[linux-audio-user] Re: which graphics card?

Gian Paolo Mureddu gmureddu at prodigy.net.mx
Wed Jun 21 09:50:37 EDT 2006

Hash: SHA1

Frank Barknecht escribió:
> Hallo, Jonny Stutters hat gesagt: // Jonny Stutters wrote:
>> The solution as I see it (and so this isn't a /completely/
>> negative rant ;) ) is more advocacy => more users => noticable
>> difference to the bottom line of companies who don't supply
>> quality (open-source where legally possible) Linux drivers.
> An important part of the solution also is to boycott vendors, who
> don't provide specifications for the development of open source
> drivers for their hardware.
> As long as people still buy NVidia chips, why should they change
> their current position?
> Ciao
I'll play devil's advocate here for a second, to what extent does a
driver include such information of the hardware it "drives" that it
would be considered a trade secret to release either its source or
specifications of the hardware to build them? How much third party
technology is involved in the drivers in the first place, that would
violate *any* commercial agreements the hardware vendor may have with
other companies in terms of licensed technologies? If removed these
components from the drivers, how good their performance would be when
compared to the closed ones?

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the video card market is one heck
of a vicious business, with not only rapid development cycles, but
also a lot (and I mean a *LOT*) of cross licensed technology not to
mention a billion-dollar industry. This makes it way too complex (IMO)
and extremely difficult to have fully open source drivers, unless it
is for those considered low-end or entry-level class of cards/chips
(where numbers level in the amount of units). I'm not sure what would
be the panacea to this "problem", I for one have no problems using
closed drivers (if they will get the job done, and will allow me to
use the best hardware for the job). I do realize that if a high-end
vendor opens up their drivers, Linux users will be more than happy to
use them and there would be no problems with the GPL and other
licensing issues, but this would also mean that these drivers wouldn't
be allowed to include third-licensed technology in them.

The most obvious situation with cross-license issues and open source
video drivers has got to be the texture compression algorithms,
especially S3TC. S3TC is not free, you have to license it to be able
to implement it, and at the same time the hardware has to be compliant
with it. I some years ago had a discussion about this very issue, and
asked myself why wouldn't open source video drivers use an open
texture compression algorithm... First I thought there was no such TC
algorithm, but then I remembered 3dfx and the VSA-100 architecture
(Voodoo 4, 5). They indeed developed a TC algorithm that they made
open before they were bought up by nVidia, FXTC (not to be confused
with DXTC, which is DirectX's texture compression, a derivative of S3TC).

FXTC proved to have superior quality than S3TC, but it also required
hardware support for it (as far as I remember, prove me wrong,
please!), even if the algorithm and specification were open for anyone
to implement, no one actually did (or did they?), so my allegation was
why not use FXTC if it is open and pretty much (as much as I can
remember) anyone could implement it for open source drivers as an
alternative to S3TC? The answer is astonishingly simple: S3TC is now
the de facto standard and the default format for a LOT of textures
used in many applications and games, this would involve a massive
move, which in turn would die (as it did) because (as MS-Office) some
else made it not so nice, but bearably nice, cheaper and most of all,
first (Ok, MSO wasn't there first, but it was cheaper). Trying to
incorporate such technology at this point would be incredibly hard, I
wonder, though if it would be harder than trying to make S2TC (and
DXTC by extension) Open in turn?

At the current rate, seems like VIA and Intel are the best options for
anyone to have in terms of open source driver support, even if you
lose in performance/features, why can't we have the three: features,
performance and FREEDOM? Well, with current business models, it is
simply not going to happen. Fortunately more player are willing to
give us them three, but at baby-ant' steps.
Version: GnuPG v1.4.3 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Using GnuPG with Fedora - http://enigmail.mozdev.org


More information about the Linux-audio-user mailing list