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SiFive RISC-V SoCs Can Now Be Paired With A GPU... Imagination's PowerVR

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  • #11
    Indeed "flexibility" is not a word which comes to mind when I think of PowerVR GPU drivers. It seems like it would be absolute hell to try to use their drivers and keep up with the (rapidly improving) upstream kernel, which is probably what you would want to be working with if putting together a product with SiFive's system. Maybe Imagination will ship a non-obfuscated out-of-tree kernel driver source or something, but something tells me they'll manage to screw this up with careless software.

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    • #12
      First off, this is not an actual chip being released, it's a press statement that says "customers, we now have the option to offer you IMG IP next to our RISCV cores". This sounds like both parties who are trying to stay afloat found the same piece of driftwood and promise to do all sorts of things when they get to dry land.

      Secondly, we have a visitor from IMG in #linux-sunxi now who is trying to bring "useful" binaries to the least popular Allwinner SoC of all time: the A80 from 2014. He's not been too effective in getting results with some version of mainline and the A80, and it smells to me like he has little to no management support. He clearly did not know that this announcement was coming. And he's reiterated that IMG has no intention to open source anything (apart from adhering to the GPL with the kernel side). While IMG was never as passively hostile against open sourcing like ARM was and still is, it never committed to it when revenue was good. Now revenue is gone, and they do not have the talent nor the ability to hire said talent to make it happen.

      Finally, as the guy who actively kept everyone from REing the PVR, i am astounded how Sifive can go there and try to maintain their aura of openness. They just showed what they are truly made of and what their true intentions are.

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      • #13
        Originally posted by libv View Post
        Finally, as the guy who actively kept everyone from REing the PVR, i am astounded how Sifive can go there and try to maintain their aura of openness. They just showed what they are truly made of and what their true intentions are.
        SiFive's DesignShare program is a commercial effort and has always been. What it provides is a way to test commercial IP from various vendors - including theirs - without having to pay for it upfront. So one of their customers can design a SoC with SiFive cores, a PowerVR GPU, Rambus PHYs and SERDES and whatever other IP is available on that platform without paying upfront for the IP. For hardware design this is a big deal as its the only platform that offers that kind of availability AFAIK. It has nothing to do with free/open-source hardware though.

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        • #14
          Originally posted by DoMiNeLa10 View Post
          If RISC-V were licensed under a copyleft, it would be impossible to combine it with non-free components (putting a RISC-V core and a proprietary GPU is combining them,
          No it would not, as the license for RISC-V is for the CPU part, not the whole SoC.

          a CPU and a GPU (and any other controller you want to add) are still separate IP and separate components communicating over a standard bus even if they are integrated in the same chip and printed on the same silicon.

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          • #15
            Originally posted by phoronix View Post
            It would have been more interesting if SiFive SoCs could feature say Vivante graphics IP where at least there is the open-source Etnaviv graphics driver stack
            Just don't forget that Vivante is Chinese, FWIW.

            I guess it was originally US-headquartered (with R&D in China), but is now owned by VeriSilicon:
            Founded in 2001 and head-quartered in Shanghai, China, VeriSilicon has over 740 employees with 5 R&D centers in US and in China and 10 sales offices worldwide.
            Source: http://www.verisilicon.com/Company_3...riSilicon.html

            So, it'd probably be subject to tariffs and possibly even be next on the list of banned companies for US firms to do business with. And SiFive is US-based, according to Wikipedia.
            Last edited by coder; 05-22-2019, 11:00 PM.

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            • #16
              Originally posted by starshipeleven View Post
              No it would not, as the license for RISC-V is for the CPU part, not the whole SoC.

              a CPU and a GPU (and any other controller you want to add) are still separate IP and separate components communicating over a standard bus even if they are integrated in the same chip and printed on the same silicon.
              Isn't combining different IPs like linking software together? I see it as analogous, and in that case GPL requires software used or compatible with GPL'd stuff to be under the same license, look at GNU clisp and how it got GPL'd over support for GNU Readline.

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              • #17
                Originally posted by DoMiNeLa10 View Post
                Isn't combining different IPs like linking software together?
                You aren't combining shit, the CPU is NOT part of the GPU, and the GPU is NOT part of the CPU. They still operate independently from each other. It's still exactly as if attaching a dedicated graphics or a USB 3.0 card or whatever other controller with DMA access in PCIe slots on a mobo.

                It's just smaller, and using a different bus. And it's of course permanently bonded.

                GPL does its thing only for what is defined as derivative work. Attaching and operating something over a standard interface does NOT make it derivative work in any way, shape or form.

                The FSF would call this an "aggregate" https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq...ereAggregation and the only thing is that you can't add a single license to the aggregate that would violate each component's own license.

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                • #18
                  Originally posted by starshipeleven View Post
                  You aren't combining shit, the CPU is NOT part of the GPU, and the GPU is NOT part of the CPU. They still operate independently from each other. It's still exactly as if attaching a dedicated graphics or a USB 3.0 card or whatever other controller with DMA access in PCIe slots on a mobo.

                  It's just smaller, and using a different bus. And it's of course permanently bonded.

                  GPL does its thing only for what is defined as derivative work. Attaching and operating something over a standard interface does NOT make it derivative work in any way, shape or form.

                  The FSF would call this an "aggregate" https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq...ereAggregation and the only thing is that you can't add a single license to the aggregate that would violate each component's own license.
                  In that case, I'd love to see a WAY more strict version of GNU GPL that's violated by even running non-gpl code, or combining with anything non-gpl. It might be impossible to pull off anything while complying to such license, but it would prevent from issues like these popping up.

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                  • #19
                    People are missing the fact that RISC-V is an ISA. Implemented CPUs for any ISA can be under any license people want. afaik it would be possible to make an OpenRISC CPU under a closed source proprietary license. In fact OpenRISC is in a SOC used in some Samsung TVs according to Wikipedia, and an Allwinner power chip mated to an ARM core. It should be possible to make an x86 CPU under a FOSS license too. Trademarks and so on are a different issue, but nothing stops you making a 'compatible with RISC-V' core.

                    Demanding FOSS style licensing for a CPU is kind of pointless. You can't manufacture them yourself only a handful of companies can.

                    In reality it probably would be impossible for a FOSS style licensed CPU and proprietary GPU to be linked. Mainly because the CPU wouldn't get manufactured or have any industry support. But enjoy your FLOSS CPU that only works of a FPGA with VGA graphics.

                    In any case it's a good idea to avoid PowerVR like the plague unless they have opensource drivers. For the consumer any hardware manufactured by them will have a fairly short shelf life when the drivers no longer work with a new kernel/xorg update. And companies using their IP will probably have to keep paying through the nose to keep their stuff up to date and be very limited in the design choices they can make.

                    Although RISC-V does have an option to run a driver in it's own environment, outside of the operating system. That might work since the OS drivers would just be a thin wrapper that could be opensource or easy to reverse engineer. But I doubt PowerVR would be doing that.
                    Last edited by H3g3m0n; 05-25-2019, 09:10 PM.

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                    • #20
                      Originally posted by DoMiNeLa10 View Post
                      In that case, I'd love to see a WAY more strict version of GNU GPL that's violated by even running non-gpl code, or combining with anything non-gpl.
                      The fact that not even FSF nuts made a license like that should probably hint that it's beyond retarded.

                      I've never been a permissive license fanboi, but I'm pretty sure that it's not anywhere near your fucking rights to demand what environment your software must be run in.

                      It might be impossible to pull off anything while complying to such license, but it would prevent from issues like these popping up.
                      How can it prevent anything if it's so full-retard-mode restrictive that none will ever use it in a serious project?

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