Gordon's Thoughts On Open-Source GPU Drivers
Phoronix: Gordon's Thoughts On Open-Source GPU Drivers
Being discussed this week in our forums is an interview that Ryan "Icculus" Gordon gave last week to the Czech AbcLinuxu web-site. In particular, comments made by Ryan regarding the state of open-source graphics drivers and how they basically are just in bad shape...
Kernel.net page and patent law
Excuse me for interrupting here but as a user of linux and currently rewriting my DSDT from scratch to address the VIA VN896 issues (before moving onto the driver - or rather lack of it) I have a little interest.
To the best of my understanding and put very simply, Patent law applies expressly to a the concept of ownership. Once purchased, the machine is one's own property, as is the card or graphics chip on the motherboard. The concept of Linux, in applying the notion of 'free' ownership to a secondary product, contained within, or applicable to the primary product, such as software, prevents normally operating liability concern from addressing, in general, the operation of that secondary product with relation to the primary product. This situation is indicative of the problem of Linux and the GNU licensing scheme in general but with particular relevance to the problems with hardware compatibility. In short, the manufacturer is not obliged or encouraged into providing for the lesser of two markets by dint of any legal requirement let alone any commercial benefit.
Traditionally, at least up to 15 years ago when I last perused through the linux world, writing a driver for the system was considered common place if not absolutely necessary, and it was this 'on completion of driver, submit for someone else to use' that stemmed in much the same way as 'I've just spent 40 hours playing this single player game - I probably won't do that again - why not write a user guide so that I've got something to show for my effort' that contributed vastly to the creation of the Linux community, in particular its perception by others as a 'free' community. Perhaps one might be persuaded to create a GTK+ front end to a driver construction utility in order to provide the eye-candy community with something to get them interested in - perhaps with an emulation of the results of their hard work to help them understand that they aren't always going to blow up their pc by low level work ~(a shared community button to work in parallel with others would be excellent).
My real point concerning patent law is that the individual providing you with the hardware ought to be obliged to provide you with a complete description of the product in order to enable you to use it with satisfaction and without danger to yourself or others. It could be argued that by not providing such information (such as processor caps or resource limits) that the driver manufacturer is failing in their duty to provide reasonably safe operating equipment, particularly when given the unit throughput (number of machines/items etc) of the merchandise that they sell.
The validity of this health and safety issue can be verified both with the fact that low level programming does have a reasonable chance of damage to the operating equipment, that there have been reports of badly constructed drivers causing power overloads and consequent fires, that software product recalls have been issued (a less obvious fact due to the fact that new drivers are automatically updated on some machines) and due to the fact that constantly having to put up with no 3d graphics on a 512mb machine (a tad outdated perhaps) due to an unnecessary mutex lock condition being set in a secondary place such as the ACPI definition to accomodate the generalised nature of modern windowed linux installs can leave an individual so frustrated that they throw their computer out of the window, possibly landing on the head of a passer by.
As this is a rant by an old hand - may I just point out that the success of any system is based on the availability of good documentation and this is rather limited in terms of the indexes that afford a rapid and consistently rewarding result in terms of linux. Consider the windows 7 helpfile which asks if this was helpful? and provides a contribution box (a common approach these days but seemingly forgotten by the linux community).
I too dream of a better world.:cool: