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Thread: Gordon's Thoughts On Open-Source GPU Drivers

  1. #1
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    Default 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...

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=OTIyOA

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    As I said in the other thread in the General Discussion, I disagree with him on this. For 90% of people the open source drivers are fine. It's literally a small minority of people who intend to run serious 3D work/games. How is it a "dangerous situation" to have open source drivers as the default and then letting the few people who need the blob install that on their own?

    The first thing Windows gamers do on a fresh Windows install is download and install the latest video driver. It's not like people just can't handle the concept of doing this.

  3. #3
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    With the latest Ubuntu 11.04 RC, I can play 0 A.D. on my Radeon HD4850 - using the open-source driver. It is not yet fast enough for TA:Spring, but I feel there is not *that* much left to do until it is.

    The situation may be especially bad for NVIDIA, PowerVR and the likes, but AMD and Intel made Linux support a priority years ago. AMD basically built excellent Linux support for all its past and future chips in just four years. Four years ago we didn't even have enough Linux games to complain about the graphics driver situation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pvtcupcakes View Post
    As I said in the other thread in the General Discussion, I disagree with him on this. For 90% of people the open source drivers are fine. It's literally a small minority of people who intend to run serious 3D work/games. How is it a "dangerous situation" to have open source drivers as the default and then letting the few people who need the blob install that on their own?

    The first thing Windows gamers do on a fresh Windows install is download and install the latest video driver. It's not like people just can't handle the concept of doing this.
    It's dangerous because people think that's it, they're done setting up their box. Then the first game or 3D application they run seems to indicate something is accelerated, however just very badly or with rendering glitches.

    Remember that just because you're using Linux doesn't mean you're any smarter or logical than someone running Windows. The same guy telling you run a registry cleaner on Windows could also misinform you about the significant differences between the open source and proprietary drivers on Linux and make a sweeping statement that the open source drivers are good enough for everything you do, not considering all the other typical use cases of a graphics card besides their own. I've read things like that here on the forums - fortunately someone always recognizes the fallacy and flames back directly.

    Ubuntu is the only distribution (besides distros based off it) that I'm aware of which notifies you of available proprietary drivers to take full advantage of your 3D hardware. And just because Ubuntu seems to be the most popular desktop distribution, I don't think this is too much of a problem. So, I'll agree with you there that ya, at least the distribution tells you there's an opportunity to use practically better, but dogmatically worse drivers.

  5. #5

    Default 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.
    lol.
    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.

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    Dude, if you don't do Linux for the Freedom, just go get yourself a copy of OSX and live a happy life.

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    *shrug*.

    The best way to get good open source drivers is to release them now and have people using them.

    That's all there really is to it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pvtcupcakes View Post
    As I said in the other thread in the General Discussion, I disagree with him on this. For 90% of people the open source drivers are fine. It's literally a small minority of people who intend to run serious 3D work/games. How is it a "dangerous situation" to have open source drivers as the default and then letting the few people who need the blob install that on their own?

    The first thing Windows gamers do on a fresh Windows install is download and install the latest video driver. It's not like people just can't handle the concept of doing this.
    I completely agree. For typical end-users, the open source drivers are reaching a state where they cover most use cases. We're not _quite_ there, but close. And even for me, a non-typical user using the experimental nouveau driver (NV50), I'm able to do most of the things I'd want to do with the binary driver. My biggest snag is probably Wine.

    It's true the framerate isn't quite as good in, say, Nexuiz as it is with the binary driver, but it's a moot point if the game runs smoothly at the resolution you'd like to use.

    If it's not good enough, enabling the blob is a few mouse clicks away.

  9. #9
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    @Gordon,
    You know what's REALLY dangerous to the Linux desktop? Drivers that are a nightmare to install, update, remove. Ones that don't reliably support basic desktop needs; multi monitor, KMS, sleep/suspend, etc. Ones that break with kernel upgrades. Ones that won't even work with new releases of Xorg!! I'm looking at you proprietary drivers.

    I'll stick with the drivers that come with my distro ( Fedora ) thankyou. Lets walk before we run.

  10. #10
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    No I dont agree with the author, we see that he calls it a mesa-patent-mess, but mesa did not made patents other guys I think in this case Nvidia? did that.

    So nobody stopps a distribution like Ubuntu to ship that s3ct stuff, if they wanna risk a lawsuit. But the authors have to be very conservative. Else a company who contribute or some private persons have to be afraid of getting suit.

    I dont agree with the browser example too. Lets take Firefox as example they make millions (or are it billions?^^) of dollars by setting the default search engine to google so they can face such lawsuit.

    And on the beginning the opensource community made a own format, then some people did go in front and used that format, and with years and years that the companys not suit this guys they lost their right on it. You cant tollerate 10 years of breaking your patent maybe or 20 years and then abrupt you start suing such people. you also loose name-rights after some years. But I am no laywer so proofe me wrong.

    It has another point, it shows problems in our law-system thats importent. Its maybe a fight against windmills, but if we stop fighting against the evil in the world I think we loose even our small rights we still have today.

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