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Graphics Software Linux

Kernel Builders Appeal For Open Source Drivers 336

Posted by kdawson
from the no-names-but-its-initials-are-nvidia dept.
snydeq writes "The Linux kernel development community has released a statement emphasizing the need for open source drivers. The statement, signed by 135 developers, is aimed at preventing future vendors from following the closed source path. One holdout cited is Nvidia. The Linux Foundation has also released a statement in support: 'The Linux Foundation recommends that hardware manufacturers provide open source kernel modules. The open source nature of Linux is intrinsic to its success. We encourage manufacturers to work with the kernel community to provide open source kernel modules in order to enable their users and themselves to take advantage of the considerable benefits that Linux makes possible.'"
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Kernel Builders Appeal For Open Source Drivers

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  • Tell that to Lexmark (Score:5, Informative)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:03AM (#23913353) Homepage
    Lexmark not only doesn't provide the details needed to write OS drivers for its newer printers, it won't even provide proprietary drivers like ATI and nVidia do. I know, because when my sister moved from Windows to Ubuntu about a month or so ago, she had to buy a new printer because there wasn't any support for her fairly new Lexmark.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NoobixCube (1133473)
      Same here. My printer was a Lexmark, before I replaced it after moving to Ubuntu. It was a fine printer, when I was using Windows, but hardly enough to govern my choice of OS.
      • by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:54AM (#23914959) Homepage

        When it comes to buying printers, i typically look towards HP...
        They provide open source drivers for their printers and even the all in one printer/scanner combo devices.

        Aside from HP i would consider postscript network printers, i recently had such a device from Samsung and it worked well.

        I actively avoid Lexmark and Epson due to their lack of open drivers.

        Incidentally, my old HP scanner/printer combo only works as a printer with OSX Leopard and Windows Vista due to the closed source drivers having not been ported. It works perfectly with an up to date Linux installation since it was possible to just recompile the drivers.
        On the other hand, i'm having major trouble using saned (network scanner support) with my macbook as a client to the linux print/scan server, local scanning on the linux box is flawless.

        • by Machtyn (759119) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @09:09AM (#23915555) Homepage Journal
          HP is doing a lot to tighten control on their printers, though. That cheap, sub-$100 printer? You can't easily share it out on the network (in Windows). They write their drivers specifically to prevent that. Also, their ink prices are quite high compared to the other quality brands out there, such as Brother or Epson.

          My favorite is the Brother MFCn series of printers. They include the document feeder tray for the scanner, excellent phone line recognition faxing (i.e. it knows when to pick up or when to let a human/answering machine pick up), and it has ethernet, all for around $150. When I bought this printer, I looked at all the others and some had the feeder tray, but not ethernet, some had ethernet but not the feeder tray. And the few I found that did have it all were easily $300+.

          Well, I didn't mean for this to come out as an advert for Brother. Anyway, that's my opinion. Also, for what it's worth, I've not been a big fan of HP since the late 90's. (Their HP-48GX was a great calculator, though.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gazzonyx (982402)
          Yeah, if their open source drivers are like their Windows drivers, they'll install themselves as root and remove entries for starting, restarting and stopping the service under /etc/init.d (for you SysV guys) or /etc/rc.d (for the BSD guys).

          Seriously, HP drivers install themselves in Windows as a service that cannot be stopped or removed by even an admin account. You have to do the old 'at time /interactive cmd.exe' hack, and then crash it and restart it thing to become Local System, just to stop the se
          • by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:23AM (#23917591) Homepage

            I haven't tried their windows drivers, but the mac ones were pretty bad.
            The open source ones on the other hand, really are just drivers that interface with cups and/or sane, and other than that pretty much just get out of your way. No stupid utility programs, no background services... Seeing as they're open source, if such user hostile functionality ever existed in them, someone would soon strip it out anyway.

            I will however look at Brother printers, since someone pointed out they also make open source drivers available.

          • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:50PM (#23922265)

            I bought a used laserjet a while back and I just use postscript. The only problem with the printer is that it's got a tiny amount of memory which will run out fairly quickly on weird jobs.

            But in terms of reliability, I haven't really had any at all. It's just a solid printer. It's the Laserjet 5MP, IIRC.

        • Brother has pretty good linux support, their models are not quite as fancy as HP, but they release drivers for LPR and CUPS and the CUPS have source available.

          I think I read about that here a year or so ago.

          http://solutions.brother.com/linux/en_us/index.html
    • by dotancohen (1015143) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:28AM (#23913469) Homepage

      Lexmark not only doesn't provide the details needed to write OS drivers for its newer printers, it won't even provide proprietary drivers like ATI and nVidia do. I know, because when my sister moved from Windows to Ubuntu about a month or so ago, she had to buy a new printer because there wasn't any support for her fairly new Lexmark.
      Did you write to Lexmark and let them know that? Here is their address:
      http://www.lexmark.com/lexmark/sequentialem/home/0,6959,204816596_689444666_0_en,00.html [lexmark.com]

      Write to the hardware vendors and let them know that we want to buy and use their products on Linux. Here are the addresses of some other hardware vendors. Copy the list and write to one every week:

      Creative (Webcams) http://asia.creative.com/contactus/presales/ [creative.com]

      Logitech (Webcams) http://logitech-en-amr.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/logitech_en_amr.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php [custhelp.com]

      Nokia (PIM sync software with OpenSync) http://www.nokia.com/A4126575 [nokia.com]

      Epson (Printers) http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/AboutContactUs.jsp?BV_UseBVCookie=yes [epson.com]

      Gigabyte (New motherboards should ship with Linux drivers) http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Company/ContactUs.aspx?CompanyWebPageID=6 [gigabyte.com.tw]

      Linksys (Networking equipment) http://www.linksys.com/servlet/Satellite?c=L_Content_C1&childpagename=US%2FLayout&cid=1114037291276&pagename=Linksys%2FCommon%2FVisitorWrapper [linksys.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dave420 (699308)
        Unless they start getting those emails in sufficient quantity, they'll just be replied with the usual boilerplate response. They won't think it's worth their time to make drivers for only a "few" people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        Why in the Kernel.
        That is what drives me nuts. Why do we have to have stinking web cam, printer and goodness knows what else drivers in the Kernel! Yes I know Linux is a monolithic kernel and that is why but good grief that just seems like a bad idea.
        I didn't think that printers did need to be in the Kernel I thought they used a CUPS driver but I will admit that I don't mess with printers on Linux much.
        Wouldn't it be better to move some drivers out of the kernel? I mean should a bad web cam or printer driv

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by richlv (778496)

          actually, most if not all scanner drivers are into sane (userspace application), most if not all printer drivers are into cups (userspace application).
          the reasons... those probably are a mix of historical and technical ones. but i wouldn't say drivers are neadlessly crammed into the kernel.

    • by radoni (267396) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:43AM (#23913543)

      Scenario: Mom asks you to install Ubuntu on her Dell computer setup.

      Problems:

      1) Open Source libata driver for the SATA optical drive causes frequent timeouts and hangs. Looks like a problem with the Ubuntu kernel. Tell Mom it's just like Windows XP, there are problems which will be updated and fixed "eventually".

      2) Dell printer not supported by CUPS and open source drivers. There is no support from Dell, but a 20 minute Google search effort turns up the model is a re-branded Lexmark. The Ubuntu community forums detail a process to install proprietary Lexmark drivers for Debian GNU/Linux. Tell mom it's just like Windows XP, some printers need a certain version of driver for the device.

      3) Displayed video is incorrect on Dell LCD display. Search Google for about a solid hour to find an answer. Looks like an Ubuntu problem with an open source driver. Tell Mom that there's nothing wrong with her computer, even though the screen is completely black for the whole boot process.

      My own conclusion:

      Ubuntu is a hit-or-miss installation for Dell hardware owners. Mostly miss. The open source or closed source nature of a driver does not factor into user acceptance. The user is uncomfortable when their hardware is "broken" due to a missing or incompatible driver.

      Mom's conclusion:

      The Ubuntu Hardy "bird" logo is "pretty".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kauos (1168299)
      I have a Lexmark color laser printer. Native linux support is pretty terrible for it, but it's a great printer so I bought a linux driver for it from TurboPrint (http://www.turboprint.de/english.html). As much as you hate buying a driver for a piece of equipment you've already bought, I found the price to be worth it.
      • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:06AM (#23913671) Homepage
        My sister preferred buying a new printer. Then, after she'd gotten her new printer working, she donated the old one to LASFS, [lasfs.info] this world's oldest Science Fiction Club, to be sold at auction. She got a new printer, somebody else got a used one with plenty of life in it, and the club got some money. A real win/win/win situation.
      • by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:36AM (#23913807)

        Or you could buy a printer that supports PostScript. I know it's an evil Adobe abomination, but it's really easy to print to, commonly supported in both network and local drivers, and has a standard printer-definition format to allow selection of hardware-specific options without the need for a hardware-specific driver.

        Honestly, in a day and age when even non-tech families have a home network it seems silly to use USB connections and hardware-specific drivers for printers -- just spend the extra $50 and get a printer that can operate with direct interaction from a host CPU.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MrMr (219533)
          I think it's interesting that this advice has been correct since the 1990's, when we were faced with the choice of buying a Sun printer or hooking up an apple laserwriter for half the price on our Sparcstation 1. That's 15 years of sustained no improvement at all. Good luck with the petitions...
        • by ettlz (639203) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @04:47AM (#23914135) Journal
          PostScript's not an abomination, just an anachronism. I'd like to see more printers supporting PDF "natively".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          Or you could buy a printer that supports PostScript.

          Does such a thing exist for less than, say, $250?

          I know that last time I looked, I had to give up Postscript to get a (network, laser) printer in my price range. I ended up with Brother HL-2070N, which is okay except that it still seems to require a driver on each client even when printing over the network, and it supports PCL instead of Postscript.

          • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:11AM (#23917345)

            Or you could buy a printer that supports PostScript.

            Does such a thing exist for less than, say, $250?

            I know that last time I looked, I had to give up Postscript to get a (network, laser) printer in my price range. I ended up with Brother HL-2070N, which is okay except that it still seems to require a driver on each client even when printing over the network, and it supports PCL instead of Postscript.

            For the Brother line of printers, you want support for "BrScript" (BrotherScript) - for PostScript 3, it's called "BrScript 3". It's effectively a PostScript clone (since PostScript is trademarked, and Brother does't want to pay). But for all intents and purposes, it's PostScript. They even supply PPD files to configure your OS's PostScript driver correctly.

      • I have a Lexmark color laser printer too. It's a C522N. It worked out of the box with Linux - no special drivers required. In fact it works with everything - it accepts PDF and Postscript and just prints them - no trouble, nice quality. It works with CUPS, and correctly tells my desktop when there's a problem like no paper.

        It was cheap too, and is now a few years old - but it has newer successors in the same range.

        As mine was so cheap, I don't understand why anybody would buy the versions which need spe

    • It's probably for the better if Lexmark just curls up and dies. I've never had a Lexmark printer I considered particularly good, and I absolutely hate their little toolkit app.

      Notably the free printers HP bundles with their OEM machines suck too, but what do you expect for free...

      • by debatem1 (1087307)
        I've actually liked the cheapo HP all-in-ones. I got one as part of a bundle when CompUSA went under, and since then have gotten two more (one for my grandparents, one for work use) and all of them work pretty well, especially for ~$40 each.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ckaminski (82854)
          I'll never forget the time I bought a $48 HP deskjet at CompUSA. The salesdroid comes over trying to sell me the warranty package for replacement.

          Him: Would you like to buy an extended warranty with that?
          Me: I'm good man.
          Him: What if your printer breaks? You can get a one year coverage policy that'll replace it.
          Me: Really? What's it cost?
          Him: 50 dollars
          - me looks at printer price tag -
          Me: For that price, I could just buy a new printer and have two dollars left over...
          - him walks away -
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by debatem1 (1087307)
            That is uncomfortably close to the conversation I had with them- except instead of pointing out the price, I pointed out the giant "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE" sign outside their front window and declined.
      • by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:55AM (#23913881)

        You mustn't confuse Lexmark Inkjet printers with Lexmark Laser printers.

        The laser printers, by and large, speak well-known and reasonably standard languages like Postscript and HP PCL, and the build quality isn't too bad (though it's not a patch on HP or Kyocera).

        The inkjets speak proprietary languages, are cheaply thrown together and designed to last about as long as 2-3 cartridges.

        (And in the UK, Lexmark make a big thing about how you too can buy a printer from the same company that supplies 70% of the UK's top businesses. Technically correct, but it's a totally different division of the company producing totally different products).

    • by hairyfeet (841228)
      That is why I gave up trying to switch any of my home customers to Linux,even though most are simply surfing/emailing/listening to music/etc and would have been perfect for Linux. But in my area the Lexmark all-in-one is king and there is no way that a customer is going to go out and replace a printer they are happy with just so you can switch their OS. Hell I can't even blame them,as I too ended up with a Lexmark all-in-one that was a gift from a client whose husband bought her a laser printer for her home
  • No Linus? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:15AM (#23913413)

    Interesting that Linus himself did not put his name to the statement.
    One might argue that the Linux Foundation's endorsement is sufficient and that Linus's signature would be redundant.
    But if that were true, why did Theodore Ts'o put his name on the statement? He is part of the Foundation's management.

  • by at_slashdot (674436) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:28AM (#23913473)

    Does begging really work? I mean asking people doesn't usually solve anything, you need to either show them a carrot and/or a stick... not sure if Linux has enough of either (yet)

  • by cerberusss (660701) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:29AM (#23913477) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand nVidia and other companies. One of the arguments is that the driver makes the difference between higher- or lowerpriced cards, thus open-sourcing this stuff will make the differences go away. Now I've worked with hardware engineers making FPGAs and ASICs -- I don't see why these graphics cards simply read their config from an EPROM or a small piece of flash, thus letting the driver not make any difference at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by s4m7 (519684)
      EPROM costs more than software bits. Besides, EPROMs are easily hacked too.
      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:56AM (#23913889)

        EPROM costs more than software bits. Besides, EPROMs are easily hacked too
        All modern video cards already have EEPROMs on them.
        In fact, that's precisely how both nvidia and ati differentiate their "professional" cards from their "consumer" cards.
        Ease of 'hacking' apparently isn't much of a concern because cards from both vendors have been 'upgradeable' in this manner for more than a decade.
    • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:07AM (#23913679) Homepage

      The graphics card industry is cutthroat. The hardware is only part of the story - the drivers also do a lot of optimizing. They are probably worried competitors will use their own tricks against them.

      Drivers compile shaders into something the video card can run - maybe they think their compiler optimizes better. On Windows at least, nVidia drivers will try to use SMP to prepare a few frames in advance for more efficient streaming.

      • The problems is also that there's a lot of "imaginary property" from very diverse source going into both the graphic card and the driver.

        Companies can seldom "just release the source" of the drivers. They should either go the trouble of contacting all the 3rd party which were mandated to built parts and renegotiate a new agreement allowing the opening of the final product.
        Or they should go the trouble of slowly re-writting a non NDA'ed documentation, that could be published freely on the net. But which woul

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        So release a GPL driver that doesn't optimize! I don't even care if my framerate is a little low compared to Windows; I just want it to at least work!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Fair. From what I've heard though, ATI/AMD isn't releasing their optimized drivers. They're releasing open source reference drivers. There's no reason nVidia can't do that.
    • by Rufus211 (221883) <(rufus-slashdot) (at) (hackish.org)> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:17AM (#23913713) Homepage

      Drivers don't make the difference between the high- and low- end cards anymore. It used to be that the card would report a device ID, and then the driver would enable/disable features based on that device ID. This allowed both software mods and simple board mods to switch device ID in order to enable Quadro / FireGL features on GeForce / Radeon cards.

      That's not the case anymore, which is why you can't find any mods for recent cards.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:30AM (#23913775)

      No the driver doesn't make the difference between high and low end cards. There is always a BIOS change at a minimum (videocards have their own BIOS). There are three reasons why nVidia claims they can't open source their drivers:

      1) They incorporate third party proprietary code. This is almost certainly the case. I'm betting that some or maybe even all of it isn't secret, but it is still licensed none the less. That means they'd have to either change the driver to leave those features out and/or rewrite the code themselves which could involve some expensive clean room/dirty room techniques. Remember that they can't play the Xvid game of "Well we don't distribute it compiled so don't need to pay a license." Ya that won't won't work for a company who is providing the code for the clear purpose of making their cards work. They'd get sued (and they'd lose).

      2) Their drivers are one of the things that make their cards more attractive than their competition. nVidia and ATi are locked in a major battle for computer marketshare. This is fought in terms of performance, whether raw performance at the high end or performance per dollar in the midrange. They are interested in every advantage they can get over one another. Well those advantages can come in software as well as hardware. For example nVidia has historically had very good OpenGL performance on Windows. All things being equal, an app would run equally well in either. ATi has not, DirectX has always performed better. Well if ATi got at nVidia's source, maybe they'd use those tricks to make their drivers perform better.

      3) Special things like PhysX support. Coming out very soon (you can already find betas floating about) for Windows are drivers that will support hardware acceleration of the PhysX physics middleware engine on GeForce 8 and up cards. nVidia bought Ageia and has been working on this. They intend to use it to help move graphics cards. So game devs buy PhysX to handle their physics. Unreal Engine 3 uses it, for example, it is a major competitor to Havok. Well then those games will be able to have special hardwrae accelerated feature if they want... on nVidia cards. You have an ATi card you are out of luck. Of course if they GPL'd all that, ATi could take it and use it. They'd have to release any modifications, but they could still nab all the code and make their cards also do PhysX.

      Now I'm not saying any of these are reasons you should agree with, please don't argue with me about them I don't work for nVidia I'm not making the rules. I'm just trying to help you understand why they aren't interested in open sourcing their drivers. With something like a network card or RAID controller, the drivers are generally pretty simple and are just a tool to make the hardware work. Thus there isn't really anything in them to protect and most companies probably wouldn't mind them being open if they really stopped to think about it. Their competitors would gain nothing from selling them anyhow.

      That's not the case for GPU drivers. They are a large part of the picture in terms of performance and user experience. Thus improvements to them can give your cards a competitive edge over the others and thus nVidia isn't so interested in releasing them. Hell it can be real simple things sometimes. I used to have an LCD monitor with no scaler controls. What that meant was any image you fed it that was not at its native resolution, it stretched without regard for aspect ratio to full screen. That sort of thing bugs the shit out of me. I want aspect correct scaling. However, it wasn't a problem. nVidia cards can handle that, and I just told my card to do it.

      At the time though, ATi cards couldn't (dunno how it stands now). That means that I more or less had to write off ATi so long as I kept that particular monitor. I wanted a feature that only nVidia could deliver. If nVidia's drivers had been open source, well perhaps ATi could have just grabbed the scaling code (it seemed to be driver based, not hardware based) and used it.

      So it is a complex situation. I'm not defending nVidia's handling of it, just trying to help you understand why they do as they do.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:53AM (#23914373)

        Well, NVidia USED to say that. They said it was stuff by SGI.

        When SGI were talked to, they said that nothing NVidia had from them they have a problem with GPLing. So either

        a) They lied
        b) They have stuff from SGI that they are hiding because they haven't paid for it
        c) They have another reason for it

        Now NVidia don't say this any more, just fans of NVidia. Even if NVidia did say, they won't say any more WHOSE IP they have so we can ask this supplier about it.

      • by mpe (36238) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:47AM (#23914619)
        There are three reasons why nVidia claims they can't open source their drivers:

        This isn't what they are being asked for. They are being asked for specifications, there are people perfectly prepared to write drivers.

        1) They incorporate third party proprietary code. This is almost certainly the case. I'm betting that some or maybe even all of it isn't secret, but it is still licensed none the less. That means they'd have to either change the driver to leave those features out and/or rewrite the code themselves which could involve some expensive clean room/dirty room techniques. Remember that they can't play the Xvid game of "Well we don't distribute it compiled so don't need to pay a license." Ya that won't won't work for a company who is providing the code for the clear purpose of making their cards work. They'd get sued (and they'd lose).

        None of it's secret since they make all sorts of binaries available. Indeed having multiple binaries for the same piece of hardware may make reverse engineering easier.
    • by Mattsson (105422)

      This would be circumvented.

      1. Put Quadro/FireGL card in computer
      2. Have a modified driver save the content that it reads from the EPROM into a file
      3. Put Non-Quadro/Non-FireGL card in computer
      4. Have a modified driver read the file instead of the EPROM
      Viola. Your cheap gamer-card is now an expensive professional CAD/CAM-workstation card.

      It's already been done with proprietary drivers via stuff like the SoftQuadro hack
      The problem is that it's not the card doing something special due to special drivers, that

    • It's the business pricing model. Rather than merely having one price and one set of features, and accepting the business that this balance will provide, this allows NVidia and companies like them to simply scale back the features to gain customers with less money to spend. And doing it as a driver, rather than as a hardware difference, tremendously eases manufacturing requirements. We've seen this for decades in all sorts of products, such as a lot of DEC computers from decades ago that required only a few

  • by Icy_Infinity (1313035) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:39AM (#23913515)

    There is only one thing holding back Linux from being used more wide-spread.

    Gamers, the Linux community just doesn't care for them. But that is wrong, just wrong. Gamers are the reason why computers are the way they are nowadays, without good games to play on our electronic devices I guarantee that computers wouldn't be a big as they are today, and that's something that Linux has always failed to do bring us top-shelf gaming

    having open source graphic drivers would be nice but i don't think that is the true problem for games on Linux

    there true enemy that needs to be defeated before Linux even has a chance at becoming mainstream:

    Games for Windows

    The fug-tards at Microsoft pay off every last PC game maker to put their dirty label on everything even the damn game reviews have that garbage label on it for god sakes.

    They do it because they know no one else stands a chance in the PC gaming market. Stop them please stop Microsoft and there proprietary-ness. Defeat games for windows and Linux will be main stream, because freedom and openness shouldn't be a standard just for big iron. Theirs little guys like me that would love nothing other than to give windows the old heave-ho but can't because where all locked down in a homeostasis environment.

    Also running in an emulated environment just doesn't cut it - it could be possible but WINE just can't do it for some games. Normally the games that don't run are the most proprietary ones sadly but there's still room for them in the sphere that is Linux. Help make a home for gamers where there not locked and bogged down by corporate greed. crack Games for Windows and please dear god make "Games for Linux" a reality

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrsteveman1 (1010381)

      DirectX is the real problem there i suppose.

    • by dunezone (899268)
      Its numbers not games. Windows is the dominant OS, unless Linux starts taking a 30-40% share of the market, its still an underdog.

      Now, if your a developer with limited funds, would you build both a Linux version and a Windows version? No. Companies that can do this are ID Software and Blizzard because they have the resources to accomplish this. Remember, its not just building the game, its also supporting it later on.

      You could apply this theory to the application area of Linux also.
      • True, though it would be nice if we could start convincing game developers to use OpenGL and SDL at the very least.

    • by debatem1 (1087307)
      So, I guess you'll be writing DirectX for Linux, then? And yes, I see your point. I just wish I didn't have to. Gamers make my teeth ache.
    • by houghi (78078)

      I would say the most important part is pre-installation.
      Now Linux has to compete with pre-installed systems. Imagine how easy it would be for the end-user to go to the store and buy it.

      This would put the burden of testing the hardware and provide drivers on the people making the PC. They will the buy only hardware that they can support, which will lead to drivers being written for them, otherwise they won't sell them.

      This will mean more people with Linux, which will mean gaming companies will write the gam

      • And NVidia i a real burden this way. Their driver installers for Linux move aside your existing your OpenGL libraries, without notifying the package manager. This means that your next software update or rebuild will ruin your NVidia drivers, because the package manager does not know about these semi-manually installed files.

        It wouldn't be hard to fix by incorporating the NVidia software into a managed software package for automatic installation, but NVidia clearly wants people to click on the end-user licen

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)

      Gamers, the Linux community just doesn't care for them.

      Why do you think kernel developers want nvidia drivers to open ?
      The OSS community cares for gamers but can't care too much for commercial games. Look around a bit, you'll find many OSS games. Strategy, FPS, action. There are also more and more commercial games that come with a linux version.

      The niche of the "latest cutting-edge FPS with extra glitter and shaders 15.6 with 2X PhysX simulation" is today on windows, that's right. That's in part because graphical drivers sucks on linux. Open them, let them

    • by daffmeister (602502) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:55AM (#23914965) Homepage

      In what way doesn't the linux community care for gamers? What features of the kernel or graphics systems do you believe are missing?

      The problem is with the game developers, not the linux community.

      And that's a simple problem of market share. As long as Windows is by far the dominant OS game developers will focus their efforts on that.

  • Where's Linus? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ewasx (207402)


    Did anyone else notice that Linus himself is not on that list? Does this mean that he doesn't mind closed source modules?

    • by Fri13 (963421)

      I dont know about Linus but many coder, do not care, they just want working thing for customers, and they talk behalf of the customers that customers do not care about GPL or freedom.

      I think that is in long run very stupid attitude, it is like shooting to a own leg.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:53AM (#23913595)

    Shipping drivers for only windows is bad, but shipping drivers for only windows and linux is (magically!!) good???

    Fight for open specifications. That will enable any competent driver-writer to write drivers and all OSs can compete on fair grounds. By technical documentation, I don't mean "the guide to programming the Emc2x86" kind of stuff. There should be "The exhaustive reference to programming the Emc2x86" kind of stuff. There should the following guarantees associated with the documentation, only then the hardware can be called as "openly documented hardware":

    1. For a sufficiently competent programmer, the documentation supplied is enough to achieve 100% feature parity with the proprietary drivers.

    2. The documentation supplied must contain as a subset, all interfacial knowledge known to the writers of the proprietary drivers.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:37AM (#23913811)

      > 1. For a sufficiently competent programmer, the documentation supplied is enough to achieve 100% feature parity with the proprietary drivers.

      No it doesn't. Your assuming time doesn't matter and that the hardware follows the documentation.

      Time does matter because if a person releases a product to market without a pre-existing Linux driver then Linux people can't use it until developers purchase it and begin hacking on it.

      Hardware has bugs, like software. Also hardware deviates from specifications. For example with both ATI and Intel video hardware they are subject to variations that individual motherboard and video card manufacturers create.

      Without assistance from the people who actually worked on developing the hardware then your going to end up doing a lot of trial and error to figure out what is wrong.

      > 2. The documentation supplied must contain as a subset, all interfacial knowledge known to the writers of the proprietary drivers.

      Your assuming that such documentation exists or that it's even possible for that manufacturer to create, and that they can afford to create such documentation. Not everybody has all the time and money in the world to create extensive documentation for their products.

      Not everybody has the budget and experience that Intel and AMD have...

      The reality of the situation that is unless you have the attention of OEMs and have people that are willing to work on the inside with the manufacturers to work on documentation and drivers then isn't going to get the same level of attention that even Linux gets.

      Because of the realities surrounding developing hardware having working, open source, Linux drivers is the best documentation that your going to get, and in fact are often superior.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:01AM (#23913653)

    In other news Linus Torvalds has announced that he's working on a cutting-edge AI project. It was under wraps, but a really interesting post [slashdot.org] on a well-known tech community site, persuaded him of the need to release details earlier than planned.

    Torvalds described the AI as being part of an 'Free Software enforcement bot', code named 'The Stallmanator'. Features include:

    • parachuting into enemy headquarters;
    • target, seek, interrogate, and destroy hostile egg-headed CEO's;
    • 'IntelliChairSense' - a 360 degree flying-chair-threat detector;
    • special persuasion tactics for coercing proprietary software loving devs, lawyers, CEO/CIO's to see the light of Free software;
    • a selection of quotes, which are planned for the MiniStallmanator doll, that the kids will just love (said with a realistic Schwartzenegger accent):

      'I need your patents, your code and your motorcycle.'

      'Free your hardware specifications and drivers, if you want to live.'

      'I'll be busy (eating Cheetos)'

      'The GNUNet funding bill is passed. The system goes online on August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from Debian package management. GNUNet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14am Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.'

      'Hurd up, homies.'

    With DARPA backing this project, I don't think the likes of nVidia or Lexmark will hold out for long. They're likely to get 'Stallmanated'.

  • by thesupraman (179040) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:06AM (#23913673)

    I posted this over at RWT a month or so ago..

    >Here is really the main point, which you're brushing
    >aside -- this makes the hardware worth more, because
    >you're making it potentially more usable for end users.
    >Maybe not all end-users, but certainly some. I don't
    >understand why you say it's a "very different kettle of
    >fish" ? Different than releasing the specs? If anything
    >it means fixes will happen faster.

    I am not brushing anything aside, I am saying that a lot of people for a long time have ranted about opensource drivers for advanced video cards - and as yet I have seen no-one discuss it at a level that actually addresses what would be involved.

    My 'very different kettle of fish' above is the vendors actually releasing full-stack sourcecode, versus just hardware specs.

    My position on the hardware specs (and I am not claiming proof for this, it is only my position) is that it is next to useless for high-performance users. We may well see competent 2d opensource drivers, and 3d ones that can limp along - however graphics hardware has moved a LONG way from there.

    I would *love* to see a fully opensource stack with high performance for opengl, however is it practical?

    In your reply (sorry, I clipped it back a bit for brevity) you mentioned harddrive makers doing sector remapping - that is probably a whole few pages of code in their controllers. For a full modern opengl stack we are probably talking in the millions of lines region - we are talking of something with a scope not unlike the linux kernel itself, or at least a good proportion of it.
    This is NOT similar to any other type of driver that I can think of - it is an almost unique case.

    Just looking at opengl, the cards driver needs to be able to handle multiple simultaneous execution of overlapped and scheduled code, all in realtime, on in the region of 100-300 semi-linked vector cpus, all without cross-interference, while also maintain multiple streams of data at GB rates in and out of the card, and all while following a VERY explicit and highly complex set of rules governing the results.

    Put another way, these devices are bleeding edge modern realtime computers, on a card - and their 'drivers' are really realtime OSs, although highly specialised.

    Intel, in its infinite wisdom, as about to try and take that to the next level - making such cards x86ish, with an eye I suspect to reducing the complexity of software entry, after having failed miserably to write working drivers for their existing (965, g35, g45 so far) hardware.

    All I say is lets cut these guys some slack - the capability of the hardware/software combination of a 9600gt, for around $150, is simply astounding. Should they expect 'help' from kernel developers, etc? of course not. Should they be punished? I say no.

    Anyhow, I know that is bordering on preaching, and of course very opinionated - however I do like to see things treated with an even hand, and I have not always seen that happen with the issue of opensource 3d graphics drivers.

  • by pembo13 (770295) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:29AM (#23913771) Homepage
    Regardless if I am buying for myself or a client, or for Windows or GNU/Linux, explicit Linux support (by way of drivers) is always a +1 for me.
  • This is bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jopet (538074) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @04:25AM (#23914025) Journal

    While I like the idea of open source and develop nearly exclusively open-source myself, i find it counterproductive to insist on open-source drivers. This is not a religious war, or should not be. This should be about pragmatically doing everything to create a useful alternative to other OS. This should be about making Linux successful.

    It simply will never happen that we get open-source drivers for all the hardware Windows users are enjoying. Make it as easy as possible to get *any* form of driver, make it so that binary drivers cannot kill the system and it will still be difficult to get enough drivers to not make users shy away from Linux.

    Then, when we have 50% market share you can start putting pressure on hardware vendors, not now.

    • by JohnFluxx (413620)

      Sounds awful - then you get a situation where you have binary drivers which mostly can't be shipped with the distribution, can't be updated, only work with a certain kernel version on a certain distro...

      Sounds terrible

  • by wrook (134116) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @04:44AM (#23914129) Homepage

    One thing that I've started realizing lately is that we need to improve the open source drivers that we already have. This may give companies more incentive to open their own drivers.

    For example, we are all happy about the free software drivers that Intel provides for the i950, etc graphics chipsets. However, there are still some significant 3D performance issues with this driver. I don't blame the team working on it because they have other important priorities. However, it is a fact that games run many times faster on Windows with this chipset than in X (and I'm not just talking about Wine games). Games like Vegastrike just don't run acceptably in X on a i945GM box -- and it should be able to handle this game easily.

    If we could pick a few drivers that need help and make them indisputably good, this might provide incentive for companies to support our efforts.

    I would be happy to start working on the the Intel graphics driver with an aim to improving its 3D performance. However, even though I have 20 years of application development, I'm a newbie at driver development. I don't know where to start. If anyone can point me in the right direction.... Even if it takes me a really long time to make any improvement, I'll at least be another pair of eyes.

  • Such arrogance... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JazzManDRP (158742) <slashdot@NOSpAm.puzey.net> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @04:55AM (#23914161) Homepage
    Hardware vendors like nVidia run a business. They run a business to make money. If nVidia didn't make financially-successful decisions, they wouldn't exist to be producing the graphics cards in the first place. That's all there is to it.

    If there was money in Linux they'd be right there, open-source drivers and all, but there isn't. This is a fact that open-source developers never seem to understand. You can cheerfully dedicate half your life to creating this wonderful utopian software, but you can't force your ideals on someone else - especially on a company whose aims do not coincide with yours. Make it a financially beneficial proposition, and nVidia will spend the time and money on creating those drivers - but I doubt it's anything near that.

    What responsibility do nVidia have towards the Linux desktop? The same as they have towards Windows: absolutely none. But they support Windows because 90% of desktops with their graphics cards installed run Windows.

    And yes, Intel and ATI have managed to push out open source drivers - that's up to them, but I don't imagine they make profit from it. Yes, it's a real pain in the arse to work with binary drivers. Yes, if nVidia were to release open-source drivers the world would be a happier place. But to act like Linux users have some *right* to these drivers is childish and arrogant.

    What Linux users have the right to do is buy a different graphics card.

    • by chrb (1083577) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:02AM (#23914693)

      It might be arrogance to *force* nVidia to support Linux, or to insist that Linux users have the *right* to open source drivers. However, that isn't what the authors of this statement are doing - they aren't storming nVidia HQ in an armed revolution, but merely pointing out that binary drivers are a PITA, and asked companies nicely to consider releasing open source drivers in the future. And that's fine.

  • by transiit (33489) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:05AM (#23914183) Homepage Journal

    I'm seeing a lot of these responses get hung up on their personal idealism. I'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt that there is no significant astro-turfing going on here.

    But after seeing a multitude of responses suggesting the complexity of graphics cards above all other device drivers, I sort of wonder: Are we believing a myth?

    I see countless articles about how GPUs are such advanced pieces of tech. I see tons of anecdotal evidence about how more optimized they are.

    But after years of hearing how good Card A is against Card B at API X vs API Y, I sort of wonder...wow, what a coincidence that both happen to be really good at their next possible market.

    Device drivers are tricky business, no question. All I ever seem to see is the same arguments from interested passers-by explaining how they couldn't open up their drivers because they'd give away some secret, or there's no incentive to give away their secret sauce because they've spent so much more time and money than some other specialized sector.

    I think at this point, I'd be as happy to see these companies open up their specs to the point of third-party ground-up implementations as I would hearing one of them go on the record as to their reasons why they feel they can't.

  • by Marcion (876801) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:24AM (#23914257) Homepage Journal

    Nvidia is a company that exists to make money.The question that Nvidia needs to think about is whether the number of Linux users (including those on the EEEPC, high-end phones and more specialised embedded devices) have outgrown the number of hardcore Windows PC gamers?

    Whatever you think about the answer to the question, I'm sure you will agree that going forwards, the growth in embedded devices will certainly increase faster than Windows gaming.

    When a company makes an embedded device, time to market is often really critical, so of course it chooses whatever hardware causes the the least fuss. Nvidia might find that Intel and ATI will increasingly dominate this space.

    If Nvidia wants a share of the open source market in five years time, then it needs to start planning for an open source driver now, e.g. not putting any more third party proprietary code in its driver.

  • by jopet (538074) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:45AM (#23914345) Journal

    Is it technically impossible to provide for closed-source drivers in Linux? Or is this just yet another religious issue from people who want to force their own views on anyone else?

    Many people simply want Linux as an alternative to Windows, and a good alternative it is already. But insisting on open-source drivers will make the situation worse, not better in the long run: more and more special-purpose hardware is getting attached to the computer; mobile devices, chipcard readers, entertainment devices, GPS devices ... the list goes on and on.

