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Trident Micro Changes Policy Toward XFree86 275

Posted by HeUnique
from the and-they-indirectly-supported-linux-since-'94 dept.
Alex writes: "According to Egbert on the Xpert Xfree86 mailing list, Trident Microsystems, who makes video chipsets for low end PC's and notebooks, has changed its policy towards open source developers. Get the details here." If you want to email Trident Micro Public Relations, please be polite! Flaming will only hurt the chances that Trident will reverse this decision.
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Trident Micro Changes Policy Toward XFree86

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  • Boo Hoo (Score:1, Redundant)

    by norculf (146473)
    Don't ATI and NVidia make better portable video chips anyway? Just don't buy a laptop with a Trident chip...
    • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:3, Informative)

      by jchristopher (198929)
      ATI's laptop support is HORRIBLE. The chips themselves may be fine, but their driver support is abominable. What's a good card without drivers?

      They have basically stopped driver updates on the Mobility series, even though that chipset is used in many CURRENTLY shipping products.

      They won't fix dual display under Windows 2000/XP, even though every other manufacturer has figured it out.

      If you are in the market for a laptop, I would highly recommend getting something with the new Nvidia chipset.

      • "their driver support is abominable"

        Like the snowman?

        • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          He probably meant abdominal, as in it makes his stomach convulse dealing with ATI driver issues.

      • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Hello ? Are you a moron ? Do you have a brain ? ATI openly supports Xfree86, NVidia does NOT. They only have closed source drivers and do not release specs on their chipsets at all. And wtf does Windoze drivers have to do with Xfree86 either ?
      • no I find the ATI X drivers wonderful

        so maybe that's the XFree86 hackers doing a good job or ATI I don't know

        but personally I have fond them REALLY good

        you are so lucky nowadays when I started I had to rely on really bad VESA because my cad was not supported, now you moan that it draws windows slow

        how are you justifying this moaning ?

        because I thought they gave out spec now

        regards

        john jones
      • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nailer (69468)
        Really? At Linux.conf.au I asked a member of the XFree86 team who'd just finished a taslk what chipset he'd recommend for mobile users. His response was the ATI Rage Mobility (16Mb model). Open Source drivers, the all important XVideo support, and good performance (better than the same card under Windows) was the absis for his decision.
    • I just got one of there cards. But I was going to use it for console anyways. Too bad though It seems that the only choices are Nvidia and ATI and once one or the other goes under quality will suffer.
    • I don't think that's even the point. The point is that Trident's chipsets are very very common and that considering that most low-end PCs use Trident video chipsets by default, this effectively shuts Linux and *BSD out of the low-end desktop market. Not that we were there in the first place, but still.... :)
      • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:2, Interesting)

        by michrech (468134)
        Actually, from what I've seen lately, SiS chipsets are being used quite frequently in low-end systems. They are cheap, relativly decent (though I have not tried dual-head support with it), and very plentiful. The "no frills" machines my place of employment uses a mobo that has video/lan/sound/modem built in (though we put it into a 'standard' ATX case so it can quickly be changed down the road). All said built in items are SiS integrated items. They even all have Linux drivers! =] Right on the CD even! =]

        Come to think of it.. I can't remember the last time I saw a 'low end' system with a Trident video card in it.. =]
        • Yeah, for real. My last two motherboards (i usually by them in blocks of 4-5 so i can have consistent machines between work and home and the server room) were based on Sis Integrated stuff. My most recent one has a SiS video card, modem, 10/100 lan, video and hardware monitor in it. It works great, and its even running under all my estoeric OSen (like QNX RTP and BeOS). Without a doubt its not the "tip-top" of performance, but seriously, I find them be massively stable (the advantage of having one person/group/company write all your drivers), very compatible, and of course, dirt cheap. This mother board which I threw a duron 800 into allowed me to build a nice 1 gb o' ram system for like $400 all told. You simply cant beat the value or support.
  • Code monkeys (Score:2, Redundant)

    by NewbieSpaz (172080)
    For future cards, can't some talented hackers figure out a solution? I mean, isn't that what open-source is (partially) about? Before hardware vendors started to 'supply' drivers, coders in the community wrote their own.
    • Re:Code monkeys (Score:3, Informative)

      by LordNimon (85072)
      It's not worth the effort. Video hardware is immensely complicated. A Linux video driver programmer could add support for 10 other chips in the time it would to reverse-engineer the Windows drivers.
    • Re:Code monkeys (Score:4, Informative)

      by ZxCv (6138) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:36PM (#2236415) Homepage
      It's not so much the chip won't be supported at all-- the standard Trident driver should still work. What they're referring to more is the proprietary acceleration features built into the chip. Those types of added features and benefits (which are actually probably required for any decent output from the card) are what will be missing.
    • Re:Code monkeys (Score:2, Informative)

      by reynaert (264437)
      Before hardware vendors started to 'supply' drivers, coders in the community wrote their own.

