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SGI Releases OpenGL As Free Software 167

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the let-my-graphics-go dept.
StoneLion writes "Since its release, the OpenGL code that is responsible for 3-D acceleration on GNU/Linux has been running on licenses that were accepted by neither the Free Software Foundation (FSF) nor the Open Source Initiative. Today, however, the FSF has announced that the licenses in question have been rewritten, the problems resolved, and the code freed. Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF, says, 'This represents a huge gift to the free software community.'"
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SGI Releases OpenGL As Free Software

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  • Good news! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fprintf (82740)

    Great news for the community. Now lets hope this helps redirect resources, so I can get those laptop drivers fixed, and then I can finally sleep/hibernate properly!

    • Re:Good news! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nawcom (941663) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:10AM (#25072503) Homepage

      Great news for the community. Now lets hope this helps redirect resources, so I can get those laptop drivers fixed, and then I can finally sleep/hibernate properly!

      I've never heard of ACPI depending on an API for generating polygons, but hey whateva.

      • by BPPG (1181851) <bppg1986@gmail.com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:19AM (#25072635)

        What are you talking about? Hibernation requires you to draw two large black polygons to cover your screen to save power.

        • by nawcom (941663) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:22AM (#25072677) Homepage
          HAH! Mine only takes one!
          • by Cillian (1003268)
            Are we talking two polygons because of the backbuffer, or because they are tessalated? Or am I just being stupid?
          • by Machtyn (759119)
            Yah? Mine does it faster!
      • Seriously (Score:5, Informative)

        by DrYak (748999) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:50PM (#25074189) Homepage

        I can get those laptop drivers fixed, and then I can finally sleep/hibernate properly!

        I've never heard of ACPI depending on an API for generating polygons, but hey whateva.

        In short ACPI will take care to shut down and turn back on the power consumption of the PCIe bus. But on wake up, the *graphic drivers* will take care that everything, including the content of the graphical memory, etc. return to the exact same state, as if the 3D application running where never interrupted.

        Giving an opensource OpenGL 3.x leaves more time for the developers for other parts of the drivers : to develop a nice DRI2/TTM/GEM underneath fixing low level problems like sleep/wake-up among other.

  • by Black Art (3335) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:07AM (#25072441)

    There are still a number of patents covering portions of the OpenGL functions. Does this grant a license for use or are we stuck with partial implementations?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:08AM (#25072453)

    http://www.sgi.com/company_info/newsroom/press_releases/2008/september/opengl.html

    Free Software Foundation and Khronos Group Both Herald New License of Industry Standard Graphics Software

    SUNNYVALE, Calif. (Sept. 19, 2008) â" As software developers the world over prepare to mark the 25th anniversary of the GNU System, Silicon Graphics, Inc. (NASDAQ: SGIC) today announced it is releasing a new version of the SGI Free Software License B. The license, which now mirrors the free X11 license used by X.Org, further opens previously released SGI® graphics software that has set the industry standard for visualization software and has proven essential to GNU/Linux® and a host of applications.

    Today's announcement affects software created by SGI that forms the building blocks of many elements of today's gaming, visual computing, and immersive experiential technologies, including a wide range of proven visualization solutions provided by SGI.

    Previous SGI contributions to the free and open source community are now available under the new license. These contributions include the SGI® OpenGL® Sample Implementation, the GLXâ API and other GLX extensions. GLX provides the glue connecting OpenGL and the X Window Systemâ and is required by any OpenGL implementation using X. GLX is vital to a range of free and commercial software, including all major Linux distributions.

    SGI first released the software under a licensing model in 1999. But now SGI is pleased to release an updated version of the license that meets the free and open source software community's widely accepted definition of "free."

    "SGI has been one of the most ardent commercial supporters of free and open source software, so it was important to us that we continue to support the free software development community by releasing our earlier OpenGL-related contributions under this new license," said Steve Neuner, director of Linux, SGI. "This license ensures that all existing user communities will benefit, and their work can proceed unimpeded. Both Mesa and the X.org Project can continue to utilize this code in free software distributions of GNU/Linux. Now more than ever, software previously released by SGI under earlier GLX and SGI Free Software License B is free."

  • Nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:09AM (#25072475)

    Interfaces are one of the most important things in modern software creation. Interfaces are often established by implementations. This change by SGI makes sure OpenGL will stay used and even wider adopted. As far as I can see, it is the only graphics library standard that has the potential for long-term usage.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      I'm glad. Now, can we get it implemented in the browser? Then we'd have a first-class GUI for thin clients that'd really make the web better. maybe.

      • It already is. It's called VRML. And in the typical, retarded way, it's ultraverbose XML instead of a proper binary format like EBML.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:10AM (#25072491) Homepage Journal

    Don't be a jerk about it. From the article.

    "Someone came to me on IRC and asked if people should start sending angry faxes to SGI, telling them to please clean up their licenses. And I was like, 'No, that's not the right message right now.' We were trying to avoid that kind of reaction, because among the people in the GNewSense community, there was a visceral reaction initially, and it took some time for people to realize that we needed to give them a chance. And it really paid off. SGI was very willing to work with us throughout the entire process.""

    • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:23AM (#25072689)

      I think it depends really.

      In the recent Ubuntu/Mozilla case, both Ubuntu and Fedora had behind-the-scenes quiet negotiations with Mozilla over the EULAs. However Mozilla insisted that it wanted and needed the EULA.

      It wasn't until there was a fairly big uproar about it did Mozilla come back to the table to renegotiate.

      So sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the grease :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        Yea but only until that wheel can be replaced. Honestly I really doubt that any of the venom from the masses had anything to do with Mozilla renegotiating. The suggestion that Ubuntu would create or use an unlabeled "fork" of FireFox probably did a lot more than any of the screaming.
        I don't have any problem with a click through EULA. If nothing else in the case of free software it tells people that they do have the right to use and even give it to other people.

        • Personally I think it will unload a lot of terms on average users they don't understand or care about (who reads a EULA anyway) but the main concern is the message it sends; usually an EULA is a big, half-unenforceable document intended to scare you into not doing anything.

          Since any unenforceable provision is simply discarded without affecting the rest of the document, the company can sue you into oblivion any time it wants.

          I don't think it's unreasonable of the Mozilla foundation to want this, but I'm some

        • by JohnFluxx (413620)

          But why would Ubuntu use an unbranded version of Firefox if there was no 'screaming' as you put it? If it wasn't for the screaming, Ubuntu wouldn't have particularly pushed it, and there would now be a EULA.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Because the Ubuntu developers don't like the EULA. Frankly I think that whole mess was one of the biggest waste of times on the planet.
            Yes the EULA was useless but it was also harmless.

            • by ArsonSmith (13997)

              They didn't want an unnecessary pop-up for people to have to click through. They didn't care about the verbiage as much as that one issue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kjella (173770)

        Well, with the recent Firefox issue the FLOSS community was on both sides of the table and they're both fairly dependent on each other, it's a bit different than when you're trying to ask for a unilateral favor since I don't see SGI getting much in return, nor the FSF/OSI having much power if they refused. At least the distros could have banded together, told Mozilla that from now on Firefox on Linux == Iceweasel and built their own trademark. Debian doing it is just a freak thing, every distro doing it mea

        • by JohnFluxx (413620)

          Oh sure, I wasn't making any comment in this particular case.

        • by mwlewis (794711)
          It's true that it would have reduced Mozilla's value with respect to Linux, no amount of distro forking would be likely to have an appreciable affect on FF in Windows, which has got to be a much bigger value for Mozilla.
        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          I don't think Linux matters much to Mozilla to be honest at least when it comes to dollars and cents. Windows users account for most of their money to be honest. I am just glad they are working it out and not stopping development of the Linux version.
          And NO not Iceweasel! I am not one to complain about names but that one is just a step too far. Why not just Windroach, or Earthcrab?

    • If angry letters would have any effect then polite ones would have a better one.

  • The link to the GLX public license lists version 1.0 which seems to still have the problematic clauses.

  • Big news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mnmn (145599) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:11AM (#25072521) Homepage
    I'm surprised that opengl was never really 'open'. It now makes sense why it wasnt a part of glibc and/or xfree86 until recently.

    The opening of video card drivers and now opengl are major steps in the success of linux on the desktop (and for gamers).

