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The Fallacy Behind Open-Source GPU Drivers, Documentation

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  • The Fallacy Behind Open-Source GPU Drivers, Documentation

    Phoronix: The Fallacy Behind Open-Source GPU Drivers, Documentation

    One of the points that Linux users commonly say in lobbying hardware vendors to provide open-source drivers and/or documentation -- particularly for GPU drivers -- is that the open-source community will take the released code or documents and from there develop it into a reliable, working open-source Linux driver. However, that isn't exactly true...

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=ODk5MA

  • #2
    Well, yes and no. It's true that there's actually a relatively small number of people out there with the knowledge and interest to do graphics driver development.

    However, those people would almost certainly get results quicker if they weren't wasting time having to reverse-engineer the drivers. They spend time developing tools to probe the hardware, when NVidia and VIA and co already have all that information, if they'd only provide it.

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    • #3
      At long last, it is revealed that the emperor has no clothes. I've been tired of seeing people say these kinds of things while the OS devs struggle to get even basic stuff working consistently despite taking years to do it. I'm not knocking the devs that we have, because they do work hard and get as much done as they can. But the drivers, and indeed the whole stack require a lot of people doing a lot of work, and we just don't have that. Compared to, say, even some subsystem of the Linux kernel, or an app in KDE, there are still yet fewer active devs working on X.org drivers, or the whole stack. And they don't have the time or manpower to get more people involved, or to clean up the code base to make it easier for newcomers. I don't know of a solution, but hopefully we can all start admitting that there really is a problem.

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      • #4
        @siride what are you talkin bout?

        And this would somehow be better if the drivers were closed sourced... sure, sure they would.

        Companies can funnel money into an open source project just a closed one take red hat for example they are a quite successful company and contribute to just about every part of Linux.

        If every company were more like Red Hat this thread wouldn't exist.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by cb88 View Post
          @siride what are you talkin bout?

          And this would somehow be better if the drivers were closed sourced... sure, sure they would.
          It amazes me how quickly people construct false dichotomies and think that they've actually demolished an argument!

          Companies can funnel money into an open source project just a closed one take red hat for example they are a quite successful company and contribute to just about every part of Linux.

          If every company were more like Red Hat this thread wouldn't exist.
          Yes, I agree. It'd be nice to see these companies putting more money into X development. They've smartly spent most money on things that benefit servers and workstations (to a lesser degree). But if X had been brought up to speed years ago, it could have been a contender in the mobile market, at least more than it is now, and desktop could have had a fighting chance. Instead, companies like RedHat gave up on it and the result is glacial pace of development hobbled by a steep entry curve for newbies.

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          • #6
            I think the real question is,"What can we do about it?" Also, under what conditions would venders work on open sourcing their graphics drivers (aka, making open sourcing their drivers more profitable than not) or parts of it and how we can work to push toward such a point.

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            • #7
              What false dichotomy would that be? I probably misinterpreted you somehow... your post was rather ranty.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by cb88 View Post
                What false dichotomy would that be? I probably misinterpreted you somehow... your post was rather ranty.
                That the only alternative is closed source. I didn't say anything of the sort. I was only pointing out that at long last people are coming to terms with the idea that releasing the docs/specs is not enough since we don't have the manpower to make anything big happen.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Prescience500 View Post
                  I think the real question is,"What can we do about it?"
                  Go vote. Change the political landscape in your country in a way that studying that kind of field becomes actually affordable. That'll lead to more people who are actually capable of doing that kind of work. Some of those might work on FOSS drivers to improve their earned skill set (nothing better than real-world experience to pass exams).

                  (If social change is too complicated, one can still go beg to Mark Shuttleworth and try to convince him that he hires a GPU driver guy.)

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                  • #10
                    Ah, that makes sense thanks for clearing that up.

                    At lest they guys working on it now... are refactoring the code so its easier to approach. At least thats what it seems they are trying to do.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by siride View Post
                      I don't know of a solution, but hopefully we can all start admitting that there really is a problem.
                      Shortage of open-source driver development manpower is a problem. So is the "you don't want documentation" attitude among vendors. They're related, but different, problems. Acknowledging one does not invalidate the other, and a solution to one does not solve the other.

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                      • #12
                        It's funny that you mention XGI; there's an XGI Volari hanging on my wall. I haven't gotten around to it. (Yet.)

                        Most of the devs are powered by money or some other overriding circumstance. I'm personally hate-powered; you have to wave bad software in front of my face to get me to write better software. fglrx, for instance. These days, nothing is worse than Notch's code, so I've been writing a Minecraft server.

                        Development *does* proceed along lines of open documentation, by the way. Which open-source Gallium drivers are actually backed by developers and considered ready for distros to start deploying? r300g and r600g. Why? Because amateurs armed with open documentation were able to put them together. nouveau's kept up due to a handful of *very* talented guys, but there's no denying that AMD's strategy has helped them out quite a bit.

                        Developers are rare. Good developers are rarer. Good developers willing to work on the hardest pieces of hardware available are rarest. GPUs are difficult to program, more difficult to program correctly, and yet more difficult to program correctly to run at high speeds and carry out tasks efficiently. That the community has gotten so far is really impressive.

                        Originally posted by siride View Post
                        Yes, I agree. It'd be nice to see these companies putting more money into X development. They've smartly spent most money on things that benefit servers and workstations (to a lesser degree). But if X had been brought up to speed years ago, it could have been a contender in the mobile market, at least more than it is now, and desktop could have had a fighting chance. Instead, companies like RedHat gave up on it and the result is glacial pace of development hobbled by a steep entry curve for newbies.
                        Dude. RH has been doing more X work than any other distribution or software vendor. Only the hardware vendors contribute more code. Feel free to enlighten us as to how X could be "brought up to speed;" I'm sure you have some terrific ideas with which you could instruct the community. >:3

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                        • #13
                          At least I try to...

                          Test out the hardware I have on a regular basis with the xorg edgers repository. https://launchpad.net/~xorg-edgers/+archive/ppa Reporting any bugs found of course.

                          I've actually found some very show stopping bugs. Unfortunately, none on the performance side, all on basic functionality. We need to get everyone to have a video that "Just works". It certainly is getting better... but definitely could use more test coverage, especially in things you don't usually test - like projectors.. (https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+s...ux/+bug/500999). <- An example of a bug that I found that has started me testing more...

                          I would definitely be interested in doing more... I just got a new machine with an integrated ATI video on the motherboard and I also put in a ATI HD 3750 and on Windows you would apparently be able to use some magic way to combine their power...

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                          • #14
                            We need to change the economics of the situation. We need to make it profitable for graphics makers to open source their drivers or parts of it. One way is to increase Linux market share. Getting various other firms like Red Hat to pledge to help develop the drivers (this would be different than now because they would be helping develop the primary drivers which would then be open source, not a separate project like mesa) would help, too. I know it's a long way from that now, and it's a tall order to get there, if it's even possible with intellectual property worries and what not. I think that would ultimately be the best solution though.

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                            • #15
                              Hey vendors. Here's an idea: don't bother with closed-source drivers. Just make one open-source one.

                              I mean, you might have a few more headaches in the beginning (with legal or whatever), but we'll love you all the more for it.

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