GNU/Linux drivers

A lot has been written about the 2006 CES show in Las Vegas. What I’ve read or heard so far has been pretty meaningless – new non-existing product from X, new gadget from Y that only works with Windows, etc etc. Until today. One of the LinuxToday editors has written an informative and interesting piece about his experience at the show and the Google keynote.

Two very interesting points to note. First of all – the Intel laptop salesperson claiming that laptop vendors were pretty unanimous in insisting that Intel have GNU/Linux device drivers available for all the new Duo chips and boards before they would incorporate them into the next generation of notebooks. Now that is news. Remember how long it took for Intel to release GNU/Linux drivers for the Centrino chipset? If this is true, it means that 2006 could well become a pretty interesting year for GNU/Linux on the desktop/laptop…

The second bit of interest was a quote from an S3 rep, explaining the whole GNU/Linux video driver malaise we are currently in – as in, video card manufacturers refuse to release free software drivers for (all features of) their cards. Nvidia does its best with a (mostly) open source driver, but ATI just refuses to support linux. The guy from S3 claims that is because open sourcing the drivers would release the workarounds that they include for flaws in the graphics chips. He claims that competitors would then use those flaws as negative marketing ammo.

Frankly, I find that a little hard to believe. I don’t think that an obscure driver workaround and the accompanying flaw in a company’s hardware is going to be useful for any marketing department. Sure, the hard-core graphics card geeks will talk about it, but I am positive that the statement ‘we are better than X because their hardware does this wrong’ will mean absolutely NOTHING for joe sixpack.

I’m thinking that open sourcing the drivers might actually cause enough embarrasment on the part of the hardware teams at ATI/S3/Nvidia/… to fix those flaws in the next iteration of their hardware. And that can only be beneficial for the public and the manufacturers…

On to something else – this must be one of the most hilarious writeups of an Apple rumour I’ve ever read. I don’t care if it’s true or not – the story just rocks :)

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