Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 6th May 2006 17:01 UTC, submitted by Phoronix
3D News, GL, DirectX "We have been overwhelmed with requests to take a serious look at the frame-rate performance differences between the various open-source and proprietary contenders. Our first article on this topic, which will likely be the first of a series of examinations, is looking at the differences between the X.Org open-source ATI Radeon driver and that of ATI's official but proprietary fglrx display driver."
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Why does it have to be open?
by JamesTRexx on Sat 6th May 2006 18:56 UTC
Member since:

One thing I don't understand, why are some people so intend on having open drivers? The drivers for Windows are not open, but we can still freely download and install them.
I use FreeBSD on a Dell laptop with an Nvidia card and the Nvidia driver, and for me I have no problems because I can just grab the driver from the ports collection.
The only reason I can think of why some don't like the closed driver is because they're afraid MS is paying ATI and Nvidia to keep performance behind the Windows drivers, but I highly doubt that happening.

Reply Score: 1

dmantione Member since:

You want some reasons, you get them ;)
* Open source drivers run on multiple platforms. I.e. Radeon in a PowerPC is no problem with an open source driver.
* Out of the box experience. Install your Linux and don't bother installing drivers, everything works already.
* Upgradability. The current Linux architecture doesn't allow you to take a module from one kernel version to another without recompiling it.
* Discontinued hardware = discontinued closed source driver. Open source drivers tend to stay working much longer.
* Untrusted code. Nobody knows what the video card code is doing. There might be security bugs, stability bugs, or the code could even do malicious activities. Open source drivers can be audited independently and this happens regularily.

And of course let us not forget the four freedoms...

Reply Parent Score: 5

postmodern Member since:

Also, do not forget community support. If a bug is discovered in an open driver the original author as well as interested developers can fix it. Where as with closed drivers everyone waits on the original author.

Reply Parent Score: 4

mattst88 Member since:

I think a lot of people feel that ATI isn't providing nearly enough support for their Linux drivers. They feel that if the OSS community had access to ATI specs and were able to write drivers, the wait time between bug fixes wouldn't be nearly as long. I can't completely disagree.

When something as basic as switching the resolution back for the VTs can't be done with the driver, and was reported as being broken more than 6 months ago and *still* is not fixed, I have to wonder.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Knuckles Member since:

Because with open drivers other OS's can benefit from the code, the driver can run in many architectures (64 bit native drivers anyone?), support for new features can be added when needed (for example, you can't run AIGLX with nvidia cards because they lack a feature that nvidia is 'still working on'), and you have a better change of still having working drivers for hardware under your OS of choice (whatever that is) in maybe 5, 10 years time, even after the company has gone bankrupt or something like that.

Reply Parent Score: 5

stephanem Member since:

That's patently false that open source can deliver better drivers.

Tell me do Andrew Morton or Linus Torvalds or Greg KH understand graphics processors?. Heck no!. The people who really understand how ATI or Nvidia processors really work are already employed by ATI and Nvidia respectively. Openeing up the datasheets still means nothing!.

Sound Blaster Audigy drivers on Linux still can't do half of the things Creative's drivers does on Windows and ALSA guys have had the datasheets for years now.

So this is just tripe that OSS programmers can do better drivers than the hardware vendor them selves - tripe fed to you by total and utter NON PRACTICING PROGRAMMERS like Perens, ESD, RMS and all the regular Open Source fan boys.

Reply Parent Score: 1

snowbender Member since:

Maybe it is "patently false" that open source will deliver better drivers.

However, as a Linux/powerpc user I am glad that open source programmers put time and effort in making an open source R300 driver so I can use the graphics card in my laptop. I'm sure that ATI can make a better driver than the current open source driver on Linux/powerpc, but they won't. They do not support my platform of choice. With closed source drivers you are locked in into the platforms that the hardware company wishes to support with the amount of time and energy they wish to put into it and for the time they consider the life-time of the product.

I don't know whether Andrew Morton or Linus Torvalds or Greg KH understand graphics processors, but it seems you know them better than me. However, I can tell you that there are more people working on open source than just them. And a lot of those people do know about graphics processors.

Opening up the datasheets does mean a lot. It opens the possibility for writing an open source driver without the need for reverse engineering. Since the driver this article refers to is built from those datasheets, I think this should be clear. Yes, it gives lower performance, but it is a fully working driver. The article is also very very short. Other things which might be important is for example whether suspend-to-ram or suspend-to-disk is supported in the open source and in the closed source driver. (I can attest it is supported in the open source driver) The other thing is for example the support of certain resolution, or the stability of the driver, and so on.

I take it from what other people said that the Sound Blaster Audigy drivers on linux were not built from the data sheets and that the alsa developers do not have access to the data sheets.

Your comment about "NON PRACTICING PROGRAMMERS" is definitely not correct for RMS, aka Richard Stallman. Richard Stallman still works on GNU Emacs and not only making decisions about what can go in or not, but also in writing code. I don't know about the others.

If you want people to consider your opinion about the fact that you believe that open source drivers can never get the same quality than closed-source drivers, then at least start with getting your facts straight.

Reply Parent Score: 5

rayiner Member since:

One more thing to add to the list of things: access to the source! Having an open driver allows kernel and DRI developers access to the source code. That means they can modify the drivers in order to fit new models within the system. Take, for example, Xegl. It would've been a lot easier to get DRI-EGL working if the Radeon drivers had been open source. Apple and Microsoft have the source to these drivers --- they can make the modifications they need for technologies like Quartz Extreme and Avalon. The OSS community does not.

As it is, a non-trivial amount of developer time has been spent reverse-engineering drivers. The R300, R400, and R500 chips are completely undocumented, while the R100 and R200 chips are only partially documented (specifications for important performance features like Heierarchical Z were omitted by ATI). This developer time could be put to far better use fixing things in the DRI, getting EGL working, modifying the stack to better support multiple clients, etc.

Reply Parent Score: 5