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Discussion: Partial Open-Source GPU Drivers

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  • Discussion: Partial Open-Source GPU Drivers

    Phoronix: Discussion: Partial Open-Source GPU Drivers

    Last week VIA re-released their Chrome 9 DRM in hopes of pushing it into the mainline Linux kernel. However, the only user of this DRM code at present is their Linux binary graphics driver and VIA Technologies has no intentions of providing an open-source Chrome 9 3D driver...

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=NzM5MA

  • #2
    I agree with Stephane Marchesin. If a company does not support open source or free software, then I don't support them.

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    • #3
      I tend to be a little more pragmatic than most on issues like this. If the binary driver works perfectly then honestly, I could give a rats ass if it isn't open source. I could care less about the politics - I just want things working properly.

      As far as the security risks and possibilities of future breakage: Well those are very important concerns, so I think I'll leave the debate up to the experts

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      • #4
        While its cool that half their driver is open source, that does me about as good as half a rent check.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Joe Sixpack View Post
          I tend to be a little more pragmatic than most on issues like this. If the binary driver works perfectly then honestly, I could give a rats ass if it isn't open source. I could care less about the politics - I just want things working properly.

          As far as the security risks and possibilities of future breakage: Well those are very important concerns, so I think I'll leave the debate up to the experts
          I couldn't agree more

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          • #6
            I don't understand much the article (I'm no dev), but, why refusing a half open-source driver from VIA when it's accepted that Nvidia gives only a binary blob ?!?
            One could say it's better than nothing. As long as the VIA driver has no impact on stability, performance and security of linux.

            What makes more angry is seeing games editors using the linux power and stability for their server-part of their games but when it comes to the client, they forget linux. This is far more unacceptable IMO. But there is nothing the community can do against that...

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            • #7
              I find it always (i know i am not alone with that) funny how people who use Linux or other opensource systems, don´t care about the openess of the system.

              And most funny about it is the reasoning: "If the binary driver works perfectly then honestly" show me one binary driver blob that works perfektly. It cant run perfektly in terms of portability as example. If you wanna try out a new rc of a kernel. it will work for 99.9% sure with a intel or ati opensource driver.
              If the api has chanches it will work NOT for 99.9% with a binary graphics blob. Then is the question when will the company release a driver that support this. Will you have to wait 2 weeks or 6 months.

              If you wanna use that driver on another processor you will be lost mostly too. Next it´s often a problem even with stable distro versions, you have to install it in a extra process sometimes that works good other times it givees problems.

              Next problem is Support, if you have a problem and think its a kernel problem you dont get support when you tainted your kernel (what makes sense)...

              And a firm on some day thinks oh ms sends me a little money I stop support now, then the driver is for newer linux-versions not usable or if the firm will be bought by another firm or the firm goes insolvent...

              I think thats a good philosophy to wait till the opensource driver can use it to something useful, and then only accept patches who fixes problems with this driver or generate features for it.

              Nobody forbits via this binary blob, but they can make it in userspace the kernel devs made a special interface for them.

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              • #8
                I see no problem in that approach. If that will be accepted maybe fglrx+nvidia drivers could open the kernel part too. Mainly the kernel modules are problematic with kernel upgrades, so this would be better for maintainers. Basically closed source apps are already common and some closed source binary parts of gfx drivers usally don't hurt anybody. If somebody does not like that then he can use another gfx chip with oss driver.

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                • #9
                  I dont understand the problem. In the past the Kernel Devs say "The Kernel is GPL only and we dont care the user-space" now Via released an GPL DRM Kernel Modul and no one want it because its for the Closed Source 3D Driver.

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                  • #10
                    Why not

                    I no expert but I too see the darkness in proprietary drivers, but how is this different from the current binary blob situation? Besides the binary blob having some GPl code sprinkled on top?

                    For example the nvidia blob. It has problems with new kernels, and has to "catch up" to them. If nvidia release a new GPL sprinkled version of their blob, it would still have to catch up to stay current.

                    And the blob probably has some unknown security problems too. But it seems better to have security problems in user-space, with the xserver running as user rather than root.

                    Keeping proprietary drivers from working with the latest kernel functions would only make things stay the same rather than to improve a little.
                    It would not make the binary blobs go away, voting with your wallet maybe can.