      Before hardware vendors started to 'supply' drivers, they supplied specifications and other documentation.

      For example, my good old Star matrix printer came with a booklet detailling the printer 'language'. It even included sample code. If you have that, writing drivers is a piece of cake.

  • by fobbman (131816) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:30PM (#2236373) Homepage

    As soon as vendors announce that they will be CyberBladeXP or later Trident chipsets simply send an email to the vendors sales department notifying them that you will not be buying their laptop because the video subsystem does not work with your chosen security-based operating system.



    Trident won't respond to a few users, but they will respond to vendors who are fielding complaints.

  • I don't think Dilbert agrees with this decision either..
  • Looks like it is time to sell what Trident stock I have.

    Limiting the ability for developers to create drivers in the open source market is like shooting oneself in the foot these days.
  • CyberBlade XP, eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:32PM (#2236383)
    hrm... "XP"

    i wonder if MS is in the backrooms twisting some arms...

    • by moopster (119808)
      Exactly... do you think it is a coincidence? NOPE! I am willing to bet that they whored themselves to M$ for the rights to call it CyberBladeXP.

      I do think the parents post is funny, but it is probably more interesting than anything else. What would they have to gain by closing the doors to the people that write drivers to help them increase market share?
      • i dont get it either...

        hey - theres this new up and coming OS, that /could/ be "the next big thing"...

        we're also in the middle of a recession.

        lets be sure that we limit our newest product to a a platform that has reached _saturation_ and exclude the possibility that it will be used in a OS that has growth potential.

        nah... we'd rather go Monica on Bi113 G
        • Its pretty simpe.

          More copies of WinXP will be sold in 6 months than copies of RedHat will be given away.

          Windows has reached saturation because *everyone* uses it. The Linux crew buys a minimal amount of hardware to begin with compred to the masses that use other OSen. On top of that, how many of us only buy high-end stuff? How many Linux people buy new Trident cards? Very few, I'd imagine. The only trident cards I use are ass-old early PCI 1/2 MB cards which work great in servers/terminals. Trident makes *nothing* off my purchase of some old cards off ebay. The cost of supporting OSS development by giving away specs to OSS developers, which in their new product could reveal quite a bit about the internals of their chip, is probably FAR higher than any possible loss of revenue from the minimal market that non-Windows users present.

          Linux as a movement has very little sway with most manufactuers other than a select few who have very good reputations. Even if Trident made a big deal about it, spent lots o money developing stock-Linux/XFree drivers and advertised the fact they _still_ wouldn't gain any huge number of users/sales.

          Let it go. This move means nothing to 99.999% of all computer users, and nearly nothing to about 95% of all non-Windows users.
  • by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity AT sbcglobal DOT net> on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:32PM (#2236384) Homepage Journal
    Trident hasn't been a player in graphics technology for years.

    Probably as a result of poor business decisions like this, too.

    If they make something worth buying, I'll worry about it. Until then...
    • by fobbman (131816)

      "Their chipsets have been quite popular in portable systems like notebooks and have been widely used as on-board chipsets in low cost desktop computers."


      It was a small email that was linked in the story. Consider reading it.


      • "Their chipsets have been quite popular in portable systems like notebooks and have been widely used as on-board chipsets in low cost desktop computers."

        The problem with the phrase "quite popular" is that it can mean a lot of things. Unfortunately, in this case, it means "quite popular" behind Nvidia's new mobile chips, ATI's more than 50% market share, and NeoMagic.

        The war between ATI and Nvidia in particular is likely going to squeeze out smaller companies like Trident, just like what happened in the desktop world.

        I may be a Bear on Trident, but that doesn't make me a Troll.
        • They've been a big player in laptop and budget systems for years, and judging by their press releases at their website [trendmicro.com] it looks like HP, Sony, Toshiba, IBM, Compaq, etc. are choosing this CyberbladeXP chipset for at least SOME of their laptops. Sure they're just press releases but they do tend to point to agreements between Trident and the computer manufacturers.


          By letting the channel know NOW that using Trident video chipsets in their laptops/cheap desktops will cost them some big contracts we are letting the rest of the industry (video or otherwise) know that not supporting open source options can be a costly decision.


    • This was the exact thing I thought when I read the article. I was thinking trident/cirrus logic in the early 90's when I was making a 286 purchase.

      Today I use nVidia.

      On my future laptop, I would probably only consider a ATI/nVidia chipset.

      I don't see why this parent post was moded as a troll. Someone needs to notify the moderators village, tell them that their idiot is missing.

    • This was hardly a troll.

      It's hard facts.

      Trident did some nice stuff back in the early, non-standard days of SVGA.

      They've all but fallen into obscurity in today's world of NVidia, ATI, and (for a few remaining users) Matrox.

