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GPL'd Driver and Linux Support For New H.264 Capture Card

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the to-those-who-wait dept.

GNU is Not Unix 119

azop writes "Almost a year ago Slashdot covered the story of a MPEG-4 multiple input capture card with a GPL Video4Linux licensed driver. Earlier this year, Ben Collins added H.264 support into the solo6x10 Video4Linux2 GPL driver. The H.264 PCIe cards are finally released and shipping to customers. The new cards support faster frame rates and sport a PCIe interface. The driver is available for forkin' on Github."

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Software / Firmware (4, Insightful)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360188)

Why is it important that linux drivers have source available but we don't worry so much about seeing the firmware source? Should we be pushing to see firmware source too? Instead should it not matter about seeing driver source? I'd love to hear your perspectives.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360224)

Firmware is on the device, the drivers are on my computer.

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360234)

sure but the device is on your computer too

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360246)

In the case of things like this having an alternative firmware would probably not offer a huge advantage.

Graphics cards firmware is extremely complicated and can make the difference between good and great and terrible so being able to modify that (If we had the experts) would possibly be beneficial due to more features / performance / bug fixes.

On this? I doubt the firmware is anywhere near as complex and if it ain't broke... (I know, I sacrificed ideology for pragmatism)

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360344)

Alternative firmware or BIOS would rarely be useful. Working, less buggy firmware and BIOS on the other hand would be really nice.

What were now ending up with is a massive heap of binary firmwares chock full of bugs. None of that code will be maintained after the manufacturer has a new model out. This leads the OSes then doing an ever increasing number of workarounds to be able to live with broken firmware. That approach works for some time... but over time it leads to workarounds implemented on top of other workarounds: code that everyone is afraid to touch as it might trigger the brokenness of some god-awful firmware code in totally unexpected ways.

As long as were talking about a single driver totally isolated from the others, this sort of model is ok. But driver code is getting increasingly consolidated to enable easier maintainability and faster development -- sucky firmware makes that difficult.

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360504)

Alternative firmware or BIOS would rarely be useful. Working, less buggy firmware and BIOS on the other hand would be really nice.

Au contraire. Several [openwrt.org] alternative [polarcloud.com] firmwares [dd-wrt.com] were/are available for the WRT54G series of wifi routers that have basically allowed linux to be run on them.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360526)

We're talking about on already-general-purpose PCs. Alternative firmware is very useful on artificially limited devices like phones, and apparently routers

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361822)

We're talking about on already-general-purpose PCs. Alternative firmware is very useful on artificially limited devices like phones, and apparently routers

...And on graphics cards where they've been known to be artificially limited in order to boost the price of an only slightly better model.

Personally, I won't rest until every last ounce of source-code is available for my machine. Direct Memory Access (DMA) + Firmware Binary Blobs == Unknowable behavior. This is one reason I applaud AMD's support for CoreBoot. [wikipedia.org]

No, I'm not paranoid, but, yes, we probably should be -- I've just been burned too many times by MFGs dropping support for things to enforce artificial obsolescence. I'm buying the hardware not the drivers -- Needlessly tying hardware to a compilation of software is the very definition of creating artificial scarcity...

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362164)

I don't see where you've contradicted the parent.

Re:Software / Firmware (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360964)

firmware is a program, which is executed by devices processor
driver is a program, which is executed by main processor

Re:Software / Firmware (4, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360256)

That doesn't mean firmware can not do evil things. Or does not need any quality vetting or so.

The BIOS is a kind of firmware too, and there exist viruses that can exploit certain BIOS firmwares and to all kinds of bad things to your computer. Not sure about this specific piece of hardware but I'm quite sure that the trend is towards more and more reprogrammable firmwares, if only to fix bugs after release.

