Rant about ATI

Russell Shaw rjshaw at netspace.net.au
Wed Aug 9 23:12:18 PDT 2006

Marek Wawrzyczny wrote:
> On Thursday 10 August 2006 02:20, Russell Shaw wrote:
>>Miles Bader wrote:
>>>Marek Wawrzyczny <marekw1977 at yahoo.com.au> writes:
>>>>If *nux had an equal or majority of the desktop market share (I am
>>>>allowed to dream), hardware manufacturers (of consumer grade products)
>>>>would  not hesitate to put money into drivers and we wouldn't really
>>>>bother to have this discussion :)
>>>Er, yes we would because: (1) many people do not like closed-source
>>>drivers, even if some (like you) tolerate them; and more importantly
>>>(2) closed-source drivers tend to suck in general, and are a maintenance
>>>nightmare (bit-rot, herrrre we come!).
>>>However, if linux had a large share of the "market", the stupid
>>>attitudes of many manufacturers would probably change for the better.
>>>Currently it seems due more to knee-jerk conservativism and clueless
>>>management/legal-departments than anything else; there's just not
>>>enough money at risk to force them to actually think about the issue for
>>>more than 3 seconds.
>>It will only take one open-source graphics card with published pcb layout
>>or a kit available to give X the full flexibility it needs. Then those
>>binary parasites can be ditched when a developer takes X in a new
> An increasing number of people I know are moving to laptops... so just having 
> a graphics card is not enough. Brand name and performane is another big 
> consideration amongst "power" users who often do want to play the occasional 
> game (which I can't understand since I haven't played games in years).
> Finally, you'd have to convince companies like HP, Acer to use the open source 
> hardware since many less technically oriented users buy hardware from retail 
> shops. Also, how would warranty be handled... who would be responsible, etc. 
> Who would be willing to mortgage their house to get the thing off the ground. 
> What about stock, patents, the whole legal side of things (I presume that 
> some commercial compan(y|ies) may at some point consider this product to be a 
> threat and could launch legal action to try and bury it with some patent 
> infringement  claims, etc).
> Would it mean that non open-source hardware ceases to be supported? 
> Realistically this would mean that FOSS becomes an educational only tool. I 
> guess this all comes down to who are FOSS users meant to be? Because, if FOSS 
> is meant to be free and available to all, then it also needs to cater for 
> people running non open-source hardware.
> All in all, an open source card would be fantastic... an opportunity for 
> electrical engineers to play bigger part in the play a bigger part in the 
> open source community. But I am a pessimist first and from a commercial point 
> of view and market penetration, I don't think it's going to be an easy 
> battle. Any open source hardware should complement and quite possibly drive 
> X, but not make it fully open-source only...

I find it easier to build my own video hardware and write software for it on
my own small embedded systems. It should be just as easy to write video card
driver card for a specific graphics card in linux. As it is now, the video
card driver stuff is too entangeled with X.

It would be useful if there was a library separate from X that can load a
video card driver as a backend, and has an API frontend with primitive
graphics operations that is aligned with what most graphics hardware can
do, as well as other things such as power management and monitor detection
functions. Maybe i could already do that by extracting the existing stuff in
X, but i need to study it more.

Having a more modular arrangement like that would make it easier to figure
out how to make things like xinerama faster when it spans across 4 dual-head

An open-source card would allow experimentation with directly accelerating
primitive operations that current cards may not do, and that i have lots of
ideas for. As for laptops, they'd only benefit from any flow-on of ideas via
closed-source drivers, which could be years if ever.

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