[mythtv-users] No ATI support for Myth says AMD

Brian Wood beww at beww.org
Wed Apr 11 16:04:40 UTC 2007

On Apr 11, 2007, at 9:42 AM, Joe Votour wrote:

> <snip>
>> My $0.02,
>> Matt
> I've done embedded devices for seven years now, I've dealt with  
> Conexant,
> Broadcom, Wind River, Microsoft, and other companies in that time.   
> All
> companies have their secrets (trade or not).  (Surprisingly, Wind  
> River
> was the most open of these companies, but only after having to get
> forceful.)
> The best that nVidia could ever do is supply a datasheet for the  
> GPU, and
> other components on the board that they have developed.  I'll put  
> my money
> where my mouth is and state with almost certainty - nVidia did not  
> develop
> everything that exists on their card.  They surely licensed IP
> (Intellectual Property) from other companies.  On all of the embedded
> devices I've done (mostly DOCSIS data/video), we started with the
> reference design from the vendor maker (e.g. Broadcom) and just made
> modifications to it.
> The nVidia (binary blob) driver is surely made up of a bunch of  
> code from
> other third parties - I'm willing to bet their GL code was  
> originally done
> by somebody else, and tweaked by nVidia to reflect better  
> performance on
> their cards.  Said code may be clean, or it might violate patents  
> or trade
> secrets held by somebody else.
> So, when they say that they'll lose their competitive advantage, it  
> means
> that they don't see any reward in opening themselves up to a  
> boatload of
> legal liability.  The (currently) dominant operating system comes  
> out with
> new releases every few years, and the API stays fairly constant,  
> whereas
> the Linux kernel (far from dominant) breaks things regularly.  If I  
> was
> running nVidia or AMD/ATI, I certainly know which operating system I'd
> make my products for (80%+ of the market) - less driver
> development/support effort on nVidia's part - helping keep costs down
> (whether that trickles down to the customer is a discussion for  
> another
> time and place).
> Understand that this is not a perfect world where you can do  
> whatever you
> want without consequences.  AMD and nVidia are publicly traded  
> companies,
> they have shareholders to answer to.  Because they see the most ROI  
> on the
> Windows platform, they will continue to support the Windows platform.
> They honestly couldn't care less about Linux, and I'm willing to  
> bet that
> they'd be happy if all of the Linux distributions died tomorrow.   
> In the
> meantime, they'll do minimal support for Linux to appease enough  
> people to
> get a good reputation ("building the brand").  Letting people  
> outside of
> their company write drivers which they have no control over would be
> corporate suicide.

I agree with you on all points. Rather than complain about what we  
don't have we should be happy with what we do have: a binary driver  
that works pretty well for most people under most circumstances. The  
fact that it is not "open" is a philosophical problem, not a  
technical one.

I'd be willing to bet that if the corporate bean counters at nVidia  
truly knew the full story they would insist that any and all Linux  
support be shut down immediately, and if the CPAs didn't do it the  
lawyers would.

Also, as you pointed out, there is a good chance that due to third- 
party agreements nVidia might not be able to open up their code even  
if they really wanted to, such arrangements are quite common.

I suspect AMD/ATI just doesn't want to get into the quagmire that  
would result from trying to "support" Linux. Although Linux has  
gained a small but significant market share, most of it is in the  
server area where anything beyond a frame buffer is wasted effort.  
Accelerated video drivers for Linux are of interest to only a small  
minority of even Linux devotees.

Unfortunately this list consists of a large portion of that  
"minority", but "supporting" members of just a specific list, no  
matter how vocal they might be, would be idiotic.

Brian Wood
beww at beww.org

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