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Graphics Software The Almighty Buck Linux

Open nVidia Linux Driver Pledge Nearly Complete 221

Posted by kdawson
from the encouragement dept.
Ciarán Mooney writes to let us know that the Pledgebank drive to raise $10,000 for Project Nouvaeu is almost complete — at this moment it needs only 196 more people to sign up. Project Nouveau aims to provide open source 3D acceleration for nVidia cards. The drive was started by David Nielsen, whose blog explains what he hopes will happen.
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Open nVidia Linux Driver Pledge Nearly Complete

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  • Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800)
    People can spend their money as they see fit, but giving $10,000, no strings attached, to a project whose only accomplishment (unless I'm missing something) is "Currently, nothing works" seems like an odd prioritization.

    For that matter, why bother with a "pledge drive"? If you think they need $10, why not just send them $10?

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln (21727) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:29PM (#17529266) Homepage
      His blog entry says it's basically a $10,000 "thank you" for taking on the project. Seriously, what? I'm giving someone a big pile of cash to thank them for taking on a project, even when they haven't made any meaningful progress toward completion of that project?

      I hereby announce I will take on the project of solving world hunger. Please give me a giant no-strings-attached donation as a "thank you" for my initiative. I will then make very little progress toward my goal before finally abandoning it as too difficult.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Kalriath (849904) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:36PM (#17529484)
        The project's official website is even more interesting. It explicitly says they have no affiliation with the pledge drive, and don't need money.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Otter (3800) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:39PM (#17529546) Journal
        In fairness, the Nouveau guys (Heh, I hadn't grasped the name before but that's fairly clever...) aren't asking for money, say they don't need the $10K and make it clear that they're not expecting to have a reliable driver for the Fedora 7 release. The hype isn't their fault and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.
      • I hereby announce I will take on the project of solving world hunger. Please give me a giant no-strings-attached donation as a "thank you" for my initiative. I will then make very little progress toward my goal before finally abandoning it as too difficult.

        The U.N. could take a lesson from your honesty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by runderwo (609077)
      Yes, you are missing something, since you are obviously not following the developer blog: 8 [freedesktop.org] 8 [freedesktop.org]
  • by MountainMan101 (714389) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:14PM (#17528904)
    With new technology like AIGLX, XGL and XEGL emerging, having open source drivers for 3d cards is very important. Along with the recent R300 work for the ATI cards, this will bring much improved graphics to the Linux Desktop regardless of architecture. I only hope that the ATI X200M card gets open source support soon too (obviously not from nouveau).

    Also Fedora 7 (dure April) intends to include the nouveau drivers - which is great as out-of-the-box Fedora can't include the binary nVidia driver necessary to have AIGLX working.

    And to anyone who thinks this is unnecessary as there is the binary driver - just wait until you card is dropped from the official support and the old driver stops working with some future kernel.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:30PM (#17529300) Homepage Journal
      With new technology like AIGLX, XGL and XEGL emerging, having open source drivers for 3d cards is very important.

      While I agree with this statement, I think this project is the wrong way to go about it, simply because we do finally have a vendor who has committed to open source driver support: Intel [intellinuxgraphics.org]. Now, I will grant you that their cards are slow and crappy but they should be up to the task of accelerating the linux desktop. Also, the current release supports [intellinuxgraphics.org] only an integrated video chipset and some older cards... but voting with your dollars is an absolute necessity. For any non-gamer, it should be a sufficiently powerful graphics system, and the G965 Express Chipset supports Core 2 Duo and Pentium D, so you can combine it with very good CPU power. If I were building a system today (aka if I could afford to build a system today) this is the combination I would elect to use.

      But most importantly, we need to monetarily support vendors who give us working hardware with working linux drivers, or even vendors who simply give us enough information to write drivers. This is not ATI or nVidia. This apparently is intel. They're also just about the only vendor providing any useful wifi drivers.

      If we actually spend money to sponsor driver development this will be a clear message to all graphics card manufacturers that we will put up with their bad behavior.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        If we actually spend money to sponsor driver development this will be a clear message to all graphics card manufacturers that we will put up with their bad behavior.

        Why? How does your spending money to write open source drivers affect nVidia one bit? Why should it even be on their radar? As far as I can see, it doesn't send any "message" at all, except that there is a small but very vocal minority of users that is willing to spend actual money on products that are compatible with Linux -- but I suspect

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:18PM (#17530370) Homepage Journal
          Why? How does your spending money to write open source drivers affect nVidia one bit? Why should it even be on their radar?

