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ATI, AMD, and free drivers

ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 3, 2006 8:46 UTC (Thu) by dmantione (guest, #4640)
Parent article: ATI, AMD, and free drivers

We must put the pressure on it. Novell has already made a start by no
longer distributing proprietary modules.

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ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 3, 2006 10:30 UTC (Thu) by NRArnot (subscriber, #3033) [Link]

What greater pressure can there be above AMD's main (only?) competitor (Intel) doing things the open way?

At present, Intel's graphics chips are not anywhere near the standards set by NVidia and ATI, so this pressure is not intense. However, don't expect it to stay that way much longer. For one thing, the "entry level" requirements of MS Vista are quite high. For another, the direction of technological development is towards closer and closer integration, and more and more bandwidth, between the GPU and the CPU. I expect that in the not very distant future, entry-level will be on the same chip as the CPU, and high-end graphics will plug into one [or more] of the other CPU socket[s] on a dual- [or multi]-CPU motherboard.

The thing that worries me most is Hollywood, DRM and laws. We could end up with a situation where it is actually *illegal* to have a GPU supported by fully open source, just as (in some countries) it's already illegal to have a fully open-source Wireless NIC driver.

ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 3, 2006 22:59 UTC (Thu) by bluefoxicy (guest, #25366) [Link]

Graphics go on the north bridge, the high-bandwidth bus between the CPU and the memory/AGP/PCI-E16x/etc hardware. They do not belong on the CPU, ever.

Having CPU + GPU on the same chip means a strong lack of flexibility. The die has to be redesigned to reposition the transistors to fit either A) A new CPU core; or B) A new GPU core; this is -very- -expensive-. The north bridge usually connects the GPU to the PCI-Express or AGP bus; in effect, the north bridge stays the same, the GPU is effectively run to a controller chip for a PCI-E card which is just wired straight into the north bridge. This gives cheap and easy flexibility because you swap two chips on the board if you want to release a new board with a better GPU.

Besides that, both GPU and CPU activities cause heat. You don't want to concentrate that in the same chip. Imagine a Barton running twice as hot; instead of a 2.0GHz Barton you have a 1.2GHz Barton to control the heat. Worse, GPU and CPU are independent, so you would have temperature fluctuations based on two separate models.

As for plugging into another CPU socket, CPU sockets are all proprietary. You don't want to search for an ATi Socket A vs ATi Socket 754 vs ATi Socket 939; this puts more manufacture stress on the company to satisfy the same market. They either have to manufacture all kinds of chips; or reduce their target market. Both are bad for business and will increase costs and thus consumer prices. Then you also have the issue of changing connectors, i.e. D-SUB vs DVI vs whatever they come up with nex; how do you change those? Buy a new mobo?

Single-chip CPU/GPU is too expensive and inflexible to work. It's not that it brings substantial gains but has a few hurdles; it's that it brings substantial problems and has negligible gains. Huge bandwidth between the GPU and the CPU is needed to load textures; besides that we're sending just a ton of simple commands. Video memory and video card DMA (which is kind of what AGP did) handles the textures and models, since they can be loaded in and sit waiting to be used; CPU-GPU integration will make the commands go more realtime by maybe 1/10000 FPS, not useful.

ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 5, 2006 1:04 UTC (Sat) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

actually, you will find that the AMD sockets are a lot less propriatary then you think.

they have opened up the hyperchannel interface and there are several companies out there selling FPGA's and other custom co-processors that drop into opteron sockets

ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 7, 2006 17:35 UTC (Mon) by job (guest, #670) [Link]

The trend is to move more and more logic to the CPU die. I wouldn't at all be surprised if the PCI(E) controller moves on-die along with the memory controller. Every year there is room for more and more transistors, you can't expect that to only be used for an ever larger cache, and very complex instruction decoders has limited use as we've seen lately with Intel.

Yes, having separate components is more flexible but also more expensive. But I certainly don't miss the external FPU. I probably won't miss the external GPU either, but I don't expect that transition within the next five years. I don't think a certain component "belongs" anywhere. It all depends on your process technology.

ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 10, 2006 9:14 UTC (Thu) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

Just take a look at the Open Graphics Project (or whatever it's called). That's the attempt to create a fully open graphics card. I gather it's effectively just a reprogrammable CPU on a board, that happens to be dedicated to chucking out a video signal.

Repeat after me "A GPU is a CPU" one hundred times - there isn't actually much difference between the two - as should be obvious looking at the PS3 or Xbox 360 - both use the Cell processor, and both divide the CPU and GPU functions up amongst the (presumably identical) cores.

If you read The Inquirer, Charlie has written that AMD *HAD* to buy a video company, because GPUs and CPUs are moving ever closer, and they needed the GPU technology to put it into the CPU, otherwise Intel's "today's blue skies" projects would be eating AMDs lunch in five years time.


ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 15, 2006 11:24 UTC (Tue) by NRArnot (subscriber, #3033) [Link]

Dare I say, told you so? (Yes, I am but a slightly-informed onlooker in the field of state-of-the-art chip design).

ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 3, 2006 16:06 UTC (Thu) by smoogen (subscriber, #97) [Link]

I think Novell was the only major vendor shipping propietary drivers. Ubuntu might be the only other one, but I am not sure it would be in their markets interest to stop it.

ATI, AMD, and free drivers

Posted Aug 3, 2006 19:15 UTC (Thu) by wilck (guest, #29844) [Link]

Don't overestimate the significance of Novell's move. The Novell Partner Driver process and YaST 3rd party software channels will take care that the AMD and NVidia drivers are well integrated into SLES and SLED - only a few mouse clicks away.

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