OpenBSD Journal

nVidia shuns the BSD community, again

Contributed by jose on from the video-drivers dept.

anonymous writes: "nVidia, if you are reading this, the BSD community wants to be able to use your hardware. However we cannot do this unless you allow the developers to write drivers. To do this, unrestricted access to documentation must be provided. By holding on to this documentation, you are only losing potential customers.

Original post by Theo: MARC archives

List:     openbsd-misc
Subject:  nVidia hardware
From:     Theo de Raadt

Date:     2003-07-22 20:05:46

I'm going to go on record and advise our entire user community to
avoid (any and all) nVidia hardware until the problem described below
is solved.

This reminds me of the days before Linux was all the rage and companies gave up and allowed for drivers to be used in X. Read on.

"Original call to the BSD community from FreeBSD's, Bill Paul: freebsd-hackers archive

This only made it to one list the first time, trying again. These
newfangled computer things clearly can't be trusted.


Ok, so, it occured to me recently to try to convince nVidia to cough
up programming documentation for their MCP ethernet controller.

However, in order to do that, I need to be able to show that
there is in fact sufficient demand for a FreeBSD (or even NetBSD
or OpenBSD) driver to make it worth their while. nVidia doesn't
listen to end users, only OEMs, and if the OEMs don't ask for
support for a given OS, then support will not materialize. My
goal is to convince them to pull their heads far enough out from
between their legs to realize that Linux is not the be-all, end-all
of open source, and that just because OEMs haven't mentioned
FreeBSD, NetBSD or OpenBSD by name doesn't mean there aren't
people who want MCP ethernet support in BSD.

For this, I need your help. What I need is to gather proof of
demand. What I want you do to is e-mail me (oh god, I can't believe
I'm setting myself up for this) if:

- You wanted to purchase a computer system with an nVidia nForce2
  chipset but _didn't_ once you realized there was no BSD driver
  support for the on-board ethernet.

- You bought an nVidia nForce2 system without realizing the on-board
  ethernet wasn't supported in BSD, were really disappointed once
  you found out, and complained to the manufacturer _OR_ you wanted
  to complain but didn't (because you weren't sure who to complain
  to, or you didn't get around to it yet, or you forgot, or you were
  abducted by aliens, or your dog ate your homework, or whatever).

- You are in a position to approve or recommend the purchase of
  a computer system (or several systems) for your company, research
  group, espionage organization or other institution with money to
  spend, but won't because there's no BSD driver support for the
  on-board ethernet.

- You never heard of nVidia, the nForce2 or the MCP ethernet controller
  until I mentioned them, but now that you have, and you've gone out
  and searched the interweb or visited your local computer store, you
  think they're all really spiffy and would happily buy an nForce2
  system, but will hold off until there's a BSD driver for the
  on-board ethernet.

- You want to give me free large bags of cash.

Do *NOT* e-mail me if:

- You want me to help you transfer a large sum of money out of Nigeria
  or some other African nation.

- You think I'm dying of cancer and my dying wish is to collect
  e-mails from all over the world.

- You think I want to MAKE MONEY FAST (if I wanted to do that,
  I wouldn't be writing device drivers for free).

- You work for SCO or the RIAA.

I think you get the idea. Consider it a petition of sorts. All I
need is an e-mail from you, with a line or two explaining your
particular circumstances. If you did not buy an nForce2-based
computer due to lack of BSD support, say so. If you did, but you
were pissed by the lack of BSD support, say so. If you told your
friends, relatives, cow-orkers or purchasing office not to buy
nForce2-based computers because of the lack of BSD support, say so.
Cite the OEM vendor of the computer (or computer) and the model
(or models) where appropriate. If more than one computer was
involved, say how many.

Every lost sale or dissatisfied customer I can present as evidence
makes it that much easier to convince nVidia to unclench its
tight... fists... and provide the documentation needed to write
a BSD driver.

NOTE: Please do make up phony e-mails just to bloat the figures or
or cobble together a perl script to send me hundreds of auto-generated
messages from forged addresses. Play nice, you scum.

So, send your cards and letters to And don't be
afraid to spread the word. Ask other people on other mailing lists.
Ask your friends. Ask your enemies. Ask not what your OS can do for
you: ask what you can do for your OS.


We've seen what community pressure can do in the past, so if this is something you believe in, compose a letter to someone at nVidia and politely and professionally make your case. Send this letter to Bill Paul who is coordinating the whole thing (ensuring it gets seen by the right people and the like). Together, we know the community can make a difference.