          This shouldn't be that hard to figure out - apparently even the moderators got it this time. See, corporations only feel hits to the wallet. Most of their feedback comes from sales figures, and if they get less love than their competitor (or simply less love than they expect) they hurt, they know something is wrong. Unfortunately, they don't necessarily know why.

          However, if ATI or nVidia should lose some market share, they will certainly know that it is not because of their lack of linux support, simply because the OSS community is willing to do the work itself. The proof of this principle is that people are willing to spend money to have someone else do their job for them. Simply buying their products is bad enough, but spending MORE money to support them (they benefit from a driver because it can increase sales) is a clear statement that they don't need to develop open source graphics drivers.

          If you really think that this is not on their radar, you are incredibly naive. Linux is the fastest-growing segment in computing, Linux is the only operating system gaining market share in the server space, and Linux is probably the only platform gaining any significant ground in education. Linux will only become more important with time, and Windows less. The change shows every sign of being extremely slow, but that doesn't mean that it's not occurring.

          Finally, if it were so unimportant as to not even be on their radar, they wouldn't even have developed their own Linux drivers, closed and crappy as they may be. (Well, nVidia's work pretty well... too bad about ATI.)

        • by cortana (588495) <sam@robo[ ]org.uk ['ts.' in gap]> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:35PM (#17533284) Homepage
          According to NVIDIA [robots.org.uk], there is no demand at all for free software drivers for NVIDIA hardware.
      • by kimvette (919543)
        But most importantly, we need to monetarily support vendors who give us working hardware with working linux drivers, or even vendors who simply give us enough information to write drivers. This is not ATI or nVidia. This apparently is intel. They're also just about the only vendor providing any useful wifi drivers.


        Yeah, as soon as they offer accelerated graphics with dual DVI I will gladly buy from Intel. Until then, NVidia makes a great, if proprietary solution.
      • by EzInKy (115248)

        While I agree with this statement, I think this project is the wrong way to go about it, simply because we do finally have a vendor who has committed to open source driver support: Intel.


        I would love to support Intel's efforts, if only they marketed standalone cards. Until then I'll stick with Radeons since I can get OSS drivers which support up to the X850 chipset.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by fangorious (1024903)

      just wait until you card is dropped from the official support and the old driver stops working with some future kernel.

      Open source drivers drop support for devices too. And unless you're a kernel module developer, you're just as much at the mercy of others as you are with a binary driver from the manufacturer.

      Besides, isn't patent licensing part of the reason nVidia and Ati won't release fully OSS drivers? I believe Intel has patents on certain memory bus related technologies which are used by both nVidi

      • by chromatic (9471) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:55PM (#17529894) Homepage
        Besides, isn't patent licensing part of the reason nVidia and Ati won't release fully OSS drivers?

        I can't see how, unless someone's somehow managed to obtain patents that don't disclose information publicly and, as such, would suffer material harm in disclosing the patented ideas publicly by releasing source code.

        In other words, any vendor that tells you that is lying.

        • Not so much (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:26PM (#17530550)
          Often technologies will have in the license agreement "You can't release this code." You aren't required to like it, but if you sign the contract (and this stuff involves real, paper, signed contracts) you are required to respect it. nVidia and ATi both license a good deal of things for their drivers (S3TC would be an example). They can't just give the finger to these people and do what they want, they'll get sued and they'll lose because there's a contract in place.
          • by bersl2 (689221)
            Contracts can be renegotiated, yet this requires time, effort, and money, which are things that no company wants to waste, so I can understand why nVidia, et al. don't do this spontaneously. However, we don't even know what the terms of these contracts are: who the other parties are, what technologies they cover, etc. I don't know whether it's because of non-disclosure clauses or some nuance of contract law that is over my head, but whatever the reason, lots of companies are just downright uncommunicative a
        • by zcat_NZ (267672) <zcat@wired.net.nz> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:52PM (#17531950) Homepage
          "isn't patent licensing part of the reason nVidia and Ati won't release fully OSS drivers?"

