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LWN.net Weekly Edition for May 23, 2013
An "enum" for Python 3
An unexpected perf feature
LWN.net Weekly Edition for May 16, 2013
A look at the PyPy 2.0 release
The abrupt merging of Nouveau
Posted Dec 16, 2009 3:35 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 7:43 UTC (Wed) by Bluehorn (subscriber, #17484)
I guess, AMD and Intel are big enough to own patent pools which make it possible to defend against patent lawsuits. Of course, they will still have a hard time against patent trolls.
It's probably just balancing free drivers vs. the risk of patent lawsuits. Maybe Nvidia knows they are violating a patent and don't want to disclose it?
Posted Dec 16, 2009 21:18 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 4:30 UTC (Wed) by elanthis (guest, #6227)
It has to do with market strength. Video drivers -- especially Open ones -
- are not a commodity. A lot of drivers exist, but most of them are shit.
Intels drivers are crappy, even their proprietary Windows ones. ATI's
drivers have a horrifically bad history even on Windows. NVIDIA has had
its goofs, but overall their drivers have been simply fantastic for many
years. Their driver team is superb. Maybe they're better funded, maybe
the company provides them better documentation, or maybe NVIDIA just
managed to hire the better team -- why they have better drivers is not
important, but the fact that they do have such soundly superior drivers is
The ATI hardware is damn nice. Intel's hardware is even pretty damn well
done, given the market it aims for. Both Intel and ATI have problems
delivering that hardware to users in a usable package due to shoddy
drivers, however. I can point to 3 series bugs in the latest Intel Windows
drivers, and nobody who's ever used FGLRX can deny the flakiness of ATI's
NVIDIA giving up their driver tech will literally level the playing field.
ATI drivers with NVIDIA's memory manager, GLSL/HLSL compilers,
optimizations, and general architecture would pretty much eliminate any
advantage NVIDIA has over ATI.
Why would a company possibly want to do that for absolutely no gain?
NVIDIA doesn't need help from the community developing its drivers. It
makes more than enough to afford the salaries of its driver team. It will
get no benefit from Open Source drivers. It will simply lose its edge.
The Free Software camp will claim this is unethical of NVIDIA. If NVIDIA
is knowledge and learning that results in superior drivers, says the FSF,
then NVIDIA should improve and enrich mankind by sharing that knowledge,
and that not sharing that information is a direct and intentional attack on
the progress and future of humanity. That's all fine and good to think
like that if you want. NVIDIA -- and most other companies -- aren't in the
business of enriching mankind, unfortunately, and aren't going to risk
their marketable strengths for idealism, especially when their share-
holders are not the kind of people that accept knowledge-withholding as
If and when the Open Source drivers become a commodity -- much like Open
Source web servers or programming languages or kernels or GUI toolkits --
then and only then will the cost/benefit ratio of releasing Open drivers
even start to look advantageous for a market leader like NVIDIA.
In other words, until ATI's drivers can trounce NVIDIA's, NVIDIA is not
ever going to Open their drivers.
Open drivers' advantages are pretty low compared to NVIDIA's (on the
practical side of things, at least). There are a few niche markets where
Open is actually a bullet point used when evaluating a product. There are
cases when the community can improve the driver more easily and more
cheaply than the vendor. There are cases where being included upstream in
the Linux kernel or userland graphics stack increases market share.
Unfortunately, video drivers are not one of those places. The binary
NVIDIA driver is still hugely popular even for regular ol' Linux users
because its feature set, performance, and stability outweighs the costs of
having a binary blob in their kernel. The average Linux desktop user has
already proven that Open or being upstreamed are not prerequisites to
purchase. Much like the early history of Linux, then, it is only by
turning the market for video drivers into one of commodities instead of one
of luxuries that Open will become the standard and proprietary will fade
Posted Dec 16, 2009 5:40 UTC (Wed) by cventers (subscriber, #31465)
I think it is entirely appropriate that the FOSS community should apply any and all forms of leverage available to alter the driver landscape in a way that favors our open development practices. It's great to do that in collaboration with the manufacturers, but for those that stand in the way of progress, all options should be on the table.
