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Open nVidia Linux Driver Pledge Nearly Complete

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the encouragement dept.

Graphics 221

Ciarán Mooney writes to let us know that the Pledgebank drive to raise $10,000 for Project Nouvaeu is almost complete — at this moment it needs only 196 more people to sign up. Project Nouveau aims to provide open source 3D acceleration for nVidia cards. The drive was started by David Nielsen, whose blog explains what he hopes will happen.

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finnaly (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528704)

takes forever to get or do anything on linux..

Huh? (1, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528902)

People can spend their money as they see fit, but giving $10,000, no strings attached, to a project whose only accomplishment (unless I'm missing something) is "Currently, nothing works" seems like an odd prioritization.

For that matter, why bother with a "pledge drive"? If you think they need $10, why not just send them $10?

Re:Huh? (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529266)

His blog entry says it's basically a $10,000 "thank you" for taking on the project. Seriously, what? I'm giving someone a big pile of cash to thank them for taking on a project, even when they haven't made any meaningful progress toward completion of that project?

I hereby announce I will take on the project of solving world hunger. Please give me a giant no-strings-attached donation as a "thank you" for my initiative. I will then make very little progress toward my goal before finally abandoning it as too difficult.

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529484)

The project's official website is even more interesting. It explicitly says they have no affiliation with the pledge drive, and don't need money.

Re:Huh? (5, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529546)

In fairness, the Nouveau guys (Heh, I hadn't grasped the name before but that's fairly clever...) aren't asking for money, say they don't need the $10K and make it clear that they're not expecting to have a reliable driver for the Fedora 7 release. The hype isn't their fault and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

Re:Huh? (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530748)

I hereby announce I will take on the project of solving world hunger. Please give me a giant no-strings-attached donation as a "thank you" for my initiative. I will then make very little progress toward my goal before finally abandoning it as too difficult.

The U.N. could take a lesson from your honesty.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529310)

a project whose only accomplishment (unless I'm missing something) is "Currently, nothing works"
Yes, you are definitely missing something.

Re:Huh? (2, Informative)

runderwo (609077) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530414)

Yes, you are missing something, since you are obviously not following the developer blog: 8 [freedesktop.org] 8 [freedesktop.org]

This is a worthy cause (4, Informative)

MountainMan101 (714389) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528904)

With new technology like AIGLX, XGL and XEGL emerging, having open source drivers for 3d cards is very important. Along with the recent R300 work for the ATI cards, this will bring much improved graphics to the Linux Desktop regardless of architecture. I only hope that the ATI X200M card gets open source support soon too (obviously not from nouveau).

Also Fedora 7 (dure April) intends to include the nouveau drivers - which is great as out-of-the-box Fedora can't include the binary nVidia driver necessary to have AIGLX working.

And to anyone who thinks this is unnecessary as there is the binary driver - just wait until you card is dropped from the official support and the old driver stops working with some future kernel.

Re:This is a worthy cause (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529300)

With new technology like AIGLX, XGL and XEGL emerging, having open source drivers for 3d cards is very important.

While I agree with this statement, I think this project is the wrong way to go about it, simply because we do finally have a vendor who has committed to open source driver support: Intel [intellinuxgraphics.org] . Now, I will grant you that their cards are slow and crappy but they should be up to the task of accelerating the linux desktop. Also, the current release supports [intellinuxgraphics.org] only an integrated video chipset and some older cards... but voting with your dollars is an absolute necessity. For any non-gamer, it should be a sufficiently powerful graphics system, and the G965 Express Chipset supports Core 2 Duo and Pentium D, so you can combine it with very good CPU power. If I were building a system today (aka if I could afford to build a system today) this is the combination I would elect to use.

But most importantly, we need to monetarily support vendors who give us working hardware with working linux drivers, or even vendors who simply give us enough information to write drivers. This is not ATI or nVidia. This apparently is intel. They're also just about the only vendor providing any useful wifi drivers.

If we actually spend money to sponsor driver development this will be a clear message to all graphics card manufacturers that we will put up with their bad behavior.

Re:This is a worthy cause (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529954)

If we actually spend money to sponsor driver development this will be a clear message to all graphics card manufacturers that we will put up with their bad behavior.

Why? How does your spending money to write open source drivers affect nVidia one bit? Why should it even be on their radar? As far as I can see, it doesn't send any "message" at all, except that there is a small but very vocal minority of users that is willing to spend actual money on products that are compatible with Linux -- but I suspect nVidia already knew that.

Re:This is a worthy cause (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530370)

Why? How does your spending money to write open source drivers affect nVidia one bit? Why should it even be on their radar?

This shouldn't be that hard to figure out - apparently even the moderators got it this time. See, corporations only feel hits to the wallet. Most of their feedback comes from sales figures, and if they get less love than their competitor (or simply less love than they expect) they hurt, they know something is wrong. Unfortunately, they don't necessarily know why.

However, if ATI or nVidia should lose some market share, they will certainly know that it is not because of their lack of linux support, simply because the OSS community is willing to do the work itself. The proof of this principle is that people are willing to spend money to have someone else do their job for them. Simply buying their products is bad enough, but spending MORE money to support them (they benefit from a driver because it can increase sales) is a clear statement that they don't need to develop open source graphics drivers.

