NVIDIA FreeBSD kernel feature requests

Robert Watson rwatson at FreeBSD.org
Mon Jul 3 09:40:16 UTC 2006

On Sun, 2 Jul 2006, Sam Smith wrote:

> On Sun, 2 Jul 2006, Michal Mertl wrote:
>> And - again - it will probably take a couple of very skilled
>> programmers' years' time to write good driver from scratch.
> It took someone far less than that
> 	http://www.openbsd.org/cgi-bin/cvsweb/src/sys/dev/pci/if_nfe.c
> 	http://www.openbsd.org/cgi-bin/man.cgi?query=nfe&sektion=4
> Nvidia don't want to give out docs.
> That's their commercial decision - as a result, if you their cards, you may 
> end up with a particularly expensive paperweight the day they decide you 
> need to buy a new card for your new version of freebsd which has different 
> internals; or someone finds bugs in their drivers that they wont fix. it's 
> not like there aren't plenty of other vendors who are more willing to help 
> the developers with documentation in an open manner.

As I've also pointed out privately, but figure the list might benefit from -- 
this is a discussion of NVIDIA's video hardware, not network hardware, and the 
differences are significant:

Producing a device driver for a network interface is a pretty casual activity, 
since network interfaces are often just glorified hardware fifos, and there is 
relatively little that distinguishes most low-end cards on the market.

Producing a driver for a GPU card, especially one that possibly converts from 
GL-foo to foo appropriate to program and feed an ASIC on a video card, is 
quite different matter entirely.

I'm all for open source drivers, and would also encourage NVIDIA to continue 
to reconsider their closed source driver approach where it makes sense 
(especially for the network interfaces). However, I think that we shouldn't 
conflate these two cases rhetorically, as there are orders of magnitude 
complexity (and intellectual property) differences.

Robert N M Watson
Computer Laboratory
University of Cambridge

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