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Thread: ATI dropping support for <R600 - wtf!?

  1. #1
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    Default ATI dropping support for <R600 - wtf!?

    Before going to sensible work again, I have to vent myself here with a little rant. For the starting point: I am the proud owner of a Thinkpad T60 equipped with a X1300 mobility which I got 2 1/2 years ago and which has served me well ever since. I use it mainly for doing calculations, latex, coding at work and for video and some light gaming in my free time. I am not a zealot when it comes to open source; I like the concept of open source software and try to use it whenever possible, but I don't regard the attempt to earn money with software as a crime and have no reservations when it comes to well-written closed source software.

    When I got the device I installed the fglrx driver and was rather pleasantly surprised by it working stable and reliably - I had read other stories. There were some glitches, but I though to myself: "wait for the next revisions, they'll iron it out" and - nothing improved, some bugs went away, others came. This game has been going on till now, and at NO POINT IN TIME, a revision of the driver did all that it advertised, but the thing was always broken in some way or the other. Specifically, the most annoying areas were:

    - Xv: working well for some months, then completely disappearing, and never working again with vsync or on all players (mplayer + xine + vlc) till this day.
    - Basic OpenGL: I don't need it badly, but I have a graphics accelerator, so it'd better do it. The first revisions worked, but there was some lag between commands submitted to the processor and the display casuing an inacceptable lag between input and reaction in ALL OpenGL programs. I had to hack around by preloading a library that did some waiting I don't remember exactly before swapping buffers. This got better over time but never really went away until the new generation of drivers hyped on phoronix appeared.
    - Antialiasing: this has suffered from the lag described above until this day. It seems better in the last revisions.
    -Vsync in OpenGL: this never ever worked really reliably, causing the lag described above.
    - Visual artifacts: numerous revisions of the driver would display heavy corruption or artifacts in different situations, ranging from random lines over blackened window borders to the thing called the "checkerboard of doom" in these forums
    - ... I could continue this list for some time ....

    Now, AMD is dropping support completely for this generation of hardware from the driver, and, bottom line: for the whole life cycle of this support, the driver NEVER worked correctly. It was usable, but lacking many features that were advertised and that I expect from this type of hardware.

    I am very concious of the opensource efforts, and appreciate the release of programming documentation but, honestly, in my oppinion this shouldn't be a big favour, but just the rule: if I buy something, I should be given the documentation on how to use it. Using hardware for me means being given the possiblity of writing code that uses it, not just running a set of pre-selected OSsed with varying support on top of it. The fact that this isn't the rule doesn't make it more of a favour.

    Apart from releasing the documentation, the "open source effort" consists of paying one developer working on the open source code. Effectively, this means for me that ATI/AMD is offloading the linux driver support to the community resp. other companies like RedHat and Novell, therefore dropping support for this generation of hardware on linux nearly completely, which is not acceptable to me.

    I highly appreciate the efforts of the developers that work on delivering support for this hardware in the opensource drivers which has shaped up nicely till now, but that doesn't take the responsibility from the company building the actual hardware. There are examples out there how to do it better: intel, HP with their opensource printing driver, NVidia (allthough it is closed source, they maintain support for all generations of hardware, the legacy drivers also get forward-ported to newer revisions of X and linux if I am informed correctly) etc.

    So, consequence for me: I will try to avoid ATI hardware in the future whenever possible. I either want well-working closed source support (which is what people on Windows or OSX also want) or, even better, opensource support _actively maintained_ by the hardware manufacturer. Intel does the latter, and the performance of their graphics hardware is totally capable of satisfying my needs. ATI/AMD have proven to deliver none of both. Their strategy is better than the situation with a company that doesn't produce any programming info or a reliable binary driver, but I usually try to avoid those, too.

  2. #2
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    We haven't talked much about specific funding and staffing levels (and don't plan to do that in the future either), but "paying one developer" to work on open source drivers is pretty far from the truth. We funded a lot of the radeonhd work, and we currently have three in-house developers working on open source drivers (Alex, Richard, Cooper) in addition to the outside development community.

