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Paying nVidia

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 10:10 UTC (Wed) by dion (guest, #2764)
Parent article: LCA: The state of the Nouveau project

Has anyone ever asked nVidia how much money they want to release their own parts of the driver code?

Their excuse to not free the code has always been that there is some third party code that they cannot release, if that's the only reason then they ought to be able to take that code out and release their own code.

I can fully understand nVidia not wanting to document the hardware, because I'm pretty sure that documentation doesn't exist other than as lines of code in their driver, so any documentation written would be wrong or at least obsolete.

The Pledge(tm) quite quickly found 1200 people willing to spend $10 eac without any sort of idea of what the money would be used for, so I don't think it would be too unlikely to be able to find a much larger sum (like a million) if there was an agreement in place with nVidia that they would release their driver code.


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Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 11:24 UTC (Wed) by alvherre (subscriber, #18730) [Link]

An nVidia executive said some time ago that the reason they didn't open the code was that open source developers are not smart enough for something as complex as a 3D graphics driver, which I found a bit insulting. So if a million dollars was to be gathered, I'd rather give it to Dave Airlie and the Nouveau folks than nVidia itself — I already gave nVidia some money for its hardware and it refused to give me the code (not that I actually asked, but ...); so let's support the open source supposedly-not-smart-enough guys this time and see how dumb they turn out to be (or not).

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 12:33 UTC (Wed) by mattmelton (subscriber, #34842) [Link]

...in nVidia's defence, I can see why a marketing person would say that. My department has had a few applicants to nVidia before. The telephone interview process is phenomenal - you are asked to cite and cross reference everything from advance vector theory to the current research on pixel and vertex shaders you see coming out of eastern physics labs. As an MSc student (computer games systems) studying what I can only call the tip of the iceberg, linux kernel and device driver writing is quite far off the beaten track.

In my opinion, the hierarchy of programmers goes something like this...

nvidia programmers -> pixel/vertex shader programmers -> kernel / assembly programmers -> image processing / neural network / database programmers -> C programmers -> ruby/perl programmers -> scripters -> web programmers

(over generalized, please don't flame)

This line of thought leaves quite a gap however... what about people who have been in the 3d hardware industry, or PhD students who have spent fantastic amounts of time and new theories? I think nVidia, are, in a way right, but again so myopic - it's painful.

The last thing nVidia wants is people to gain that extra competitive step into the 3d hardware industry that it had over 3DFX in the late 1990s... because we all know how that went.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 12:47 UTC (Wed) by gravious (guest, #7662) [Link]

what are you smoking dude?

hierarchy of programmers?

everybody knows it goes like this

systems architect -> senior team lead -> senior proggy -> junior proggy (or some such crap hierarchical management-speak employment-agency rubbish)

_or_

(torvalds, kernighan, bellard... other guru status proggies) -> everyone else

_or_

if you put your brain on you'll realise that there are smart programmers in every field - i guess if you think that the 'web programmers' that wrote gmail are the bottom of the pile why don't you do one better, eh? any piece of software once it becomes sufficiently complex requires smarts. that said, i believe that great c/asm programmers are probably a step ahead of the rest of us by necessity.

_or_

have i completely missed you and you were being funny? i hope so...

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 13:37 UTC (Wed) by ekj (guest, #1524) [Link]

There's great, good, average, poor and sucky programmers in every field.

The separation ain't along lines of what they work on, nor along which language they use to develop. (ok, so not that many great programmers prefer qBasic)

There are people doing abolutely brilliant work in Javascript, and there are people pounding out stupid, buggy, unreadable, unmaintainable code in Assembler.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 15:21 UTC (Wed) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

If you're going to talk about a hierarchy of programmers, or any other sort of virtual schlong-measuring contest, it's obligatory to reference this:

http://www.brunching.com/images/geekchart.pdf

I'm sure that real time device drivers consider themselves superior to Nvidia card driver programmers consider themselves superiour to kernel hackers consider themselves superior to hard-core scientific algorithm developers consider themselves superior to complier developers consider themselves superior to lisp purists consider themselves superior to Richard Stallman consider themselves superior to LAMP programmers consider themselves superior to reverse engineers consider themselves superior to BSA lawyers consider themselves superior to everybody else.

I mean, making a hierarchy like that, about who's smarter than whom, is just asking for ridicule.

-Rob

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 16:10 UTC (Wed) by marduk (subscriber, #3831) [Link]

Even if your statements are true, and it has been dutifully debated so I won't even bother to do that here, all nVidia has to do is release the technical details of how to *program* the card, not how the card was written. I'm sure there are more than enough developers in the OSS community that know how to read technical specifications. You don't, for example, have to know how Intel designs and builds Xeons in order to program one now do you?

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 10:07 UTC (Thu) by gyles (guest, #1600) [Link]

In the case of the Xeon all the instructions fed to it are from the known x86 instruction set (plus SSE etc.). The Xeon then translates these to micro-ops and executes them. Thus knowing the instruction set reveals nothing about the internals of the chip.

