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The Challenge In Delivering Open Source GPU Drivers

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the e-for-effort dept.

Graphics 182

yuhong writes "After the recent Intel Sandy Bridge launch left Linux users having to build the latest source from Git repositories in order to have full support for the integrated graphics, Phoronix looked at the problems involved in delivering new graphics drivers for Linux."

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Damn linux users! (3, Funny)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752234)

You've just gotta have your own cake and get to eat it too!

Re:Damn linux users! (5, Insightful)

smallfries (601545) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752340)

It's not so much about the eating of and having of cake. It's more about demanding that Intel ship you cake in time for there to be cake there when you are hungry (that you can both eat and have).

It's a bitchy whiney ridiculous complaint - and yet it is a good thing as it puts pressure on Intel and AMD to treat Linux support as something necessary for a launch. Hopefully it won't result in Intel pointing out that there is no cake...

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

Aldanga (1757414) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752434)

Hopefully it won't result in Intel pointing out that there is no cake...

Or saying there is cake when there really isn't.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752464)

It would be more like Intel if the cake turned out to be real enough until you tried to divide it.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752920)

That problem would be easily solved by eating the whole cake without dividing it.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

ThatMegathronDude (1189203) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753410)

Whoosh

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

lysdexia (897) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753654)

Dudes! There's punch and pie in the break room!

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753690)

Are you saying the cake is a lie?

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

Sun (104778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752462)

Oh, there is cake, alright. What there isn't is a spoon.

Shachar

Re:Damn linux users! (4, Informative)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752532)

After RTFA it seems more that there are a ton of features missing rather then delayed. Here's an excerpt from the article..

They include Video Processing Accelerators - never coming to Linux, Color Processing Accelerators - never coming to Linux, Skin Tone Enhancements - never coming to Linux, Adaptive Contrast Enhancement - never coming to Linux, Total Color Control - never coming to Linux, Video Decode in hardware - Q1, Video Encode in hardware - Q1, 3D acceleration - Q1 sooner rather than later and a host of software to use it - never coming to Linux.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752984)

Kind of like my AMD R690M/Athlon L110-based system only works right under Vista... display trashing on Linux, graphics driver breaks suspend under Windows 7 and Windows XP, etc etc. The only vendor you can still assume will produce working, useful Linux support is nVidia. Because any old supported nVidia CPU does all that stuff plus, on anything even vaguely modern, CUDA. (Well, CUDA-assisted video encoding is still in its infancy, but at least the hardware support is there and usable.)

It seems today that you have to go boot your chosen machine from a LiveCD to have any idea whether it will work properly. I propose that all Linux nerds start carrying one in when they check out systems, and demanding that they be permitted to boot from the CD before purchase. There's got to be SOME WAY to get some grease.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

ThatMegathronDude (1189203) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753434)

The people that care this much about GPU drivers on Linux are likely to build their machines from individual components rather than get a brand-name PC.

Re:Damn linux users! (2)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753624)

As if you have a choice when buying laptops.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753712)

Ah yes, I was so happy when they announced standard form factors for netbook motherboards and graphics cards so that I could build my own.

The machine I'm talking about is a netbook, which you would have known if you knew fucking anything about what we're talking about. Use google next time.

Exactly So, the real problem is (5, Insightful)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753088)

_hardware_ manufactures who think they want to be in the _software_ maintenance market.

The difference between calling an API to render color fast, and knowing that cramming a 0x721 into a register at 0x3392 to render color fast isn't particularly a hemorrhaging of 'intellectual property'.

Granted, it does let us know where the API is "cheating".

So while the example of one byte in one register is reductio ad absurdem, and the process is more about laying out memory buffers and such, who cares. Sure the manufactures may be worried about nock-off hardware, but that hardware almost certainly be nock-off quality. Think of all the SoundBlaster knock offs that have ever been made. Compare that to Creative's bottom line. Those third party cards, which are _still_ on the market made SoundBlaster a universal name. Creative has been reclined upon those laurels for years now.

It is horrifically stupid on the part of the hardware manufacturers to be palying so close to the vest. They should _want_ everybody scrambling to be compatible with _their_ hardware interface, making them the leader that the market has to chase.

First big name out of the gate with a fully open graphics hardware platform would own the segment anew for years.

But "companies" have no smarts and that "isn't the way (that) business is done" so here we languish on in a half-realized market.

(As for the "getting drivers" thing I have spent hundreds of hours of my professional and personal career "getting drivers" for windows machines. Only the "you'll damn well eat what we serve you" hardware platforms like Apple can remove the quest for drivers. And woe betide you if you want to use old gear from those guys. So the whole plaintive "waah, I had to look for drivers" complaint rings a little false.)

Re:Damn linux users! (2)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753540)

Sounds like a lot of features that are already in the Nvidia drivers that don't seem to be included on the list of problem children.

Why can they manage while no one else can?

Re:Damn linux users! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752652)

This was a triumph!
The cake is a lie!

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753322)

Actually, the way I read one of the articles - Intel has completely and totally fucked up their driver architecture.

NVidia and ATI can drop a single driver "module" into an existing system and have it work great. No new kernel (just a tiny bit of kernel glue), no new Mesa, no new X.org in nearly all cases.

Meanwhile, Intel is requiring at least FIVE different base operating system components to be changed for their drivers to be updated?

It's just another example of "Intel graphics in Linux sucks" because of all of the horrific interdependencies their driver architecture has. Look at how badly broken Intel GMA support was in Ubuntu 9.x or 10.04 (can't remember which exact Ubuntu release, but it was basically unusable for 3D - Google Earth would stutter massively when it's silky smooth in 8.x or 10.10. Oh, and this was on a GMA950 - not by any means a new chipset.)