I'm a strong capitalist, which means that I recognize the real end of capitalism isn't so much about turning a monetary profit but is more about driving the marginal cost of everything towards zero... to not have to work for the things we want. We should want to commoditize the driver market, the same way we've done for other markets.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 8:19 UTC (Wed) by jmm82 (guest, #59425)
Open Source DOES try and force hardware vendors to distribute their code,
not because they want to, but because the market forces them to have to in
order to compete.
I would guess until enough of the market share shifts to open source for
graphics cards(desktops) Nvideo will not release source.
Again I just made this up so I expect to be corrected, but I do not see the
relation to Capitalism here.
IMO Open Source is Socialism and Red Hat(etc.) is the government. It just
so happens that socialism works in software because distribution of code is
free, but supporting the code is not. And that is why people pay healthy
sums to Red Hat for support instead of using CentOS. Intel(etc) piggy
backs to sell server hardware, but Nvidea gives nada because there is no
graphics card on most servers.
Ubuntu 9.10 Flash driver issue. I finally fixed it after three hours, but
I do Linux for a living. A normal desktop user will not be able to use
Ubuntu 9.10. The reason, a closed source Adobe Flash driver again linux
has little pull right now on the desktop.
I did not mean to write this much or be offensive to Red Hat or Intel which
are companies I respect.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 12:15 UTC (Wed) by cventers (subscriber, #31465)
Socialism doesn't work with scarcity. But ideas are free!
Posted Dec 16, 2009 17:49 UTC (Wed) by drag (subscriber, #31333)
Pretty much everything works better when individuals are allowed to do as
they please. They will take time to work together and get along and form
orginizations simply because it's in their best interest.
"Socialism" in the way that it means that people work together and
"Capitolism" in the way that people will automatically create a system for
exchanging currency and creating businesses if left to their own devices
are pretty much exactly the same thing. Creating social networks and
creating a monetary system (whether it be code or credit) and a work-reward
system is as natural to humans as breathing.
It's when you start creating rules and people try to exert authority over
one another in order to try to drive people to follow in their own
particular viewpoint of the world is when bad shit starts happening.
The basic take-away is that when you put a small amount of people in charge
a large amount of people you have a break down and inefficiencies. When
people are allowed to do things on their own in a distributed manner then
that is when we can reach highest efficiencies.
Posted Dec 20, 2009 4:08 UTC (Sun) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954)
I don't see where socialism enters into the open source situation.
Socialism requires a central government to determine what each person's contribution to society should be (and enforce it). There isn't anything like that in open source.
I do see a social responsibility or altruism angle, where someone voluntarily contributes code or licenses with GPL in order to bring about a better world for everyone, but that's basically welfare, which goes hand in hand with capitalism, not socialism.
Posted Dec 20, 2009 4:21 UTC (Sun) by jmm82 (guest, #59425)
Posted Dec 24, 2009 22:15 UTC (Thu) by Wol (guest, #4433)
Actually, it's probably better described as Stalinism - where the government takes everything in the name of the people and then the elite use it as their own personal property.
Just like fascism, in fact.
In fact, also pretty much like the current "capitalist" setup - where the government and their cronies are walking off with all our money TODAY. What are the recent boom and current bust iof not yet another means for the already-rich to get even richer?
Posted Dec 26, 2009 21:21 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954)
Neither socialism, communism, nor capitalism imply that government employees take stuff that rightfully belongs to others or that rich people get stuff that rightfully belongs to non-rich people, so whether that's in fact what happens when societies attempt to set up these economic systems, it really isn't relevant to the question of whether the existing open source economy is socialist, capitalist, or whatever.