      This is very obviously an attempt by Trident to hitch themselves into users minds as "Early Adopters" of XP. In a way, I sort of hope it works because we need more variety in this inbred world of Video Cards that we have going on.

      I just don't expect them turning their backs on open source to help them much.
  • by schatt (31250) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:32PM (#2236388) Homepage
    This is a serious question:
    Why do companies do this sort of thing with their products? It would seem to me that having the interface to a particular chip would not be particularly helpful to designing a competitor, ("Well, if I tell it to draw a blue square, it draws a blue square! I know how to copy that!") so what good does this do?
    I've always been under the (possibly mistaken) impression that it made more sense to distribute specifications to everyone, so that others could use your hardware. If you have to write the drivers yourself for every operating system that you are going to allow to use your hardware then that would add quickly up to a rather large expense, wouldn't it?
    Are drivers really that much of a proprietary, critical secret for hardware companies? Does having the source code for your drivers help anyone else create drivers for their products? What benefit is there in preventing others from having the drivers?
    Sorry if these questions seem silly or unimportant, but I've never understood the other side of the secrecy of our drivers argument.
    • Please enlighten me (Score:3, Interesting)

      by novastyli (450003)
      I have been wondering the same. I really would like to hear an opinion from someone who has been in iteraction with these hardware vendors.

      My hypotheses are:
      • the internal communication is not going well in such a company and the people who decide these things are completely clueless.
      • people making drivers in such a company are trying to make their work look more important.


      • Good call and best comment I've seen so far. CORPORATIONS do not make decisions; PEOPLE make decisions. The question then becomes "What power group within the company believes that they benefits by withholding this information?" All human endeavours is political; those who don't think they're playing politics are merely playing politics badly.
      • I work for a large semiconductor company, in a small design team that also does work for other groups. We primarily work with the company's imaging division. We almost always either provide a gpl Linux driver or will release enough specs so someone can do this. However, most of the company still believes in closed source. A lot of this is because of NDA/partnership agreements with other IP holders. Please remember that is is _extremely_ expensive to design and produce a complex chip. There is an overwhelming urge to protect that investment. But management often forget that we are not a software vendor, and opening the specs will sell more chips. In our case, some progress has been made, but there are still huge cultural hurdles to overcome.
    • What benefit is there in preventing others from having the drivers?

      Warning: the following has no basis in fact - it is conjecture:

      Evidence that Trident is infringing on a competitor's intellectual property would not be released to the public.

    • Why do companies do this sort of thing with their products? It would seem to me that having the interface to a particular chip would not be particularly helpful to designing a competitor

      Knowing what capabilities your competitors' chips have can be extremely valuable. While your example of drawing a blue square is not particularly interesting, the implementation details of advanced 3d acceleration features might be.

      The second reason is support. No matter how many times the manufacturer says that they won't provide support, there will always be some doofi (plural of "doofus") that call them up and demand that someone in engineering help them debug their software.

      If Trident sees a dramatic downturn in sales because of the lack of Linux/*BSD support, then they might change their policy. I would not hold my breath waiting for that. Linux/*BSD is probably not even a blip on Trident's sales forecasts.
      • I agree that knowing the implementation details of advanced 3D acceleration would be valuable, but won't the competitors know that already? They have to have people on the payroll who slip them the specs, NDA or not. I can't believe that open source is the only place people get this info.

        And anyway, the technology is usually not bleeding edge by the time it's supported by Linux.

        I think the question, "Why?" is a good one, and I'm still curious about what other people think.
    • As well as the other suggestions advanced, there's the fact that many companies don't even have internal documentation for thei rhardware - they slap something together, a couple of guys write drivers by bugging the hardware engineers, and that's that.


    • Ah, young grasshopper. A good interface design can take you a long way towards making a competing product.


      It is often insightful to see what was put into the hardware interface, and what was left out. Often these can provide significant clues towards the design of a better product.

    • Good question. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcr (53032)

      I just sent them this:

      Dear Sirs:

      How can it possibly benefit your company to require an NDA for the documentation on how to use your graphics chipsets?

      Several years ago, when I was consulting for Hewlett-Packard, I was informed that HP considered the data on instruction latencies in the PA/RISC architecture to be highly proprietary, and access to it was strictly controlled by their in-house compiler development group. Indeed, even other parts of H-P were unable to get it.

      The upshot was that GCC was unable to include a decent optimizer for PA/RISC, and consequently designers chose PPC, SPARC, MIPS, and the products of other, more cooperative vendors for their designs. Heard anything about PA/RISC lately?

      Frankly, I'm as astounded by your stupidity as I was at theirs.

      -jcr

      "These kids today don't know the simple joy of saving four bytes of page-0 memory on a 6502" - unknown
      • Great letter until you got insulting...
      • Frankly, I'm as astounded by your stupidity as I was at theirs.

