Video Drivers Are All that Is Holding Linux Back (Maybe Windows 7, Too)

The title statement is one that became immediately clear with the unsuccessful installation of Windows 7 Release Candidate on a machine of mine that has perfectly serviceable video with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and many versions of Linux, but no support from either ATi/AMD (onboard graphics) or nVidia (PCI Express card) for Windows 7.

These same graphics solutions that work well in general Linux distributions, don’t deliver the performance of optimized drivers in Windows, when speaking of game play.

About a year ago (relatively – not sure of the exact timeframe) we were told that AMD was releasing the source code for their video drivers to the Linux community. No such release came from nVidia. In both cases, nothing really happened, because, there are still no drivers that unlock the performance of the latest video chips.

With each iteration of the chipsets, drivers for Linux get that much further away.

It doesn’t work sometimes for Windows 7, or Vista now.

You might ask what I mean by that. Well, the newest AMD video cards, the ones featuring the 4770 chipset, the very first 40 nm chip produced by AMD, have no support in the latest AMD/ATi driver package.

There are bare drivers, but that is it. Some  of the reviewers that have looks at this little David in the land of Goliath, think that this $100 video card will change the landscape of the video industry …    Not without a full driver set it won’t.

So, it appears that ATi and nVidia both need some competition, as they are not helping the Linux community, and their Windows offerings are getting sloppy, and sometimes, really late. Hardware doesn’t work without software, and these guys should know.

Linux users should write to nVidia, and ask for better support. ATi users should write to AMD, asking for the same, and reminding them of their promise.

Where is S3 anyway? Or XGI? Those stores of intellectual property did not just vanish. As I’ve said before, we need a scrappy number 3, to give the big two some competition, and keep them honest.

This would be good for all concerned, and maybe Linux won’t continue to get the short shrift.

(Perhaps AMD/ATi and nVidia could come up with support options for their cards, that would allow owners of older cards to get new drivers for  a nominal fee. If the fee was not huge, the honor system would work, and more revenue, and good will from customers, would flow.)

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