Posted Jan 19, 2010 20:29 UTC (Tue) by personman (guest, #63100)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 6:25 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
I have no idea how accurate this is:
But, it doesn't seem to support Nvidia being far ahead of the competition based on the drivers with secret sauce. The criteria used when selecting a graphics solution for a particular machine is complex, I'm quite sure. It cannot be reduced to who's got a better driver. And it is rarely made by the end user (only enthusiasts do that).
When it comes to Linux, binary only drivers are dreck. Every time you have a problem with your kernel, the first question by support is: is it tainted? If yes, you are out of luck, because nobody's going to touch your problem with a ten foot pole.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 10:24 UTC (Wed) by ikm (subscriber, #493)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 11:02 UTC (Wed) by nye (guest, #51576)
Add me to that list.
I like to play games occasionally so I need drivers that provide reasonable accelerated 3D performance without huge amounts of work, or problems with instability. If the drivers were up to scratch I'd happily switch to ATI, but it looks like that's years away, and I'm not even sure that gap is actually closing.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 21:23 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 21:35 UTC (Wed) by ikm (subscriber, #493)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 22:08 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 22:37 UTC (Wed) by ikm (subscriber, #493)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 23:13 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 14:18 UTC (Wed) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
On the other hand, sometimes my favorite distribution decides it's time to get rid of this binary driver that was working very well, and time for me to become a beta-tester of this half-baked open source replacement that keeps crashing.
As soon as my PC crashes, an squad of experienced and talented kernel developers with nothing better to do with their life immediately notices that my kernel is not tainted. After a few minutes they knock on my door. They immediately identify the faulty driver, track down the bug to this hardware configuration of mine they had never seen before, write and test the appropriate patch, re-compile the kernel for me and install it on my machine. While leaving, they thank me so much for being such a helpful beta-tester and good open-source citizen.
Please give me a break. I like the open-source ideology. I really do - as long as it does not "taint" facts.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 21:20 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 22:24 UTC (Wed) by tseaver (subscriber, #1544)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 23:28 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Look, I understand that if things don't work with the current open source driver, people will run proprietary drivers. I did exactly that for many of my users (example: before nouveau, there was nv, which didn't have good support for dual head, so I _had_ to give my users Nvidia driver so that they can use the second screen).
But, but, but... If Nvidia released their driver as open source when they should have, everyone would have a better solution and it would be fully supported by kernel devs too. The only reason all this stuff had to be painfully reverse engineered is because Nvidia refuse to do the right thing. So, yeah, of course it's not as good as Nvidia stuff (yet). The guys working on nouveau are doing heroic work, IMHO.
*) You can look at kernel bugzilla and verify that many people running Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora etc. kernels _do_ get their problems heard and resolved. You can also verify that in e.g. Red Hat bugzilla, indeed, kernel developers employed by Red Hat help users regularly. The patches usually end up being applied upstream.
Posted Dec 17, 2009 10:29 UTC (Thu) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
If you are an average Joe then you will never get help, open-source or not.
If you are a big company willing to pay then you can get help sometimes, open-source or not.
Of course open-source is much much better for all types of consumers *in the long term*. But when you have a piece of hardware to get working *right now* it does not really matter.
Posted Dec 17, 2009 22:52 UTC (Thu) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
Posted Dec 18, 2009 8:15 UTC (Fri) by farnz (guest, #17727)
That's not my direct experience. If I (as an individual user) interact
nicely with the Open Source maintainers - i.e. get the information they
ask for as fast as I can, describe the bug not my idea of the fix, and
generally follow Simon
Tatham's guide to bug reporting - I get solutions to my problems. This
is far better than I ever got from a company issuing binary
Posted Dec 18, 2009 14:29 UTC (Fri) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
Did it cross your mind that the average Joe does not even speak English?
