ARM MPD Still Not Doing Open Drivers; ARM Vendors Hiding Behind Linaro
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 16 July 2014 at 10:00 AM EDT. 14 Comments
Luc Verhaegen is out with another insightful blog post about ARM's "Midgard" architecture, ARM MPD still being rather closed-up, cites a recent Q/A about ARM's Jem Davies commenting on Linux drivers, and how ARM vendors hide behind Linaro.

Luc's latest blog post points out several interesting responses by Jem Davies of ARM MPD, responsible for the Mali T-Series graphics hardware, and the recent Q&A he did with AnAndTech. In response to asking about open-source drivers, Davies commented, "I really do understand your frustration and I’m sorry that this makes life harder for you and similar developers. We are genuinely not against Open Source, as I hope I’ve tried to explain. I myself spent a long time working on the Linux kernel in the past and I wish I could give you a simple answer. Unfortunately, it is a genuinely complex problem, with a lot of trade-offs and judgements to be made as well as economic and legal issues. Ultimately I cannot easily reduce this to an answer here, and probably not to one that will satisfy you. Rest assured that you are not being ignored. However, as a relatively small company with a business model that is Partner driven, the resources that we have, need to be applied to projects in ways that meet Partner requirements."

In that Q&A there was talk about ARM's investment into Linaro, to which Verhaegen counters with how some SoC vendors "hide" behind Linaro as being open-source friendly. Luc explains, "For non-founding members of a consortium, such a construction is often used to park some less useful people while gaining the priviledge to claim involvement as and when desired... Linaro membership does not absolve from limited open source involvement or downright license violation, but for many members, this is exactly how it is used. Linaro seems to be a get-out-of-jail-free card for several of its members. Linaro membership does not need to prove anything, Linaro membership even seems to have the opposite effect in several cases. ARM driving Linaro is simply no proof that ARM MPD supports open source software."


Luc also comments on the GPU patent matter that some companies use as an excuse for not supporting open-source drivers, the claims by vendors of "limited resources" to support open drivers, and issues with the ARM Mali binary driver. You can find Luc's thoughts in full on these current matters via his blog. Luc in the end believes that change is coming for ARM Linux graphics drivers, "The Mali marketing show on Anandtech tells us that things are looking up. The market is forcing ARM MPD to be more open, and MPD has to either sink or swim. The next step was demonstrated by yours truly and some other very enterprising individuals, and now both Nvidia and Broadcom are going all the way. It is just a matter of time before ARM MPD has to follow, as they need this more than their more progressive competitors."
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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