    Just imagine, we can now add opengl to Heretic and Command and Conquer, and it can all still be very much free. I can't wait for when I can port Halflife2 to Linux.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BPPG (1181851)

      Strictly speaking, the games themselves would still be proprietary. But I've never met a free software advocate who had very strong principles against closed source games.

      But this is very good news for free games and compositing managers. Hopefully it will also encourage more development and patches on OpenGL, as well; which helps everyone and not just the people building a free system.

    • Re:Big news (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ngarrang (1023425) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:36AM (#25072867) Journal

      Will this new benefit or hurt Duke Nukem Forever? This is the question we should all be pondering.

      • by ravyne (858869)
        DNF will undergo is 6th "ground-up" re-write.
        Launch date will be pushed back accordingly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ThePhilips (752041)

      "Open" in business denotes that other businesses are also allowed participate. And OpenGL was in that sense "open": many used the library, many contributed extensions and features.

      As library - it is (was?) proprietary closed source. As standard - it is open.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      I don't really understand this situation. I thought OpenGL was an api, not a program. Mesa is a free software implementation of that API.

      I guess I was mistaken. Specifically what code was problematic before, and why wasn't it rewritten?

      • Re:Big news (Score:5, Informative)

        by mikael (484) on Friday September 19, 2008 @04:08PM (#25077919)

        SGI offered a sample software implementation of an OpenGL device driver to hardware vendors. This source code would provide a software specification of the way that any hardware should behave. It could be used as a fallback if a hardware vendor didn't choose to implement a particular feature of OpenGL functionality directly in hardware. It would be the responsibility of the hardware vendor to choose what to implement in hardware and software. Early consumer boards just did the rasterization, and used the Intel MMX2/AMD 3DNow! instructions to do the TLC (transformation/lighting/clipping).

        A professional board or gaming card would do everything in hardware. Because of the way OpenGL is implemented, there are a multitude of ways of sending down geometry - any combination of vertices plus optional outward normals/texture coordinates/colors for triangles, quads, triangle strips, triangle fans, line or points. And these might be integers, 16-bit/32-bit/64-bit floating point. Each particular combination might or might not be optimized for the hardware. There was a big fuss in the past, because vendors chose only to optimize the particular combinations for the Quake game. Home developers were confused why their implementations would run slower than the real Quake.

        For every possible option at a particular layer (vertex transformation, vertex lighting, vertex clipping, triangle rasterization), there would be a function pointer choosing which function call to make - either to the software implementation or writing to hardware registers.

        Mesa-GL is a open-source implementation of the OpenGL specification, written by the open-source community and not SGI. OpenGL was originally a rewrite of SGI proprietary SGI-GL API which worked on all workstations from Indigo's to Extreme's. SGI was charging vendors a license fee for access to their software implementation, which included a verification test suite for hardware. Because of this, they were reluctant to make the software open source.

        But with the evolution of 3D hardware, the free availability of an open-source version of OpenGL and the possibility that programmers might even get to be able to use the GPU to write directly to the framebuffer once again, it is strategic for SGI to make this software open source.

        Before DirectX and OpenGL, game programmers only used either Mode 13 with 320x200x256 color palette (or other VESA 256 color modes) to write directly to the hardware. Programmers could just use whatever algorithm they could think of - use the 256 color-palette as a Z-buffer for rendering spheres, depth-shading effects, color cycling, sprite animation. Have 16 sub-palettes each a shade darker than the others and you could do shadow effects. Create a pixelmap C++ class that could be memory-mapped to the framebuffer, add some block copy, point drawing line drawing, textured triangle/quad filling routines and you have your own mini 3D API. Since the framebuffer itself was a pixelmap, you could use the framebuffer itself as a texture map (this technique was actually patented in hardware).

      • It's not OpenGL, so much as GLX. The OpenGL bindings for X11. SGI contributed the reference implementations of these to the X Consortium and this code was merged into XFree86 and then moved to x.org. The code was released under a very permissive license. Unfortunately, it contained some very unclear legalese that, in retrospect, was almost impossible to comply with for anyone.
    • "I'm surprised that opengl was never really 'open'."