          One of the possible issues is _lack_ of patent licensing. Nobody really knows what trivial and obvious techniques have been patented by some patent-troll, but as long as the patent troll can't prove nvidia are doing something the troll's patent potentially covers, they have no reason to sue or shake nvidia down for license fees. Open source drivers would feed the trolls.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ReachingFarr (758675)
          There is also the possibility that nVidia has licensed some patents for their hardware/drivers and they don't actually have the right to disclose some of the code. If they got patent X from some company, which they incorporate into their binary driver, they couldn't open source their driver without removing that piece of code first. Now this wouldn't be a big deal if we are talking about a single function or a few lines of code, but if, for some reason, they have a lot of licensed code they would have to
      • It isn't that NVidia or ATI won't release code. They won't even release hardware specs. There are plenty of kernel and X.org hackers out there who would jump at the chance to write open-source drivers for NVidia and ATI cards. But to do that, you need hardware programming information. You need to know which registers in the cards do what, you need to know what opcodes do what. You need to know what data goes in what registers, or to which addresses, and what data the card sends back, in raw binary. The driver developers don't have this information, and without it, they can't write drivers. NVidia and ATI aren't providing this and won't provide this, citing the need to protect trade secrets. Just to provide the 2-D open-source drivers that X.org does have for NVidia cards, the X.org developers had to run the driver source files through a code mangler that makes those particular .c files look like an entry to the Obfuscated C Contest, or NVidia wouldn't provide enough information to do even 2-D acceleration. The whole point of Nouveau is the laborious process of reverse-engineering NVidia's cards to figure out this information.

        Sure, there may be some secret sauce in there that makes for shinier 3-D graphics at a higher frame rate. But I suspect that shiny graphics aren't on the top of the list of things they're protecting. It's DRM. Macrovision's built into every video card that has a TV output port (so you can't use a VCR and tape a DVD movie.) Soon, HDCP will be built into every new graphics card so you can watch HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies without being able to exercise Fair Use legally. And very likely, all you have to do to turn off Macrovision and completely piss off the MPAA is flip a single bit in a particular register. And it's likely that if hardware programming information was known about newer cards, cracking HDCP would be trivial.

        That's why we're stuck with proprietary drivers.
      • Open source drivers drop support for devices too. And unless you're a kernel module developer, you're just as much at the mercy of others as you are with a binary driver from the manufacturer.

        Not quite. If having a maintained driver is valuable to you, then you can offer money to someone to maintain an open driver, even if you don't have the skills to do it yourself. There is also the matter of incentives. On open driver developer has an incentive to keep maintaining the driver as long as they find it useful, while the manufacturer has an incentive to 'encourage' you to upgrade as soon as they release new hardware.

      • by dfn_deux (535506)

        Besides, isn't patent licensing part of the reason nVidia and Ati won't release fully OSS drivers? I believe Intel has patents on certain memory bus related technologies which are used by both nVidia and Ati.

        AFAICT (IANAL) this is exactly correct. There needs to be some sort of tipping point reached wherein the projected cost of IP based liability issues is outweighed by potential revenue to be gained through sales based on open drivers. I personally am not too opposed to binary globs with an open ABI; u

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vandan (151516)

        Open source drivers drop support for devices too.

        That's not entirely accurate, and not a fair comparison. When a corporation drops support of their product in a binary-only driver, that's the end of the story. When an open-source driver 'drops' support of a product, what they're doing is failing to maintain support. Other people are free to pick up the slack. If a device was supported by open-source software at one point, getting that support up-to-date is far easier than, say, starting from scratch.

        An

        • by chromatic (9471)
          Yes, but that patent covers the hardware, not the interface to talk to the hardware.

          Further, that patent is already public information. That's what a patent is.

    • by epine (68316)
      Interesting timing. I have a E6600 system on order with a $50 Asus EAX550 video card based on the hoary ATI R300 core so I could run an open source video driver. Plenty fast enough for 2D and potentially some low-end (non-game) 3D. I tried hard to find something newer and faster, but failed. Matrox has a fully open source driver for some of its older cards, expensive, with lamentable performance, and the second head wouldn't drive the required frequency, which completely negates Matrox's long standing r
  • Excuse me. (Score:2, Interesting)

    Seriously - isn't it somewhat silly to undertake a project of this magnitude (and we're talking a _lot_ of magnitude - take for example redoing drivers for new 8800 line) when it could be instantly obsoleted by one phrase from Nvidia: "OK, nevermind, here are the drivers - we changed out mind."

    This sounds, for lack of a better phrase, retarded to me.

    • But Nvidia could never legally release their drivers as open source. Many people fail to realize that Nvidia has to license many of the technologies in their drivers from other companies and patent holders (just like ATI, Intel, et al must as well). So, even if the CEO of Nvidia wants to release their driver code as open source, they cannot legally do so without the go-ahead from all the license holders, which will never happen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lakeland (218447)
        I have to disagree with this.

