AMD releases ATI hardware specs

by | Sep 13, 2007 | Stress Blog | 2 comments

Excerpt from an interview with Linus Torvalds:

Interviewer: Out of curiosity, do you have anything to say to hardware manufacturers who refuse to release datasheets or specifications about the functioning of their hardware so it could operate with the Linux kernel?

Linus: Is “I hope you all die a painful death” too strong?

Recently, the CPU manufacturer AMD purchased ATI, which makes graphics cards. ATI graphics cards are used extensively, and there is a 50/50 chance you have one yourself. For years, those of us that had ATI cards had to deal with substandard open source drivers and a proprietary driver that ATI refused, at first, to develop. If the proprietary driver was under development, chances are it would take 6 months until it was ready, and then would provide buggy, unstable performance, and, being proprietary, could not be included with the Linux kernel. ATI’s linux driver support was, in short, painful. Recently, however, AMD decided to release all of ATI’s specs to the public and work with the open source community to build working drivers that can be included with the kernel and provide full hardware acceleration out of the box.
This is such a stunning reversal. When I heard about it, I almost passed out. ATI has now passed Nvidia, its leading competitor, in open source support, something I never thought would happen. AMD has now released over 900 pages of specs and more are on the way. The only way they could top themselves is if they released the specs for the older Radeon and Rage chips too. Then, drivers could be developed for older graphics cards, some of which are still in use. Those of us who use Linux should support AMD’s heroic decision by buying AMD chips and ATI cards from now on.

Listen to The Scott Horton Show