It isn't a challenge in general to deliver "launch day" GPU support in Linux - NVidia and ATI have been pulling this off smoothly on a routine basis. It is, however, a challenge for Intel since they seem to have no clue how to make their driver a nice modular drop-in.

Re:Damn linux users! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753748)

Don Knuth is an idiot because TeX is a shitty programming language. Shittier than PHP. It's like brainfuck, but without the awesome name.

Re:Damn linux users! (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752610)

Ah. That's sarcasm isn't it? [/sheldon]

I also got out of the article that it casts the current order of things as the ideal order of things -- in this case that Linux users are second class or lower users where Windows is the only OS that is deserving of support by hardware makers. But that is simply not what current and forward looking hardware developers should be thinking.

As others have predicted, I tend to agree that desktop computing is simply not the future of computing. In fact, it's barely the current state of computing even now. Of course business systems still run on Windows XP and pretty much the same stuff we had 5, 10 even 15 years ago with only incremental improvements. But on the consumer end, we are seeing a rapid surge in internet enabled devices serving a variety of purposes including content delivery and more. It is this area that is paving the way for adoption of this change from generic purpose computing to application specific computing devices. (AKA embedded)

And what are these embedded devices running? Some are running Windows, some are running BSD variants and derivatives ; most are running Linux. Windows is barely suitable for its originally intended purposes and most definitely not suitable for the additional uses and purposes it is being crammed into today. BSD variants and derivatives are successful but requires a heavier investment by implementers to customize the OS and surrounding code to make it work for them. Linux enjoys a greater momentum of use and support with a great deal more active enthusiasm in its communities.

As embedded systems are increasing, the selection of components that go into these devices are being made. If these components are limited in their support by which OSes are supported, I believe we will see a great deal of omission of these components in embedded devices. This is a large reason why we see less nVidia hardware in embedded applications and more Intel in my opinion.

Of course at present generic desktop computing is king. This is changing. Soon only hackers/developers will have generic desktop computing devices and the world will be using embedded systems.

It's not "linux users" that need support. It's hardware component makers that need to wake up and see what is going on. Evidently, they don't see it or they would be responding to changes in the market. Has Microsoft kept them so blinded and enticed? Where embedded systems are concerned, the majority is Linux, not Microsoft.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752820)

I think your statement, in a broader form, is something that I've been hearing for what, 5 years now?

I'm not saying it ain't true, but it kind of got old and honestly I have grown tired of hearing the same promise time and again. IMO the truth is somewhere in between. As in yes, we will see an increase in embedded devices running Linux or whatever under their hoods (and average users never cared what's under the hood as long as it satisfies their needs), but no, we will not see a decrease in generic desktop computing devices for so many reasons that are obvious enough. Truth be told, I don't feel like enumerating them time and again, but pick any of the following:
Storage, gaming, file synchronization, audio/video/image workstations, development...

As I was saying, I hear gloomy premonitions about the death of the PC and it seems like this death gets postponed by a year, every year :)

Re:Damn linux users! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753584)

in this case that Linux users are second class or lower users where Windows is the only OS that is deserving of support by hardware makers.

Duh? When you only hold 1% of the market you ARE a second class citizen to them.

And what are these embedded devices running? Some are running Windows, some are running BSD variants and derivatives ; most are running Linux.

False. Most embedded devices don't even run an OS. Secondly, things like QNX and VxWorks are on way more devices than Linux.

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753094)

As opposed to Windows users?

Re:Damn linux users! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753544)

What the hell is that libdrm! Is Intel introducing DRM to Linux?

Intel and Open Source (2, Interesting)

Technician (215283) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752258)

I would have expected Intel to have released drivers. They are involved heavily in Open Source. They have the Open Source Technology Center. Has anyone asked Intel about it?

http://www3.intel.com/cd/corporate/icsc/apac/eng/teams/331393.htm [intel.com]

Re:Intel and Open Source (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752320)

they did release drivers. fucking whiners are worse than most apple users. contempt over kernel module compilation? get the fuck out of here.

Re:Intel and Open Source (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752362)

Seconded by a long-term free software afficionado - it's not Intel's job to package drivers for every distribution.
They have already made a major contribution my making their patches publicly available.
I'm sure there will be a PPA that covers this shortly. Get off my lawn, whiney n00bs!

Re:Intel and Open Source (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752354)

GPU drivers have always lagged behind in stability for the Linux world, I had to compile Intel drivers 2 years ago when my GPU was just released.

Seeing as GPU manufacturers mainly used to support Windows and Mac, probably due to contracts between them, to attract cross-over clients. There was no such incentive for *nix back then.

It's nice that Intel picked up this ball, but this outdated driver issue just shows us how the process is still not streamlined, and on track with their [Intel's] hardware releases.

As a personal observation, I think the increasing popularity of Linux distros, notably (but not exclusively!) Ubuntu will improve and speed this process up too :-)

Re:Intel and Open Source (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752414)

Seeing as GPU manufacturers mainly used to support Windows and Mac, probably due to contracts between them, to attract cross-over clients. There was no such incentive for *nix back then.

Well, it was less of that and more a matter of having a dis-incentive (if there is such a word). For a long time, most of the 90's, it was not easy to get drivers from the hardware vendors. It's only been in the past 10 years that we've seen a website with regular driver updates become standard- you used to have to hunt for a support number, usually not a toll free one, wait for an hour on hold only to be told it would cost you $20 for handling and take 3 to 6 weeks to ship you a disc. This meant having the drivers included with the standard Windows distribution was make-or-break for most peripheral hardware, especially GPU's and soundcards which rarely came pre-built back then.
So MS was able to drop some "subtle hints" to the hardware vendors that well, if they released drivers for other OS's then it might cause some "problems" getting their drivers approved in time for the OS install discs to print and ship. In other words, although they never got caught 'red-handed', there was a LOT of fear in the hardware industry of being shut out in the cold if they supported Linux or other OS's which MS didn't want to compete with. Combine that with the usual FUD we used to (and still do) hear about opensource letting go of 'industry secrets' etc. and you end up with a climate which actively discourages the hardware makers from releasing their own drivers for Linux, or even giving out enough source to build your own. Luckily we've seen this attitude shift quite a bit in the last 5 years or so, but we're not all the way there yet.

As for Mac, back then Apple had pretty much total control of their hardware and software, and they just plain old didn't want to let any of their competitors use it.

Re:Intel and Open Source (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752992)

You're very right about the FUD there.

The name I forgot to mention, which describes my point exactly, is 'Wintel':

Wintel is a portmanteau of Windows and Intel. It usually refers to a computer system or the related ecosystem based on an Intel x86 compatible processor and running the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is sometimes used derisively to describe the monopolistic actions undertaken by both companies when attempting to dominate the market.

(see the source link [wikipedia.org] for reference article links)

Re:Intel and Open Source (5, Informative)

vidnet (580068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752366)

They did release drivers for the latest kernel, and they work great. However, you do need bleeding edge versions of the entire graphics stack to use them. This is a problem when combined with non-free ATI and Nvidia which always lags behind with no way for maintainers to get them up to speed.

In other words, a distro can include "old" kernels/drivers/X-servers with non-free ATI/Nvidia support XOR newer and less tested ones with the latest Intel support.

Either way, it's a reduced user experience and that's what TFA is on about.

Re:Intel and Open Source (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752900)

Wait, am I getting this right? Intel wrote an _open source_ driver working with the latest and greatest in Linux GPU-support-land, it was availible on release day, and people are WHINING about this?! Back in the day you'd get a binary driver needing legacy components months after the hardware was released, if you got an official driver at all.

I guess Linux on the desktop has come a long way when people start bitching about new hardware not being supported out of the box in Ubuntu. Not long ago you'd follow guide after guide trying to get all the hardware in your 5 years old computer to work...

Re:Intel and Open Source (4, Interesting)

stoborrobots (577882) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753274)

Wait, am I getting this right? Intel wrote an _open source_ driver working with the latest and greatest in Linux GPU-support-land, it was availible on release day, and people are WHINING about this?!

You're getting it 90% right - the whining hasn't started yet, but these guys are explaining why it's about to start...

  • It's not a single driver - Intel contributed patches to all the relevant projects for support for the new features; but they've only been included into the repositories so far, and are expected to be included in the upcoming releases over the next few weeks, and some features are not yet complete, or not even planned to be supported...
  • The components involved which would need recompiling on to work include the kernel, the lowest-level support libraries like libdrm and libmesa, and X - the holy trinity of "if this fucks up I can't use my computer"...
  • Since the patches haven't been backported, they likely won't make it into packages which can be installed on currently-available release, or even next-releases of the big distros, where the freeze window starts some 6 months ahead of release...
  • From the article:

    Over the years the expectations of Linux users have gone from simply wanting Linux drivers for their hardware to wanting open-source Linux drivers (read: no binary blobs) to now wanting open-source drivers in the distribution of their choice at the time the hardware first ships...

So, yeah - there's code out there which should be usable to make the open-source drivers go, but most of the reviewers on the net won't be able to make the bits go, some of the bits won't be ready for a while, and in general, anyone who tries to make them go in order to review this will have something or other to complain about...

But you're spot on with this statement, which echos some of the sentiments from the article:

I guess Linux on the desktop has come a long way when people start bitching about new hardware not being supported out of the box in Ubuntu.

Re:Intel and Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752440)

Please read at least the summary before commenting.

For how much longer (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752750)

As Intel increasingly kowtows to the DRM desires of the Content Lords, I'm not sure how much longer their open-sourcing will continue.

Re:Intel and Open Source (2)

jbernardo (1014507) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752994)

Intel has already messed up the drivers situation for one of its product families - GMA500 aka Poulsbo. They've released 3 driver families for it, PSB, IEGD and EMGD, progressively doing a worst job. PSB is stil working in Xorg 1.9 thanks to some users who have been patching and hacking the source parts, without any Intel support. It has some unfinished parts that would take a xorg developer a couple of days to fix, but Intel has refused to even listen to the users who have been patching it, never mind helping. It has a closed source 3D driver, but the kernel and 2D drivers are open source. IEGD seems abandoned and was mostly binary, compiled for a couple of distributions. EMGD is 99% binaries including libGL, libva, and others, as some luminary at Intel decided to release the closed binaries linked to specific versions. This last crap is the currently "supported" by Intel, the other two are obsolete. EMGD only supports a very old Fedora release, and a old MeeGo release, but was made to work with Ubuntu 10.10 by downgrading Xorg to 1.8.

After all this, did anyone still expect Intel to release decent drivers? I for sure didn't.

Re:Intel and Open Source (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753746)

the problem is that intel actually haven't been able to write a decent 3D driver, period. it's simply not an area where they have sufficient programming expertise.

so ironically, it falls to the free software community to come up with innovative solutions such as LLVMpipe and Gallium3D to provide the answers.

Gallium3D is a low-level "pipe" API which can be implemented on top of any GPU engine. OpenGL Reference Implementations such as MesaGL can then be put through the c-to-LLVM compiler and you automatically get SIMD and proper parallelism, properly optimised. and if the back-end engine is a Gallium3D-compliant GPU you get even better performance. this was a trick that apple deployed, with great success.