(Comments are closed)

  1. By James () on

    We ran into the nforce chipset recently when we purchased a new system for a backup server. We specifically told the company it needed open source support. (It's running linux presently.) The 2 onboard nics are of course not supported. We had to compile the latest linux pre kernel in order to even get disk transfers greater than 100kb/s. The solution to the unsupported nics of course was pop a real nic into it.

    1. By Anonymous Coward () on

      not to seem like a troll, but "open source" support is rather vague. If you wanted support for specific OS, its most likely best to state it clearly. People are going to assume what is most known to them, and if linux == all of opensource in their tiny heads then thats the exact what you will get. geeks like us have to remember that most sales people even for hardware companies might not always be wise in the ways of the force.

      1. By quel () on

        we actually did specifically say it needs to have linux support and they assured us that they would make it as such.

    2. By hndrcks () on

      The NForce chipsets aren't exactly designed for server use - even if you get the chipset supported I wouldn't suggest that kind of mobo for any server under load.

      1. By quel () on

        well It just does daily backups. The load is rather light and it's only used internally.

  2. By Anonymous Coward () on

    I for one was looking into buying some of them but if this is the case, I sure won't be now.

    1. By Anonymous Coward () on

      Then i suggest you mail Bill about this :)

  3. By Slan Buas () on

    I was thinking about an nForce2 board for my next PC.. ..I didn't know that they where not supported ! too bad !

  4. By Anonymous Coward () on

    Do the BSD community a favor and reply to Bill as requested.

  5. By zoc () on

    When i bought my first computer 4 years ago i also bought their video card and i have "no real drivers problem". It works ok only on windows. I used to have many problems with their linux binary driver too (lockups).

    It's last time i bought anything made by them.

  6. By Mik () on

    I put together my OBSD system and put in an ATI card cause there is no Nvidia opengl support! boohoo..

    I want to play gl Quake 3 and Doom 3 in the future that would rock!

    1. By RC () on

      Unfortunately, it seems that you are screwed one way or another, when it comes to video cards and open source.

      With ATI, there are drivers from GATOS, but you are stuck with whatever they fell like giving you... They do NOT support TV-out on any ATI videocards, and _good luck_ getting TV-in to work (it can be done--in the same way that people _can_ live for hours without oxygen)

      With NVidia, their drivers are closed source, but they work, dammit... Docs may be released eventually, or the card may be reverse engineered eventually, giving us open source drivers. But for now, the hardware works, and you could potentially generate patches against the FreeBSD driver source to get something working on any other OS. Hey, if people are willing to put up with that to use DJB's software, why not for NVidia's software?

      Who else is there to choose from? I'd like to know...

      1. By zoc () on

        I don't know if ati is better or not, but it took realy long time and many lockups, before it started to work (if that's ok word to use) on linux. I never tried how's on freebsd or netbsd since i don't use this OSes and ports to those OSes were made recently. Much time after linux. But hey, why would i support company with such attitude any more?

        Next time i'll give my money for hardware that will be :
        - open
        - good quality
        - i can afford it
        - it's company has good reputation
        - matches the best mentioned criteria

        I mean this generaly for all hardware, not just video or ethernet cards.

        1. By Anonymous Coward () on

          > But hey, why would i support company with such attitude any more?

          Because THERE IS NO VIDEOCARD COMPANY (that I know of) WITH AN ATTITUDE THAT IS ANY BETTER. If you read the entire post, you would have heard that already.

          ATI and SIS don't release the specs for their cards to the public... The Nvidia drivers are working quite well now... and it's simply the best hardware you can get that will work properly.

      2. By tedu () on

        djb software comes with this cool thing called source. :)
        meaning it works on linux, openbsd, solaris, nuttobsd, or whatever. an nvidia driver for linux hardly helps my openbsd system.

        1. By Anonymous Coward () on

          > djb software comes with this cool thing called source. :)

          I know they are typically called "binary-only drivers", but in fact, the FreeBSD version seems to be about 90% source, and only 10% (or less) binary...

          As a matter of fact, the driver WAS already ported to NetBSD using the FreeBSD driver... The same could be done for OpenBSD, even though it would require more work.

          1. By tedu () on

            read goals.html
            it's both easier and more consistent to say "buy hardware from companies that don't suck." if someone really wants nvidia support, i'm sure they'll find a way to make it work, but most developers i know would rather work on something that "counted" and could actually be distributed.

            the 10% binary driver is a real stickler, and i think it's far beyond that. the source is little more than a wrapper, from what i've seen. you also have to replace the GL drivers for X. hell, even if the driver was fully open source, the requirements just to use and install it would still suck.

            1. By RC () on

              Please... Tell me what videocard companies don't suck. I'd love to hear it...