        Your text is good but.. this single line kills it..
        In PR and advocacy letters NEVER call someone stupid.
        It was.. an error in judgement.. a mistake.. not 'stupid' nothing your reader ever dose is stupid..

        You have a wonderful, insightful and enlightening letter.. This could make it's way up the chain..
        But alas the person who reads it will see the word "stupid" and just hit the delete key..
        If they don't the next person up the chain will.

        Also if the PR people are really smart they have 'stupid' in the filter and it never makes it to human eyes.
        • That's why the insult is at the *end* of the letter.

          FYI, two of the four times that I've gotten responses from Steve Jobs were in response to flaming him. One of those times resulted in a policy change, according to my sources at Apple.

          -jcr

    • Competitive advantages w/ hardware often turn on clever use of data flow within chip designs, and it is often possible to obtain patents on such designs. At the same time, aspects of these designs are often exposed in driver API's.

      It is a common beleif (I've had lawyers give conflicting advice in this area) that protecting API's under NDA's helps defend against a competitor figuring out what you're doing from "public domain" information and thereby having a legal basis to circumvent a patent.

      The technical and legal merit of this position are certainly arguable.

      You could also add that "opening" an API requires spending some effort (and $) spent on creating publicly readable documentation (although I've had to work with documentation from many non-English companies that apparently hired elementary school students to translate...)

      Closed source drivers for such cards seem like a great solution for this problem, but many people in the open source community have 'religious' problems with this.
      • When you patent something, you make its design public knowledge. No one can use that knowledge without your permission. Thus refusing to document an API because it's patented is inherently contradictory.
        • by nyet (19118) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @09:18PM (#2237458) Homepage
          When you patent something, you make its design public knowledge. No one can use that knowledge without your permission. Thus refusing to document an API because it's patented is inherently contradictory.

          Very true. But in this PARTICULAR situation, Trident is no doubt in the process of obtaining patent(s). Which means that from their perspective they need to play it safe until the patent has been awarded. I'm not a fan of patents, but this is the way the game is (and always has been) played.

          In many cases, API hoarding is done by a CTO or a product manager or two who thinks their technology is so wonderful and original that 1) nobody has done it before 2) nobody is smart enough to do it on their own and 3) exposing the API will allow somebody to "steal" their brilliant idea.

          Very rarely does this type of CTO/manager have any academic/scientific background; normally they are MBA types who think every passing clever idea they have is a potential make-money-fast scheme.

          Most REAL engineers/scientists realize that most everything has already been done, and most "innovations" are built upon millions of other (much older) ideas.

          Unfortunately, most of the population does not belong in this category, and thinks that Salad Shooters(TM) need patent protection.
          • How about the an argument from a cynic?

            Trident doesn't want to make the interface public because they are afraid that one of their competitors have already patented part of the design!

            Opening up the interface makes it easier for their competitors to discover patent violations and opens them up to lawsuits.

      • I guess what I'm trying to figure out wrt all this is really, how hard is it for someone with a decent R&D lab to reverse-engineer all the clever things these chips are supposedly doing? It seems to me that all they're accomplishing is making it impossible for their hardware to be supported by free software, while only making their competitors take a little more time to figure it out (and from my software experience, reverse-engineering can often give you a better understanding of a process than just peeking at the source code.)

        Then again, I'm a pretty uninformed kind of guy. :-)

      • Your point about public domain information doesn't make sense, because every patented device must be made public. That's why patents exist: to give inventors an incentive to reveal how their devices work, in exchange for protection from competing devices based on their design. Knowing how a device works, whether you got that information by reading the patent or by reverse engineering, does not stop you being liable to pay patent licensing fees.

        As for your second point, there's a lot of middle ground between publishing an API and requiring an NDA. Sure it costs money to publish an API, but it also costs money to have a lawyer draft an NDA. There's a third, free, option: don't publicly document the API, but don't persecute anyone for sharing information about it.

    • If you expose an API, and particularly, unrestricted driver source for a chip, it makes it considerably easier for other companies to reverse-engineer and "clone" a knockoff.

      Example: look at all the tulip (network card) chipset clones out there. Last I checked they don't win on being better than the tulip, most of them are actually crappier; they win on being cheaper parts that (basically) work with already-written software.

      And apparently it's not that hard. Quoting a coward from an early soundblaster article (only the most reliable sources here!), "weitek reverse engineered one of Sun's graphics chipsets because they got hold of a single .h with the register specs".

      However it seems to me this strategy is only of any use when you're a big player with a popular chipset, trying to keep the little players down. My perception is that Trident is neither, so why they are doing this is beyond me.

  • I have not read the article, but your wording implies that Trident is not supporting x86. Actually, isn't that tantamount to not supporting Linux?

    And why did you not say Trident was not suppporting x86? And why did you not say Trident was not supporting Linux (de facto)?

    I am behind Linux, and have it installed on computers in my house. I think it is important that I have a second choice, even though I USE Windows.

