Re: [debian-knoppix] Re: Drivers
On Sat, Nov 06, 2004 at 05:53:16AM +0000, Niall Walsh wrote:
> D russel wrote:
> >I dont know for other drivers but these two seem
> >Nvidia drivers :
> >Smart link modems:
> >So at least for the above there should be no problem.
> >Or is there?
> Personally I think it is certainly a bad idea to default to using the
> nvidia binary video drivers. I think the arguments are well known on
> the use of binary drivers with respect to tainting the system, lack of
> maintainability and removing the desire to work on free solutions so I
> won't start a rant.
Agreed, but apart from the "political/philosophical" problem with proprietary
drivers, there are some technical issues:
- With proprietary drivers, you can't easily fix security issues on your own.
You can't even be sure about (accidentially, intentional) backdoors.
- The way these "semi-proprietary" license of some drivers works, it is easy
for the vendors to just CHANGE the license, not only in future, but also in
the current versions. Imagine you have to inform thousands of Knoppix users
that their CD just got illegal because of a third party license change.
I'm a bit cautions about these issues. I just feel more comfortable with OSI
approved licenses, and only include proprietary software in very rare
exceptions, when I'm "quite sure" (without being a lawyer) that I won't get in
trouble with the individual license later.
> What I will say is that the question becomes a lot more difficult when
> you cannot use a device with Free drivers and a non-free solution (such
> as the sl-modems) is the only option (I'm still not 100% certain why it
> is non-free but am assuming it includes firmware). I think in this
> sort of case it is a reasonable choice for Knoppix (and similar) to
> include the binary drivers as it increases hardware compatibility but I
> would also think it reasonable to not include it.
Depends on the case. If a hardware vendor gives me a license that allows "free
redistribution for non-commercial as well as commercial purposes" without any
further restrictions, that's probably OK (if there is no free solution for the
Anyways, there are Knoppix derivates who are less pedantic about licenses, so I
recommend, if you just absolutely want your winmodem to work without carrying
your own drivers around on a memory stick, and you don't care much about
checking license issues or potential dangers introduced by non-verified and
binary-only software, you can just use Kanotix. ;-)
> In the case of the nvidia drivers are you gaining significant hardware
I would say no. Just if you want to play 3D-shooters. The OSS nv drivers
included in XFree86 should be fast and stable enough for everyday work. I have
no good experience with binary-only Kernel modules or XFree plugins.
> And if so at what expense? If the nvidia video drivers
> do provide additional hardware support, could they be activated only by
> cheatcode or at least only for nvidia cards which aren't supported by
> the Free code, to make them both easier to remove and prevent them
> running by default?
Getting them to run without making other drivers inoperational is a separate
artwork. Kudos to Martin Öhler that he managed to integrate all that
accellerated graphics stuff in the games Knoppix edition without ruining the
"standard" drivers. That was surely a hard scripting and symlinking work to do,
and it needs to be updated frequently when new drivers or kernels are
> What do various distributions do, do they ship the binary nvidia drivers
> running by default?
It's easier when you run an installed system, so you just replace the
"universal" drivers by the acellerated ones, and you don't have to care about
different possible graphics cards. So, every chipset would have its own set of
driver packages, which are mutually incompatible and not parallel installable.
> Just my 2c, if it's even worth that! It's Klaus's cash that counts
> deciding this one!
Not necessarily. I'm maybe just too cautious or worried in some cases.
Which obviously is a good thing, because it motivates others to create their
own improved derivates. ;-)
-Klaus Knopper (currently from Denmark)