If you really think that this is not on their radar, you are incredibly naive. Linux is the fastest-growing segment in computing, Linux is the only operating system gaining market share in the server space, and Linux is probably the only platform gaining any significant ground in education. Linux will only become more important with time, and Windows less. The change shows every sign of being extremely slow, but that doesn't mean that it's not occurring.

Finally, if it were so unimportant as to not even be on their radar, they wouldn't even have developed their own Linux drivers, closed and crappy as they may be. (Well, nVidia's work pretty well... too bad about ATI.)

Re:This is a worthy cause (2, Informative)

fangorious (1024903) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529322)

just wait until you card is dropped from the official support and the old driver stops working with some future kernel.

Open source drivers drop support for devices too. And unless you're a kernel module developer, you're just as much at the mercy of others as you are with a binary driver from the manufacturer.

Besides, isn't patent licensing part of the reason nVidia and Ati won't release fully OSS drivers? I believe Intel has patents on certain memory bus related technologies which are used by both nVidia and Ati.

Re:This is a worthy cause (4, Interesting)

chromatic (9471) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529894)

Besides, isn't patent licensing part of the reason nVidia and Ati won't release fully OSS drivers?

I can't see how, unless someone's somehow managed to obtain patents that don't disclose information publicly and, as such, would suffer material harm in disclosing the patented ideas publicly by releasing source code.

In other words, any vendor that tells you that is lying.

Not so much (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530550)

Often technologies will have in the license agreement "You can't release this code." You aren't required to like it, but if you sign the contract (and this stuff involves real, paper, signed contracts) you are required to respect it. nVidia and ATi both license a good deal of things for their drivers (S3TC would be an example). They can't just give the finger to these people and do what they want, they'll get sued and they'll lose because there's a contract in place.

Re:This is a worthy cause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530896)

I think it more likely that the concern is not releasing their patented information (which is of course already released) but the invitation to lawsuits by others holding patents.

Re:This is a worthy cause (1)

mauriatm (531406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529426)

"Also Fedora 7 (dure April) intends to include the nouveau drivers - which is great as out-of-the-box Fedora can't include the binary nVidia driver necessary to have AIGLX working."

I'm not sure what level of confidence can be placed in a very incomplete driver that (AFAIK, please correct me) still has not had any releases. As if the driver will be mature enough by April for even a notable minority of users who probably will be better off with the binary driver.

"And to anyone who thinks this is unnecessary as there is the binary driver - just wait until you card is dropped from the official support and the old driver stops working with some future kernel."

The nature of this comment implies old and outdated hardware. So I fail to see how this is any different from developers discontinueing support on hardware they no longer use or find too difficult to support. Merely implying that because a driver is fully open source, it will be supported indefinitely is not realistic.

Although to be fair, I personally would love to see every single driver for all hardware 100% open source. Pipe dreams, I know.

Excuse me. (2, Interesting)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528922)

Seriously - isn't it somewhat silly to undertake a project of this magnitude (and we're talking a _lot_ of magnitude - take for example redoing drivers for new 8800 line) when it could be instantly obsoleted by one phrase from Nvidia: "OK, nevermind, here are the drivers - we changed out mind."

This sounds, for lack of a better phrase, retarded to me.

Re:Excuse me. (1)

Aadain2001 (684036) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529064)

But Nvidia could never legally release their drivers as open source. Many people fail to realize that Nvidia has to license many of the technologies in their drivers from other companies and patent holders (just like ATI, Intel, et al must as well). So, even if the CEO of Nvidia wants to release their driver code as open source, they cannot legally do so without the go-ahead from all the license holders, which will never happen.

Re:Excuse me. (2, Interesting)

lakeland (218447) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529988)

I have to disagree with this.

Yes, Nvidia has NDAs which would be violated if they turned around tomorrow and released a GPL driver. However, those NDAs were negotiated by Nvidia and it would be trivial for them to be renegotiated. I very much doubt the people who developed the components care either way - as illustrated by how quickly intel was able to open-source their driver.

I think the "We'd be breaking our supplier agreements" line is nothing more than a red-herring.

Re:Excuse me. (4, Interesting)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530052)

They may not be able to release the code to the drivers as they are - they probably do contain patented/licensed trade secret code. However, they certainly can provide basic - non optimized code to allow interfacing with the chipsets. With that as a basis, the OSS community could certainly work out how to optimize the system - alleviating the trade secret issues, though patents might still be a problem. IANAL, but IIRC, the API's can't be patented, just the code behind them. The rational being that the API's just dictate the interface & there is only 1 way to impliment using the interface - as dictated by the API.

Re:Excuse me. (1)

schwaang (667808) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530154)

1. If they wanted to make the effort, they could release the portions that are not covered by third-party licenses. That would probably help the OSS driver writers a lot even if it's not enough to be a whole driver on its own.

2. If they wanted to make the effort, they could probably get or buy agreement from at least some of their licensors. Again, any bits would help.

But aside from the costs of 1 and 2, nVidia may have other reasons to not open their driver. For example, their lawyers might have made them afraid that they could be held liable for software patent claims against their existing code.