The nVidia chip is designed to optimise the whole chain, and does not have to adhere to a published interface at the hardware level. To maintain performance there cannot be the same sort of translations as the Xeon performs. Thus knowing the language fed to the hardware is more revealing about the hardware itself.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 18:27 UTC (Wed) by iabervon (subscriber, #722) [Link]

It sounds to me like nVidia programmers are good at things relevant to graphics, but that doesn't mean they can write code that doesn't perform badly or incorrectly on a 1024-processor, 256-graphics-card IA-64 machine. Most likely, they can do a better job of translating OpenGL calls into card primitives. But there's no reason this needs to be done in the kernel. I'd bet that kernel developers are better than nVidia programmers at arranging bus transactions.

There's a certain level of general coding skill that you need to have to do things of a certain complexity. And then there are an assortment of specific skills you need to do particular tasks. I'd guess that the open source community has the best general coding skills, and is okay at a lot of specific skills. That should be sufficient to let nVidia focus on writing code which is in userspace and part of a MIT/X-licensed program. And, also, allow open source programmers who happen to be good at graphics stuff to take a crack at driving some common hardware.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 3:03 UTC (Thu) by mattmelton (subscriber, #34842) [Link]

ugh.

I asked for no flames. The LWN community has let me down. A previous LWN edition with a letter to the editor points to a downturn in LWN comment quality recently. I concur. (this IS a flame)

I was not trolling or flaming intentionally. I gave my honest opinion as someone in the gaming industry. If anyone has studied physics or maths at a masters level, and then engaged in 3d software development, I welcome a rebuttal.

Interestingly, there's an issue I've come to recognise between business owners and doctors/surgeons/consultants since medicine is in my family.. It's quite a simple issue: business men/doctors/surgeons/consultants don't like to be criticised. I feel I've criticised people who *think* they can successfully perform at the same level as an nVidia employee (or, frightened those who aspire). I apologise if I belittled anyone - specially the abstract XML gurus out there (etc) - by my labelling. I directed nothing at no one. I merely stated what I saw in the employment market place.

There are people who can perform at a distinctive level no matter their programming 'label'. While I did not acknowledge this, I regret not mentioning it.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 4:25 UTC (Thu) by jwb (guest, #15467) [Link]

You posted flame bait and were flamed. Why are you surprised? You can't undo a flame (nor flame bait) with a parenthetical clause. For the same reasons, you can't head off an argument by ending your argumentative post with "I don't want to argue about this."

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 4:54 UTC (Thu) by modernjazz (guest, #4185) [Link]

I have a PhD in physics and I write 3d software (or even n-d software,
take that!). Expertise is partly a matter of having some ability, but
perhaps more a matter of devoting the time to master a subject---and once
you've done so, it usually seems quite easy and straightforward. (As a
mathematician would say, "trivial!") But I don't know a damn thing about
writing even bare-bones HTML, so I guess I'm both a genius and a dunce in
your hierarchy.

My personal view is that hierarchies like the one you proposed tend to be
more confusing than helpful: there is a range of talent in every field,
and the standard deviation within a community often exceeds the
difference in means between communities. Yes, some fields are
unapproachable without a certain baseline ability, and that tends to
guarantee that most of the people working in them are at least decent.
But one also finds that absolutely terrific people pop up in the
strangest of places. Unfortunately, it's harder to remember this if you
also maintain a mental hierarchy.

I guess it's part of the power of open source: an acknowledgement that,
sometimes, the person with the best idea may be "out there" and without
any obvious credentials, other than the code s/he writes.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 13:57 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

I don't concur about the comment quality - but if I did, I'd be citing this comment as an example. First of all, you post something inflammatory and then expect it not to be challenged; secondly, when it is challenged you complain that because you asked to get away with it, you should have been let off; thirdly, you state that you'll only listen to different opinions from a class of people whose qualifications you (in your magnanimity) recognise - which is just plain intellectual snobbery. You say that professionals don't like to be criticised - but you've failed to demonstrate any ability to respond to criticism yourself.

At best, that's an extremely immature way to conduct yourself - and I know, having been guilty of it when I was a kid - and at worst it's trollish behaviour. Please don't do it any more.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 21, 2007 22:39 UTC (Sun) by mattmelton (subscriber, #34842) [Link]

I disagree with what you've said. And this is why.

Your type of comment and attitude is something I am not familiar with at LWN. With the exception of a few inter-developer debates spreading over from LKML, if there was a non-hostile post which did not troll or flame, people posted positive or non-negative criticism at the very least.

You have not. Instead you take initiative to flame me and my response and my applolgy. You are NOT constructive. You are very negative.

Unlike yours (yes, it's personal as you took the time to flame me), my initial post was clear and informative.
* I study where someone has applied for a post at nVidia.
* I have been told in no uncertain words what to expect and what level I am supposed to be at before apply to a company like nVidia
* I have my foot at the bottom rung of a very tall ladder.
* And I gave my opinion on where I see programmers standing.

