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Gordon's Thoughts On Open-Source GPU Drivers

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  • #46
    Originally posted by icculus
    The cleaner solution is to open up the source to drivers we already know work, and have everyone--hardware vendors, distros, individuals--working in the same source tree. Every one would win.
    I have no idea how that would be cleaner. Vendor drivers are virtually guaranteed to have vendor-specific interfaces and optimizations all over the place (because they can, and because it gets them that extra 5 fps in Crysis). Something like Mesa+Gallium3D is the only way we realistically end up with everyone working in the same source tree without massive duplication of effort.

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    • #47
      dkms takes care of that, if not then usually when a update to the kernel is put out there are prepackaged blobs built against it available.
      Assuming dkms works well that is interesting but it isn't quite the same as not having to do anything.

      True but it doesn't really do much for real user functionality. Not sure how it makes it look "stable" however.
      Screen flickering doesn't exactly inspire confidence in one's operating system. It looks far more professional and I don't think you can argue that looks aren't important.

      That is very vendor specific. I wouldn't necessarily say "quicker changes" as well as it depends what you are looking for as a change. openGL/gpgpu/decoding acceleration/ etc support is agonizingly slow to implement.
      I mean more rapid development/releases, or at least bug fixes. Having to wait months for ATI to release a new driver to fix a graphical corruption bug isn't fun. I'm not saying they couldn't do a good job because they are proprietary, just that in my experience things happen more quickly on open source code.

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      • #48
        Originally posted by cynical View Post
        Assuming dkms works well that is interesting but it isn't quite the same as not having to do anything.
        Actually it is. New kernel gets installed, drivers get automatically built against the kernel.

        Screen flickering doesn't exactly inspire confidence in one's operating system. It looks far more professional and I don't think you can argue that looks aren't important.
        To tell you the truth, I set my boot to verbose to look for potential issues that would otherwise be masked until you search looking at logs. Even then if I do choose to do a silent boot there is one "flicker" when going to the desktop and it is nearly unnoticeable on a LCD screen. In the old days you used to hear your CRT flip modes but that isn't the case anymore.

        I mean more rapid development/releases, or at least bug fixes. Having to wait months for ATI to release a new driver to fix a graphical corruption bug isn't fun. I'm not saying they couldn't do a good job because they are proprietary, just that in my experience things happen more quickly on open source code.
        That maybe the case with ATI's blobs but Nvidia does a considerably better job of it. Even with free drivers there are issues that have been around for years and there is no guarantee that it will get fixed any quicker.

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        • #49
          The most annoying thing with nvidia drivers is the lack of xrandr functionality. Also the nvidia-settings app can not be used on commandline to configure a 2nd display. I would really like to write just a tiny script that switches to hdmi output (and disabled internal on a laptop) and configures audio to use external hdmi but thats impossible with nvidia. If you want to use xrandr on commandline with fglrx it works in theory but a Virtual entry might be needed. That should be fixed as the oss drivers do not need that. Do you think that nvidia-settings is better to config a multi monitor layout on the fly without restarting the xserver than xrandr can do?

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          • #50
            Originally posted by Kano View Post
            The most annoying thing with nvidia drivers is the lack of xrandr functionality. Also the nvidia-settings app can not be used on commandline to configure a 2nd display. I would really like to write just a tiny script that switches to hdmi output (and disabled internal on a laptop) and configures audio to use external hdmi but thats impossible with nvidia. If you want to use xrandr on commandline with fglrx it works in theory but a Virtual entry might be needed. That should be fixed as the oss drivers do not need that. Do you think that nvidia-settings is better to config a multi monitor layout on the fly without restarting the xserver than xrandr can do?
            Yes the lack of nvidia-settings being able to set the monitor setup from cli is annoying but there is however a solution coming up for that. As far as multi monitor layouts goes I don't have an issue using nvidia settings for my display setup and I have to say using mosaic mode on the quadros @ work has been a pleasure to use on my quad display there.

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            • #51
              When you don't need to change it that often ok, but with a netbook which you want to connect to a beamer or tv then it is really annoying.

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              • #52
                Originally posted by Kano View Post
                When you don't need to change it that often ok, but with a netbook which you want to connect to a beamer or tv then it is really annoying.
                The only time a xserver restart should happen in nvidia-settings Kano is when you set the second monitor as a Separate X screen.

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                • #53
                  Actually it is. New kernel gets installed, drivers get automatically built against the kernel.
                  Right my bad, I'm forgetting that I had to go to some vendor's site in order to get the bug fixes necessary to use my system properly so I couldn't benefit from that functionality. With how unstable and unchangeable ATI's closed drivers are I'm glad the open option is the default. Although Ryan Gordon thinks including them in that fashion is "dangerous" I would be more afraid to do the same with the closed ones.

                  Even with free drivers there are issues that have been around for years and there is no guarantee that it will get fixed any quicker.
                  I don't doubt that, but my experience with the radeon driver has been so good that I dread installing fglrx. As far as basic functionality goes it does the job well imo.