        Yes, Nvidia has NDAs which would be violated if they turned around tomorrow and released a GPL driver. However, those NDAs were negotiated by Nvidia and it would be trivial for them to be renegotiated. I very much doubt the people who developed the components care either way - as illustrated by how quickly intel was able to open-source their driver.

        I think the "We'd be breaking our supplier agreements" line is nothing more than a red-herring.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mungtor (306258)
          Intel has nothing to lose by open sourcing their drivers because their cards suck. They have no interesting technology in that area and really can only gain some market share among linux users.

          nVidia and ATI drive the entire graphics card market with their competition and neither wants to give away any info by open sourcing a driver to the very small number of people who even care. Even if you had full 3D accelleration on Linux, there are hardly any games to take advantage of it.

          And breaking the supplie
      • Re:Excuse me. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tinkerghost (944862) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:03PM (#17530052) Homepage
        They may not be able to release the code to the drivers as they are - they probably do contain patented/licensed trade secret code. However, they certainly can provide basic - non optimized code to allow interfacing with the chipsets. With that as a basis, the OSS community could certainly work out how to optimize the system - alleviating the trade secret issues, though patents might still be a problem. IANAL, but IIRC, the API's can't be patented, just the code behind them. The rational being that the API's just dictate the interface & there is only 1 way to impliment using the interface - as dictated by the API.
      • by schwaang (667808)
        1. If they wanted to make the effort, they could release the portions that are not covered by third-party licenses. That would probably help the OSS driver writers a lot even if it's not enough to be a whole driver on its own.

        2. If they wanted to make the effort, they could probably get or buy agreement from at least some of their licensors. Again, any bits would help.

        But aside from the costs of 1 and 2, nVidia may have other reasons to not open their driver. For example, their lawyers might have made t
        • There is also the issue of "trade secrets" present in the drivers. While you wouldn't think there would be much secrets in a piece of software that acts as a go-between for the OS and hardware, there are more and more cases of drivers actually performing significant "magic" to speed up performance. Releasing that information could give competitors valuable information that could hurt Nvidia. All in all, there are many very good reasons for keeping the driver closed and only a few for opening it up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by businessnerd (1009815)
      Actually, whether Nouveau successfully releases an open nvidia driver, or nvidia decides to open theirs up, the goal of all of this will have been reached. What the community desperately needs is an open driver for nvidia cards. A large project, like what Nouveau is undertaking, may garner the kind of press necessary to make nvidia change their minds. If nvidia wants any kind of control over what passes as an nvidia driver, it is in their best interests to stop Nouveau by beating them to the punch. You
      • Exactly (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:27PM (#17531588)
        A similar thing has happened with Java. A few programmers, some employed by RedHat, got together to produce clean-room implementation of the class libraries under the classpath umbrella.

        Outsiders scoffed at the insurmountable task they were undertaking, saying it was a waste of time given Sun's implementation.

        Now, with nothing to lose, Sun is on the verge of releasing Java under the same license that classpath uses!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Nvidia has already stated why they can't make their driver open source: their source code is derived from SGI code (and yes, there was a lawsuit). Their settlement effectively bars them from opening their code.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dinivin (444905)
        And SGI has already stated that this isn't true.

      • by runderwo (609077)
        And now you get to provide a link to any documentation about this alleged lawsuit, or alternatively you can explain the existence of NVIDIA's prior obfuscated open source GLX driver released circa 1999.
      • And SGI is worth what? Two, maybe three dollars at the moment? Just buy them and nullify the agreement.
  • by adisakp (705706) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:16PM (#17528958) Journal
    Blog Entry: I hope that a bunch of people on slashdot will give me money. The End.
    • by westlake (615356)
      Blog Entry: I hope that a bunch of people on slashdot will give me money. The End

      Next Entry: God, how I hate Ramen noodles.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)
      Our team of 4 is almost at our goal of $10,000 USD. We only need 196 more $50 pledges.
  • by mgemmons (972332) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:17PM (#17529004) Homepage
    According to the pledgebank website,
    [...]leaving the many users of their videocards on popular UN*X systems such as Linux with only the option of using a 2d only driver or using nvidia' notorious proprietary driver.
    What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards? Is there some issue with the nVidia 3D driver implementation that would encourage an open-source reverse-engineering effort? What does "notorious proprietary" mean? I'm all for open-source, but this just seems to be OSFOSS (open-source for open-sources sake).
    • by lolocaust (871165) <sage> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:35PM (#17529458) Homepage Journal
      If we show that we will accept closed drivers/spec on an open system, we've already lost. Especially with the desktop effects becoming more and more important in modern distros. Also, AFAIK, there are no Nvidia drivers for PPC, and then there are people who could learn about the GPU specifics for the sake of it.
    • by the_humeister (922869) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:42PM (#17529600)
      One of the problems is that the drivers are x86 only (although there are old and outdated Itanium drivers). Another issue is obsolete video cards. nVidia could one day stop supporting the TNT or GeForce. What do we do then? If there are no open source drivers, we're SOL on updates. If there are open source drivers, then we can make continued improvements when needed.