From nVidia's point of view, they probably don't envision the costs outweighing the benefits. So why make that effort?

Re:Excuse me. (1)

JonJ (907502) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529124)

If they can push nvidia to open either their source code or documentation, then that's great! Right now, getting the driver to work in distros where non-free software is shunned is not much of a hassle, but a little one. If Fedora could be able to ship nvidia(And perhaps ATi)-drivers out-of-the-box then it would be a nice selling point for those that want eye-candy. It would also be easier for those that distribute GNU/Linux to maintain the driver over a longer period of time and perhaps also support older chipsets.

Re:Excuse me. (1)

MountainMan101 (714389) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529254)

Actually Fedora Core 6 shipped with working ATI open source drivers with 3D support (for most cards, sadly not mine). And Fedora 7 will include the nouveau drivers too (according to the release aims).

Re:Excuse me. (2, Informative)

businessnerd (1009815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529170)

Actually, whether Nouveau successfully releases an open nvidia driver, or nvidia decides to open theirs up, the goal of all of this will have been reached. What the community desperately needs is an open driver for nvidia cards. A large project, like what Nouveau is undertaking, may garner the kind of press necessary to make nvidia change their minds. If nvidia wants any kind of control over what passes as an nvidia driver, it is in their best interests to stop Nouveau by beating them to the punch. You may think that Nouvou had just wasted their time, working on a driver that won't be released, but I see it as Nouveau working on get an open driver released, whether it come from their own developers or nvidia's. It's a win win situation

Re:Excuse me. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529192)

Nvidia has already stated why they can't make their driver open source: their source code is derived from SGI code (and yes, there was a lawsuit). Their settlement effectively bars them from opening their code.

Re:Excuse me. (1)

FunkyELF (609131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529358)

Not only that, but I heard that two other reasons for not opening up their drivers are
1. ATI could steal from Nvidia if they aren't already
2. Nvidia sells you a crippled $500 video card for $200 and a hacked driver could turn it back into a $500 card

Re:Excuse me. (1)

dami99 (1014687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530020)

First, I doubt opening up the drivers really leaves *that* much to be "stolen".

Second, what are the hacks you are talking about

The only one I can recall is one to open the disabled pipelines up on 6800s.... and that's hardly a $300 increase in performance. Not only that, but enabling those pipelines often didn't work or caused artifacts.

Re:Excuse me. (2, Interesting)

dinivin (444905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529740)

And SGI has already stated that this isn't true.

Re:Excuse me. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530540)

Link (from either of you)?

Re:Excuse me. (1)

runderwo (609077) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530346)

And now you get to provide a link to any documentation about this alleged lawsuit, or alternatively you can explain the existence of NVIDIA's prior obfuscated open source GLX driver released circa 1999.

Re:Excuse me. (1)

FunkyELF (609131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529194)

People were saying the same thing about Xbox Media Center. When it was in the beginning of development the default skin had it looking like a Windows Media Center Edition PC. I think I heard something about Microsoft releasing some kind of Media Center thing for the Xbox, but guess what....the open source xbmc project is still in active development and is (I assume) far better than the Microsoft one. Even if Microsoft released their Media Center thing as open source, xbmc would still be better. It plays stuff I can't play on my windows machine.

Re:Excuse me. (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529250)

Well RightSaidFred99, Microsoft could announce tomorrow that they're going to open source all of their software under the GPL. But, I don't think I would wait on it. Maybe you have seen something I haven't, but NVidia doesn't seem to be making any noises about opening their drivers.

spelling (1)

s4ck (895807) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528926)

can we run it through spellcheck first? it's Project Nouveau. anywya, who carez..

Re:spelling (1)

drpimp (900837) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530290)

Or use Firefox or browser with spell check built in to post??? 2.0 spell check flags the misspelling for me.

What I hope will happen - by D.N. (3, Funny)

adisakp (705706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528958)

Blog Entry: I hope that a bunch of people on slashdot will give me money. The End.

Re:What I hope will happen - by D.N. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530638)

Blog Entry: I hope that a bunch of people on slashdot will give me money. The End

Next Entry: God, how I hate Ramen noodles.

What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (4, Insightful)

mgemmons (972332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529004)

According to the pledgebank website,
[...]leaving the many users of their videocards on popular UN*X systems such as Linux with only the option of using a 2d only driver or using nvidia' notorious proprietary driver.
What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards? Is there some issue with the nVidia 3D driver implementation that would encourage an open-source reverse-engineering effort? What does "notorious proprietary" mean? I'm all for open-source, but this just seems to be OSFOSS (open-source for open-sources sake).