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by cynical View Post
                    I don't doubt that, but my experience with the radeon driver has been so good that I dread installing fglrx. As far as basic functionality goes it does the job well imo.
                    Hey I have no problem with people using open drivers if it meets their needs. What I do however mind is opensource fanatics trying to pull a Obi-wan Kenobi, waving their hand in the air saying "These are not the droids you are looking for" in respects to driver capabilities and saying that they will cover most peoples needs as the open drivers are lacking in many areas to exploit the hardware capabilities that they paid for. If basic functionality is all that is needed then really the opensource driver developers shouldn't even be looking to add discrete card support as an integrated graphics solution should be able to cover what according to opensource fanatics is "most peoples needs".

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                    • #55
                      If basic functionality is all that is needed then really the opensource driver developers shouldn't even be looking to add discrete card support as an integrated graphics solution should be able to cover what according to opensource fanatics is "most peoples needs".
                      Even discrete cards need "basic functionality" :P

                      So I get that you are saying the open drivers don't necessarily meet "most peoples needs" as that is a fairly arbitrary way to describe the needs being talked about, but do you agree with Gordon that including the free drivers by default is not a good idea?

                      Open is preferable to closed in the Linux software ecosystem, and since the open drivers can provide basic functionality I'm not really seeing the argument against having them included with distributions.

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                      • #56
                        Originally posted by cynical View Post
                        Even discrete cards need "basic functionality" :P
                        Sure they do, but why even buy a discreet card if all they are going to do is "basic functionality" when any integrated solution could carry out those duties quite readily.

                        So I get that you are saying the open drivers don't necessarily meet "most peoples needs" as that is a fairly arbitrary way to describe the needs being talked about, but do you agree with Gordon that including the free drivers by default is not a good idea?
                        I say include the most functional drivers in capabilities period. Doesn't matter if they are free or not as most people that use a computer are "users" and not code gurus that could fix a flaw upon encountering it. They could care less if the code came from some deity or some monkey typing the perfect code in by accident and being rewarded with a banana.

                        Open is preferable to closed in the Linux software ecosystem, and since the open drivers can provide basic functionality I'm not really seeing the argument against having them included with distributions.
                        I have no arguement about if they should be included or not. I do however think that both options should be available with the most full featured enabled by default.

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                        • #57
                          Originally posted by Remco View Post
                          The whole point is that devs *are* fallible, and will never be able to provide a future-proof ABI in one try. This happens anywhere, even on Windows. The only way to be stable is to be obsolete.
                          although I have to say that Rasterman and the Enlightenment devs are have been giving it there best shot.

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                          • #58
                            The attitude that proprietary software evil actually scares many new GNU/Linux users away. The proprietary nVidia drivers does not lock users in a proprietary api or file format, and does not force you to use a special set of applications.

                            If you care about performance, video acceleration, power consumption/management, modern OpenGL/OpenCL specifications and more you would need the proprietary drivers. If you care about none of these categories, then the open source drivers will mostly do fine, but if we're honest most of us benefits greatly from the good proprietary nVidia drivers. The proprietary drivers are not only for high end gaming.

                            We have to be realistic, the proprietary nVidia drivers are the best choice for most users. People have to consider everything they give up by using the poor open source drivers. Or look at it this way, since the proprietary drivers offers superior performance and many more features, you as a buyer can get a much cheaper computer fitting your needs by using the proprietary drivers.

                            We have to stop criticizing nVidia for their GNU/Linux drivers. They are the only one offering enterprise quality drivers for GNU/Linux, with full performance and a large set of features. What they need to improve on is mostly user oriented features. Our best hope for good quality drivers are if nVidia someday opens a branch of their source tree. In terms of features and quality, the open source drivers are lagging farther and farther behind. I appreciate that AMD releases documentation, but nVidia is in fact doing more for the Linux community by offering better drivers.

                            We have a lot to learn from Ryan Gordon.

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by efikkan View Post
                              if we're honest most of us benefits greatly from the good proprietary nVidia drivers
                              Who's "most of us"? Nvidia's overall GPU market share is well under 50%. It's only if you restrict the population to PC gaming enthusiasts that they get a majority.

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                              • #60
                                Originally posted by Ex-Cyber View Post
                                Who's "most of us"? Nvidia's overall GPU market share is well under 50%. It's only if you restrict the population to PC gaming enthusiasts that they get a majority.
                                nVidia's market share has nothing to do with this, I suggest you re-read my post, especially the second paragraph. The claim that only gaming enthusiasts would greatly benefit from nVidia's proprietary drivers is not true at all.

                                For instance, a low end card like GT 430 (or maybe even a cheaper card) with proprietary drivers will offer video acceleration, great power management, able to run many games, offer OpenCL support, as well as acceleration for compiz, firefox and much more. With the open source drivers the computer would need a much more powerful card to even come close to the performance, still lacking decent power management so the card will be a lot hotter and drain more power, and lacking video acceleration (wich almost anyone is interested in) so the computer would need a more powerful CPU.

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