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                    • #11
                      Well, it's not that easy.
                      The current situation si clear, if someone uses a binary Blob, then he taints the kernel and the Kernel - Devs are no longer responsible for anything that happens. (Terms of Support)
                      An Opensource kernel-Module with Binary Userspace has several security, stability and maintainability Problems.
                      What if a change in the in-Kernel-Interfaces propagated to the Opensource-Module causes strange behavior, because the writer of the binary part made several assumptions about the Kernel-Module which are no longer true?
                      What if the binary part causes some security-Risk to the whole kernel? - The kernel is NOT tainted if the module is Opensource!
                      So the kernel-Devs could be blamed for Errors caused by some binary Thingy which they have no control over!
                      And thus are only parts of the concerns.
                      The kernel evolves every day, countless changes and patches.
                      And while the devs work hard to keep the userspace API unchanged, this can not always be achieved and it may be necessary to sacrifice API-Stability for sanity and security of the whole Kernel itself.
                      And it would NOT be ok, if just the presence of some binary driver, which depends on some stable API in a DRM-Module, would keep the devs from making significant and beneficial changes to the whole infrastructure.

                      So i say, if the Devs have concerns, they know why!
                      There are some really good points and its a matter of trust, trust in companies that don't care about the kernel, and only look at their Profit. I would not let such ppl. control my box or the further development of Linux.
                      Who knows...maybe this binary thing makes screenshots of your desktop every 15 seconds and emails them to the NSA...who knows..?

                      Things are not always as obvious as they seem...

                      greetings,
                      me

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Solitary View Post
                        Keeping proprietary drivers from working with the latest kernel functions would only make things stay the same rather than to improve a little.
                        It would not make the binary blobs go away, voting with your wallet maybe can.
                        If only open source drivers have latest kernel functions, many people may consider buying hardware with documentation and FOSS drivers. If not, voting with the wallet effect would be negligible and everything will stay the same: suspicious binary blobs, no support for new kernels, X. So if the feature is only available in free drivers I see nothing wrong.

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                        • #13
                          The "voting" you can basically forget due to the limited amount of Linux users. First Win drivers have to work, because that's what the masses are using. I think a 1% sales loss would not be that critical.

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                          • #14
                            First off, VIA is not nVidia. Second VIA has us used to non working drivers, mostly. Third nVidia, although known for their binary blob, delivered a working driver most of the time.

                            Yet a renowned company that wants to work with GNU/Linux can hold their users like nVidia since their hardware holds a huge part of the market. Their users, who adopted GNU/Linux have currently no choice but accept such a large company to provide only a closed blob.

                            Personally, I don't mind nVidia to provide a blob as long as they're providing a fully working driver, which has by far proved excellent. I can cope with it but will never release my attention. I can cope with it doesn't mean I agree. I just understand and am thankful that they still provide such an excellent driver.

                            As far as VIA is concerned, I see no acceptable justification in letting them enter a free kernel driver that only a closed source graphics driver is able to use.

                            That reminds me the Intel Wireless 3945 episode, where there was a driver that was open source but with closed source daemon and firmware. Fortunately Intel «tidied» up the situation a bit by moving the proprietary code into the firmware.

                            This situation is similar indeed, although VIA doesn't either have the same market «dimension» as Intel. They just don't deserve an exception yet. Moreover a driver is either closed or free, not half closed nor half free. GNU/Linux wants free software.

                            VIA doesn't have the necessary resources to provide a full Free and Open Source driver? Well, take your time, we're not in a hurry, are we?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Joe Sixpack View Post
                              I tend to be a little more pragmatic than most on issues like this. If the binary driver works perfectly then honestly, I could give a rats ass if it isn't open source. I could care less about the politics - I just want things working properly.

                              As far as the security risks and possibilities of future breakage: Well those are very important concerns, so I think I'll leave the debate up to the experts
                              Agreed.

                              Off-topic: I don't usually mention things like this but "I could care less" is totally wrong and it annoys the hell out of me when I see it. You're basically saying the opposite of what you wanted to because you said "could" instead of "couldn't". If you *could* care less about something, then that implies you care a great deal about the issue and you have some way to go before you don't care. If you *couldn't* care less, then you don't care at all about the issue. I don't know where people got the idea that it was "could" and not "couldn't" but I see it everywhere, usually by Americans I think (maybe it's just another American butchering of the English language?). When said aloud it doesn't really matter but when written down it just looks stupid and makes no sense, especially to people whom English isn't their first language and perhaps don't know the proper phrase.

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