DRI2/KMS/GEM/TTM/Gallium alphabet-soup-eating contest 
due to other OS bias within or the excellent quality of the 
nVidia 64 bit driver it's a no-brainer, especially when the portion of 
the driver that has the most potential for freedom and privacy 
breaches is supplied as source. I, for one, am not prepared to abandon 
FreeBSD over these issues, so a compromise was necessary.

Christian Zander was very open and approachable while the amd64 driver 
was being developed and worked closely with the community to see that 
goal come to fruition. He also did an interview for the BSDtalk 
podcast to discuss the importance of FreeBSD support at nVidia.

> Do we really need to rehash this over and over again?

No, no we don't. We pragmatists will continue to run what fits the 
purpose best for as long as the option is available and the idealists 
will continue to complain when they'd be better served by a release 
from that other OS such as gnewsense (a *very* apt name indeed) or 
similar that emphasises politics over function. There's no need for a 
discussion at all unless it's to point out to people such as the OP 
that there are options.

Here in the FreeBSD world, such decisions are made by the user or 
sysadmin. It is never going to be the default but it will be made 
available as painlessly as possible for those who wish to use it. 
That's the key factor: Choice. We have it, it's not going away and 
nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head. It fits very nicely into the 
BSD ethos: Here's some software. Use or use not, there is no pressure.

[1] I have three Radeon X850XT cards here which were, until the r600 
import, the fastest 3D cards supported by FreeBSD's DRI subsystem[2]. 
While they worked, FSVO "work," the humble GF 210 wipes the floor with 
them in terms of stability, ease of maintenance and functionality.

[2] I'm not just blindly ranting, nor am I a fanboy; I have been 
through the gamut of graphics support on FreeBSD. if you want to know 
just how thoroughly I went into this, I wrote a full Handbook chapter 
on DRI a couple of years ago but didn't submit it due to it rapidly 
becoming outdated. You can view that here and make your own mind up:
Matt Dawson
matt at

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