      I switched to a FireGL 8700 (R200-based) for this reason (and it was an upgrade from a GeForce FX 5200). With regards to ATI cards, there are usable and stable open source drivers for all R300-based and lower video cards. Additionally, ATI no longer supports R100-based or lower video cards on Linux. Fortunately, the open source drivers are available to pick up the slack.
      • by Jethro (14165)
        First of all, I'm currently using the nvidia drivers on an AMD64, not x86.

        Second, if nvidia stop supporting the old cards, don't upgrade the driver. Like they're going to put in improvements for TNT cards anyway?
        • by Bert64 (520050)
          So your content to use the old drivers, with the old version of X, on the old kernel... The drivers still need to be updated to support other aspects of the system that they are tied to.
          I have an old FireGL card, for which there are only drivers available for xfree86 4.2.0 on x86, rendering the card rather useless.
          • by Jethro (14165)
            Good point. I didn't consider that an old version would't work with new everything else.
        • First of all, I'm currently using the nvidia drivers on an AMD64, not x86.

          It's still x86, just 64-bits. That's like saying real mode isn't x86. Well, it is. It's just 16-bits instead of 32-bits (which is what is normally thought of as "x86").

          Second, if nvidia stop supporting the old cards, don't upgrade the driver. Like they're going to put in improvements for TNT cards anyway?

          OK, but then you upgrade the kernel and your video card stops working because of interface changes. Now what? In addition the binary

      • One of the problems is that the drivers are x86 only (although there are old and outdated Itanium drivers). Another issue is obsolete video cards. nVidia could one day stop supporting the TNT or GeForce. What do we do then? If there are no open source drivers, we're SOL on updates. If there are open source drivers, then we can make continued improvements when needed.

        You are either misinformed or a liar. The nVidia Linux drivers support x86, x86-64, and IA-64 architectures. This is actually one more archit
        • You are either misinformed or a liar. The nVidia Linux drivers support x86, x86-64, and IA-64 architectures. This is actually one more architecture than they support on Windows (no IA-64 for Windows systems).

          Well, if you really want to be pedantic, they support ia32, x86-64/AMD64/EMT64, and ia64. They don't support ia-16, ia-8, or ia-4.

          I agree it would be nice to see open source replacements for the nVidia drivers, but please lets not spread or further any FUD about the current closed source drivers. nVidi

        • by smoker2 (750216)
          And yet the driver necessary for my Geforce 2 card, which is still perfectly capable, is now about 4 generations old. Luckily nVidia still host it on their site, otherwise my Myth box wouldn't work properly. If it was open source, then there wouldn't be the drive to force upgrades just because the drivers weren't available anymore.
        • by StikyPad (445176)
          You are either misinformed or a liar.

          Classy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Peter La Casse (3992)
          You are either misinformed or a liar. The nVidia Linux drivers support x86, x86-64, and IA-64 architectures. This is actually one more architecture than they support on Windows (no IA-64 for Windows systems).

          Or simply imprecise. To rephrase your parent poster, "one of the problems is that the drivers support the x86, x86-64, and IA-64 architectures only." People on other architectures are out of luck.

    • by just_another_sean (919159) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:47PM (#17529718) Homepage Journal
      Well when I used nVidia's binary driver on Debian Etch I went through two kernel upgrades and each time I rebooted to begin using the new kernel I was greeted by a console prompt instead of an xdm login screen.

      Now for me that wasn't much of a problem. I sighed, logged in as root, found the original installer I downloaded from NVidia, ran it, agreed to the license, pressed continue and was greeted with a message about missing kernel headers. Sighed again, downloaded linux-headers-`uname -r`, reran NVidia installer, etc, etc, ad nauseum every time I update the kernel.

      As I said, I know why and how I do this but not everyone does and the whole point of bringing true open source 3d graphics to the desktop for Linux users is so they don't have to learn how or why they need to do this.

      • You're not supposed to use the NVidia installer. You're supposed to use module-assistant:

        aptitude install module-assistant ; m-a update ; m-a a-i nvidia
    • by Bent Mind (853241) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:51PM (#17529800)
      What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards?

