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Graphics Open Source Linux

NVIDIA To Publicly Release Some Tegra GPU Documentation 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-is-better-than-none dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It was revealed today during the annual X.Org Developers' Conference in Germany that NVIDIA will be publicly releasing Tegra graphics programming documentation. Initially this will cover their Tegra 2D engine but it's thought they might also be providing 3D engine documentation too. A slide shown at the conference says NVIDIA is committed to open-source. NVIDIA also allegedly has supplied documentation under NDA to one Nouveau developer and taken other covertly supportive steps. These actions come after NVIDIA has been notoriously unfriendly to open-source and months after Linus Torvalds pubilcly slammed the NVIDIA Linux support."
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NVIDIA To Publicly Release Some Tegra GPU Documentation

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  • by arth1 (260657)

    "NVIDIA also allegedly has supplied documentation under NDA to one Nouveau developer"

    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't this a bad thing? Because he's seen it under an NDA, he now is prevented from using it, which he otherwise could if he had figured it out on his own?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      no, a NDA just means that he can't tell anyone else why the code works the way it does.

      • Re:NDA (Score:5, Informative)

        by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:24PM (#41413669)

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that mean cryptic, undocumented code which, if that particular developer quits, dies or is otherwise unable to work on the driver, becomes a black box? It is still incredibly open-source unfriendly.

        • by Peter Bortas (130)

          You are not completely wrong for complicated hardware, but for things like sensors and stuff it doesn't need to be unmaintainable. Few if any of those NDAs also come with and demands to not write clear code and comment it.

          You might be thinking of Nvidias old "Open Source" 2D drivers which where written by Nvidia and then showed through a code obfuscator before it was shipped.

        • by makomk (752139)

          Pretty much. For instance, the Nvidia-developed and nominally open source nv driver for their graphics hardware was full of cryptic magic numbers dotted everywhere and seriously lacking in comments.

    • Re:NDA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:21PM (#41413635)

      That depends what the NDA covers. It might cover just saying they gave him the document, it might cover him showing anyone the document, it might cover him telling anyone how code made from the document works, it might cover him not telling anyone how NVIDIA makes its pancakes. An NDA can cover a multitude of things.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        My first expectation would be that it covers implementation details, thus allowing the person under the NDA to write specs but not code. This would allow clean room drivers to be written without revealing the internals of the chips to everyone in the world.
    • Re:NDA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Peter Bortas (130) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:48PM (#41413949)

      Getting HW documentation under NDA used to be a rather common thing for Linux driver developers and it's still not unusual. The NDA will say something to the effect of "You can't spread this doc, but feel free to build an OSS driver and talk about how it works".

    • It is probably not a bad thing.

      Back in the day, I did FreeBSD drivers / platform support for DEC Alphas. I would occasionally get hardware and/or docs under NDA from DEC. The NDA basically said I could write open source drivers, but I could not share the documentation. This is how a lot of Linux / BSD hardware support still works.

  • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:19PM (#41413609)

    Wasnt the Linus shaming them for not supporting Optimus (which would help a lot of netbooks and laptops) and not about Tegra (which works but is not opensource, and hence makes custom ROMs difficult)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How is NVIDIA unfriendly toward open source. They have the only high-end cards that work consistently on both Linux and FreeBSD. They've been maintaining their drivers for open source operating systems for years.

    • Re:Unfriendly? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cheesybagel (670288) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:26PM (#41413697)
      They don't provide hardware programming specs. Nor open source drivers. Intel and AMD do both.
      • by kthreadd (1558445)

        But isn't it at least good of them to provide a driver in the first place?

        • Re:Unfriendly? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:50PM (#41413971)

          Not when that driver doesn't play nicely with the kernel. It's like giving somebody an engine for their car that occasionally breaks down, but not allowing them to open the hood and fix it.

          • by kthreadd (1558445)

            Sure, but you have the choice of not accepting the engine.
            Maybe I just don't understand, but it sort of feels like complaining about a free lunch.

            • by valros (1741778)
              Nvidia's graphic cards are not free...
              • by kthreadd (1558445)

                That is true.

                Nvidia provides a driver on Linux and FreeBSD, which they don't have to do. I'm sure they would do just fine financially by only supporting Microsoft Windows and perhaps Mac OS X.

                As a Linux user I'm happy that I can buy a modern powerful graphics card and use it on Linux.
                I would of course appreciate it if their driver were open source and we had proper documentation.

                The fact that we don't doesn't mean that Nvidia is unfriendly toward open source, just that they are not as friendly as they could

            • by gerddie (173963)
              Free lunch? You paid for the graphics card, right?
              • by kthreadd (1558445)

                True, but the point was that I remember a time when the luxury of even having access to decent graphics on Linux was a privilege. Nvidia doesn't have to support Linux more than any other vendor. Complaining about Nvidia not being "more open" is I think even a bit disrespectful.

