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A Possible Workaround For The S3TC Patent Situation

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  • #91
    The beauty of this approach is that mesa does not HAVE to accept it - it works as external library and the burden of supporting it or not is purely in the hand of the distros.

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    • #92
      Originally posted by divVerent View Post
      1. Ubuntu (UK, but makes profit in the USA)
      The Canonical "holding company" is officially registered on the Isle of Man, not in the UK, but it has subsidiaries in the US and the UK of course.

      Originally posted by divVerent View Post
      1. Suse (Provo, UT, USA)
      SuSE is a German company, but they are owned by a US company and they have a US office, which could be attacked instead of course.

      Originally posted by divVerent View Post
      1. Debian (France, but is a widespread distro and has major download servers in the USA, possibly can risk losing them, probably better not)
      Debian as a project on its own is not registered anywhere (it's not a legal entity) AFAIK, but SPI (which provides services to them, like handling their finances to some degree) is registered in the US as a non-profit. In theory Debian does not have to care, but individual developers and SPI might be vulnerable to lawsuits (even if I doubt SPI can be held legally responsible for anything Debian does, a lawsuit by a company with lots of cash could force them into bankruptcy, meanwhile blocking (or stealing away) important Debian projects fundings...).

      Originally posted by divVerent View Post
      1. CentOS (Belgium, [...])
      Not sure where you get this from. I think the CentOS dnsmaster is Belgian, but there is no legal entity (at least none is listed on their website?), so individual contributors are responsible on their own?

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      • #93
        Originally posted by elanthis View Post
        You don't understand how GPUs work or what texture compression accomplishes. DXTC/S3TC is specifically designed to be (near) instantly decompressable with a massively-parallel processor without needing to make a large number of memory accesses.

        Deflate/gzip/lzma/etc. all require you to essentially start reading a file at the beginning and scanning through it to the part you want to access. That would mean a pixel shader goes from an O(1) operation on a simple texture access to an O(N) operation. You'd essentially slam the GPU back into the stone age by requiring that kind of texture access at runtime.

        If you're implying that we should just store textures uncompressed in video memory, then you are making two very silly assumptions. First, you're assuming that having 1GB of video memory means that we can just slap uncompressed raw textures for a modern game into vmem and have room to spare; that's just ridiculously wrong. Second, you're assuming that the size of memory has no impact on performance of memory accesses inside of shaders, which is also wrong for any well-designed memory controller (especially when the underlying memory layout uses tiling to make any additional texture lookups in a particular shader likely to all closely coincide with the address of first lookup).

        Thanks for the suggestion, though. I'm sure the hardware engineers and specification authors never thought of that before, ever. Your power of Internet forum logic will surely revolutionize the GPU industry and free them of the evil patent tyrants.
        The proposed compression seems good enough to me. I really replied here because you made me laugh with your response.

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        • #94
          This is how trademarks work.
          Sorry about that, I don't know why I wrote copyright when I meant trademark. I do know that you cannot loose your copyright so I simply blame this error to fatigue.

          Back to patents however, if the court treats you differently because you haven't enforced your patent before then that is cause for appeal. It is a long tradition among patent holders to not enforce their patents until they see widespread usage (due to people feeling confident since the patents has never been enforced) and then strike out of nowhere and start to litigate. If I'm not mistaken, MP3 was such a case.

          Lodsys is another example, they have only started to litigate this year if I'm not mistaken even though their oldest patent was filed in 1997.

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          • #95
            Debian as a project on its own is not registered anywhere (it's not a legal entity) AFAIK, but SPI (which provides services to them, like handling their finances to some degree) is registered in the US as a non-profit. In theory Debian does not have to care, but individual developers and SPI might be vulnerable to lawsuits (even if I doubt SPI can be held legally responsible for anything Debian does, a lawsuit by a company with lots of cash could force them into bankruptcy, meanwhile blocking (or stealing away) important Debian projects fundings...).
            Regardless of where you are registered a court can still order you illegal in the US meaning all US mirrors has to be closed down. What loss if any that would be to Debian I don't know.

            But we also has to remember that patent law does not only apply to the distribution, all users of Debian is also a target for litigation if Debian haven't licensed the patent in such a way that it's users are covered. There was a company a few years ago that had patents against MSSQL and they never sued Microsoft, instead they sued a few companies that they knew used MSSQL.

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            • #96
              They could only go after users of which they know they use S3TC compression algorithms.

              I.e. only users who
              • use runtime compression (as opposed to making precompressed textures with nvcompress or Compressonator)
              • use software rendering with runtime decompression (e.g. llvmpipe with S3TC input)
              • happen to encounter a software fallback path

              Whether someone does, is near impossible to find out unless they tell on their own...

              This is different from e.g. using MSSQL, which e.g. may appear visibly on error message pages.

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              • #97
                It might be sufficient to have the S3TC enabled software installed.

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                • #98
                  Come on, let's be realistic. How likely is it for an average Joe to get caught running, say, VDrift with S3TC enabled? He (or someone willing to enable him) could even set up an encrypted S3TC runner that contains all the encumbered code. It's not like IP enforcement is easy or cheap anyway. What will they do, go after average Linux gamers?

                  Besides, I don't think major distributions have to take huge risks to enable this. Just provide a dialog box with a big warning and a download link, much like Gentoo handles fetch restrictions. The encumbered software itself could easily be hosted by somebody else, somewhere else.

                  If FOSS people aren't giving them a hard time, then who is? Also, like I previously said, remember this isn't only about S3TC: in many cases it's really unclear whether some piece of code infringes on patents.

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                  • #99
                    Originally posted by yotambien View Post
                    I'm not sure simply ignoring a patent somehow makes it go away...
                    Actually it does if they dont sue and know about the 'infringing'.

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                    • Besides, I don't think major distributions have to take huge risks to enable this. Just provide a dialog box with a big warning and a download link, much like Gentoo handles fetch restrictions. The encumbered software itself could easily be hosted by somebody else, somewhere else.
                      But that makes the distribution liable for "enabling their users to use the patent without a license" and that will probably be seen as illegal by a court.

                      Actually it does if they dont sue and know about the 'infringing'.
                      They can freely choose when and who to sue at any time. Even if they knew that you used the patent they can sue you 19 years later and claim damages due to 19 years of you using the patent without paying a license.

                      Add to that that sometime in the future probably even individual users will be targeted, the patent trolls like Lodsys consists only of layers so for them to litigate in court is completely free of charge, while you have to pay your lawyer a substantial amount of money meaning that you will more likely pay a settlement than bring the case to court (this is how the entertainment industry earns money from (supposedly) file sharers).

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