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (-1, Troll)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529162)

According to the pledgebank website,

[...]leaving the many users of their videocards on popular UN*X systems such as Linux with only the option of using a 2d only driver or using nvidia' notorious proprietary driver.
What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards? Is there some issue with the nVidia 3D driver implementation that would encourage an open-source reverse-engineering effort? What does "notorious proprietary" mean? I'm all for open-source, but this just seems to be OSFOSS (open-source for open-sources sake).
I agree. I mean, holy crap people on Linux might have to be in the same boat as people on Windows and use binary drivers! Oh no! It's just another case of those people who think that every piece of software should be accompanied with makefiles and require GCC to run.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (4, Interesting)

lolocaust (871165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529458)

If we show that we will accept closed drivers/spec on an open system, we've already lost. Especially with the desktop effects becoming more and more important in modern distros. Also, AFAIK, there are no Nvidia drivers for PPC, and then there are people who could learn about the GPU specifics for the sake of it.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (4, Interesting)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529600)

One of the problems is that the drivers are x86 only (although there are old and outdated Itanium drivers). Another issue is obsolete video cards. nVidia could one day stop supporting the TNT or GeForce. What do we do then? If there are no open source drivers, we're SOL on updates. If there are open source drivers, then we can make continued improvements when needed.

I switched to a FireGL 8700 (R200-based) for this reason (and it was an upgrade from a GeForce FX 5200). With regards to ATI cards, there are usable and stable open source drivers for all R300-based and lower video cards. Additionally, ATI no longer supports R100-based or lower video cards on Linux. Fortunately, the open source drivers are available to pick up the slack.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

Jethro (14165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530324)

First of all, I'm currently using the nvidia drivers on an AMD64, not x86.

Second, if nvidia stop supporting the old cards, don't upgrade the driver. Like they're going to put in improvements for TNT cards anyway?

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530504)

So your content to use the old drivers, with the old version of X, on the old kernel... The drivers still need to be updated to support other aspects of the system that they are tied to.
I have an old FireGL card, for which there are only drivers available for xfree86 4.2.0 on x86, rendering the card rather useless.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530600)

First of all, I'm currently using the nvidia drivers on an AMD64, not x86.

It's still x86, just 64-bits. That's like saying real mode isn't x86. Well, it is. It's just 16-bits instead of 32-bits (which is what is normally thought of as "x86").



Second, if nvidia stop supporting the old cards, don't upgrade the driver. Like they're going to put in improvements for TNT cards anyway?


OK, but then you upgrade the kernel and your video card stops working because of interface changes. Now what? In addition the binary drivers had a security hole for more than year until it was finally patched late 2006. If the drivers were open source, they would have been patched much earlier.

nVidia Linux Drivers support x86-64 (2, Informative)

spinfire (148920) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530754)

One of the problems is that the drivers are x86 only (although there are old and outdated Itanium drivers). Another issue is obsolete video cards. nVidia could one day stop supporting the TNT or GeForce. What do we do then? If there are no open source drivers, we're SOL on updates. If there are open source drivers, then we can make continued improvements when needed.

You are either misinformed or a liar. The nVidia Linux drivers support x86, x86-64, and IA-64 architectures. This is actually one more architecture than they support on Windows (no IA-64 for Windows systems).

I agree it would be nice to see open source replacements for the nVidia drivers, but please lets not spread or further any FUD about the current closed source drivers. nVidia has done a nice job with the drives. I use them without issue on two different x86-64 machines (one AMD, one Intel).

Re:nVidia Linux Drivers support x86-64 (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17531120)

You are either misinformed or a liar. The nVidia Linux drivers support x86, x86-64, and IA-64 architectures. This is actually one more architecture than they support on Windows (no IA-64 for Windows systems).


Well, if you really want to be pedantic, they support ia32, x86-64/AMD64/EMT64, and ia64. They don't support ia-16, ia-8, or ia-4.


I agree it would be nice to see open source replacements for the nVidia drivers, but please lets not spread or further any FUD about the current closed source drivers. nVidia has done a nice job with the drives. I use them without issue on two different x86-64 machines (one AMD, one Intel).


They sure have. Except for the security hole [kerneltrap.org] that was there for about 2 years.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

gradedcheese (173758) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529624)

potential security problems, for one thing. You should not trust 'binary blob' drivers with your kernel-space, right? you can't inspect the source code...

The 'blob' song actually explains it really well, I think:

http://www.openbsd.org/lyrics.html#39 [openbsd.org]

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529636)

What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards? Is there some issue with the nVidia 3D driver implementation that would encourage an open-source reverse-engineering effort?

For an x86 box I'm quite happy to use the proprietary driver.

But I also have a PowerPC based system. NVidia's proprietary driver doesn't work on that. Same for others who lack the proprietary supported CPU architecture. And I don't use a Mac either, so if some closed-source thing worked OK enough on Macs but some detail made it not work or buggy on my unusual system I'd still be stuck. I didn't think much of this project either until I realized that. I happen to have a Radeon in mine, as it's better supported, but some people would like to use Nvidia without x86, so I pledged to support for them. I'd be willing to put more than $10 toward it as well, but oh well.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (4, Informative)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529718)

Well when I used nVidia's binary driver on Debian Etch I went through two kernel upgrades and each time I rebooted to begin using the new kernel I was greeted by a console prompt instead of an xdm login screen.

Now for me that wasn't much of a problem. I sighed, logged in as root, found the original installer I downloaded from NVidia, ran it, agreed to the license, pressed continue and was greeted with a message about missing kernel headers. Sighed again, downloaded linux-headers-`uname -r`, reran NVidia installer, etc, etc, ad nauseum every time I update the kernel.