      Just a few things off the top of my head...

      nVidia has dropped support for cards older than the GForce4. I have a GForce2 with 64MB and TV tuner that would benefit from this driver.

      A while back I was running Hardened Gentoo. When I asked the maintainer why the nVidia driver was masked (blocked), he replied:

      ... One of the very reasons for using hardened is for increased security protections. The way nvidia wrote the drivers is really crappy as does run time execution. That means it behaves exactly as shellcode does, which is the very thing we are trying to prevent in the first place. Now when that glx (libGL.so) gets installed every single package it that links to it then causes a PaX violation.

      I suggest you email the nvidia vendor and request that they stop taking shortcuts in the driver code and release something that's
      1) PIC proper [no TEXTREL's]
      2) stop using JIT.

      Several projects have worked to create versions of xorg or window managers that take advantage of 3D hardware. However, xorg relies on nVidia's driver (with nVidia hardware) for 3D. That code can't be modified.

      Finally, my understanding is that the nVidia driver only works with x86 hardware. All of my hardware is x86, so I've never verified this.
      • by qbwiz (87077) *
        Maybe the fastest way to do what they do uses a JIT.
        • Maybe it is, so when your machine is compromised, your files will be corrupted faster. Yay!

          Seriously, not everybody who wants 3D acceleration is willing to make the same performance-security trade-offs as NVidia's salespeople are.

    • Is there some issue with the nVidia 3D driver implementation that would encourage an open-source reverse-engineering effort?

      Yes, definitely. It's not portable (you can only use it on the platforms(*) that nVidia has bothered to compile it for). It's not auditable (you can't easily check it for bugs, root exploits, etc). It's not maintainable (if by some miracle you find one of the bugs, you can't fix it).

      Those are some pretty serious practical (not merely idealistic OSFOSS) issues. Show me any user

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mandelbr0t (1015855)

        If nVidia ever decides to drop a piece of hardware and stop compiling a certain driver for newer kernels, then users will either have to upgrade hardware (gee, I wonder if nVidia would have an incentive to make people do that) or else use an old kernel. Ouch!

        More appropriate would be to say "or else use a kernel you don't want to." It's just as much of a nightmare being forced to upgrade your kernel as well. Gaming is very sensitive to kernel version (just read the Cedega release notes re: versions 2.6.9 and 2.6.10). Upgrading from 2.6.15 to 2.6.16 caused some Cedega-supported games to stop working.

        My major issue with the binary driver is security. Because the driver is a kernel module, remote exploits of the NVIDIA driver will hack the kernel every time. O

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kosmosik (654958)
      > What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards?

      F.e. they taint the kernel - if things crash (one of my nvidia cards *did* with some Linux kernel version and their binary blobs) you cannot debug and fix it. Hell kernel developers will tell you to go on /dev/tree since they will not waste time on debuging some closed code with their kernel.

      Like it or not this is how Linux philosophy and developement looks - we have (and don't want to) no stable kernel ABI and expect everything (at very lea
    • What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards?

      Everything. They're poor quality. Prior to 1.0-8774 they were embarrassingly poor and would often crash X. Now they're just unacceptably poor. If you run multiple X servers on one device the driver will often leave the video in an unusable state from which there is no apparent way to recover. If we had source code we could fix these sorts of problems, but we don't so we can't.

      Having the system become unusable because of a bug in the nVidia

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      I think you mean FLOSSFFLOSSS - Free/Libre Open Source Software For Free/Libre Open Source Software's Sake.
    • 1995 called. They want their ignorance of what free/libre and open-source software is about back.
  • Only to have the project canceled due to the fascist DMCA .

    This better be clean room reverse engineering.
  • Great... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kalriath (849904) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:19PM (#17529046)
    If a manufacturer refuses to help the Linux community by providing drivers, wouldn't it make more sense to simply, oh I don't know, boycott their products?

    Instead someone has the stupid idea to INCREASE nVidia's market share by getting a community nVidia gives the finger to to buy their products.

    Way to encourage companies to support the open source movement... it's basically saying "don't bother writing drivers for Linux, we'll do it at OUR expense!"