    But I find you weasel-wording disingenuous here, especially since the Linux cadre come off as being straight shooters, and frankly, pride themselves on their bluntness.
    • Ananalogy:
      If I, as a nonwhite, walk into a restaurant run by a bunch of racist biggots, what I'll notice is that i get really bad service from them. If I talk to my friends, what I'm likely to talk about is the bad service that I got, personally.

      Now, someone who is more observent might note that any non-white gets that sort of treatment there. Others might note that even some white people get that sort of treatment, depending on their appearance.
      all of those statements are accurate.

      What trident is pulling support for is open-source driver writers. This doesn't just affect Linux, or even just XFree-86, if you want to split hairs. I expect, however, that the developers of other non-MS drivers are going to recognize that, even if their own OS isn't mentioned, that the loss of Linux support is going to affect them -- either as a result of using (substantially) the same drivers, or as a result of depending on a similar NDA. In any case, the headline is NOT misleading, since it mentions XFree86. It just happens that Linux users are one of the better known groups affected.

  • by A Commentor (459578) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:38PM (#2236420) Homepage

    Man, the last trident video card I saw was PCI... With all the major brands going under, I wouldn't have expected Trident to last.

    What do they expect to get from keeping their specs private?? It's not like they are the leading chipset maker, and other companies are attempting to steal some secrets.

  • by Frizzled (123910) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:39PM (#2236429) Homepage
    (from the last post off xfree86.org on this issue):

    Significant amounts of well-reasoned arguments in emails from end users might possibly have an impact. Of course, as soon as this hits /., they will get 10 times as much flamage as reasoned argument, and be even more convinced that Open Source is not where they care to invest their efforts.

    sad, but true. there are a lot of good arguments to be made for keeping this information open to the public. but when an issue like this gets pushed into everyone's view it tends to generate comments that might push the company further away from open source instead of closer to it.

    granted, the "cat's out of the bag" at this point, let's just hope trident sees the light and reverses their decision (before 3d acceleration took off, all i used was a trident, 2MBs of video RAM ... woot!)

    _f
    • Don't worry about it. If the US Copyright office only got 30 comments about the DMCA when Slashdot said "Tell the Copyright Office what you think of DMCA", no one is going to go through the effort of contacting Trident. (Of course on the other hand, the "Please don't piss off Trident is going to set off some antisocial dimwit.)

      But for the most part, Slashdot readers are going to be much happier bickering amongst themselves.
    • by rkent (73434) <rkent AT post DOT harvard DOT edu> on Thursday August 30, 2001 @05:25PM (#2236725)
      there are a lot of good arguments to be made for keeping this information open to the public.

      Very true. And since the contact address given was public_relations@tridentmicro.com [mailto], I chose a PR-related arguement: first of all, all open source users (growing in number!) will have to avoid this new chipset, since it won't be supported. But more importantly, we'll remember Trident's decision and be less likely to support them in the future. Here's the letter I sent to that address; feel free use it as an inspiration for a note (not flame) of your own:

      Hi -

      I recently learned that Trident has decided not to provide chipset
      documentation for the CyberBladeXP chipset to open source developers.
      The effect of this decision is that Trident customers who choose to use
      open source operating systems such as Linux or BSD with their computers
      will not enjoy the full functionality of their CyberBladeXP video
      systems. In fact, the systems may not work at all.

      Besides being rude and alienating to your own customers, this news of
      these non-functioning systems will spread by word of mouth, and people
      will avoid Trident chipsets intentionally. At first, it will only be
      certain chipsets that they try to avoid. But, as I'm sure you know, once
      a company's name has been associated with a poor product, it becomes
      difficult to trust that company for other products, as well.

      In short, I'm not sure if I would even have bought a CyberBladeXP chip
      from any vendor. But now that I know it won't work on my system, I will
      be sure to avoid it. And now that I know Trident is upsupportive of my
      software, I will probably have to avoid your products altogether in the
      future.

      Please reconsider your decision about the chipset documentation.

      Sincerely,
      [my name was here, put in yours]

  • Slashdot and flames (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VP (32928) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:39PM (#2236432)
    Looks like some of the replies on the mailing list are also worried about the response Trident may get from Slashdot [xfree86.org]....
  • Perhaps by some carefully worded email, we could get them to release a binary driver for Linux (AKA NVidia). At least we would not have to remove them from the hardware compatability lists.
    • I'll expand your question to ask about the Matrox G400 series under Linux. They are getting really cheap now... and I've been pleased with their high quality 2d on Windows. Worth grabbing one for use with Red Hat 7.1?
  • My company is about to buy 2 Linux workstations, and I'm concerned with which video card to go with.

