Can Vs. Should

Someone who has provided his own version of various video card drivers is no longer going to do that for nVidia video cards after nVidia rather discouraged him from continuing to do so.

This is really a matter of “can vs. should.”

Can nVidia decide not to have anybody else futz with their drivers? Absolutely. In the end, they’re responsible for their product, and this driver-writer isn’t.

Should nVidia decide not to have anybody else futz with their drivers? That’s a rather different question, which can have quite a different answer. I don’t doubt a (relatively few) number of people who use these drivers will look elsewhere for their next video card. Maybe a lot more people than I think. It may well turn out to be a foolish move on nVidia’s part.

But they have the right to be fools with the stuff they’re responsible for.

Geeks seem to have a big problem respecting the property of others. They don’t seem to understand that when you’re dealing with someone else’s stuff, those other people have the right to say, “No” when you want to play with it.

It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are. It doesn’t matter if you do good work. You don’t have the right to do whatever you want with other people’s property without their permission, and they don’t have to give it. Nor is it unreasonable for them not to give it when they’re put in the position of having to pay for any mistakes you make.

And yes, even after you buy the product, in one critical area, it remains their property. If they have to replace it under warranty, they retain some rights as to how it is used.

The person in question may well do a great job, but what happens if he makes a mistake one day and that mistake ruins your video card? Will he replace it for you? No? He’ll tell you “that was your responsibility?” Would most video card owners face up to that and take their lumps? Yeah, right.

You can say “I have the right to do whatever I want with my property,” but you don’t for purposes of a warranty. Sure, you can plug your 110V computer into a 220V socket. You have the right to do that. You don’t (generally) have the right to demand a replacement for it. That’s the difference.

It’s like having a house and one day your friend says, “You need to have your house rewired, and I’m going to do it.” He means very well. He may be pretty good at it. But your town or city requires that electrical work needs to be done by an electrician, and so does your homeowner’s insurance. If he makes a mistake, and your house burns down, the insurance company won’t pay up, and you may have some big legal problems on top of that.

Knowing that, do you have the right to say, “No” to him? Or does he have the right to rewire your house no matter what you say, just because he wants to?

This is exactly the situation nVidia is faced with. Like you, they’re responsible for somebody else’s actions, and they have the right to decide whether they want to be or not.

Might it be better for them to take the route ATI chose (their lawyers were ready to do the same thing as nVidia’s, too, no doubt for the same reason), and have somebody keep an eye on the work this person is doing, help him out a bit, and make sure he doesn’t make any big mistakes? (See here for details on this. That could well be.

But that driver writer is not entitled to that, any more than a fire station has to oblige anyone who shows up and says, “I want to be a fireman, make me one and help me out.”

There are many useful things done by volunteers. But there is no right to volunteer, nor any requirement to accept volunteers.


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