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Killing DRM Graphics Cruft With Fire

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Hamish Wilson View Post
    A driver does more than interface with hardware however, it must also interface with the rest of the system which is a moving target. So even full featured drivers may and often do still need work just to keep them compatible.



    Hey, I think I am running on that $40 AMD Sempron and it is doing quite well for me thank you.



    I do not think it is even that much that the Linux kernel and driver devs want to ignore older hardware, but there is simply a lack of people willing to maintain it. If their is no one to maintain it in an active and ongoing project, of course it is going to be considered cruft that has to be removed, as there is no one making it workable. That is basically the policy the DRM and Kernel developers seem to be enacting. Older radeons have a better chance of support simply because there are people willing to maintain the code. But in the case of SiS and VIA chips, no one seems to be stepping up to do it, so these drivers are under threat. I can understand the reasoning behind it, and if these old platforms still do remain valuable and are in need of further support, someone who cares must step up and maintain them. If not, you do as I suggested and just stick to older versions or use speciality distros.

    Also, I am unsure of what I am 100% right on. If you are saying that I am 100% right in saying that someone could use older or speciality distros for older hardware when it comes to end of life, I would agree with you, if you are saying that we should always drop older hardware just beacues it is old, I would not. As I said, I love my old Radeon 9200 and continue to use it. And as long as someone is willing to maintain it, that code should remain.
    Well, I don't think the devs are deliberately trying to ignore old hardware for the sake that the hardware is old. I think they want to clean up the code and I may be wrong but it seems like Linux 3D progression is being slowed down due to old drivers getting in the way. The fact that the drivers are not maintained is basically the excuse why it is actually ok to remove them. If you had super old drivers but they were still being maintained to operate with the latest software, then there's no reason to remove it. But if hardware is so old that no one is updating it and it is incompatible with newer software, then it's becoming a problem.

    I was agreeing with you regarding using specialized distros for older hardware. As I said in my previous post, I like the idea of people using Linux to take advantage of old hardware, so I strongly disagree with just ignoring anything old. But, Linux needs to be able to move on and moving on means that some things need to be left behind.


    BTW, when I said crappy $40 Sempron, I think the sempron is an excellent CPU for the price, but it does have the lowest price of it's generation for a reason.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by schmidtbag View Post
      BTW, when I said crappy $40 Sempron, I think the sempron is an excellent CPU for the price, but it does have the lowest price of it's generation for a reason.
      Yeah, I knew what you meant, actually, in some ways I was proving your point. That being said, in the long term I will want to upgrade to the best my motherboard can support (AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition) simply to max out my current machine. But for the moment I do not feel the pressing need, as it can handle all the tasks I am throwing at it (including gaming and some limited HD video playing) quite admirably and it reliably stays below 45 degrees even with the most extreme tasks I can throw at it (and well bellow that for most desktop tasks, with it idling around 35 or 33 degrees), which I consider damn impressive.

      Not trying to go of topic, but anyway...

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Hamish Wilson View Post
        Yeah, I knew what you meant, actually, in some ways I was proving your point. That being said, in the long term I will want to upgrade to the best my motherboard can support (AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition) simply to max out my current machine. But for the moment I do not feel the pressing need, as it can handle all the tasks I am throwing at it (including gaming and some limited HD video playing) quite admirably and it reliably stays below 45 degrees even with the most extreme tasks I can throw at it (and well bellow that for most desktop tasks, with it idling around 35 or 33 degrees), which I consider damn impressive.

        Not trying to go of topic, but anyway...
        looks like you might want to look into overclocking

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        • #19
          Originally posted by schmidtbag View Post
          I understand your position of having an old laptop and making it serve purposes that still fulfill your needs, and I respect that. But, keep in mind that an old laptop is considered just about the most useless hardware you can get and the most annoying to software and hardware vendors. Basically anything that is a Pentium 4 of worse is stuff that is actually hurting the computer industry.
          Right, this is from my side not about protecting software and hardware vendors. Yes, keeping old hardware working *is* hurting the computer industry. I am thinking about the users. Not the "consumers" Some like to keep otherwise fine and useful hardware and use it safely. That is my point. Nothing more, and I don't want to freeze development and progress. On the other hand, shorter obsolence cycles, although great for industry and economical growth, might not be good for environment and sustainabilty. New hardware can use less power but a lot of power is used to manufacture them etc. But then we go into politics and philosophy and it might not be the right place.