Re:Intel and Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753762)

If Mesa and Gallium work well, it's one step closer to being able to write working open source drivers for all of the major GPU's.

Twa da Night afo' Crizzmus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752270)

Wus da night afo' Crizzmus, and all thru da hood,
everybody be sleepin' and da sleepin' be good.
We hunged up our stockins, an hoped like all heck,
dat Obama gunna brang us our welfare checks.

All of da family, was layin' on da flo',
my sister wif her gurlfriend, my brother wif some ho.
Ashtrays was all full, empty beer cans and all
when I heared such a fuss, I thunk...."Sh'eet, must be da law".

I pulled the sheet off da window and what I'ze could see,
I was spectin' the sherrif, wif a warrent fo' me.
But what did I see, made me say, "Lawd look 'a dat!"
Dere was a huge watermelon, pulled by eight big-ass rats.

Now ovah da years, Santy Claws he be white,
but it looks like us brotha's, got a black un' tonight.
Faster than a poe'lice car, my homeboy he came,
and whupped up on dem rats, as he called dem by name.

On Biden, On Jessie, On Pelosi and Hillary Who,
On Fannie, On Freddie, On Ayers, and Slick Willy too.
Obama landed dat melon, right there in da street,
I knowed it fo' sho', - can you believe that Sheet?

Dat Santy didn't need no chimley, he picked da lock on my do',
an I sez to myself, "Son o' bitch..he don did dis befo!"
He had a big bag, full of presents - at first I suspeck?
Wif "Air Jordans" and fake gold, to wear roun' my neck.

But he left me no presents, just started stealin my shit.
He got my guns and my crack, and my new burglers kit.
Den, wif my shit in his bag, out da windo' he flew,
I sho' woulda shanked him, but he snagged my blade too!

He jumped back on dat melon, wif out even a hitch,
and waz gone in two seconds, da democrat sonofabitch.
So nex year I be hopin', a white Santy we git,
'cause a black Santy Claws, just ain't worf a shit!

Re:Twa da Night afo' Crizzmus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752956)

Now THAT is funny!

So get a killer app (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752272)

There aren't really any compelling ($$$) reasons to support sweet graphics drivers in Linux. Talk to Adobe, Autodesk, et al... give users a reason to demand driver support.

Re:So get a killer app (2)

babai101 (1964448) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752308)

I want to play warsow and xonotic, and watch 1080p movies without having to pay 7500 rupees for an OS I'll never use.

Re:So get a killer app (1)

kanto (1851816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752350)

I want to play warsow and xonotic, and watch 1080p movies without having to pay 7500 rupees for an OS I'll never use.

You could use the OS to play warsow and xonotic, maybe even watch 1080p movies with it. Personally, I think the only sane solution for linux (and opengl) graphics is nvidia anyway... everything else seems to treat those as an afterthought.

Re:So get a killer app (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752558)

I want to play warsow and xonotic, and watch 1080p movies without having to pay 7500 rupees for an OS I'll never use.

You could use the OS to play warsow and xonotic, maybe even watch 1080p movies with it. Personally, I think the only sane solution for linux (and opengl) graphics is nvidia anyway... everything else seems to treat those as an afterthought.

The everything else is Intel and AMD, and Intel have been significant in their contributions to the kernel and X. Nvidia have had security vulnerabilities for years, and have held back Distributions...and seen bent on not supporting wayward. That said they provide very fast hardware and Drivers, but those "everything else" are proving that/good enough without the negatives of closed source.

Re:So get a killer app (1)

kanto (1851816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753494)

That said they provide very fast hardware and Drivers, but those "everything else" are proving that/good enough without the negatives of closed source.

Slow drivers for fast hardware will kill 90% of apps on the drawing board. AMD as in Ati sucks at OpenGL so much that it's imo pointless to do serious coding for it, they break half the stuff in new updates anyway or replace an old hack with a new one. So it isn't really a question of open vs closed source or who made what contribution; what it really boils down to is linux being a competitive desktop platform for apps and, if the drivers aren't cutting edge or don't obey standards, it won't be.

Re:So get a killer app (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752604)

As I understand it one of the missing features of this card is hardware encoding. Since hosting video on linux servers is pretty popular you'd have expected them to at least support that out of the box.

Server farms is also another area where linux and graphics are used often.

I'm sure that are a lot more reasons but your mistake is assuming that the cards are going to be purely used in desktops.

It's not easy (4, Insightful)

ToasterMonkey (467067) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752284)

Unlike the proprietary drivers from ATI/AMD and NVIDIA or any of the drivers on the Microsoft Windows side, it's not easy to provide updated drivers post-release in distributions like Ubuntu due to the inter-dependence on these different components and all of these components being critical to the Linux desktop's well being for all users.

That's a funny was of saying Linux doesn't have a stable ABI because its architects are crazy.

I honestly hope in five years you can all go back and laugh at articles like these, but more than likely you'll have slightly bigger version numbers and different silly names.

hurl [phoronix.com]
blech [phoronix.com]

Re:It's not easy (4, Interesting)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752312)

How many gaping issues are left unresolved because microsoft is maintaining a stable ABI?

Re:It's not easy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752492)

That would be zero. There may well be gaping issues with MS software, but maintaining a stable API is not even PART of the problem. API stability (and even ABI stability) is just standard, well-established practice. And yes, Linux suffers a LOT for not having it.

Re:It's not easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753010)

That would be zero. There may well be gaping issues with MS software, but maintaining a stable API is not even PART of the problem. API stability (and even ABI stability) is just standard, well-established practice. And yes, Linux suffers a LOT for not having it.

I suspect the ABI is not the issue - with any of the OSs. The problem is that manufacturers won't release the full source code.

Business makes major contributions to GNU-Linux because of it's price, configurability, support flexibility, *and* security. If confidence in security was dented because of exploits using closed video drivers.....

Binary blobs are fine for many users - but not being able to control the speed with which any flaws are fixed is a problem.

I agree with an earlier poster and the idea that Microsoft might have something to do with the reluctance of the manufacturers to release the full driver source. It's not like they need to port it - give us the source and we'll do that. I don't know how great a reality the manufacturers fears that other companies will steal their code. Microsoft make a significant income from endorsing video drivers - so releasing driver source to Gnu would be cheaper, we don't charge for testing, endorsement, or porting and patching.

Note: I run Gnu-Hurd, Gnu-BSD, and Gnu-Linux - calling it Hurd, or Linux-Hurd, or Debian-Hurd is just silly to me - you call "it" what you want. To a user they're all KDE (or even "just a computer")

The poster who claims it's because not all Gnu-Linux distro's are identical is trolling of course. Few distro's would have problems repackaging - it's rarely done any other way. Even Ewebuntu doesn't just port everything from Debian.

AC 'cause I've modded this thread previously.

Re:It's not easy (2, Interesting)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753326)

That would be zero.

Err... Aren't you conveniently forgetting that just last year we had the issue of Microsoft's unpatched DLL load hijacking issue that could not resolved without changing stable APIs and recompiling software?

Re:It's not easy (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753764)

Solaris does things right.

Re:It's not easy (4, Insightful)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752352)

Stable ABI requires more resources for development (people, time, testing). Simple as that. Linux HQ decided that these resources are better spent somewhere else, like fixing security issues and overall improving. Bleeding edge graphic cards _are_ the problem for several months after introduction, but that sounds like acceptable trade off to me. Resources are always limited and trade off can only be moved elsewhere, but not eliminated.

Re:It's not easy (5, Insightful)

pseudonomous (1389971) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752384)

I'll admit I don't know too much about this but freebsd has managed to provide a stable ABI, I think back to the 4.x releases via compatibility layers (which are not installed by default but are available). I've heard that solaris's abi is stable back to the first official release. Linux devs could provide a stable abi ... but they don't care. They build their kernels from git anyway.

Re:It's not easy (4, Informative)

JonJ (907502) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752398)

Re:It's not easy (4, Insightful)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752470)

That is just silly.

Paraphrasing, they say that they can't have a stable ABI because of small differences in how C compilers compile things (alignment of structures, etc.). Has that problem *really* not been solved? Microsoft manage to do it!

They then say they can't have a stable API (DPI?) because it would mean they have to maintain old code (true, but surely not too much work), and people might accidentally use the old version. Seriously? I guess they haven't heard of documentation.

And finally they say the solution is to get your driver into the main kernel tree. Not only would this be a hell of a lot more work than just shoving it on a website (subscribe to mailing lists, learn to use git properly, submit code for review, revise code, etc. etc.) but I seriously doubt they will just accept anything. What if I make a device that only I have? Will they accept a driver that is only useful for me?

Re:It's not easy (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752528)

Not only would this be a hell of a lot more work than just shoving it on a website (subscribe to mailing lists, learn to use git properly, submit code for review, revise code, etc. etc.)

Yes, you actually have to work to make sure the drivers integrates properly instead of doing a code dump. How shocking!

What if I make a device that only I have? Will they accept a driver that is only useful for me?

Regardless of whether they accept it or not, that's not really a reason to choose a stable API vs including in the tree.
And if you're the only user, do you really need to keep an updated kernel? Can't you simply write it for the current kernel and not upgrade?

Re:It's not easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752612)

Seriously? I guess they haven't heard of documentation.

No they haven't, a good 80% of the problems I field is me referring to documented use because people either have heard or don't read. It IS a problem, but not for us enlightened folks (that is, literates).

Re:It's not easy (1)

iserlohn (49556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752648)

The elephant is in the room but nobody acknowledges it. Intel can backport their OSS drivers to (relatively recent, but still) older kernels, but they chose not to. That is the root of the problem, not the lack of a stable ABI. The lack of a stable ABI keeps Linux source-based rather than binary-based. Linux is all about having driver source available!

Re:It's not easy (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752758)

The lack of a stable ABI keeps Linux source-based rather than binary-based. Linux is all about having driver source available!

This is the main problem I have with Linux. Choices made for philosophical reasons rather than practical considerations. You have this in other places too (eg. business concerns trump practicality) but Linux takes the cake.

Re:It's not easy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753030)

It's an entirely practical proposition: with having the source code we can fix bugs and can improve the code without having to wait for the 'ABI driver owner' to do something.

It's a tradeoff between long term independence and short term availability.

And if you look at how Linux stormed the supercomputer and smartphone space you'll have to admit its architectural flexibility works in a splendid way. Yes, the other side of the coin is that the established, Windows dominated, secrecy-obsessed PC hardware space will have it easier to exclude Linux from certain hardware components, by keeping specifications secret from OSS devs.

Tough luck for them, and as Samsung has shown it it's not impossible to build hardware from scratch and use the best kernel to dominate a new space.

Re:It's not easy (2)

SiegeTank (582725) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753156)

Exactly, this file from the kernel docs explains the practical reasoning of not having a stable ABI in detail - http://lxr.linux.no/#linux+v2.6.36/Documentation/stable_api_nonsense.txt [linux.no]

Not only is stability and being able to integrate the drivers better within the kernel a key part of having the source for the drivers. If some poor person gets stuck using a piece of once 'in' hardware that the manufacturer has long since abandoned supporting - the issues can still be fixed. Or will have been fixed before the hardware became obsolete.