    We started ramping up open source efforts a year or so ago, which helped to get solid open source driver support in place for these generations of hardware.

  3. #3
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    It seems like AMD is in for tough times. The other day I saw news that AMD makes dramatic cuts to the prices of Radeon cards.

    I hope we won't be left with NVidia having a 95% market share in the end... AMD needs to come up with something. Right now, AMD vs NVidia is almost analogous to Linux vs Microsoft. Your lower market share kills you.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by RealNC View Post
    It seems like AMD is in for tough times. The other day I saw news that AMD makes dramatic cuts to the prices of Radeon cards.

    I hope we won't be left with NVidia having a 95% market share in the end... AMD needs to come up with something. Right now, AMD vs NVidia is almost analogous to Linux vs Microsoft. Your lower market share kills you.
    um. A: Nvidia's market share and stocks have been PLUMMETING : http://enthusiast.hardocp.com/news.h...VzaWFzdCwsLDE=

    B: As far as I'm aware, the price cuts on the HD series are not hurting profitability (much I think), and if anything were cut to kick Nvidia while Nvidia was down.

    The big problem is that the big green, or Nvidia, is in trouble. They are still largely riding on the G80 architecture introduced with the 8800 back in 9/11/2006, and they had the disaster with the GPU's that caught on fire, and now they have the lawsuits with Intel over making an x86 cpu. With AMD having brought ATi in house, AMD has a competent chipset platform, and can compete with Intel on a platform basis.

    Nvidia used to be dependent on the AMD market for it's chipsets, it's only been in recent years that Nvidia has made Intel chipsets, and Intel says that license agreement doesn't cover new processors.

    The chipset market gets even worse for Nvidia with Intel following AMD's lead and putting the Memory controller on chip, removing one of the primary selling points of Nvidia hardware. Remember back on the AthlonXp series when and Nforce chipset easily blew Via and Sis out of the water?

    Now Via and Sis are largely gone from the chipset market, and Nvidia's in position to follow.

    ***

    So no, the chance of Nvidia taking 95% of a market they are losing, rapidly, is pretty low.

    Rather, what needs to be remembered is that Intel chips, by far, make up the largest percentage of GPU's in use. A complete collapse of Nvidia would pit Intel versus AMD not just in processors, but in GPU's as well. It wouldn't be surprising given Intel's market position to see them leverage AMD into a niche corner.
    Last edited by Saist; 03-05-2009 at 09:56 AM.

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    What's the current market of AMD/ATI vs NVidia? Isn't it something like 30% vs 70%? Not sure where I read that though.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by RealNC View Post
    What's the current market of AMD/ATI vs NVidia? Isn't it something like 30% vs 70%? Not sure where I read that though.
    Um... nooo... I linked to Xbit's August report in the previous post

    It's Intel that has the largest market share, with just under 50%.

    AMD and Nvidia generally swap back around forth around 25-35% each.

    Currently, AMD is on a role with the HD 4x00 series that trumps the Nvidia offerings at pretty much each price point.

  7. #7
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    Good post, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Saist View Post
    Rather, what needs to be remembered is that Intel chips, by far, make up the largest percentage of GPU's in use. A complete collapse of Intel would pit Intel versus AMD not just in processors, but in GPU's as well. It wouldn't be surprising given Intel's market position to see them leverage AMD into a niche corner.
    Patently false, and you'd have to be severely misinformed to think that. Intel's GMA "GPUs" have all the graphics capabilities of a Voodoo 5 packaged in a convienient integrated-motherboard solution -- they won't be running any serious games with any amount of capacity. Besides, you can't even buy them in discrete card form! They're not even in the same market. And even then, their performance even lags behind the GeForce 61xx and Radeon Xpress series, which are nV and ATI's integrated motherboard offerings respectively. Larrabee might change that, but by the looks of things, it's still at least a year away.

    Back on topic, AMD is likely doing what they can to keep their dying Catalyst codebase going one more year. Remind me again, why didn't they just toss it out on its head and start over? Is there some spec release out and they're waiting for a FOSS driver to take the reins?