          Yes, you are right that for old laptops, buying a new video card or using VESA is not an option, but the reason those 2 points were made in the first place is to show that new hardware is incomparably faster yet it doesn't cost any different. That being said, if you were to buy the crappiest modern CPU you can get (probably a $40 AMD Sempron) you can do something like vesa and get more performance than you'd get out of your old hardware with GPU acceleration. $40 won't get you very much on old systems.
          Comparing prices or commercial value is irrelevant from /this/ point of view, I am not suggesting people should buy 10 year old computers instead of a 3 year old one. It is about keeping using what you have, if you want to. Note that I am adding a point of view here, not saying this is the only one or the most important one.

          I've really come to notice lately that a lot of OS devs are deliberately trying to ignore older hardware. Could Linux keep these old drivers for another 10 years? Yes, and I'm sure it'd work too. I'm sure people would buy OS X Lion for PPC if it existed, and I'm sure some people would still like to have Rosetta. Microsoft does a lot of this sort of stuff too but they're harder to compare to because they make stuff incompatible strictly for profit.
          If you are talking about the Linux kernel, it actually is known to keep hardware support for a *long* time. On the other hand X.org developers, especially (understandably) the big part hired by hardware vendors, can not prioritize support of old hardware*. OSX for PPC, yes why the hell would Apple support that since they profit from selling new hardware and they control the whole bundle?

          Many hardware companies are also doing the same thing. AMD's bulldozer series is actually arguably faster than Sandy Bridge but the problem is 99% of software doesn't care about it's changes. The reason they made it is because SOMEBODY has to force the x86 architecture to move on from the old parts.

          So why are Linux, Apple, AMD, etc making these decisions that never had to be made in the first place? Because if the old stuff isn't forced to be ignored, they will hold back future development and only make a mess of code. That being said, Hamish is 100% right and although that is something you might not want to accept, think about this situation - maybe people who have new hardware don't want to accept their products not working to their optimal performance because old stuff is holding it back.

          I'm not trying to bash you, like I said, I respect your opinion and I understand your views and what you're trying to do. But you need to realize that with everything in life, nothing should stick around as long as possible, just because it can.
          Bashing and flaming is fine, but I smell hypocrisy when I hear talk about "respect" and then formulations like:

          "what you are trying to do" - trying to do? I am doing it, and I am happy that it works.

          "But you need to realize ..." - when did I say something to the contrary of this? Did you not have the respect to read my whole post before answering to it? What did I say about "stand in way of development"?

          "is 100% right and although that is something you might not want to accept" - so I am refusing to see the truth, right? I was hoping I was coming through as more nuanced. Whether my poor phrasing or reading skills is at fault I can not tell

          I was not commenting on all Hamish (or anyone) was saying, only the "just use older versions" which I don't believe is 100% right because of, as I already explained, security issues.

          Now back to some testing on my 2003 laptop which runs kernel 3.1 beautifully... OK, I admit I compile it on another laptop

          *) They are doing a great job at it though. For instance Daniel's efforts here, or AMD engineers keeping R100 alive. Maybe on their spare time, I don't know.
          Last edited by tormod; 10-29-2011, 04:06 AM. Reason: added footnote

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          • #20
            Originally posted by tormod View Post
            Bashing and flaming is fine, but I smell hypocrisy when I hear talk about "respect" and then formulations like:

            "what you are trying to do" - trying to do? I am doing it, and I am happy that it works.

            "But you need to realize ..." - when did I say something to the contrary of this? Did you not have the respect to read my whole post before answering to it? What did I say about "stand in way of development"?

            "is 100% right and although that is something you might not want to accept" - so I am refusing to see the truth, right? I was hoping I was coming through as more nuanced. Whether my poor phrasing or reading skills is at fault I can not tell

            I was not commenting on all Hamish (or anyone) was saying, only the "just use older versions" which I don't believe is 100% right because of, as I already explained, security issues.

            Now back to some testing on my 2003 laptop which runs kernel 3.1 beautifully... OK, I admit I compile it on another laptop

            *) They are doing a great job at it though. For instance Daniel's efforts here, or AMD engineers keeping R100 alive. Maybe on their spare time, I don't know.

            I understand why you made your response and why you think I'm being hypocritical, but I think you're just misunderstanding some of the points I've made, just as I've misunderstood you. That's fine though, it's not like I require you to understand my angle entirely. I do have explanations for your responses but I don't really feel like getting into it.