    Lunacy of epic proportions.
    • by Sinryc (834433)
      You may think that Nvidia gives its users the middle finger, but if thats the case, ATI is getting the lube ready while pushing you so you bend over.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      At the moment there seems to be only negative actions to take (ie a boycott of products without OS drivers). Perhaps a positive example where the presence of a fully implemented open source driver creates a competitive advantage for nVidia will push its rivals to release specs and code for OS drivers for their own products. Maybe it won't work out so optimisticly, but at least this project is making an effort to change the status quo.
    • by bcmm (768152)
      We can't boycott they're products effectively. All manufacturers of GPUs that one could reasonably use for gaming/AIGLX-type-things are just as bad, and in any case, nVidia is not in a position to open it's drivers. If there were a good open-source supporting GPU manufacturer, we could all go and buy their cards, and nVidia and ATI might start thinking about opening the drivers. The Open Graphics Project is trying to create such a GPU, but it'll probably be a while before they have anything but a rather nic
      • We can't boycott they're products effectively. All manufacturers of GPUs that one could reasonably use for gaming/AIGLX-type-things are just as bad

        Half true. I tend not to play many games, but the latest Intel chips are fine for many AIGLX-based applications. They have pixel shaders in hardware, but not vertex shaders, which is fine for a lot of things, since things like GPU-based image processing all use pixel shaders.

        If you're running OS X on a MacBook (Intel GPU) then all of the CoreImage functions (ripple effects, etc) are all done on the GPU, not the CPU.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:27PM (#17529220)
    http://nouveau.freedesktop.org/wiki/NouveauCompani on_11 [freedesktop.org]

    [...] The pledge mentioned is however not supported by our project. We currently don't need any money and the person who set it up is not connected to our project.


    Congratulations to everyone who pledged to throw money at something that doesn't need any.
  • by chill (34294) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @05:42PM (#17529596) Journal
    Just to bring this back into view...

    http://wiki.duskglow.com/tiki-index.php?page=OGPN1 7&PHPSESSID=629ef486f166fab6ef8951de2a5ae96c [duskglow.com]

    The Open Graphics Project is making steady progress.
    • This is always a good related subject to mention. I'm still readily awaiting being able to order one of the FPGA cards to show my support!
    • When I saw this article I immediately thought: what kind of flaming MORON would pledge money to support drivers for Nvidious instead of open hardware? Not to mention the nueveau folks are on record they didn't ask for and don't need the money anyhow.
      • by petrus4 (213815)
        I didn't consider that open hardware article terribly encouraging, myself.

        a) It uses a vanilla PCI bus, not PCI Express or even AGP, and is listed at 300MHz. In other words, compared to commercial products, it's going to be SLOW. But I know, I know...who cares if it's technically inferior, right? It's *free.* Good luck with that, guys.

        b) They specifically mention that it "isn't a gaming card," and then talk about how they think Quake 3 *might* work with it. If it's a 3D card, if they're not intending
        • by k8to (9046)
          This is intended to be a card that works well for modern needs, that is it will accelerate typical things a modern display system requires, resulting in rapid display of all kinds of text, as well as visual desktop effects and etc. This _also_ makes it a decent candidate for a "3d" layer like opengl to target. So, by shooting to provide decent acceleration for modern and near-future desktop needs, you also get 3d support.

          That said, this is a _developer_ board. It's an FPGA, and designed to provide hardwa
  • .... with this?

    For one thing, if it's not worth $10k to nVidia to open up the source code themselvs, then why should it be that the software shouldn't be worth more than that to develop? And if we are looking at somebody who is doing this largely for philanthropic purposes to accept such a paltry sum, then it is just as probable that this person would have been just as able and willing to develop the same thing for free. Giving this $10,000 to the first person to do it also encourages people to compete

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MoralHazard (447833)
      if it's not worth $10k to nVidia to open up the source code themselvs, then why should it be that the software shouldn't be worth more than that to develop?

      You misunderstand why NVidia refuses to open their driver code. They're not just being dicks, and they probably aren't too scared to expose their own proprietary technologies, because there ARE benefits to gaining the acceptance of the OSS community that translate directly into more profit.

      The real problem is that NVidia didn't write all of the driver c
  • This whould be even better for linux.
  • I love the way that the full article even links to the vulnerability advisory and makes such a big deal out of it.

    Every single piece of software ever written has bugs. Any that run in a secure area of the OS (like the kernel) but that allow input from unpriveldged processes will also have vulnerabilities (they might allow something the shouldn't). The fact that only one advisory has been found is more of a surprise, especially with all the open source fanboys trying to pick holes in the drivers.

    Now ideally
    • Every single piece of software ever written has bugs.

      I dunno. I've never had a buffer overrun trying to print "Hello world".

