free kernel and 3d graphics acceleration

Christopher Howard christopher.howard at
Thu Sep 27 22:12:38 UTC 2012

(I am new to this list, so please forgive me if I have missed earlier
discussion on this topic.)

Hello, my name is Christopher, and I have been a determined FOSS purist
for at least a year now. I do not run any non-free application software
(for example, Java) on my desktop or servers, and I use a free
(de-blobbed) kernel. The most difficult and frustrating part of
following this choice is that, as far as I can tell, there is no way at
all to have 3d graphics acceleration and use only free software. (I
would be glad to be corrected if I am wrong!) I am unable to play any 3d
video games, and I cannot do any practical 3d programming, both of which
are things I very much want to do.

My question is regarding 3d graphics acceleration using Radeon cards. As
far as I know, the free software community has every component necessary
to have 3d graphics acceleration using Radeon cards, except for one:
free firmware. However, the strange thing about this is that, in the
Linux kernel, the binary blob has a free software license attached to
it! (See firmware/WHENCE; it appears to be an MIT-style license.) Why
did AMD release their driver under a FOSS-compatible license, but not
include the source code? Was this simply overlooked?

Has the FSF, or anyone else, ever asked AMD to release the source code
for the driver? Perhaps they would...? I could ask, but I am nobody and
have no influence. Perhaps if an important organization like FSF were to
demand it, then maybe they would release the source...?


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