Posted Dec 18, 2009 14:39 UTC (Fri) by farnz (guest, #17727)
So let's get this straight: the average Joe doesn't speak English, yet is able to (somehow) navigate an English-only driver download site, and follow binary driver install instructions, that only come in English? Yet, they're incapable of finding enough help with English to file useful bug reports?
I've done my share of helping non-English speakers work through a non-technical friend who speaks both (usually very bad) English and their language file decent bug reports. Generally, it's not too difficult - Google Translate and similar software tools work well in finding the words needed to describe symptoms, and the technical information is cut-and-paste only anyway, and usually incomprehensible to English speakers, too. Heck, I've even had the fun of working entirely through Google Translate to find a bug; IME, open source driver developers are quite happy to work with you over a language barrier, so long as you're happy to try and make things work.
Posted Dec 18, 2009 17:23 UTC (Fri) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
Are you aware that some Linux distributions ship binary drivers, or make their installation just a few native language clicks away?
Posted Dec 18, 2009 17:41 UTC (Fri) by farnz (guest, #17727)
Are you aware that distributions where someone has bothered to translate packages from English to another language are also distributions where you can interact with speakers of that language on the distribution bugtracker? What's more, the people you interact with, in your language, are generally helpful in getting your bug report into shape, then translating it and funnelling information between your language and the developer's preferred language.
Seriously, I've seen bug reports handled and fixed from distributions I didn't even know existed, precisely because I don't even know the writing system used by the distro's native language, let alone the language. But, someone who spoke the right language took a report from their bug tracker, did some basic triage, determined it was a genuine bug, and sent the report upstream, with a note explaining that it was all machine translated, and apologising for the poor English. A back and forth ensued, getting technical data from the bug reporter, and the bug got fixed.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 6:36 UTC (Wed) by eru (subscriber, #2753)
Would it really? Drivers are by definition hardware-dependent. ATI hardware would be sufficiently different from NVIDIA hardware that little of the NVIDIA driver code would be useful there, and porting attempts could probably produce buggy and inefficient code.
One thing I find interesting is this situation sets up almost a controlled test of open source vs proprietary development: Assuming ATI and Intel have provided full hardware info (and continue to do so for new hardware in the future), the supposed superiority of the open process should eventually produce superior Linux drivers for them.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 6:55 UTC (Wed) by quotemstr (subscriber, #45331)
But drivers need to expose OpenGL and DirectX interfaces to applications, but GPUs are simply highly parallel processors capable of generic computation. The portion of the driver that implements these APIs in terms of the generic facilities all GPUs provide is almost certainly useful across disparate hardware.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 9:53 UTC (Wed) by smurf (subscriber, #17840)
We don't ask them to give up any driver tech. They need not disclose a single byte of code.
We only need (or want, really) the hardware specs, firmware opcodes, things like that.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 23:31 UTC (Wed) by mikov (subscriber, #33179)
Posted Dec 22, 2009 0:58 UTC (Tue) by ceplm (guest, #41334)
Posted Dec 22, 2009 9:38 UTC (Tue) by Kamilion (subscriber, #42576)
As a hardware geek, I can tell you, I've crashed the nvidia driver hundreds of times in a *DAY* just trying to find a stabilized overclock -- and considering nVidia has classically been the Chip of The Overclocker, it does not surprise me in the least to see nVidia as the leading cause of vista crashes when the G80 was released.
... What scares me more than pie charts is that Microsoft has automated collection of millions of machines, all dumping into these huge QA databases, and NOBODY seems to stop and think, "Hey, Quickbooks just crashed and Windows wants to send a partial memory dump to Microsoft's QA database..."
Someday, some sneak's going to mine that DB for all it's worth. That'll be one interesting day. There could be just about anything in there, considering the general quality of the 3rd party code in that ecosystem.
Posted Dec 16, 2009 16:56 UTC (Wed) by Trelane (subscriber, #56877)
Posted Dec 16, 2009 21:34 UTC (Wed) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
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