            As for not wanting to use something older due to stuff like security issues, well, if security is really that high of a priority then you might want to look into either an antivirus, or hardware new enough to support the latest kernel. Since I've started using Linux I've never had any security issues of any kind related to my systems. IMO, the main concern with older hardware is performance and resources. Yes sometimes newer kernels come with performance optimizations or shrink in size, but as more features are added, that will eventually make an impact in some manner. Besides, most (not all) optimizations are generally for newer hardware, or, in this particular situation where it's actually removing old stuff.

            I do want you to know though that I don't ever want old hardware going ignored, I just don't want it getting in the way. The newest piece of hardware I have is nearly 2 years old. I too have a very old laptop (in terms of performance, it's probably worse than your 2003 model) but the day that it loses support of something is a day where I'll either replace it or stick with an older kernel.


            This may already exist, but what I'd really like to see is a distro designed specifically for all legacy and/or hardware that is no longer supported (but has been at one point) while still using the most modern software compatible with that hardware. A distro like this could deliberately ignore stuff heavyweight desktop environments or things related to openCL.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by tormod View Post
              I was not commenting on all Hamish (or anyone) was saying, only the "just use older versions" which I don't believe is 100% right because of, as I already explained, security issues.
              If I may make an observation here, what exactly would you be doing on your older systems that would make them particularly vulnerable to security vulnerabilities? We have tons of 1998-2003 machines here which we acquired through my brothers work as an IT Consultant (most companies do not care what happens to their old computers, they simply order X amounts of new ones and just want the old ones to "disappear", so we have quite the fleet), and while we usually do put them to use, none of these make them highly vulnerable.

              For instance, we stuck an old TV capture card in one and now use it as a television replacement and media centre with a stripped down version of Fedora 14 with Blackbox using XdTV for television playing and Gnome MPlayer for media playing (accessing videos we have on the rest of the network through sshfs). Assuming we ever did loose support for the graphics hardware it has (Radeon 9200) and just stuck to the latest version of Fedora that works with it, I do not see how that would be putting us in that risky a situation.

              Another box we are turning into a custom router and server box with ClearOS, but there it does not really matter what graphics hardware works or not, or indeed would not be particularly dependant on much custom drivers, so we can use the latest versions on it. On another we installed Windows 98 to play some really old Windows and DOS games we have still lying around, but if something happened to that machine it would be of no loss. Being a Windows machine it is pretty much isolated from the rest of the network anyway.

              We have a really old and great Fujitsu Lifebook which runs Windows 98 on it as well at the moment, but if I were to put something like the Fedora LXDE spin on it would not really matter what graphics or display drivers it has since it has no acceleration on it anyway. In the end the only really place where the lack of security updates really matters is on the case of some newer laptops made about ten to eight years ago that still may be carted around. But these are for the most part covered by the radeon drivers or Nvidia anyway, so they do not seem to be under threat.

              This is not deflecting the point, just something that I have been considering.

              Originally posted by tormod View Post
              Now back to some testing on my 2003 laptop which runs kernel 3.1 beautifully... OK, I admit I compile it on another laptop

              *) They are doing a great job at it though. For instance Daniel's efforts here, or AMD engineers keeping R100 alive. Maybe on their spare time, I don't know.
              This seems to go back to my point about support. As long as someone is willing to step up and maintain the older drivers, they will be kept. The problem is no one is willing to maintain these really old drivers anymore, which cause them to become a problem. Thus the only clear (but not easy) answer would be that, if you value a particular piece of hardware that much, you or someone like you must step up and maintain it. Otherwise it will likely go away.

              And the other answer is we should all give a big hand to those that are already doing this.

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              • #22
                Outside of security, there's the new software argument. Perhaps I need the new gimp for example on it, which depends on new *libs, and so on, which would be an impossible mess having to stay on an older distro.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by curaga View Post
                  Outside of security, there's the new software argument. Perhaps I need the new gimp for example on it, which depends on new *libs, and so on, which would be an impossible mess having to stay on an older distro.
                  Well, that isn't really an argument for a few reasons. First, much of software is just compiled for the kernel that typically everyone uses it on. Yes, it may be a pain to chase after each dependency, but if the modern gimp CAN compile just fine on early versions of the 2.6 kernel, or even 2.4, then you gotta do what you gotta do. But, lets say it doesn't work at all due to some hardware or driver restriction. That was the initial reason to use an older kernel in the first place (for example, gimp decides to use a newer version of opengl that is incompatible with older drivers). If gimp ran into a non-hardware related problem, at that point it would probably be too demanding for the hardware trying to use it.

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