    Which vendors support open source developers (xfree86) the best? I would normally buy Nvidia-based systems for Windows, but from what I understand, their binary-only drivers are a disadvantage.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated...
    • Matrox. The G400 and G450 are very well supported in XFree86. Also the ATI Radeon is well supported, although video playback features may be a pain.
  • I don't think I can count the number of companies that have made this mistake before. I remember way back when Creative Labs wouldn't release information for direct programming of their SoundBlaster cards; just a cruddy SDK/library you could call from C/Pascal. Well, what happened? Some enterprising hacker just reverse engineered it, wrote his own sound driver in ASM, and released the source. Similar things have happened with so many products. If people are using it and someone wants to write a driver badly enough, there are ways of obtaining the information.

    If these companies really believe that their competitors can't do the same thing a 12 year old kid did to get the info, then they deserve whatever they get. I wish they could just see how stupid they are being and save the rest of us some time!

  • As a purchasing officer at the government office where I work I have final authority over what is purchased in terms of computer equipment. It is now a requirement for our organisation that all computer equipment (x86)be capable of running both Linux and Windows. This is because we can then provide a single hardware platform and support all of our end users.

    If your company does not provide the information to the xfree86 developers then you will in all liklehood lose more than just the 5% of linux desktops, but also a significant number of windows desktop sales as well.

    Cheers

    It turns out that I am not just making this up. I do have final purchase authority and I _do_ require linux compatible hardware.
  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel@@@bcgreen...com> on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:57PM (#2236543) Homepage Journal
    If you follow the thread, they mention that the most effective avenue might be to go after OEMs and discourage them from using Trident chipsets. An effective way of doing that may be to go one level further back for leverage.

    Push the purchasers for your company and/or school to notify suppliers that you won't be accepting Trident chipsets because of this decision. Inform them that you need to be able to use your machines interchangably, and if Trident chipsets are not being supported by Linux, you won't be able to use them in your Linux boxes...

    It's easier if you know that, in a crunch, you're not going to have interchangability problems with a machine because of Trident's unwillingness to support Linux. This leverages a possible 5-20% linux market share into a 100% purchase decision, on firm financial/operations grounds.

    Something to note is that, even where Linux may not be a high percentage of a groups machine count, Linux boxes are often in a high profile or critical area. Being unable to deploy a machine into such a location could be a real impact to the company. If nothing else, it's just an unwelcome annoyance.

    An OEM faced with a choice between losing a medium-large customer or switching to a 'widely supported chipset', is more likely to walk away from Trident. that sort of pressure is something that is likely to be 'heard' by the company.

  • by johnjones (14274) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @04:57PM (#2236544) Homepage Journal
    there has always been a bit of confusion over trident drivers

    e.g. the CYBER9385 this had at one stage 3 drivers distributed in a major release this is because they named chips the same

    Trident supplies low cost chips because they are small (as in die size) and thus makes them less power hungry which is essential in laptops

    the problem is that lately they have done into the onboard chipset market with Mother Board manufactures garbing them as a cheap way to stick video on board

    then trident accelerated parts of their chips for these vendors

    they have always been tight but allowed NDA people to help out writing drivers

    the people you should complain to are the MB manufacturers who properly paid for the work to be done

    so this begs the question who uses trident that you know ?

    me I know SIS do so

    write to
    China
    Ms. Ellie Yin
    Tel:886+2+29161619 ext.346
    E-mail: ellie@sis.com.tw.

    Europe, Taiwan, Japan, Korea:
    Ms. Jessie Lee
    Tel:886+2+29161619 ext.341
    E-mail: jessie@sis.com.tw

    America(Canada,U.S., and Latin America), Oceania:
    Miss Michele Huang
    Tel:886+2+29161619 ext.345
    E-mail: michele@sis.com.tw.

    for your appropriate dealer

    regards

    john jones
  • by fizban (58094)
    Why even write the bastards? They've already shot themselves in the head. If they don't die off from lack of sales, they'll figure it out eventually and come crawling back.
  • Sample email (Score:2, Informative)

    by Maskirovka (255712)
    Take 30 seconds out of your day and send them a quick email. Seriously.

    To: public_relations@tridentmicro.com

    I'm writing to register my displeasure for trident's new policy towards open source. Making your documentation available is not a whole lot to ask, and in the process of not working with us, you are alienating a large group of people and technologies.
    Thanks for lissening.

    Toby

    The opinions expressed in this email are mine, and are not necessarily those of my employer.

  • I thought to check the Yahoo stock message boards and hit them in the wallet (the only place a big company really listens), and it looks like someone beat me to the punch. You may want to mention the economic side of things if you write to Investor Relations as well as the PR people. The addresses are there in the referenced post:


    Yahoo TRID stock message board [yahoo.com]
  • Simple... buy off enough Video card manufacturers to not open their drivers. I bet this is a trial balloon!