      Remember, that 'open' in the FOSS sense is one of many meanings of the term in software. When OpenGL was created, the "Open" part referred to the standard and standards process being open. This meant that anyone could volunteer to join the working groups, pay their dues, and contribute to the design. It also meant that anyone could read the standard. Here, Open has nothing to do with the actual code. It had everything to do with it being an industry st

    • Doomsday [doomsdayhq.com]. And other DOOM-related engines. :)

    • by jacquesm (154384)

      opengl part of glibc ?????

  • by slashdotlurker (1113853) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:29AM (#25072771)
    The response to the latest opengl release has been, to put it mildly, underwhelming. A number of opengl developers in the blogs I have read have declared intentions of moving over to directx. This is the way for opengl developers to get a bigger share of the open source developer mindshare and development effort to make up for the egg they laid earlier this year.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimicus (737525)

      The response to the latest opengl release has been, to put it mildly, underwhelming. A number of opengl developers in the blogs I have read have declared intentions of moving over to directx. This is the way for opengl developers to get a bigger share of the open source developer mindshare and development effort to make up for the egg they laid earlier this year.

      Would that be mindshare among the people developing open source 3D games? (Both of them)?

      Or the people developing open source desktop apps that depend on 3D? (who are either already fairly committed to OpenGL anyway or weren't even remotely interested in open source, regardless of 3D API)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by oldhack (1037484)

      Ehem, for those less fortunate comrades outside the US, "lay an egg" is a baseball expression meaning "make an error"

      Carry on. :-)

    • by Yfrwlf (998822)
      Right, now OpenGL will probably see more improvements, I hope OGL 3.1 will add the wanted and missing features.

      However, with articles floating about talking about the end of GPUs and graphics APIs as we know it, I wonder if OGL or DX actually have futures any way. For the time being they do at least.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:34AM (#25072845)

    This wont magically solve your driver issues.
    This wont magically port your game to opengl.

    The openGL headers have always been available to compile against.

    This is the source for the reference implementation of openGL. It would be of interest if your planning on writing a 3D 'rendering' engine (not 3d game engine) from scratch, or are interested in how the opengl stack works.

    FYI, mesaGL's source has always been readily available and is based off SGI's implementation.

  • ...your move.
  • by cOdEgUru (181536) <cherian@abraham.gmail@com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:42AM (#25072935) Homepage Journal

    I am sorry, but someone has to ask. If you had told me that this happened five six years ago, I would be ecstatic, as this would have proven to be a worthy deterrent to Microsoft's DirectX, which was lagging behind OpenGL adoption.

    But with DirectX with what 90% of the market(?), I fear its too little, too late. SGI, though one of the icons of the past, has had to suffer from people at the top in late 90s who had really not much vision as to how the PC world was going to pan out over the next few years and was really caught unaware when OpenGL went the way of the doodoo.

    But hey, SGI was still the only place then who had Aeron chairs (this from a friend of mine who was gracious enough to invite me to their awesome lunch cafe).

    • by ckaminski (82854) <(moc.xobop) (ta) (iksnimakc)> on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:14PM (#25073497) Homepage
      OpenGL has NOT gone the way of the Dodo, and as far as I know, is still kingpin of the 3D visualization world outside the gaming community (CAD/CAM/Modelling).

      OpenGL was never very big in the gaming world either. Quake/HL was a standout in this regard, but most 3D game engines have been very custom, or based on DirectX - DirectX was sort of mandatory once game authors lost direct access to hardware.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by PainKilleR-CE (597083)

        OpenGL was never very big in the gaming world either. Quake/HL was a standout in this regard, but most 3D game engines have been very custom, or based on DirectX - DirectX was sort of mandatory once game authors lost direct access to hardware.

        While I agree with your first statement (OpenGL is still big outside gaming), I disagree with this part. The Quake line of engines were very widely used in games in the mid-to-late 90s, and because of the impact they had on the gaming world most game developers developed for OpenGL or Glide (or both). Of course, since Glide only worked on 3dfx, and OpenGL never worked really well on 3dfx (not at all for most of the time they were putting out chips), there wasn't a significant overlap in the markets for the

    • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:15PM (#25073511)

      SGI, though one of the icons of the past, has had to suffer from people at the top in late 90s who had really not much vision as to how the PC world was going to pan out over the next few years and was really caught unaware when OpenGL went the way of the doodoo.