As I said, I know why and how I do this but not everyone does and the whole point of bringing true open source 3d graphics to the desktop for Linux users is so they don't have to learn how or why they need to do this.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529768)

There is already an open source nvidia 2D driver afaik. This project aims to build a 3D driver for modern applications.

The problems with the non-free driver from Nvidia are:

1. There are old unfixed security holes and bugs that cause other problems

2. Nvidia could drop support for a specific card or even an entire OS at any moment for business reasons

3. An open source driver could be ported to more architectures and operating systems than Nvidia can support in its proprietary driver.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (3, Insightful)

Bent Mind (853241) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529800)

What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards?

Just a few things off the top of my head...

nVidia has dropped support for cards older than the GForce4. I have a GForce2 with 64MB and TV tuner that would benefit from this driver.

A while back I was running Hardened Gentoo. When I asked the maintainer why the nVidia driver was masked (blocked), he replied:

... One of the very reasons for using hardened is for increased security protections. The way nvidia wrote the drivers is really crappy as does run time execution. That means it behaves exactly as shellcode does, which is the very thing we are trying to prevent in the first place. Now when that glx (libGL.so) gets installed every single package it that links to it then causes a PaX violation.

I suggest you email the nvidia vendor and request that they stop taking shortcuts in the driver code and release something that's
1) PIC proper [no TEXTREL's]
2) stop using JIT.

Several projects have worked to create versions of xorg or window managers that take advantage of 3D hardware. However, xorg relies on nVidia's driver (with nVidia hardware) for 3D. That code can't be modified.

Finally, my understanding is that the nVidia driver only works with x86 hardware. All of my hardware is x86, so I've never verified this.

Plenty is wrong with the proprietary driver (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529902)

Is there some issue with the nVidia 3D driver implementation that would encourage an open-source reverse-engineering effort?

Yes, definitely. It's not portable (you can only use it on the platforms(*) that nVidia has bothered to compile it for). It's not auditable (you can't easily check it for bugs, root exploits, etc). It's not maintainable (if by some miracle you find one of the bugs, you can't fix it).

Those are some pretty serious practical (not merely idealistic OSFOSS) issues. Show me any user to whom none of 1) portability 2) security 3) long-term maintenance, is a major concern, and I'll be left wondering why that user runs Linux at all. That user might as well use MacOS (or maybe even Windows, if they have a lot of legacy apps/games).

(*) Worse, "platform" doesn't even mean just processor types or the name of a kernel. It even means versions of a kernel. Having a driver for Linux 2.6.y doesn't necessarily imply you have a driver for Linux 2.6.z, let alone Linux 2.8 or 2.4. If nVidia ever decides to drop a piece of hardware and stop compiling a certain driver for newer kernels, then users will either have to upgrade hardware (gee, I wonder if nVidia would have an incentive to make people do that) or else use an old kernel. Ouch!

Re:Plenty is wrong with the proprietary driver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530216)

Show me any user to whom none of 1) portability 2) security 3) long-term maintenance, is a major concern

Like users interested in short-term cost?

Re:Plenty is wrong with the proprietary driver (0, Troll)

cperciva (102828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530248)

Having a driver for Linux 2.6.y doesn't necessarily imply you have a driver for Linux 2.6.z, let alone Linux 2.8 or 2.4.

This sounds like an incredibly good reason to not use Linux.

Re:Plenty is wrong with the proprietary driver (2, Interesting)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530430)

If nVidia ever decides to drop a piece of hardware and stop compiling a certain driver for newer kernels, then users will either have to upgrade hardware (gee, I wonder if nVidia would have an incentive to make people do that) or else use an old kernel. Ouch!

More appropriate would be to say "or else use a kernel you don't want to." It's just as much of a nightmare being forced to upgrade your kernel as well. Gaming is very sensitive to kernel version (just read the Cedega release notes re: versions 2.6.9 and 2.6.10). Upgrading from 2.6.15 to 2.6.16 caused some Cedega-supported games to stop working.

My major issue with the binary driver is security. Because the driver is a kernel module, remote exploits of the NVIDIA driver will hack the kernel every time. Online gaming brings new life to the idea of remotely exploiting the NVIDIA driver, and not having an auditable driver is a big issue. It took them over 2 years to fix [slashdot.org] a reported, remotely exploitable issue. It's unacceptable to be forced to use such crap. The only other alternative is to use some other [ati.com] crap [microsoft.com] which suffers from exactly the same problems. I wish something would shake up the 3D market, but somehow I doubt this project is going to unseat NVIDIA. :(

mandelbr0t

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530066)

You can apply your argument to absolutely every open source project. Why bother, you ask? So that the user/computer owner has control of the software he/she uses: the ability to inspect it, change it, improve it, and fix it -- not at the whims of its corporate landlord, but whenever desired.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530336)

If you don't want to be held to the whims of 'corporate landlords', you probably shouldn't throw them your money in the first place. I can understand the desire and the push for open drivers, but it absolutely boggles my mind how people with such hard-core anti-patent, anti-closed-source, anti-corporate mentalities go out and exercise their superior morals by... spending money on patented closed-source corporate hardware. Don't fucking use nVidia cards if you don't like how they're made.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (2, Insightful)

kosmosik (654958) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530082)

> What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards?