    Think of it! How far can Linux get on the desktop without decent Xfree86 drivers in the future... not far at all... NO GAMES, NO 3D EXCEL... Linux is dead :-(
  • I sent the following to Trident:

    As I specify hardware purchases for my company (and by extension for any of our customers who solicit our input, when deploying our software), I will have to start moving away from Trident-based chipsets due to the recent change in driver specification openness.

    This is *not* a political or ideological move, you understand. We use and specify systems that will only ever run Linux, and thus XFree86. Since XFree86 will no longer be able to track your hardware specifications, support will be very limited, and that's just not something that we or our customers can afford.

    Please correct me if any of my assumptions here are wrong, or if you've reversed this decision. Thank you.


    This is almost entirely true. I "specify", but we have others who input into the process (who will all feel the same way about non-supported hardware). This is a "we don't want customers who run Linux, *BSD or other XFree-based platforms" decision.
  • A wide range of comments:

    The trident BladeXP is a low end chip, but offers several nice things. For starters, it uses up a total of .8W of power. It has an integrated T&L Engine, and it's windows performance is decent. It is not an SMA chipset either. It has it's own framebuffer.

    HP is the major vendor that ships with Trident in thier laptops. Complain to HP as well, and tell them they're losing business. THEY will put pressure on trident.

    I baught my HP N5430 (Duron 850) BECAUSE it has a trident chip and not an ATI one. (Compaq ships their duron notebooks with ATI). I figured that trident has always supported Linux, so this would be no different.. Now HP got my money, Trident got my money, and I got shafted.

    I've been in touch with trident to get the docs, and they gave me the Blade3D (same line as CyberBlade series in Vaio's, etc..) specs easily enough, but the BladeXP requires a restrictive NDA.

    Alan Houraine (sp?) is the XFree developer who's been workingon this, and is having the same problem I did.

    The 2D support is unaccelerated, but quite tolerable with shadowFB enabled for this chipset. I'm writing this from my laptop now and in general, I'm quite happy about how 2D is working. Makes me wonder just how good accelerated 2D would be. Go here [deater.net] for info on how to configure this chip under Linux.

    pm.
  • Sample Letter (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HerbieTMac (17830)
    Here is the letter I sent to Trident. Feel free to copy/modify for your own use.

    To Whom It May Concern-
    I have recently become aware of a change in Trident's policy toward the documentation of function calls starting with the CyberBladeXP chipset. This change will have deliterious effects on Trident's relations with the large and growing Open Source community.

    For years, Trident has been a strongly-supported line of video cards for XFree86, a graphical user interface similar in purpose to Windows or MacOS. Drivers for the Trident line of video cards have been written, free of cost, by volunteers working in concert over the internet. The cost to Trident to expand their market in this manner has been publishing existing documentation on the internet.

    This has now changed, it seems, arbitrarily. While we as a community recognize that it is well within your discretion to limit the availability of any documentation of your product, please realize the harm that this does to your reputation within the community. It makes it impossible for a Linux or FreeBSD user to purchase your video card.

    We are not asking for you to spend your developer's time to write new drivers. We merely ask that you allow us to assist your efforts to provide the highest quality video to consummers, irregardless of their operating system.

    Make no mistake, drivers will eventually be written. However, they will be of lower quality for a longer period of time than they would be with simple documentation. This lower quality will reflect inappropriately on Trident in the eyes of users.

    Please e-mail me with any questions you have on this issue.

    Very Respectfully,
    ----

    • Re:Sample Letter (Score:2, Informative)

      by fizban (58094)
      deliterious = deleterious

      Either way you spell it, it'll just confuse their public relations interns anyway, so I guess it doesn't really matter.

      On a second note, the word "irregardless" should be replaced with "regardless" as the "ir" part is redundant and not accepted in formal writing.

      Just doing my good deed for the day before everyone copies and pastes this letter a hundred times.
  • by cnkeller (181482) <cnkellerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 30, 2001 @05:58PM (#2236887) Homepage
    As others have stated, I don't use Trident chipsets, but anytime that people take this attitude it bothers me, so here you go to those lazy people.

    public_relations@tridentmicro.com

    To whom it may concern,

    I'd just like to express my disappointment at your recent decision of no documentation to open source projects.

    As a proponent of open source, specifically linux, I've always purchased hardware that was linux compatible. It is likely that forthcoming hardware from Trident Microsystems will not be be supported by the open source community, due to a lack of vendor documentation.

    If this is the case, I, and many others I'm sure, will be forced to choose hardware that does not make use of the Trident chipsets.

    I'd like to urge you to reconsider your decision.

    Thank you for your time.

  • Why do PC hardware manufacturers now think they are so special? Manufacturers of electronics *always* publish specs! Would you go out and buy some chip to integrate into a design that you didn't know specs for?

    Trident is heavily used in embededd and low power situations. A lot of times, people are writing code that will directly drive the hardware! By these people deciding not to publish specs on the hardware, they are really screwing up.