Anyway I'd say the firmware is about as important as the OS driver. And having the source of the firmware will no doubt provide information to driver developers on how the device really works.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

sirsnork (530512) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360350)

So you've really asking why we can't see all firmware code for all devices and peripherals, including BIOS, but also firmware for all devices in our computers like optical drives, HDD's, video cards. What about keyboards and mice, which probably also have some firmware code in them too by now?

Re:Software / Firmware (3, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360404)

Indeed.

And the question on why we can not see (most) firmware source code will probably the exact same answer as why we can't see (most) driver source code: patents, copyrights, proprietary algorithms, DRM, whatever.

Yet the biggest risk lies in the devices where firmware can be changed ("flashed"), and where the device and its software must provide certain security against that happening unauthorised. There exist at least proof-of-concept BIOS viruses, maybe also actually malicious BIOS viruses. There is no reason why such viruses could not target other parts of the computer, such as hard drive firmware to hide themselves.

Re:Software / Firmware (4, Insightful)

tempmpi (233132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360466)

Often the firmware is what turns a bunch of cheap standard parts into a real product. Unless you want to go open source hardware, too, you need to keep your firmware proprietary, because most of the engineering is actually part of the firmware and pcb layout is just a small part of your product. And it is easy to do a compatible pcb from the scratch.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360790)

I'm sure I'll probably get hate for pointing this out, but it is also why you can get card X for cheaper than card Y, just as with Win 7 Starter (which is actually a damned nice low resource OS and I wish they'd sell it as an OEM) through Ultimate having the same code just with different parts turned off. This lets the manufacturers sell the same device with different feature sets thus making it so those of us who don't need Y-Z can only pay for X.

For an example on the hardware side the AMD HD4830 and HD4850. The HD4850 was originally a $200 part (now $80-100) and the HD4830 a $150 (now $60) and the ONLY difference between the two was the firmware, which switched off some of the stream processors in the HD4830. This is good for the consumer as they have different price points while not losing the core features such as hardware transcoding and DirectX 10.1, and it is good for the manufacturer as they don't have to spend money (and thus raise prices) by blowing circuits in hardware but instead simply switching them off with a bit of firmware code.

So I can see why manufacturers wouldn't want to hand out firmware and it is for the same reason why there is more than one version of Windows. Frankly I've sold many an HD4830 to people that didn't need the extra stream processors, just as myself and most of my customers use Win 7 HP because we don't need the features (the only one I cared about was XP Mode, and that was easily enough replaced with VMWare Player for free) that come with the higher price points of Windows.

Frankly it would suck if manufacturers had to raise prices across the board to pay for eFuses or burning traces just as it would suck if everyone had to shell out for Ultimate. so I'd say that not handing out the firmware is a GOOD thing, that is unless you think there should only be a "one size fits all" hardware model that is. If so you might want to check out the fruit company as I hear they are quite good at that.

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36361014)

Well, the other difference between those graphics cards was chip binning: the chips where not all of the stream processors tested right ended up in the 4830 bin, the chips where more of them worked went into the 4850 (and the chips where they all worked at high clock speeds went into the 4870, which was like the 4850 but with more RAM and a gigantic fan).

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361450)

just as myself and most of my customers use Win 7 HP because we don't need the features (the only one I cared about was XP Mode, and that was easily enough replaced with VMWare Player for free)

But where do people with Windows 7 Home Premium get the Windows XP license to run inside VMWare Player?

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36361612)

From that old Windows XP computer that you turned into a Linux file server in your closet (or, perhaps, threw in the garbage).

Seriously, almost every computer sold between 2001 and 2010 came with a WinXP license; you probably own one somewhere.

OEM license transferability or lack thereof (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362138)

Anonymous Coward wrote:

Seriously, almost every computer sold between 2001 and 2010 came with a WinXP license

I thought OEM licenses weren't fully transferable. They appear to be restricted to a single PC according to this page [microsoft.com] .

Re:OEM license transferability or lack thereof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36362514)

Define "single PC", because my computer at home has a serious case of Grandfather's Axe going on.