It also allows people who can code to help stabilise the drivers. Which essentially means the user has a better impression of the hardware. So the manufacture can benefit significantly from the source for that driver being available.

The reasons are practical - not only for stability but for longevity of support well after the manufacturer has long stopped caring. Having a stable ABI did nothing for Windows XP when the driver ran riot and took down the entire system in an all too common video driver BSOD.

Re:It's not easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753264)

Yes.

Via this policy kernel devs are forcing hw companies to allow kernel devs to support hardware even after the hw company is not willing to support the driver anymore.

So kernel devs are helping Linux users here in the long run, in a very big way.

I suspect some of the "Linux needs a stable ABI now" meme here was started via FUD injected by Microsoft - this has been an anti-Linux talking point ever since Microsoft denied for the first time that it is worried about Linux, more than a decade ago :-)

Having the source code to all drivers is a big natural strength of Linux, and Microsoft knows that very well - so they are trying to spin it into a disadvantage.

Re:It's not easy (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753254)

Choices made for philosophical reasons rather than practical considerations.

I find sourcecode practical. Thus a philosophical choice that makes doing sourcecode releases more practical is a practical consideration for me.

Re:It's not easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752796)

> Linux is all about having driver source available!

Phew! At least no-one will be able to release their drivers in a binary blob format with a GPL shim ABI layer then. That's a weight off my mind :-)

Re:It's not easy (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753296)

That is the root of the problem, not the lack of a stable ABI.

If the driver is OSS and yet still fails with older kernels you can't really blame Intel, they have done their work in actually providing the source, its the shitty underlying OSS infrastructure that fails in actually doing something with that code.

If having code is so superior to a binary only driver it should work better then a closed one, but yet I have never heard a Windows person complain about any of these issues, there stuff "just works" (most of the time anyway).

Re:It's not easy (1)

JonJ (907502) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753592)

What if I make a device that only I have? Will they accept a driver that is only useful for me?

Yes, there are drivers in the kernel which has only one user.

Re:It's not easy (1)

lindi (634828) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752726)

I admit that I don't know much about this either but currently at http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=608428 we are wondering if it is possible to support mount paths longer than 80 characters with breaking the freebsd kernel ABI.

Re:It's not easy (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753218)

Thats exactly my original point: FreeBSD and Solaris (Windows, OSX) all have stable ABI but I am still using Linux with unstable ABI. Obviously Linux devs did some things more useful for me then maintaining stable ABI.

Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753060)

resources are better spent

This resource conflict is a fiction that exists exclusively inside your head. Mobile Linux isn't having these problems; the future of PowerVR and Tegra depends Linux+Android capabilities. Not surprisingly those accelerated drivers appear to 'just work'. No drama involved. No lag. No missing features.

Point is Linux will get real desktop graphics support when a compelling ($) reason exists to create it. Not before. You get some PTC or AutoDesk folks specifying workstation grade graphics (for example) on Linux and you can bet your sweet bippy the hardware vendors will deliver, and right now too. Probably the worst thing that happened to Linux graphics was when PTC walked away.

Re:It's not easy (1)

qbast (1265706) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752392)

Oh great, this again. For example OpenSolaris has stable ABI and yet it has much worse hardware support than Linux.

Re:It's not easy (4, Informative)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752420)

It's obvious that you don't understand the issue, kernel ABI is completely irrelevant here. Not only is the overwhelming majority of the software that requires updating here in userspace (Mesa, Xorg libraries and Intel DDX driver), you can already switch out the kernel version in use freely, without a stable ABI!

No, what the article is trying to say is that because not every driver completely reinvents the wheel like they do on Windows, there needs to be more coordination between the driver and the other libraries that it depends upon, instead of just being able to dump the latest development code as a new release and call it a day.

Re:It's not easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752802)

Well, actually, the kernel might be an issue. Latest libdrm versions for example use features that require a new kernel.

The point is, it's a fucking mess to install graphic driver. I mean, why in the last 10 years, hasn't Linux/Xorg been able to roll out a stable graphic API on which the graphic card manufacturer can build drivers. Maybe separation of libdrm, mesa and the drivers is a bad idea. Maybe the driver vendors should just bundle libdrm and mesa inside the drivers and we get rid of this mess.

I'm the proud owner of a Thinkpad x201 which comes with an Intel GMA HD graphic card. One of the motivation for buying it was that the drivers are open source. When I got the laptop (back in june 2010), none of the distros I tried were able to run X on the damn machine. Not even by using vesa ... Black screen ftw. Looks like the kernel required an update. And then I haven't been able to get proper 3D acceleration. The performances are horrible (10% of what I get when running on windows) and trying out new drivers means I need to update my whole graphic stack and even X.org...

So next time, I'll just stick with Nvidia drivers, which just work.

By the way, it's not about open source vs closed source, it's about Intel drivers flawed development process and Nvidia's working one. Nothing stops Intel from doing the same that Nvidia does (bundle everything) and release it as open source.

Re:It's not easy (4, Informative)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753146)

The point is, it's a fucking mess to install graphic driver. I mean, why in the last 10 years, hasn't Linux/Xorg been able to roll out a stable graphic API on which the graphic card manufacturer can build drivers.

Actually, they have, it's just that graphic card manufacturers want more than what the API provides.