F.e. they taint the kernel - if things crash (one of my nvidia cards *did* with some Linux kernel version and their binary blobs) you cannot debug and fix it. Hell kernel developers will tell you to go on /dev/tree since they will not waste time on debuging some closed code with their kernel.

Like it or not this is how Linux philosophy and developement looks - we have (and don't want to) no stable kernel ABI and expect everything (at very least the kernel-space stuff) to be open source. If you don't like it go use like FreeBSD or something.

> Is there some issue with the nVidia 3D driver implementation
> that would encourage an open-source reverse-engineering effort?

Yeah, they are closed, they tie you to one architecture (where are nvidia drivers for PPC?), they break with vesafb and so on. They just limit your freedom. You can imagine situation where you have old nvidia card model FOO but it works for you. Now nvidia decides to cease support for this model in their newest drivers. As kernel developement goes on you will find yourself that newest nvidia binary modules do not support your (perfectly working for you) hardware and the old drivers do not work with new Linux kernels - this limits your freedom in some way.

I would be very happy to use open source drivers for nvidia cards. Imagine just installing a Linux distro and graphics just work out-of-the box.

I *do* think nvidia is quite Linux/OpenSource friendly (but actually I run Intel since it works better for me - no hassle - Just Works) but I think at some point they just will have to release specs of hardware or even better open implementation of their drivers - they will be forced to do so by competition.

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

TekPolitik (147802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530296)

What is wrong with using nVidia's drivers for nVidia's cards?

Everything. They're poor quality. Prior to 1.0-8774 they were embarrassingly poor and would often crash X. Now they're just unacceptably poor. If you run multiple X servers on one device the driver will often leave the video in an unusable state from which there is no apparent way to recover. If we had source code we could fix these sorts of problems, but we don't so we can't.

Having the system become unusable because of a bug in the nVidia drivers is a regular occurrence for me. I can't remember the last time the system became unusable because of a bug elsewhere in the system.

What does "notorious proprietary" mean?

Notorious for their bugs, proprietary because you can't look at the source code. The latter leads to the former, because if the source were open those of us who have the skills could diagnose and fix the problems in the environments where they occur. As it is, try reporting the problems to nVidia and if you're lucky enough to get a response it's most likely to be along the lines of "works here".

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

mgemmons (972332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530314)

I would like to thank everyone for the informative and (surprisingly) flame-free information about why an open source driver would be a "good thing." Much appreciated!

Re:What is wrong with the proprietary driver? (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530342)

I think you mean FLOSSFFLOSSS - Free/Libre Open Source Software For Free/Libre Open Source Software's Sake.

What's wrong is, we can't work on it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17531212)

You seem to be missing the point of why FOSS is better, in those areas where we have an itch that needs scratching (but not in all areas, that goes without saying).

Graphics itches us like frickin mad, because it's sexy, because it can always be a bit faster, and because there is always room for more features. And nVidia are dead slow in their driver development, which I assume is because of internal human resource constraints.

Well if there's one thing that FOSS isn't short of it's human resources.

Rock on Nouveau, or whoever takes on this work. It's badly needed.

Oh, and the nVidia binary driver fanboys can just go get lost. Like fanboys everywhere, their arguments fall into the submoron category.

nVidia allegedly can't open-source their drivers for 3rd party legal reasons -- fine. In contrast, we can reverse engineer their hardware and clean-room reimplement their drivers, perfectly legally. Since we can, let's do it. End of story.

GIVE US MOHNEYZ (1)

scenestar (828656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529020)

Only to have the project canceled due to the fascist DMCA .

This better be clean room reverse engineering.

Re:GIVE US MOHNEYZ (1)

pakar (813627) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530576)

Hey, dont think we are all under the rule of the DMCA just becase you are crippled by it :p

Great... (3, Insightful)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529046)

If a manufacturer refuses to help the Linux community by providing drivers, wouldn't it make more sense to simply, oh I don't know, boycott their products?

Instead someone has the stupid idea to INCREASE nVidia's market share by getting a community nVidia gives the finger to to buy their products.

Way to encourage companies to support the open source movement... it's basically saying "don't bother writing drivers for Linux, we'll do it at OUR expense!"

Lunacy of epic proportions.

Re:Great... (1)

Sinryc (834433) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529302)

You may think that Nvidia gives its users the middle finger, but if thats the case, ATI is getting the lube ready while pushing you so you bend over.

Re:Great... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529386)

Hmm, you're right. I was under the impression that there was no 3D drivers for Linux. So, why are they writing OS drivers again? If the proprietry drivers work well enough for Windows users why is that not good enough for the Linux community?

Re:Great... (1)

Sinryc (834433) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529540)

I'm not a big Linux user, actauly, I barely know how to do anything... and thats why I know it isn't ready for the big time(Linux), however, I think most stuff works, just not all for Nvidia, or its not optimized or something. Also, if the drivers are opened up, then any distro will be able to use them no matter what(If they edit them), and if they are opened up, then it means that they can make drivers for other things(Like a new OS thats not linux derived or something)

Re:Great... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529850)

At the moment there seems to be only negative actions to take (ie a boycott of products without OS drivers). Perhaps a positive example where the presence of a fully implemented open source driver creates a competitive advantage for nVidia will push its rivals to release specs and code for OS drivers for their own products. Maybe it won't work out so optimisticly, but at least this project is making an effort to change the status quo.