  • What's In It For Me? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @07:21PM (#17531486) Homepage Journal
    Will this project produce a driver that will let my Inspiron 8000 offload window rendering from the CPU to the nVidia GPU, so Ubuntu runs faster?

    Or is it just a way to get higher FPS on 3D games running on nVidia HW?
  • That is more than can be said for a lot of open source drivers for things like printers or wireless cards. And for many hardware devices no driver exists at all.

    I'd rather have closed drivers that work for these devices under Linux than some crappy open source drivers.

    What is wrong with that?
  • by sbaker (47485) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:17PM (#17532316) Homepage
    nVidia have been very open about the reasons why they can't OpenSource their code - I think we have to take that as a true statement. It's not going to happen - period.

    Can we clone their drivers? Maybe - but it could take years to do that - and no sooner we succeed then we'll discover that there have been four generations of new hardware since we started - and the hardware we can support will be so far behind that very few people will want to use it.

    You *might* be able to do this for a relatively simple peripheral like a WiFi card - but graphics chips are probably the most complex (and least standardized) single chip device in existance. The driver has to contain a full-up compiler for the OpenGL shader language for chrissakes! (And no, you can't use an existing compiler or translate to some other language because this is a language that supports 4-way parallel arithmetic and has the bizarrest optimisation requirements imaginable!)

    This is a massive undertaking. $10,000 doesn't even scratch the surface of the work involved. I seriously doubt that a cash injection of a million dollars would get you a working, useful driver within a couple of years...let alone maintaining it and continually reverse-engineering the next generation of hardware.

    Your driver would probably (by necessity) infringe on a bunch of patents too.

    Whilst I'd REALLY like the peace of mind of knowing that there is a working, efficient and up-to-date-with-modern-hardware OpenSourced driver out there - it's *so* not going to happen. We need to find clean ways to wall off the nVidia driver so that it can function without being a security loophole and so it can survive kernel changes and such.
  • Wasn't HP the original motivating force behing getting nVidia to write the binary-only drivers? How did they do that? They must have some sway with nVidia. What would they recommend to persuade nVidia to open srouce their drivers? Would $10,000 help nVidia to do so? If yes then give the money to nVidia and not Nouveau.
    • Would $10,000 help nVidia to do so?
      Well, it's about .00004% of their annual revenue, and they could get it by taking a few dollars off of every employees salary.
  • I hereby commit to buying a graphics card meeting the following specifications:
    1.It must be as good or better in all areas (including shader performance) as my current GeForce FX 5700LE.
    2.It must be available with PCI Express and/or AGP since if I upgrade my system I will need PCI Express but right now I need AGP.
    3.It must have open source drivers for linux that provide good 3D performance (including the abillity to use all features of the card such as programmable shaders)
    4.It must provide windows XP drive
  • by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:16PM (#17534246) Homepage Journal
    10,000 seems like a lot of money. Its not. I expect a driver dev to get $70+ per hour, this pays for 143 hours.

    You are not going to get a driver in that amount of time.

    But, I will give you clues. The nVidia chip is pretty high on the OpenGL stack. The chip itself handles most OpenGL primitive operations. It just won't do contexts (nor will the ATI). I don't know the underlying protocol to communicate with the chip, but I would guess it is packet based. Registers would prove far too slow. I would imagine that for OpenGL, VGA, video, and mode support you are looking at almost a thousand "registers" or eqivalents.

    It may be possible to catch the kernel level packet interfaces -- mode setting and VGA extension should be reversable via emulation. But this won't tell you what any of the commands do. You could try iterating OpenGL and comparing generated packets... but...

    Modern chips typically DON'T implement a fixed-function pipeline. So you will have to figure out how OpenGL shader compiler for the chip works (because you have to know the "machine code").

    Good luck for a 4 week driver project. The shader compiler itself is almost a C++ compiler which has to be reversed, the communications format and the packet streams. I would give 10 man-years as a first estimate.

    Or, you could try to get the vendors to "be nice".

    But I won't do it for 10 grand. Sorry.
  • Gee, maybe pulling drivers out of the kernel and maintaining a stable ABI might allow manufacturers to release better drivers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Builder (103701)
      Ya think? Pity the kernel developers don't.

      Beyond just allowing for better drivers, this would allow other ISVs who write software that interacts with the kernel to better support Linux and thus grow the Linux ecosystem. But making developers lives easier and more fun was apparently more important.

      I've been ranting and railing about the stable API / ABI issue since the new development process was announced. I now have to wait for my distro to stabilise / patch 'their' kernel six ways from Sunday. Even today

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