            • by gmack (197796)

              Here is an example from a few years back. I bought a nice new laptop after confirming that all components were compatible with Linux but what I didn't expect was that the wireless driver and the video driver required different kernels and in the end I had a useless laptop for the two weeks it took me to have a new mini PCI-E wireless card shipped to me.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          10 years ago Linux was begging for support, now that it's become a desktop user power house it can demand support.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Vs AMD which says "Here's 1000 pages of Spec" you guys can write code to do what ever you want.

        I'm not on the whole "BSD License is the Devil, GPL for life!" bandwagon. They're both open source. Nvidia actually provides timely updates and it works. My AMD machine on the other hand

        1) just had support dropped. The motherboard is around 2 years old and I just got the warning from debian that it is 'no longer supported'.
        2) It doesn't work. Hardware acceleration of x264 would just crash XBMC. I've heard it's got

        • Vs AMD which says "Here's 1000 pages of Spec" you guys can write code to do what ever you want.

          I'm not on the whole "BSD License is the Devil, GPL for life!" bandwagon. They're both open source. Nvidia actually provides timely updates and it works. My AMD machine on the other hand

          Since when is NVidias driver under the BSD license?

          • Since when is NVidias driver under the BSD license?

            When did I say it was? You notice that it is in a standalone paragraph. I pointed out that I am not an OSS zealot like some people. For example people like Stallman go nuts about everything having to be GPL. I was pointing out that in my case GPS and FreeBSD are both open source.

            In this case NVIDIA provides me with a driver that works. I'm happy. I don't care what Linus has to say. NVidia, in my book, is supporting Linux on the desktop and for that I am hap

            • by mallan (37663)

              In this case NVIDIA provides me with a driver that works. I'm happy. I don't care what Linus has to say. NVidia, in my book, is supporting Linux on the desktop and for that I am happy.

              +1

              NVIDIA has been providing stable, fast, feature complete drivers for years and have supported Linux and FreeBSD just as well as they support Windows.

              ATI, on the other hand, released specs years ago and the open source drivers are still unstable, slow, and incredibly buggy. The Intel drivers seem a little more stable than ATI, but they're still ridiculously slow and not feature complete.

              I develop 3d software on Linux (and OSX, Windows) for a living and I test NVIDIA, ATI, and Intel gfx hardware on a regula

            • While you didn't explicitly say it, you implied it because of the implicit assumption that what you write is relevant for the question at hand. The fact that you accept that BSD is open source (which is just accepting a fact, so nothing special) is only relevant to your accepting or non-accepting of NVidia's driver if that driver is under the BSD license. And BTW, Stallmann accepts BSD as free software license. [gnu.org] He just doesn't recommend it.

        • by Svartalf (2997)

          They're both open source

          Show me the NVidia drivers that were developed mainly by the community with help from NVidia themselves.

          (Hint: I'm not holding my breath...can't hold it anywhere near forever...)

          However, I *can* show you AMD drivers that meet that criteria...

          You keep using that word...I don't think it means what you think it means...

          • Did I say Nvidia's driver was open source? Jesus you people need to learn reading comprehension.

            How about you pick off the statement immediately before that:
            "BSD License is the Devil, GPL for life!" bandwagon. They're both open source.

            They in this case refers to the BSD License and the GPL. I was stating that I am not a OSS zealot and that I don't care.

    • Re:Unfriendly? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:32PM (#41413745)

      How is NVIDIA unfriendly toward open source. They have the only high-end cards that work consistently on both Linux and FreeBSD. They've been maintaining their drivers for open source operating systems for years.

      Right. Tell that to my GeForce FX. Or to a GeForce 6xxx. Or to an integrated 7xxx chipset. Neither Nouveau nor the blob work on anything GTK3 and NVIDIA already said they won't be fixing the blob anytime soon. Compare that with AMD - the open driver is already at near performance parity with the blob on their cards from the same period (r300). But AMD isn't a great example. Look at how Intel publishes their drivers and read what the folks from Valve are saying about how easy that makes everything for developers.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Compare that with AMD

        OK, I will do that.

        I have a subnotebook with R690M/X1250. When I bought it, the ati driver didn't support it because it was too new, and fglrx didn't support it because it's too old, even though it was currently shipping. Today, fglrx still doesn't support it (it hasn't gotten any newer) and the OSS driver produces massive display corruption, actually worse than when it was new.