Component to which the license is tied (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362748)

I've read somewhere (I don't have the citation handy) that some versions of the OEM agreement tie the license to the case to which the PC maker attached the certificate of authenticity sticker. I've read that other versions of the OEM agreement tie the case to one motherboard.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362264)

Came with an OEM XP license most likely, which can't be transferred to another computer legally.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361666)

From the dumpster - they snagged an old box with an XP license!
YMMV, legality not tested.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361458)

the ONLY difference between the two was the firmware, which switched off some of the stream processors in the HD4830. This is good for the consumer as they have different price points

Nonsense. Being sold a deliberately crippled product is not good for the consumer.

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36361636)

Are you stupid or just naive? I can't figure out which one. Do you want to pay the same price for the entire 4800 series? Do you like being forced to pay the top dollar? Crippled? Turning off transistors to sell a cheaper card is how you get the cheaper models. If you are a dedicated nerd, you can often modify the firmware (flashing it), or by tinkering with it yourself. Get your head out of the sand .....

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362002)

Do you want to pay the same price for the entire 4800 series?

Yes. It costs the same to produce either way, so it should cost the same to buy. If ATI had to sell the same card to everyone at the same price, they'd have to sell it at a reasonable price for everyone or they wouldn't sell any.

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362390)

So, you are just being naive.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363272)

No, I just want what's best for the consumer. If you think price discrimination is good for anyone except capitalists, you're not just naive, you're a sucker.

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363632)

You are naive AND you want what is best for the consumer (actually, usually this means what is best for you, but I'll let that point be). The two aren't mutually exclusive, but if you can come up with a plan that allows ATI to be better for the consumer (both short and long term) I'm sure they'd be happy to do it.

Unfortunately, your armchair naivety doesn't work in the real world. When you finish growing up and you realize the world isn't black and white, and the easy thing isn't often the best thing, perhaps you'll understand things better.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361746)

What is good (i.e. increases profit) for the producer is not necessarily good for the consumer. And likely, as another poster pointed out, it has also to do with small defects in the chips, just like AMD and Intel are testing processors and then selling them at different clock speeds dependent on what that individual processor can do.

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36362270)

Defects in the chips applies to processors. The video card chips are coming off the same line and tested to the same standards. The same is not true of the pcb, memory, and other components of the card though.

The 6950 and 6970 are a good example of this, they had the same chip and the same reference board design with only a small alteration to the power supply. The first line of boards all used the reference design so you could actually take a 6970 firmware and flash it unmodified onto a 6950. The reduced power design didn't allow enough juice to overclock to the degree the 6970 could but it was more than sufficient to run at and slightly above 6970 stock speeds.

This is bad for the consumer, but not just for the 6950 purchasers, the 6970 purchasers are paying more for a card that is profitable at the 6950 pricepoint! There should be one card, somewhere between these two price points.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363554)

I used to think the same thing, that turning off features is an evil thing.

But now, I realise that is what allows us to get cheaply hacked hardware that's about 5-10% better than what we paid for. The richest subsidises the rest of us. If all they do is change firmware, instead of tracecutting or burning fuses, then we can have what they do.

So go ahead, it gives us cheaper, better hardware. Or buy open source hardware like in article.

Re:Software / Firmware (3, Interesting)

a10_es (579819) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360438)

how can you be sure it has a firmware?
it can be an FPGA, or even sillicon hard.

I work with this device and it boots up without any kind of ROM or firmware upload.

In this case, would you like the VHDL to be open?
If that's the case, why not ask intel/AMD/... to release the VHDL for their current lineup?

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360622)

Firmware is software like the driver is. And firmware is more important for the device and so on to the user than the driver is as you can move the device to other computer but not the driver as is.

Re:Software / Firmware (5, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360264)

Open firmware is also good, but take it one step at a time eh?

An open source driver for this is great news because it means the driver, and therefore the card, can be rebuilt for different architectures, can be enhanced over time, can do all the stuff that's great about open source. Not to mention serving as a learning aid for others.