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    Quote Originally Posted by roothorick View Post
    Remind me again, why didn't they just toss it out on its head and start over? Is there some spec release out and they're waiting for a FOSS driver to take the reins?
    The biggest focus of the Catalyst Linux drivers has always been professional workstation graphics (FireGL, FirePRO etc..) although over the last year we have been putting more effort into some consumer features as well.

    From a technical point of view Catalyst Linux is our vehicle for letting Linux users see the performance and features from our proprietary shared-across-OSes code base. Practically speaking, for Linux users that means spiffy 3D performance and features, including things like Crossfire and Multiview. These are super-important for the professional workstation market but seem to be less interesting for consumer Linux users with the exception of running Wine.

    In most other respects, the open source drivers have the advantage of staying current with the evolving framework (and it is evolving REALLY quickly right now) since new framework features (like EXA improvements) are usually worked out by making simultaneous changes to the open source drivers and the X/DRI framework. You can't do that kind of thing with closed-source drivers.

    Anyways, bottom line is that the Catalyst Linux driver will continue to be extremely important for some market segments, but will probably never be a perfect fit for all of them -- but the open source drivers will be a good solution for the rest.
    Last edited by bridgman; 03-05-2009 at 10:18 AM.

  9. #9

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    Patently false, and you'd have to be severely misinformed to think that. Intel's GMA "GPUs" have all the graphics capabilities of a Voodoo 5 packaged in a convienient integrated-motherboard solution -- they won't be running any serious games with any amount of capacity. Besides, you can't even buy them in discrete card form! They're not even in the same market. And even then, their performance even lags behind the GeForce 61xx and Radeon Xpress series, which are nV and ATI's integrated motherboard offerings respectively. Larrabee might change that, but by the looks of things, it's still at least a year away.
    Roothick : you missed the point. Performance isn't the question here. Intel has the largest percentage of GPU's in use. Intel has almost as many graphics cards in use as AMD and Nvidia... combined.

    Okay, I'm not going to argue that the performance sucks. If you've taken any time to read http://zerias.blogspot.com you'd have read me bashing on Intel's performance, and if you've read any of the posts I've made about Intel hardware on Mepislovers, I'm constantly going after the lack of hardware shaders.

    High End cards, as much as we, as gamers, love them, only make up a small percentage of overall profits.

    ATi, 3DFX, SiS, Trident, the SiS/Trident merger of Xabre, then XGI from that, Nvidia, Matrox, insert your favorite graphics card vendor here, all of them depend on low-end sales to drive their business.

    I think (and if Mr. Bridgman reads this and access to the numbers to correct me if I'm wrong) that AMD's figures for sale of high-end cards, such as the Radeon 9800 XT, then the x1800 XT, then the HD 2900, then the insert high end card here, only makes up 5% or less of the actual series product sales.

    Valve backs this up with their hardware reports : http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/

    I think this is where RealNC got his figure from: Steam only polls people who submit to the hardware report, doesn't report correctly from within Cedega or WINE, and only covers people who have Steam installed. In other words, NOT a reliable source of actual market share.

    According to steam, the most popular Shader Model 2.0 card is the Radeon 9600... not exactly a high end card.

    The most popular Shader Model 3 card is the 7600, which again, is NOT a high end card.

    The most popular DX10 card is the 8800, which has been on the market for... well... more than 2 years, and it holds around 22%.

    At 13% is the 8600... again. NOT a High end card.

    At 9% though is the growing ATi market share, the 4800, which is referred to as series.

    ***

    So, while Steam is a limited survey, it does show that mid-range and lower-end cards tend to be more popular.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saist View Post
    It's Intel that has the largest market share, with just under 50%.
    I wrote "AMD vs NVidia" though, not "Intel vs AMD vs NVidia".

    AMD and Nvidia generally swap back around forth around 25-35% each.
    Looking at those stats, it's AMD vs NVidia: 36% vs 64%. So I wasn't too far off. So I stand by what I said. And you've just confirmed it.

    Currently, AMD is on a role with the HD 4x00 series that trumps the Nvidia offerings at pretty much each price point.
    Problem is, NVidia outperforms them currently with the more expensive cards and AMD doesn't offer anything equivalent.

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