    It is simply naive to think that we will get open-source drivers for all of these. We can be happy if we get some sort of half-baked closed source driver.

    At the current moment I have the following devices that do not work fully with Linux:
        - A canon camera: PTP transfer works, but under Windows I can also remote control it, do timed picture grabs, remote view the sensor -- none of which works with Linux
        - A Garming GPS device: nearly nothing works under Linux, the software for managing (proprietary of course) maps is only available under Windows, routes management only works with that software
        - A Sony-Ericcson mobile phone: mounting as a removable device works, but there is no decent support for synchronizing as under Windows
        - All-in-one printer/fax/copier most of these do not work or are limited under Linux in comparison to Windows. Nearly all ink printers still have severe limitations under Linux.
        - Wireless: several cards I have tried to not work at all or do not supprot WPA
        - A digital multimeter: only comes with software that runs under Windows
        - A chip-card reader and the infrastructure to use it for secure payment and authentification - only usable under Windows and Mac.

    I do not think that the make everything opensource issue is of such a high priority yet when all these things actually prevent the use of Linux: if somebody does have to use Windows or Mac to use any of the things they need, why should they use Linux in the first place?

    • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:27AM (#23914815) Homepage

      "Is it technically impossible to provide for closed-source drivers in Linux?"

      No. But it provides an ENORMOUS technical and legal hurdle (nobody's even sure yet if binary kernel modules are legal in most countries, although the *intention* is that they are). Supporting closed-source means, at some point, freezing interfaces, which means supporting every version of every interface created indefinitely. That's an AWFUL lot of work that would have to be done by precisely the people who don't want to do it and have enough to do already. You are doubling their workload by this simple request.

      "Many people simply want Linux as an alternative to Windows, and a good alternative it is already."

      Correct. Unfortunately, that's up to THEM to do something about, because that's not why Linux existed, exists or continues to exist. Linux is an OS, so in that sense it's an alternative. But it's not Windows. It won't ever BE Windows. It's just an OS. Who here complains to Apple because the Mac doesn't work with their Windows-only printer? Very, very few people.

      "But insisting on open-source drivers will make the situation worse, not better in the long run: more and more special-purpose hardware is getting attached to the computer; mobile devices, chipcard readers, entertainment devices, GPS devices ... the list goes on and on."

      Yep. And none of it we know how to drive, how to support, how to operate, how to upgrade, how to interface or how to port to other machines (like, I don't know, all those other alternative OS's that don't have compatibility layers). It's all just "black boxes" that sometimes (often, actually) the manufacturer's don't even know how they work. Just throwing in drivers "because they work now" isn't any good in the future, and certainly isn't any better than saying "Well, you'll have to run DOS if you want X to work". What's the difference between that and "You have to use Linux kernel 2.5.12 and our binary-only driver v 1.4.1"? The latter is available now for all current closed-source Linux drivers too... I can run my ATI card on Linux 2.6.1 with an old ATI driver just dandy. I could never upgrade that machine, though. They stopped supporting my card and they made the last compatible release for kernel 2.6.15.

      Closed source drivers work now and break (for certain) in the future. Open source drivers have trouble working now (although that's not certain) but work the same or better in the future. With company co-operation, that can turn into "works before the product is out, works until there aren't any products that use the same driver in the general marketplace". Look at some of the 10Gig cards, or NX-capable processsors - there were drivers in Linux for them before anyone had even put their products out on the market.

      "It is simply naive to think that we will get open-source drivers for all of these."

      But experience shows you wrong - every single network card vendor on the planet had the same idea of not supporting their cards. Now almost every single network card, from token ring to wireless-N, on the planet is supported, and usually supported under Linux first. The only hardware that *doesn't* work is stuff that people don't care enough about to reverse-engineer or to build a compatibility layer for, or where there are legal issues. For those same hardware, even the closed-source drivers are now usually, or will be soon. And to be honest, most of that stuff won't work in Vista, or ME, or 98, or DOS, or Mac or anything else. And in a few years time, it'll break BEYOND REPAIR even in Windows either by a Window Service Pack or the next version of Windows.

      Intel have Open-Source chipsets. AMD/ATI are open-sourcing. RaLink release a set of GPL drivers for their wireless cards. *Virtually* every piece of hardware in the world (as a percentage of overall items sold, e.g. the "production-run-of-ten" cheap knock-off PCI cards that don't have OS drivers don't really count against the 10 million sound cards sold which run

  • Why does hardware need to be so non standard and proprietary requiring its own drivers?

    Take for example USB1, all USB controllers from many different manufacturers work with generic UHCI or OHCI drivers.

    USB2 is even better, since all controllers support EHCI.

    SATA potentially has AHCI, tho not all controllers support it.

    Most CPUs have the x86 instruction set.

    Video cards have VGA/SVGA/VESA, tho these specs are obviously far too old to be useful today.

    Sound cards have soundblaster compatibility, and more recently AC97.

    Proper modems have the Hayes command set, not counting some software modems.

    Printers have postscript, tho typically only higher end printers support it.

    If you have standards in hardware then the issue of drivers goes away... Your OS can provide drivers for the standard hardware, and thus not have third party driver code in the kernel... This would cure the Linux driver problem, and cure a majority of Windows crashes.

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