    I certainly am not buying a load of Trident chips and just nodding my head about the catch of "Oh, by the way, you aren't allowed to know how these work. Just use Windows." My ass I will! Windows doesn't exactly run too sharp on a device that has a few MB of RAM, and no writeable local storage otherwise. Especially a device based on something of equivalent power to a 486.

    Trident: Wake up. People use you because it's easy to integrate your chips into designs, and because the chips are low power and don't include frivolous functionality. It certainly isn't because of your lack of features and low graphics power.
  • by alsta (9424) on Thursday August 30, 2001 @06:23PM (#2237002)
    Part of this information is retrieved from a person I know and part of it is fiction. The relevance to the XFree thing is the last two paragraphs.

    So here is the thing.

    Trident has filed a patent for a technology that they want to use in their new line of chips. We can all agree on how evil patents are, but they are allowed to file patents. In order to use a patent pending status, you can't disclose source code or specs. That being freely available invites others to implement the technology. So to be awarded a patent one must take reasonable steps to prevent others from copying the design. If that isn't being done, the patent can be considered void in a patent lawsuit. After that, the technology is considered Public Domain.

    If Trident wishes that this patent goes through, they need to take this action. Otherwise somebody can simply retrieve a spec from them and/or work out the source code and reimplement in another chip.

    I could care less if Microsoft subsidised this or not. Trident is allowed to publish specs if they want to and withold them if they so desire. This is their right.

    All I know is that I will not be purchasing any Trident products in the future. This is my right. Until the day that legislators tell me that I MUST buy a Trident product I am not going to complain about this. There are plenty of other chip makers out there and they make good stuff. In my opinion, Trident chips have always been flaky and low budget.

    Alex
  • Do you own a branded computer that was shipped with a Trident video board ? Write the manufacterer (Compaq, Dell, Toshiba, whatever) an email telling:

    • What you like on their hardware that you'd want in the future. A cool way to seal the case closed, lack of noise, the choice of the components.
    • What you dislike.
    • Your concerns about the future (e.g.: this box has a trident video board and the specs were available for free software developers, future trident board won't, and that would prevent me from buying your hardware again in the future)
    • Remember to mention that being compatible with non-MS systems (or at least having reasonable hardware, which specs are available) is a major must-have on computers you buy
    Good manufacturers will like to hear from you. And it's much more important writing such a feedback about portables, where changing the video board is not simple, many times not possible.

    This is also valid for the computer(s) you use at your work place. If you can gather some co-workers to agree about the matter, write a memo to whoever is responsible for buying hardware in your company, have him/her write the computer supplier about what the company's concerns are. A big annual sale can make the manufacturer worry more about driver availability.

  • Trident chips suck anyway? The people who buy notebooks with the CyberBlade chip probably won't even notice that its unaccelerated!
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Raven667 (14867)

      While I wouldn't buy Trident for performance but they are traditionally very reliable. The people I know have built OEM whitebox computers in the past know which vendors are reliable and which aren't, they prefer Trident based boards because they are cheap and people don't have to return them. Other, whizzier, video chipsets tend to have more wierd issues with particular software or they overheat and die, but the Trident based boards didn't have these problems.

  • I'm not sure if this [trident.com] is the Trident corporation website, but I cannot reach it at this moment.

    Please tell me that this is just slashdotting, and not some fanatic opensource lunatic hacking their website in response to this... Because the latter would be a real pathetic response.

    A couple of (preview) minutes later: hey, it's back. However it's not the same Trident corporation. This seems the link to the 'right' Trident [tridentmicro.com]. Hmm.. two choices: cancel this post, or post it in the hope that it may keep some poor misguided fanatic from doing something stupid....

  • Read it on the Yahoo board [yahoo.com].

    On behalf of Trident Microsystems, I would like to state on the record that Trident has not changed our policy of providing chipset documentation to open source projects. Trident however continues to require an NDA to be signed in order to gain access to such confidential technical information.

    He posted it at 10PM.

  • This is wonderful news, I've just canceled 57 Toshiba Satellite 4600 Pros because of this as they contain CyberbladeXPs.


    Two reasons for this, 1, I don't like companies that don't support my choice of OS, it limits my choice as a consumer and possibly my companies future IT stratergy. 2, I perfer Dells anyway but as most of the company is on Toshiba laptops it made sense to stay with tosh until a good reason to change came alone.


    I really wonder why they have done this, maybe it's Xig making deals again (no good Xfree86 support means people stuck Tridents have to buy the Xig sever)?? Thanks again Trident, my new Dell laptop will have a Geforce2go.

  • More info [xfree86.org] from Egbert. It appears this might be miscommunication. I suggest we stop petitioning for a little while to see what happens next.

  • IBM or some other big company to talk some sense into them?
    Yes this might be able to brush off some independant developers, but a multibillion dollar corporation is much harder to say no to.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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