      I can assure you that the doodoo is very much stil around, and in fact fills the pants of every non-toilet trained infant and toddler around the world.

    • At least for the gaming market.

      If they'd done this back when DirectX was just beginning and OpenGL was actually relevant, things would be much different now.

      As it is, DirectX went on to beat OpenGl soundly.

      This might have some bigger effect on the non gaming graphics applications (CAD and 3D stuff), but for gaming it's just irrelevant now.

      I know you might say "Well, it means I can finally play (Insert game from the year 2000 on Linux!", but for 99% of gamers out there, Linux is still irrelevant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JackieBrown (987087)

        Darn, because we really want more gamers in our community.

        I know I stay up nights depressed that more 13 - 16 year olds aren't spamming our forums with even stupider questions that the window drones.

        I wait for the day were the posts change from "Why don't my drivers work" to "Dude, wtf is the problem with this linux pos. This sux!!!'

        • by rk (6314) * on Friday September 19, 2008 @04:16PM (#25078075) Journal

          I wait for the day were the posts change from "Why don't my drivers work" to "Dude, wtf is the problem with this linux pos. This sux!!!'

          The funny thing is I always had more success being a bit insulting when I needed Linux help on a forum. If I asked "I can't get foo to work. I've read the docs and tried bar and baz, but it didn't help." I'd get crickets. If I said "Linux sucks because it can't do foo." Then a ton of fanboys would pile on, call me every name in the book, and then explain in exacting detail how foo can be done. They might've thought I'm a retard, but at least my question got answered. :-)

        • by Mex (191941)

          That elitist attitude is worse than the Apple Cult, man.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday September 19, 2008 @04:52PM (#25078797) Journal

        I think this has the largest number of comments from people who have absolutely no clue what the story is about than any other Slashdot story.

        The relevant code was already released to the X Consortium and has been distributed with XFree86 and X.org for well over a decade. The license was badly worded and when someone noticed that it was basically impossible to comply with (and therefore not Free Software) and so SGI fixed this to clarify the original intent of the license.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Well, DirectX is obviously going to be the big thing by volume. However, I think the way graphics interfaces work will change quite a bit and the most exciting part of that is Gallium3D. It's a low-level interface to expose programming functionality in a generic way, while you have frontends like DirectX, OpenGL and such working as state trackers and APIs for applications. Since modern graphics cards are pretty much all moving to a unified shader architecture, it's not going to be like the old days when you

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NullProg (70833)

      But with DirectX with what 90% of the market(?), ..."when OpenGL went the way of the doodoo."

      90% of what market? DirectX is 100% of Microsofts private Windows/XBox market.

      OpenGL is used on PC/Linux, MacOS X, Unixes, Playstation2, Playstation3, GameCube, Wii. Far from extinction I would say.

      Enjoy,

  • by mihalis (28146) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:45AM (#25072981) Homepage

    they should fix the GLUT license.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:19PM (#25073575) Homepage Journal
    ... How often do we see an article on SGI here that doesn't either forecast their demise or have updates on their latest bankruptcy filing?
    • ... How often do we see an article on SGI here that doesn't either forecast their demise or have updates on their latest bankruptcy filing?

      I was tempted to post: "Holy crap, this is big news!! SGI is still in business!!!"

  • by Mr.Ned (79679)

    Thanks, FSF! I appreciate the work you do to promote free software, and this is another great example.

  • So, will the CAD and Gaming markets diverge?

    When OpenGL 3.0 came out 5 weeks ago [slashdot.org], there was much talk about new features that had been shown and old stuff had been dumped, and then all of that was tossed because of needed backwards compatibility for the CAD software. Is this maybe a chance for the gaming crowd to get the new stuff, developed by a collaboration between AMD, Intel, nVidia (if they're interested) and any game makers and other open source companies that want to participate in a more open API.

    I

  • SGI is a company much weaker than it was when it first released OpenGL and drove it. Microsoft has no use for OpenGL, and so now, we have OpenGL being offered up as free software? This can be spun as having an "open license" as much as we want, but to me it looks more like OpenGL is really without any serious corporate sponsorship.

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