Re:Great... (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529886)

We can't boycott they're products effectively. All manufacturers of GPUs that one could reasonably use for gaming/AIGLX-type-things are just as bad, and in any case, nVidia is not in a position to open it's drivers. If there were a good open-source supporting GPU manufacturer, we could all go and buy their cards, and nVidia and ATI might start thinking about opening the drivers. The Open Graphics Project is trying to create such a GPU, but it'll probably be a while before they have anything but a rather niche device (they currently have a development card with an FPGA in place of the GPU).

$10,000 (1)

Swimport (1034164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529106)

$10,000 doesnt go far in the development world. I bet Microsoft couldnt make a font for $10,000. Anyway, as we all know, these Linux programmers arent in it for the money. Now if only this gets done and a few other projects, and Ill be running Windows binaries, and playing directx games on Linux, and deleting Windows. Well heres hoping...

Re:$10,000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530698)

Wine already supports a lot of directx 9. directx 10 is being worked on.

Re:$10,000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530952)

Microsoft don't make fonts. They buy them from companies like Bitstream and then let suckers like you think they made them.

Re:$10,000 (1)

netsfr (839855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17531080)

Funny you say this. A few days ago on the news they were interviewing the cheif sound guy for Windows Vista. He spent something like 2 years to develop the default "beep" for vista. How much did that cost?

seems like it's not getting enough mention (1)

eneville (745111) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529138)

Why doesn't this get a more prominent mention on the /., freshmeat and osdn sites? it's for a good OS cause.

They don't need money... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529220)

http://nouveau.freedesktop.org/wiki/NouveauCompani on_11 [freedesktop.org]

[...] The pledge mentioned is however not supported by our project. We currently don't need any money and the person who set it up is not connected to our project.


Congratulations to everyone who pledged to throw money at something that doesn't need any.

Mod parent up (1, Flamebait)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529306)

The pledge mentioned is however not supported by our project. We currently don't need any money and the person who set it up is not connected to our project.
That's awesome. Now if more people browsed with Threshold -1 (or, you know, researched... but that's probably too much to ask!) the guy scamming money wouldn't get so rich.

Save the money, and use it better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529366)

Wouldn't all the time, effort, energy and money be better spent developing the ATI drivers, which have already made significant progress?

Let's face it, NVidia will always have better closed-source drivers. That's what they do, and that's what gives them the market lead. And for as long as this is the case, I, and the company I work for (around 600 Linux workstations used for graphics) will remain using the closed-source drivers.

Save the $10,000, and when NVidia goes down the shitter, we can put the cash towards buying the *real* code from them.

Better use for the money (1)

UED++ (1043486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529444)

Rather than spend money on a bunch of RMS lunatics that would sooner die than reverse engineering decent drivers, The money should fund mafia groups to hold Nvidia at gunpoint and force them to release the source code of their drivers. Now that would get opensource drivers with style and since only a few Nvidia guys would be killed there would be no loss of innocent life.

Open Graphics Project (3, Interesting)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529596)

Just to bring this back into view...

http://wiki.duskglow.com/tiki-index.php?page=OGPN1 7&PHPSESSID=629ef486f166fab6ef8951de2a5ae96c [duskglow.com]

The Open Graphics Project is making steady progress.

Re:Open Graphics Project (Huzzah!) (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530398)

This is always a good related subject to mention. I'm still readily awaiting being able to order one of the FPGA cards to show my support!

Re:Open Graphics Project (1)

MiKom (866143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530920)

The Open Graphics Project aims at 20-30 fps in Quake 3

Thank you! (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 7 years ago | (#17531048)

When I saw this article I immediately thought: what kind of flaming MORON would pledge money to support drivers for Nvidious instead of open hardware? Not to mention the nueveau folks are on record they didn't ask for and don't need the money anyhow.

Ehh... Have everyone missed the DRM in Vista? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529598)

There will be NO open source of open specs for future nVidia cards. If they release it it will no longer be possible to playback full res video in Vista. I would think that Nvidia thinks that Vista is a better milking cow then Linux.

Does anybody else not see the huge problems.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17529754)

.... with this?

For one thing, if it's not worth $10k to nVidia to open up the source code themselvs, then why should it be that the software shouldn't be worth more than that to develop? And if we are looking at somebody who is doing this largely for philanthropic purposes to accept such a paltry sum, then it is just as probable that this person would have been just as able and willing to develop the same thing for free. Giving this $10,000 to the first person to do it also encourages people to compete with eachother, rather than cooperate with eachother, towards a common goal, which is the very antithesis of open source.

Also, if somebody does manage to do this, there's likely to be an inquiry by nVidia, to ensure that it was not inappropriated from them. Finall, by the time somebody manages to win this prize, because the industry moves so fast, it's bound to be obsolete on the latest hardware.