If you have an issue with what I said, then by all means please reply with something along the lines of, "I disagree with your hierarchy - i don't believe its right to..." etc

Getting passed the flare of what people write is hard nowadays. The problem is, Lysse, that I believe you're really not annoyed about the nVidia issue on which I commented on; you're not annoyed at the perspective I chose to talk from; and you're not annoyed by the way I apologised to the people I mislabelled in my rather sweeping comment. I honestly think you're annoyed about the sweeping hierarchy statement and that I sided with nVidia. I believe you disliked my comment so much - to the degree that it personally insulted you - and that any attempt by myself to correct it has only caused you to insult me directly.

Could this be a deep rooted dislike or jealousy of "plain intellectual snobbery" in you? Maybe it's hard to refrain from constructively building a comment when "plain intellectual snobbery" becomes a front, and this is what rushed you to insult me, rather than the issue I was commenting on.

I could go on about how "plain intellectual snobbery" actually adds to ones experience and ability; and that qualifications (plain intellectual snobbery) are nothing to scoff at. But again, I'm sure that "plain intellectual snobbery" might get in the way of what I'm trying to say, and that you'd attack me again.

I've just re-read what I've said, and I still don't see it as anything more than a neutral opinion - one I only ever so lightly support I might add.

If the rolls were reversed, and you had posted my comment (I'm not proclaiming you ever would here), I would have either
* not felt the need to reply
* replied constructively, adding new information into the debate
* replied without trolling or flaming, but offering an opinion that perhaps I was a little too generic.

You did none of these. You are flaming, and you are trolling. You are inciting my to reply (I'm a fool for doing so) and adding to what I've grown to dislike in LWN comments.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 22, 2007 5:33 UTC (Mon) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

mattmelon, please stop. You seem to be posting the very type of comment you claim to not like to see. You complain bitterly about the level of discourse on LWN and call someone a troll in that very same message.

If you're joking, sir, I salute you. The irony is most impressive.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 25, 2007 11:35 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

Likewise, when I step in a pile of, er, second-user dog food in my local park, I curse the dog because I believe the creature personally insulted me.

*sigh* I hate to say it, but I believe the time has come for an "ignore user" feature.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 20:01 UTC (Thu) by dw (subscriber, #12017) [Link]

Both your comments (in addition to this one) offer no meaningful or on-topic content at all. Furthermore, your original comment is rude and insulting, "random type X is better than Y DONT CONTRADICT ME!". Life just doesn't work that way.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 18:23 UTC (Wed) by dion (guest, #2764) [Link]

I wasn't talking about getting the nVidia sources in stead of supporting the Nuveau project, I imagine that getting most of the sources from nVidias driver would be e great help for the free driver project:)

I do hope that Nuveau can get there in the end just by reverse engineering, but it's clearly a huge job that can use every bit of help.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 5:46 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

All of the computer graphics effects houses are using Linux. Pixar, Lucasfilm/ILM, Dreamworks, etc. They live in fear that nVidia will walk away from the market, leaving them with nothing to run but that new Intel chipset. They have people as smart as the ones at nVidia, and ones who know how to code for that sort of hardware.

I wrote microcode for the Pixar image computer. Mostly 2D point processes, not 3D rendering. But I'm hardly the only one who has worked in this.

Bruce

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 25, 2007 18:37 UTC (Thu) by anton (subscriber, #25547) [Link]

They live in fear that nVidia will walk away from the market, leaving them with nothing to run but that new Intel chipset.
Has ATI/AMD vanished from this universe? I recently bought an X850XT which does 3D nicely with free drivers (also tried an X800GTO and an X550 successfully). ATI are pretty bad nowadays, but at least they gave us the info for the R200, and AFAIK this then helped with the R300 and R400 (don't buy R500 (X1xxx), though).

Also, I would expect the film people to do all their rendering in software, no need for 3D hardware.

Paying nVidia

Posted Aug 16, 2007 18:20 UTC (Thu) by MenTaLguY (guest, #21879) [Link]

The authoring tools generally take advantage of hardware acceleration to work with the assets in realtime; the final software-only rendering is non-realtime. However, with the increased programmability of GPUs, there's increasing potential for hardware acceleration there too.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 18:35 UTC (Wed) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

nvidia most likely is not willing to release the sourcecode because there
are many patented algorithms in there, and they are afraid to get sued. of
course they could spend a lot of time and money on checking and rewriting
code, but i guess the FOSS world is just not persuasive enough...

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 17, 2007 18:39 UTC (Wed) by dion (guest, #2764) [Link]

Well, that's where the Mega Dollar comes in:)

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 18, 2007 4:43 UTC (Thu) by chromatic (guest, #26207) [Link]

I've paid NVidia enough already for a working driver, and the last time I bought one of their video cards was in 1998. They go out of their way to provide a solution that is completely unacceptable to me; I can't see any reason to give them any more of my money.

Paying nVidia

Posted Jan 27, 2007 7:14 UTC (Sat) by beoba (guest, #16942) [Link]

What message would this send to other hardware companies? "Hold out long enough and we'll give you free money?"


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