Open firmware would be a bonus because then people have the ability to alter the behaviour of the card itself. Some people do care about this stuff so you have projects like Openmoko's Neo phones. There are also sometimes license problems related to distributing closed firmwares if the OS needs to load them into the device.

Driver source is more important IMHO, for now, because without it (or reverse-engineered OSS drivers) some of my projects with linux on ARM would not have been possible. One example was a wireless USB card attached to an NSLU2. Windows drivers through the old ndiswrapper were no good, it's only when open source drivers were available I could proceed.

Also not necessiarly that useful (3, Funny)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360442)

Depends on the device but the firmware may well be something that isn't very accessible to users. For example if the device uses an FPGA, which many do, then the firmware might be the FPGA programming. Ok fair enough, but do you have the Xilinx development software and hardware, not to mention expertise, to mess with it? Not nearly as easy or cheap as firing up a compiler and messing with a driver.

Even if not, if the firmware is just code for something onboard kinda like a BIOS/UEFI on a PC, it could still be pretty difficult for users to deal with.

There's also the issue of bricking the device. Messing with the driver might screw up the OS if done badly enough, but the device should be fine. However messing with the firmware could render the device unusable, and depending on how bad it was messed up could render it unfixable in that you couldn't flash a stock firmware back on it.

Too much risk for not much reward overall, which is probably a big reason not to do it.

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (0)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360566)

If it's possible to brick the device with bad firmware, then the device is defective.

To be frank, I consider making devices fragile enough to have an allergic reaction to the wrong firmware as just another form of DRM slightly more subtle and more insidious than tivoization.

Either make it so that bad firmware can't wreck the device, or publish all the specs a homebrewer will need to properly manage the device.

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36361130)

Uh, you haven't really done this sort of programming, have you?

Look, the device needs to have a way to update its own firmware, right? Usually this is in code, in the firmware. If you overwrite the firmware, and you fuck this part up, you can't update over your FUBAR custom firmware. The general public considers this "bricked" because they don't want to start soldering stuff to the JTAG terminal or whatever.

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36361346)

Some devices have the firmware uploaded to the device by the driver every time they are powered on e.g. many wireless network cards. To save cost, the firmware will be stored in the driver rather than in a chip on the card.

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (2)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363628)

Look, the device needs to have a way to update its own firmware, right? Usually this is in code, in the firmware. If you overwrite the firmware, and you fuck this part up, you can't update over your FUBAR custom firmware. The general public considers this "bricked" because they don't want to start soldering stuff to the JTAG terminal or whatever.

Consider this wild notion:
Allow all the firmware except the bootloader to be overwritten by the bootloader. Then if you brick it, you can still use the bootloader to fix it.

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360762)

Me? No I don't have that expertise.

But others do and may wish to play with it, may even do some cool stuff. Of course they may also do risky things, brick devices, burn them out, whatever else.

This is where "disclaimer of warranty" comes in, IMHO. Perfectly fair to say something like - "Here's the source for the firmware, if you change anything and flash your own version your warranty is over. Happy Hacking"

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362344)

There's more as well. Patents, yay. The hardware mfg may have license to use them, but they do not have permission to extend that license to others.

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361814)

Personally I don't have the experience to do such programming, and I guess that accounts for most (almost all) people on /.. I don't even know how to hack my own driver. I can barely understand a simple C program.

Still I think it's a good thing to have the source available. People can often do really cool things with it - lots of creative minds wanting to do crazy things the device maker never thought of, or simply want to scratch an itch, and the greater public (including me) can benefit from that.

Re:Also not necessiarly that useful (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363400)

Another reason is licensing limitations.

A lot of the more complex devices (WiFi, Bluetooth, programmable NICs, etc) often run another OS to manage them. There's often no license to distribute the necessary source, nor is there any way to rebuild it without requiring the proprietary development environment.