        2. By Anonymous Coward () on

          ...of XFree86 development, its that the open source community cannot develop and maintain quality 3D graphics drivers.

    2. By Anonymous Coward () on

      As of today, there is still no ATI driver for the latest official Xfree on Linux, at least on the ATI home page.

      However, was able to find it on some German site,
      that sort of works. But the uninstall of the driver quite simply sucks bigtime. For the NVidia card I could cleanly uninstall the driver before updating the kernel.

      This is for my Radeon 9500 Pro. In essence, this card (Radeon 9500 Pro) is only used for gaming on Windows.

      No more new ATI cards for me. Binary driver is better than no driver at all.

      1. By Anonymous Coward () on

        You are an idiot.

        1. By Anonymous Coward () on

          Thank you for your insigthful and helpfull comment. I'm sure your great intellect is appreciated by all.

  7. By RC () on

    In the message, he said:

    NOTE: Please do make up phony e-mails just to bloat the figures or or cobble together a perl script to send me hundreds of auto-generated messages from forged addresses.

    Hmm, was that "do" supposed to be a joke, or a typo? I sure hope he wasn't serious...

    (If this message looks like crap, convince someone to put in a preview button, or fix how deadly handles mixed HTML/Text posts)

  8. By Jadipai () on

    Isn't there a FreeBSD driver for Nvidia graphics card. IIRC, some crazy person ported it to NetBSD also. What software are you missing?

    1. By Anonymous Coward () on

      It's not about the video adapters, it's about the onboard ethernet adapters

      1. By Anonymous Coward () on

        So what? Must we always stay squarely on the subject? Videocards are quite a hot issue, which deserves discussion.

  9. By Anonymous Coward () on

    Why is it that companies are so reluctant to release documentation for their products?
    Maybe I am just dumb and do not notice the reprocussions for doing so, but I do not see any harm in releasing much needed documentation. Surely there must be a reason, else cases like this would never have occurred.
    Is it that these large corporations think that by releasing this documentation, that they will be unseated by some other company, and lose market shares?

    1. By ann onimus () on

      well it's simply that they are big companies, nothing else. sometimes the person who says no simply hasn't considered the question objectively. it's a case of "i won't do it cause it's not something the company has ever done, it's not part of the company culture, there's been no memo about it, and i can't be blamed for not doing something i wasn't told to do" it's just big company culture, i work for one myself (not in the IT dept...) and i see that all day, you can't change anything if its for the good of only 0.5% of your customers

      1. By Anonymous Coward () on

        "Why Closing a Driver Loses Its Vendor Money"

    2. By Anonymous Coward () on

      From the Xfree86 mailing list:

      Most people don't realize how much the patent business has turned from being
      an invention protector into one big Pokemon game. Company A decides to
      attack Company B. They lay down three of their patents in the Pokemon arena
      and say, "AHA!, you violate these patents, please pay me a million a year or
      I'll sue."

      The reality of the business end of this is just brutal. The unfortunate fact
      is that your "viable market" is completely insignificant.

      ATI doesn't make money from you. ATI doesn't make money from the few tens of
      thousands of Linux users out there. At their margins, that probably pays for
      part of one engineer's salary.

      1. By Anonymous Coward () on

        - even so they should propagate their docs as widely as possible, if no one ever breaches their patents they are useless as trading tokens;)

        - companies undervalue the distiction between a buyer and a customer at their long-term peril

        - linux and bsd, with their current market share, can only expand, if we make enough noise perhaps at least one of nvidia's competitors will think of providing better doc access, at which point they might think...

  10. By Anonymous Coward () on

    *If* ATI is being more supportive, the answer here seems self-apparent. Buy ATI (ask for it buy name) for every system you purchase. Might not hurt to to send them a note of appreciation too (as long as it doesn't become harassment).

    However I'm not really up on the details of the lastest cards and support. Is ATI giving better support? Or is BSD just too far beneath the radar to get support from anyone?

    1. By Anonymous Coward () on

      This is about the nForce motherboard chipset, including their on-board Ethernet controller.

      See nvidia's website, about nForce chipset:

    2. By Anonymous Coward () on

      However I'm not really up on the details of the lastest cards and support. Is ATI giving better support? Or is BSD just too far beneath the radar to get support from anyone?

      For the latest cards, there are no official binary drivers for latest Xfree even on Linux. FireGL is somewhat better.

      1. By Alejandro Belluscio () on

        Actually, those drivers are presented as only supporting the FireGL line, but if you read the README file, you'd see that they also support upto the 9800 Pro (which I plan to support).

  11. By Sacha () on

    Nice to see Bill quoting churchhill...