By the way, it's not about open source vs closed source, it's about Intel drivers flawed development process and Nvidia's working one. Nothing stops Intel from doing the same that Nvidia does (bundle everything) and release it as open source.

nVidia bypasses a lot of opensource code to make their stuff 'just work', I wrote this small blog entry a few years ago that explained some of the things that nVidia's drivers do to resolve 3d acceleration issues and so on in the x.org architecture (some of the information is now outdated, but nVidia still bypasses various bits to make them 'just work'):

http://ash.weststar.name/babble/20081104161100/why-nvidia-rocks-where-x-org-does-not/ [weststar.name]

Re:It's not easy (2)

HonIsCool (720634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753374)

Reads a lot like one Linux Hater's Blog post :) Minus some foul language :)

Re:It's not easy (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752444)

That's a funny was of saying Linux doesn't have a stable ABI because its architects are crazy.

This is about a bit more than the kernel ABI flamewar. The binary blobs don't just interact with the kernel but are pretty much all over the graphics stack. If you change the X server they stop working, while the open source drivers depend on a more recent X server. If you want to change this, you need to create a Linux equivalent of WDDM, the new graphics driver model that came with Vista and caused tons of grief even though both nVidia and ATI had tons of people working on it. It would take a huge effort specifying up an ABI through the entire stack that is ultimately very little relevant to the open source Intel, AMD and noveau projects.

Re:It's not easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753328)

At the lowest level describing how raw hardware gets abstracted enough to work with higher-level common drivers, is there any practical reason why Linux couldn't simply implement the same low-level interface contract as the current penultimate version of 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows? IE, for 3D, Linux implements the same miniport interface that Windows does, so all it would take (at the lowest level, at least) to get GPU drivers for an arbitrary Linux distro is to rip them from a copy of the Windows drivers? Obviously, this wouldn't solve problems requiring additional software support above and beyond the raw hardware interface (ie, things like realtime video encoding implemented in software taking advantage of the GPU's hardware acceleration capabilities), but it seems like it would at least make it easier to work on getting a GPU to work *well* under Linux, instead of spending huge amounts of time just getting it to work *at all* under Linux.

The truth is, Microsoft's low-level interfaces aren't perfect... but as a practical matter, are they *really* any worse than the arbitrarily different ones that get cooked up for Linux? Or at least, sufficiently worse to merit diverting development time towards supporting yet another interface in addition to the ones for the current and previous one or two releases of Windows as well. Vista's might suck (or at least be toxic from multiple perspectives) thanks to Microsoft throwing users under the bus at the holy altar of DRM, but what about XP's? If anything, Linux officially adopting the low-level binary interface of XP-32/64 would be Microsoft's worst nightmare, because it would legitimize support for open-source drivers that could just as easily be tweaked to work under XP as Linux and enable the OS that Microsoft desperately wants to die to live forever. Microsoft might find Linux to be irritating, but imagine the horror in Redmond if XP took on an independent life of its own beyond the control (and revenue stream) of Microsoft itself... if Linux running Wine became a better XP than XP itself. (well, ok, that might be kind of dangerous, because then Microsoft really WOULD pull out the heavy artillery and do its best to crush it, because at that point it would go from something used by silly, naughty kids to something taking hard dollars out of Microsoft's balance sheet).

Re:It's not easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752496)

But Linux DOES have a stable ABI.

What Linux does not have is a stable internal API. Kernel authors don't particularly care to allow cruft to stay in the kernel just because of out-of-tree modules, and given that everyone CAN get their modules into the tree (after passing code review), I think that's fair enough, too.

People who complain about the lack of a stable API for out-of-tree modules are really asking the kernel developers to do the hard work for them.

Re:It's not easy (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752788)

I don't think it's an issue of ABI/API stability at all. The true culprit, in my opinion, is the massive interdependence of independently developed and rapidly changing libraries.

The one thing that has consistently stopped me from being more involved with open source is that every time I attempt to play with some open source utility I spend hours trying to find correct dependencies, often finding some that were undocumented as necessary after numerous failed compiles, and finally giving up.

The thing that would bring open source truly "to the desktop" or "to the mobile" or whatever is if developers did a better job of packaging their source with the libraries that they used to install it, instead of assuming the end client will already have those libraries or will go out and fetch them. When the vast majority of people want a program, they don't want to have to go find two or three supporting programs; they want everything in one simple package.

(Yes, I'm aware of the various package managers, but those haven't succeeded for the few programs I've wanted; perhaps my sampling is unusual and this is not common, but my personal success rate has been so poor as to encourage me to seek other solutions.)

Re:It's not easy (2)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752968)

It's not about the ABI.

What's happening is that the way graphics work in Linux is being completely overhauled. This isn't a "now the do_stuff() function takes an extra argument" kind of change, it's a complete redesign. A stable ABI would prevent the former, but redesigns like this one would still happen. You can't use the Windows 3.1 drivers on Win7 for instance.

This is more of an issue of bad timing, with hardware arriving before the software is ready. A bit like XP having a lot of trouble to install on systems with SATA drives (at least initially)

Let them eat source (1)

Jaxoreth (208176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752300)

Wow. First you deny them a nice binary blob and force them to build from the source code. What's next? Throwing them into the briar patch?

Seems worse in the mobile space. (3, Interesting)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752316)

This thread [phoronix.com] discusses the availability of FOSS drivers for those snazzy ARM Cortex chips found commonly in touch-screen devices.
Even if you can 'root' your Android phone, getting a 3D accelerated x.org experience is unlikely. Even Nokia's forthcoming Meego device will be a binary blob affair, I suspect.

TANSTAAFL (4, Insightful)

bbbaldie (935205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752318)

I'm just glad drivers get written at all. In the last ten years, Linux has gone from daunting to a snap to install and maintain. If you can contribute, and you aren't doing so, you have no reason to bitch about the tardiness of drivers. Heck, you don't have a right to bitch anyway about something that's free.