It's usually some sort of RTOS. So no, firmware isn't just a simple program that starts at main() and handles requests from the host - it can often be handling real-time processing and many other tasks simultaneously. (And yes, these RTOS and such can run in a tiny bit of onboard RAM and flash)

Heck, the latest videocards often run something on the GPU itself for management.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360276)

Why is it important that linux drivers have source available but we don't worry so much about seeing the firmware source?

When your operating system changes in a way that breaks the driver (or you want to use the card on a completely different OS), you can adapt the driver to your new system. From this perspective, it does not matter what is in firmware and what is in hardware.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360390)

The firmware is platform neutral and is a part of the card itself. If you have the card, you have the firmware and as long as you have a driver, you can use it. If you don't have the card, the firmware doesn't matter much.

OTOH, it is entirely possible to end up having the card, but not having a driver for your OS. In that case, you mights as well not have the card either.

Meanwhile, if you update your OS, and you have a GPL driver, you can update it as needed. The firmware won't get in the way.

All that said, it is nice when the firmware is open as well. It opens many possibilities to do things with the card that were never imagined by the OEM.

Re:Software / Firmware (4, Informative)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360432)

At Debian, we do care about binary blob firmware without source. We put them in "non-free", and we don't consider it's part of the OS (it wont go in the released CD, etc.).

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360474)

AFAIK, Windows isn't released with any firmware on the release CD either.

Re:Software / Firmware (4, Insightful)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360484)

And how exactly do you think they provide drivers for Broadcom NICs?

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360920)

A lot of drivers upload a chunk of firmware to devices when they load. All that's actually on the device is a burnt in bootstrap to let them do that.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361656)

AFAIK, Windows isn't released with any firmware on the release CD either.

On what do you base this claim? afaict many drivers contain firmware and windows contains many drivers (most of which afaict were not written by MS) so i'd be very surprised if their wasn't firmware on the windows CD.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361484)

So what do you do if you have binary firmware and source, but no free compiler exists for the specific CPU architecture used on the peripheral's microcontroller?

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361970)

Make one. We have rich tool-sets for compiler development. The specs are all we really need -- Give us the hardware specs (instruction tables, register layouts, etc) and we can build compilers. Having to reverse engineer a processor, and then build firmware for it is a pain in the ass. It would be nice if the MFG just shared their tools & sources with us -- then they could benefit from our improvements, but hey No one ever accused them of being benevolent and customer friendly.

It would be nice if the hardware vendors stopped worrying about software "thieves" so much and got back to making hardware -- Hint: I buy the hardware, it should come with the source code to make it work -- Binary only drivers / firmware is a recipe for vendor-lock-in, artificial obsolescence, and artificial scarcity.

That's difficult when (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362230)

Make one.

That's difficult when the CPU core you licensed uses an instruction set that is "proprietary and confidential", or the revenue from additional sales to Linux users wouldn't cover the cost of developing free build tools.

It would be nice if the hardware vendors stopped worrying about software "thieves" so much

And it would be nice if people got a bonus check from the government just for being outstanding citizens, like in Lilliput, but that's not going to happen in this system of things.

Hint: I buy the hardware, it should come with the source code to make it work

That's difficult if your hardware product is essentially a DSP and FPGA on a board little different from the chip maker's reference board, and the programming of the DSP and FPGA makes the hardware what it is.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

discord5 (798235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362242)

At Debian, we do care about binary blob firmware without source. We put them in "non-free", and we don't consider it's part of the OS (it wont go in the released CD, etc.).

Does your installer still insist on installing grub onto the memory stick typically used to provide such firmware for your netinstall CDs instead of the hard drive, or can I finally stop cursing under my breath every single time I'm trying to install a DL360 and I forget to remove the memory stick ?

That is perhaps my biggest complaint about Debian, which is to say that it's been a positive experience for the most part.