  12. By Anonymous Coward () on

    go use linux instead, theres a reason why they dont support bsd

    1. By Anonymous Coward () on

      They don't support Linux any more than they support FreeBSD.

      1. By Anonymous Coward () on

        This page contains drivers and documentation for the nForce chipset. The chipset includes hardware support for IDE disk control, ethernet networking, audio support, win modem support, and a USB controller. These packages have support for ethernet networking and basic ACI audio. USB and IDE hardware will work with standard Linux drivers. There is no win modem support.

    2. By Anonymous Coward () on

      Thanks for telling us the reason.

    3. By Anonymous Coward () on

      What is the reason? Please tell everyone, so that we can laugh at you.

      This is not a reason to use Linux. If it comes down to it, people will just buy other (and better) hardware. nVidia loses money, life goes on, no one cares.

      Would you use Windows if you had some hardware that wasn't supported under Linux? Not unless your life depended on it.

      Please keep your trollistic Linux comments on Slashdot where they belong.

  13. By Anonymous Coward () on

    Nvidia sucks. ATI can suck. One of the ways besides not buying their products is buying someone else's.

    What video manufacturer out there *consistently* provides good to excellent reference documentation for open source/full source drivers to be developed? They do not have to provide the driver's themselves, and binary not preferred.

    Matrox? Third-party, e.g. SiS chipset using, manufacturers?

    1. By Anonymous Coward () on

      Matrox is fine, rest works fine in 2D, not GL

    2. By Anonymous Coward () on

      NVidia doesn't suck nearly as much as ATI IMHO.

      SiS works, but only because someone was good enough to reverse-engineer several of them.

      Matrox doesn't seem like they are any better than NVidia...

  14. By Anonymous Coward () on


    First off, response to my announcement has been amazing. I've received
    150 e-mails so far, and they're still coming. Thanks to everyone who
    has responded.

    An extra special thanks to those people who agreed to talk to contacts
    they have within nVidia. I'm still waiting for for info from these
    people. As soon as I learn something new, I'll pass it along.

    I have also made some progress on another front. It occured to me
    that since nVidia is known for GPU expertise rather than networking
    expertise that maybe their 'proprietary design' wasn't really anything
    of the sort. Well, I was right: what nVidia calls "MCP ethernet" is
    really a Conexant CX25870/1 "jedi" controller. I have contacted Conexant
    and am in the process of trying to obtain a copy of the programming
    manual for this device. There are some NDA issues to deal with, however
    I've been told they will not prevent me from releasing driver source.

    I hope to get this resolved soon. Stay tuned.


    -Bill Paul (510) 749-2329 | Senior Engineer, Master of Unix-Fu | Wind River Systems
    "If stupidity were a handicap, you'd have the best parking spot."

    1. By David () on

      Ahihaha, excellent dude.

    2. By tristran () on

      I believe that trying to push nVidia into supporting operatingsystems that is not being used by the vast majority of the internet is not going to work. I believe that you should try to convince ATI instead since they're strong competitors to nVidia who needs all the support from any users. After that has been accomplished it is my belief that nVidia will want to counter ATI by releasing drivers themselves.

  15. By ViPER () on


    Where did it go ?

  16. By Seattle () on

    As title, why don't you buy VIA KT600 chipset based board ? they have identical performance while have more mature features than DOG NFORCE.

  17. By Anonymous Coward () on

    What is the difference between an OEM consisting of people who sit in one office, generating code, and an OEM consisting of people sitting in their homes or offices all over the world generating code? I would say that the organisations behind *BSD and Linux, although not so tightly integrated, as just as much OEMs as companies like M$. They create an effective end product, it gets distributed, even sold, in quantity. I would suggest that the "free" software movement (in its loosest sense, NOT the place for GPL/BSD copyright arguments) needs to get its act together and set up an organisation (note: ONE, not several competing) which will constantly harass certain hardware manufacturers (in this case nVidia, but Canon also comes to mind...) until they realise that the entire body of open source software developers is every bit as credible as the likes of M$, and that they have nothing to lose, and probably at least 10% sales to gain, by doing what is necessary. The free and/or open source community needs to put on a united front here, then they will be taken seriously. Remember that in some areas (web servers) open source has more influence than M$. When the marketing men, who are not necessarily astute as software developers, understand the implications of this, things will change. But, it may have to be constantly explained to them in words of no more than one syllable.....

  18. By Leslie Gros () on

    I recently replaced my mother board on a BSD Box.
    The nvidia has NO BSD Support. I returned the board to the vendor with a copy of your posting.
    An other one bites the Dust.
    No BSD Drivers, No-Sale. IT's nothing personal. It's just the way it is.


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