        If you want to cherry-pick examples you can do that all day, but I've had vastly better luck with nVidia hardware than ATI hardware

        • Yes, fglrx is terrible when it comes to support, both for not-so-old cards and for newer Xorg versions. NVIDIA's blob is much better in that case. What I meant is that AMD's superior (though still lacking, IMHO) open-source efforts lead to better support for old cards. Your notebook seems to be a special case. From Wikipedia:

          Since Intel has not given the 1333 MHz FSB license to ATI Technologies after the company was purchased by AMD, the Radeon Xpress 1250 only comes with official support of 1066 MHz Front Side Bus (FSB).

          Other than that, though, the norm is that old AMD GPUs work well with the open driver, while old NVIDIA GPUs are just plain broken with both the open driver and the blob. And, as I said

      • by Sigg3.net (886486)

        Apparently he mistook Linux-friendly for OSS friendly.

    • They are unfriendly to OSS.
      They are friendly to OSS systems.

      Quite a big difference.

  • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:25PM (#41413673) Homepage
    GPUs can have completely open drivers while remaining quite closed on the hardware side. The one thing they're worried about, their precious shader compilers -- aren't even really needed. Give us an instruction reference to target and we'll make our own damned compiler, and after a while it'll be even better than the proprietary one. It's difficult to believe that it's taking so long to get documentation for something so basic.
    • by erroneus (253617)

      The problem is more likely "patent" rather than copyright.

      That's the thing about software patents that is rarely talked about. For all other inventions, you have to show how it works. In the case of software, you "describe" how it works in the most vague way possible. This is completely the opposite purpose of patents which is to, among other things, encourage disclosure of technology rather than keeping it as a secret. In the case of software patents, they are doing both... patenting and keeping the sp

  • by Anonymous Coward
    My car's subwoofer uses a Tegra and Bunny based motherboard, so it'd be good to be able to program it so my car can go "boom" a little louder.
  • by itsphilip (934602)
    The operative word being "some"
  • by higuita (129722) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:33PM (#41413757) Homepage

    we will see if they really do release useful documentation or if this is just smoke and mirrors to try to limit the damage from Linus comments.

    I suspect its just a marketing stunt to try to damage control their android clients (that is why they will release info only about the tegra chip), if not they would also announce the release of docs for the other cards (even if small parts, 2D only).

    Even for damage control, they took away too long, people that didnt knew/cared about nvidia open source position, learn from on of the top leaders that NVIDIA sucks, and if a leader points to a major problem, everyone looks at it.

    Even if this is really a new policy, they still have a long way to help the 3D development and catch up the Intel and AMD.

    Not until NVIDIA really supports the Linux and other open source OS with open drivers and documentations i will buy another nvidia card, nor recommend it... even in tablets (ARM have many closed parts, but at least MALI 400 have already a open drive in the forge)

    • Why should Nvidia have to give a shit about *your* philosophy - that's what I don't understand about this.

      • by mvdwege (243851)

        nVidia does not have to care about anyone's philosophy.

        On the other hand, they do want to sell something, so what's wrong with pointing what some of their potential customers want?

    • we will see if they really do release useful documentation or if this is just smoke and mirrors to try to limit the damage from Linus comments.

      Sure, they'll release some documentation. Starting with:

      "This page intentionally left blank."

    • Re:we will see... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:45PM (#41413909) Journal

      Nvidia has done plenty of stupid things - and they aren't anywhere near as open source friendly as they should be. However, I can't see why anyone wouldn't at least applaud them taking steps in the right direction. It isn't "Nvidia is all open source! put away the pitchforks and torches", but why assume that this is marketing or damage control?

      It's literally in their long-term financial interest to be open with providing actual valid and useful documentation....as it would enable us to fine tune their own shit to work better.

      • by dargaud (518470)

        applaud them taking steps in the right direction

        And as usual Linus was right. Just like RMS. I hope they name some constellations after those guys once they are gone like at the time of the greeks.

  • I love their hardware, but their drivers suck. I just switched back to Nouveau so I could have a decent framebuffer. Gripes about systemd sucking aside, and the fact that Plymouth just doesn't work for my setup, I'd really like it if nVidia would just start supporting Nouveau full on - if they have to make certain precautions, they could treat bits they provide as firmwares or something to prevent whatever they see as intellectual property from getting "stolen."

    Furthermore, why VMWare works with the Gall
  • I read articles stating that nvidia open sourced the nv X driver with the installer, config, and settings that works with the proprietary driver so if anything goes wrong that makes a new kernel incompatible with a current nvidia driver the open source community only have to modify the open source that nvidia offers to make the current driver install on the new kernel. But, I never had any issue with nvidia and ati proprietary drivers for the linux compared to the full open source versions which have bugs

  • Its kinda of telling just how open source hostile and unfriendly Nivida is when they make Microsoft look like an ally.

    So in the words of Linus Torvalds "Hey Nvidia, Fuck You!"

  • Why haven't they released the documentation?

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