Re:TANSTAAFL (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752380)

If you can contribute, and you aren't doing so, you have no reason to bitch about the tardiness of drivers.

And if my branches and patches are ignored because I don't constantly waste my time poking people repeatedly on a mailing list over and over about merging them, can I bitch then?

Re:TANSTAAFL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752410)

How the fuck is anyone supposed to know about your branches if you don't mention them? Don't be a total douchebag.

Re:TANSTAAFL (2)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752996)

How the fuck is anyone supposed to know about your branches if you don't mention them?

I mention them once, I mention any updates I do once. I don't go do the whole justification, arguments which people seem to want to do non-stop on mailing lists. You changed the name of an integer name in a piece of code to resolve some twisted compatibility issues and despite knowing this, people want you to write like nine replies justifying it when it has already been justified. When you don't waste the time by repeating what you said over and over in slightly different wording, your contributions end up ignored because you didn't happen to spend hours a day correcting people.

Don't be a total douchebag.

Honestly, I find the whole assault in justifying something repeatedly rather 'douchebaggy' more so than my comment at my displeasure of having to essentially 'fight' for my contributions repeatedly, when I already 'fought' for it.

Re:TANSTAAFL (2)

bbbaldie (935205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752424)

Sure. You've earned the right. :-)

Re:TANSTAAFL (2)

Rhywden (1940872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752728)

Yeah, I'm thankful for those drivers as well - but they still have some massive problems. I recently tried to use a dual monitor setup on an older laptop with an ATI chip.

Absolute catastrophe. Either one or the other monitor wouldn't be set to the correct resolution, show only half of the picture - and when I finally managed to get it right through some obscure config magic, the setting would have been reset upon rebooting the laptop.
And 50% of the time, trying to change the config resulted in a hardlock.

Only Sandy Bridge?? Arrandale also a mess.. (1)

think_nix (1467471) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752372)

wow! intel is really keeping up with whats What hot and new , intel open source [intel.com] Now sounds like intel really wants to please OSS users like on Arrandale when they pull these kinds of stunts, TFA:

Intel decided not to send out any Sandy Bridge CPU samples to us, so we are unable to deliver test results, but all I got were frustrated journalists asking me how to get the Sandy Bridge graphics working under Linux.

Arrandale is also a complete mess [freedesktop.org] on some platforms like fedora for e.g. [fedoraproject.org] Currently now running gentoo with xorg 1.9. and kernel 2.6.37.7 and feeling lucky that most things are now working on an Arrandale platform.

Final release candidate of the 2D drivers released (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752474)

http://cgit.freedesktop.org/xorg/driver/xf86-video-intel/log/ [freedesktop.org] If you look 2.13.903 is out this will become 2.14 unless something major is found. This took a whole day !! to go from final release candidate to release for 2.12. I wonder what those linux users who imported from Malaysia will do.

Linux drivers? Good luck (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752572)

Intel are lucky to have managed to write a driver that works for the kernel "X" and the window manager "Y ". How a developer will be able to make a driver that works in all the infinite combinations of software that constitute a Linux distro? How to make then to work in a graphics system that is actually a complete mess?
And how many times the work has been completely lost because some idiot had the "brilliant idea" to change something in a vital library, completely breaking compatibility? Is a difficult job.

Re:Linux drivers? Good luck (2)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753066)

Intel are lucky to have managed to write a driver that works for the kernel "X" and the window manager "Y "

I have no idea what window manager dependency you're even referring to, I can't find any mention of anything to do with window managers on the article it self. A quick Google search isn't returning anything relevant. Could you provide related practical and technical information, please?

Re:Linux drivers? Good luck (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753148)

Is a example only. On "window manager", read "any system to draw a window to one normal user on Linux".

Re:Linux drivers? Good luck (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753672)

Nvidia can. Why can't Intel?

Although since it is all source, then Canoncial could fix this if they really wanted to. So could Suse, if it were it's old self.

Hardware Programming Interface (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34752720)

It would be nice to have some stable HPI, too. Everything that the old hardware can do, the old driver for the old hardware should be able to do with the new hardware. So with no change at all to the driver, everything that worked with the old hardware shall work with the new hardware, faster where applicable.

New features are then the issue. If the hardware interface is designed in a flexible way, then the low level drivers should not need to care at all about what is going on with the device. They should, instead, be working entirely and exclusively on making sure all the operation requests and responses get properly shuttled back and forward, say in the form of messages. That way, to use some new feature in the hardware, you only need to add on the component that understands that new feature. And with a message passing interface to hardware, that can easily never need to involve the kernel.

One word: Windows. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34752846)

Windows 7. It just works. You can put aside your HobbyOS now.

Re:One word: Windows. (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753024)

Windows 7. It just works. You can put aside your HobbyOS now.

The win7 bootloader doesn't work with my Kubuntu installation, nor did it 'just work' by offering automatic resizing of my partitions for the Windows partition, I had to do that manually under Kubuntu!

Why you lie? :(

Re:One word: Windows. (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753044)

Oh also, it also didn't support my ext4 partitions, not really 'just working' for me.

Re:One word: Windows. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34753734)

Until the relevant WinDOS software says it supports Intel based GPUs, it's all kind of moot anyways.

Tempest in a tea cup...

MOVE ON UP TO THE EASTSIDE !! TO THAT DELUX APART (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34753716)

ment in the sky !! Moving on up, to Windows 7 -- The hard way -- or if you like the liNux, to seven rooms of gloom !! But at least you're moving on up !!

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