Mailinglist Archive: opensuse (5130 mails)

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Re: [OT] Meta-discussion on the IP issues of GPUs and 3D -- WAS: Xgl on legacy nvidia cards
  • From: "Bryan J. Smith" <b.j.smith@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 19:03:04 -0400
  • Message-id: <1148425384.2816.18.camel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On Tue, 2006-05-23 at 10:08 -0300, Alvaro Kuolas wrote:
> What's wrong with you people!
> Were is your GNU GPL spirit?

It's called intellectual property (IP). IP is _always_ going to be an
issue with GPUs (Graphical Processing Unit), _period_. Today's GPUs are
_more_powerful_ than CPUs. It's like having a CPU with specialized
vector units. And must is driven in specialized software. A lot of
that IP is either Intel's or, increasingly via cross-licensing
agreements, Microsoft.

An additional problem at the _hardware_ level is the Intel platform
design itself. The reason why ATI and nVidia need kernel drivers is
largely Intel's fault. Intel continues to have _no_ "system"
interconnect and connects the GPU via an "peripheral" interconnect. So
it has to use hacks in software for coherency between the GPU and CPUs.

If we all used AMD HyperTransport eXtension (HTX) for GPUs like we do
Infiniband and select other expansions, then we wouldn't have a problem.
But as of right now, except for a few non-commodity, multi-GPU,
specialized systems, HTX isn't available for GPUs. And that's not
likely to change with Intel's control over the GPU industry --
especially when it comes to IP.

But at least it's an _open_ API in OpenGL, including extensions via an
Architectural Review Board (ARB) to keep vendor extensions from
dominating out of next generations. That's completely _different_ than
how DirectX is.

So even if we don't have "open source," we _do_ have "open standards."
It's only half of the equation, but given all the IP ownership issues,
it's actually advantageous (from a legal perspective) for ATI, Matrox,
nVidia and others to keep the source code closed. Especially with some
of the key IP at the kernel level being Intel's (which they don't share
in their own drivers).

> For now I just buy computer parts that have data sheets freely
> available or enough information for a good driver.

Writing a GLX and corresponding kernel-level memory/interconnect
interface driver for a GPU is about 1,000x time more difficult than a
network driver for a MAC (Media Access Control) IC.

It's like comparing a single stateful packet filter (SPF) firewall for
layer 2-4 to a complete security appliance that also proxy and filters
layers 5-7 as well.

This is reality. It's not going to change. Especially since GPUs
double in performance _twice_as_fast_ as CPUs.

> That's a good way to support the really GNU/Linux Friendly enterprises.
> ...and support Linux in general.
> But, on the Video Card segment... is though!
> Just nVidia and ATI... both on war. Not a friendly situation.

Not true! Not true at all!

ATI and nVidia, as well as Creative, Matrox and others, _do_ work
together in the OpenGL ARB! They keep the _open_ standard going! So
anything written today in OpenGL will _still_ work on OpenGL in the

GPUs are _not_ MACs. They are 1,000x more complex -- especially in
their software support. But at least we _do_ have an open standard.

Bryan J. Smith Professional, technical annoyance
Americans don't get upset because citizens in some foreign
nations can burn the American flag -- Americans get upset
because citizens in those same nations can't burn their own

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