I appreciate this person's good intentions, but this raises so many red flags with regards to expected problems that I would want to steer as clear from it as possible.

Re:Does anybody else not see the huge problems.... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530062)

He's not giving it to any old project, he's giving it to the project (Nouveau) that he's already selected.

Re:Does anybody else not see the huge problems.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530380)

But then they aren't going to be overly inviting on who they accept to help in the project, because doing so would mean there would be less money for themselves.

Re:Does anybody else not see the huge problems.... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530826)

This group has already said they don't need money. They haven't said they don't WANT it though, so we'll see in time, I guess. But it's just worth knowing that they did not ask for (or expect) to get paid for their project - they had no choice in the matter.

Re:Does anybody else not see the huge problems.... (2, Insightful)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530210)

if it's not worth $10k to nVidia to open up the source code themselvs, then why should it be that the software shouldn't be worth more than that to develop?

You misunderstand why NVidia refuses to open their driver code. They're not just being dicks, and they probably aren't too scared to expose their own proprietary technologies, because there ARE benefits to gaining the acceptance of the OSS community that translate directly into more profit.

The real problem is that NVidia didn't write all of the driver code itself, from scratch. They incorporated copyrighted code licensed from other companies, probably some derivative and some word-for-word. They probably use patented algorithms and technologies, too. Several other companies hold rights over the NVidia source code, in such a way that NVidia can't just release it and contribute it to the Linux kernel without violating its own agreements, or exposing the Linux kernel to litigation.

(I really wish I had a quote about this, I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it, but I *believe* that an NVidia exec stated as much in a press conference or release. So unless you do your own research, take me with a grain of salt.)

there's likely to be an inquiry by nVidia, to ensure that it was not inappropriated from them

I find this highly unlikely. Unless one of the companies holding licenses over NVidia's head assumes that they contributed under the table to the OSS effort, there are no grounds whatsover to assume that code was "inappropriated" (sic). NVidia itself has no interest in preventing the release of an OSS driver--if anything, it will help sell me hardware and drive their market share upward as they become the "OSS-friendly" graphics card company. (That's worth a lot of fanboy forum toadying.)

NVidia probably could develop a fresh OSS driver for release into the Linux kernel, via the 'clean-room' approach. It would have to hire developers to do it, provide them with enough specs/code to get the job done but NOT provide them with the licensed code or algorithms, and sit back and watch the payroll fly out the door. This would probably cost them a lot more than $10,000, given the complexity of modern GPUs and the relative rarity of the software skills to do this kind of work. But if someone else wants to do it for free, all they'd have to do is stay the hell away and cross their fingers.

Re:Does anybody else not see the huge problems.... (1)

tajribah (523654) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530964)

I think that everybody would be happy if they released not a driver, but specs to their HW. Many people would be happy to write a driver and that wouldn't need a licence from third parties, maybe except for patents, who knows in the insane US patent system.

but will it run (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17529794)

...on my USB line?

$10,000 later (1)

theendlessnow (516149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530028)

int driver(optr, iptr, context)
nv_obuffer *optr;
nv_ibuffer *iptr;
nv_context *context;
{
    /* Driver goes here, TBD */
}

It's not nVidia. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530076)

Gah! It's NVIDIA, not nVidia. It's never been nVidia. Ever. Not ever. Not once. Never in the history of NVIDIA has it been nVidia. Check with the Wayback Machine if you don't believe me.

Here's and idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17530376)

Why don't some linux geeks get together and build an open source graphics card they can sell at cost to linux users?

When will amd come out with open ati drivers? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530612)

This whould be even better for linux.

Oh my god - they found a vulnerability (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530646)

I love the way that the full article even links to the vulnerability advisory and makes such a big deal out of it.

Every single piece of software ever written has bugs. Any that run in a secure area of the OS (like the kernel) but that allow input from unpriveldged processes will also have vulnerabilities (they might allow something the shouldn't). The fact that only one advisory has been found is more of a surprise, especially with all the open source fanboys trying to pick holes in the drivers.

Now ideally no piece of software would allow a direct path to the hardware (like direct rendering) from a security point of view.

But from a performance point of view that bypassing of the secure nature of the unix architecture is essential to allow people to try and run games under linux. Since the games are the only thing tying me to windows I welcome and advancements in this regard.

I would like to see an open source nvidia driver that could match the performance of the closed source driver, but I would be very surprised if this ever happens. If it does, nvidia can just change the hardware so their driver is fastest again.

This is the real problem. The actual hardware the driver has to control is not open, it is a closed proprietary product which you have to sign a nondisclosure agreement just to read the specs of. So whether the driver is open source strikes me as being a moot point.

Why discriminate between hardware and software? Why is one allowed to be a closed system but the other has to be open source in order for us to use it? Why not simply avoid all closed products if you believe that strongly in openness.

Re:Oh my god - they found a vulnerability (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17530880)

Every single piece of software ever written has bugs.

I dunno. I've never had a buffer overrun trying to print "Hello world".

Re:Oh my god - they found a vulnerability (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 7 years ago | (#17531152)

Why discriminate between hardware and software?

One of them is, in comparison, trivial to study, modify, and redistribute in volume.

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