Re:Software / Firmware (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360754)

From their site:

"Update: June 7th, 2011 - Several important things to note, the BC-H series H.264 cards do not have at traditional firmware that is loaded. Everything is accessed directly from the driver / user space applications. Secondly, we report sales of each encoder to MPEGLA and pay any necessary patent fees for the sale of each encoder, meaning that any cards purchased from Bluecherry already have the patent protection from MPEGLA for the device level encoder."

So, in this case the discussion is moot - this card doesn't need any shady things to run on my computer - i am getting one!

Re:Software / Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360864)

From TFA:
The BC-H series H.264 cards do not have at traditional firmware that is loaded. Everything is accessed directly from the driver / user space applications

HAND

Re:Software / Firmware (2)

Vuojo (1547799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360908)

From the site: Update: June 7th, 2011 - Several important things to note, the BC-H series H.264 cards do not have at traditional firmware that is loaded. Everything is accessed directly from the driver / user space applications. Secondly, we report sales of each encoder to MPEGLA and pay any necessary patent fees for the sale of each encoder, meaning that any cards purchased from Bluecherry already have the patent protection from MPEGLA for the device level encoder.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361782)

When the kernel is updated, it's nice to be able to fix the driver.

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Artemis3 (85734) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362366)

Read the update:

Update: June 7th, 2011 - Several important things to note, the BC-H series H.264 cards do not have at traditional firmware that is loaded. Everything is accessed directly from the driver / user space applications. Secondly, we report sales of each encoder to MPEGLA and pay any necessary patent fees for the sale of each encoder, meaning that any cards purchased from Bluecherry already have the patent protection from MPEGLA for the device level encoder.

http://www.bluecherrydvr.com/2011/05/multi-input-h-264-linux-supported-encoder-cards/ [bluecherrydvr.com]

Re:Software / Firmware (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363540)

Why is it important that linux drivers have source available but we don't worry so much about seeing the firmware source? Should we be pushing to see firmware source too? Instead should it not matter about seeing driver source? I'd love to hear your perspectives.

Every device in my machine that does anything particularly useful is going to be largely or wholly proprietary. I appreciate it when the hardware (by way of its firmware) can provide an interface to the OS that isn't needlessly complicated (technically or legally) to reimplement for various OSes and platforms. This makes it much easier to get a driver in source form - which in turn makes it a lot easier to carry support for the device up to a new version of the Linux kernel (since Linux doesn't have a stable ABI for binary-only drivers, binary-only drivers break now and then) or to a new processor architecture (i.e. x86 to x86-64 several years back).

I am not an enemy of proprietary software, I just want to be able to do more with software libre.

Can it capture HDMI or is it useless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360194)

Anyone know where I can find a good HDMI capture / tv tuner ?

Does it play nice with M$ Media Center?

Re:Can it capture HDMI or is it useless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360238)

If it doesn't play nice, you have a good starting point for making it play nice, and a community to help you do that.

Re:Can it capture HDMI or is it useless? (2)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360494)

It takes BNC inputs, which is common for security cameras and takes analog SD video.

Re:Can it capture HDMI or is it useless? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360560)

They posted samples of capture with various setups. Here is the one for Microsoft [youtube.com] .

InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360232)

The world is truly better off without H.264

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360322)

The world is truly better off without H.264

H.264 is actually pretty damned nice. It is patents that the world would be better off without.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (2)

soundguy (415780) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360486)

It's OK for a final distribution codec as long as you have the horsepower to decode it, but it sucks rabid weasel scrotums for acquisition and editing. With common hard drives at 3 TB, ubiquitous gigabit ethernet on LANs, and incredibly fast internal and external bus speeds, there's simply no reason to use an interframe codec or high compression ratios for anything but web delivery.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360692)

Well, my 1080p consumer camera saves directly to H.264 - if your ambition is not higher than that, I'd say it's fine. Sure, if you're going to throw in lots of effects and filters and whatnot it's not ideal but two rounds of loss, one in acquisition and one in final print is not that horrible. It's not much point using a worse lossy codec, and if you go lossless those 3TB will be gone rather quickly...

