The problem with binary only drivers

Today I’ve been trying to set up suspend to RAM and suspend to disk (also known as hibernate) on my laptop using Kubuntu 6.06 LTS. Both tries failed miserably, sadly. The machine would suspend and also wake up, but I’d get only a garbled screen. This means that the video driver failed to wake up properly: this is the well known fglrx driver, the binary only driver that ATI made for Linux.

Even without mentioning the extremely sloppy quality of ATI’s drivers in general (both Windows and Linux), this shows a fundamental problem with binary drivers, as many have said. Without the source, I can’t fix/ask for help. I need to rely on the vendor input, which is quite scarce in this case. And if they decide to drop support, I’ll be screwed.

I’m not thinking that everything should be open source, but having a parallel, open implementation of video drivers with clear, documented specs would be extremely helpful… not to mention that competition would also help.

Dialogue & Discussion