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360974)

The thing that makes H.264 bad for editing is not that it is lossy, it is the interframe compression. DV cameras use a variant of MJPEG, where each frame uses JPEG-like compression, but is compressed independently. This means that you can slice the video between any pair of frames without reencoding. If your source is H.264, then it has bidirectional interframe compression, meaning that every frame between key frames depends on the contents of the frames before and after it. If you slice the video anywhere other than a keyframe, you must reencode the frames before and after, which degrades the quality. It takes about 10GB/hour for SD with DV compression, but if you're doing anything more complex than just putting the entire clip on YouTube it's probably worth it.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (0)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362468)

The thing that makes H.264 bad for editing is not that it is lossy, it is the interframe compression.

You do realize that almost none of the formats used as intermediates are lossless, right? ProRes, DNxHD, etc are all lossy as well. Secondly, you can encode H.264 as intraframe only and still get better compression ratios than most of the other competing intermediate formats and you can easily edit it. You post smacks of knowing absolutely jack and shit about what you are talking about.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362428)

but it sucks rabid weasel scrotums for acquisition and editing.

How so? H.264 intraframe for doing editing and for an intermediate is pretty darn awesome. Using something like x264 with a pretty decently low CRF value you can beat pretty much any of the "pro" codecs for the same work. And it's funny you whine about the "horsepower" but most of those other intermediate codecs are usually just as intensive if not more so than working with H.264 (which in most cases you are using a hardware accelerated solution so it's all moot anyway).

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (1)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360638)

I would not say world would be better without patents.

I would say world would be better with reasonable time with patents. Like you have 2-3 years time to start commercial use with the patent or loose it. From the patent day (day 1) you have 5 years to use it, if you got commercial use for it. And then it comes free (not public domain but something like GPL).

Without patents you would not have copyright either and so on no GPL or any other license than just public domain and that means there are no protecting anyone from abusive actions.

If you invent something or you create something, you must have rights to use it so no one (bigger/clever ones) do not steal it. But it should not be something what it is now that 75 years after creators death is the time... It is just so stupid.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361744)

Without patents you would not have copyright either and so on no GPL or any other license than just public domain

BULLSHIT

Patents and copyrights are very different and there is no reason you can't have one without the other. Software has been copyrighted for far longer than it has been patented. In particular copyrights protect a particular implementation of a method but there is nothing to stop someone else implementing the idea themselves. Patents protect the method itself which can mean there is no way to implement a standard format without giving into the patent holders demands (which are often incompatible with the terms of licenses like the GPL).

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (1)

zeroshade (1801584) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362906)

Actually....patents are supposed to protect only a particular implementation of an idea. Software patents have expanded to the point where they are encompassing the idea itself and that is the problem.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (2)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360518)

The world is truly better off without H.264

Why? It's a good codec as demonstrated by its wide adoption.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36361172)

I'm fairly sure you're trolling, but I'll reply anyway:

Because it's not all about the compression rates.
A technically superior solution, with strings attached, might not be better for the end-users.

Re:InB4nowMozillahasnoexcuse (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361756)

The world is truly better off without H.264

Why? It's a good codec as demonstrated by its wide adoption.

The geek can be entirely self-absorbed, seeing nothing beyond his own pre-occupation with computers and the Interenet.

But standards like can H.264 evolve and take root in very different environments. They can serve very different constituencies --- and when they gain traction on the web, they can take him by surprise.

patents (3, Informative)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360572)

Good show.

But all the open source drivers in the world won't mean diddly squat if the h264 patent pool gets in the way.

Re:patents (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360610)

My understanding, from TFPR, is that the card does h.246 encoding onboard(and the manufacturer of the card has paid their protection money to the MPEG LA) so the driver has no h.246 related duties, it just configures the card and collects the encoded output.

Obviously, since the output is h.246, it'll need to be decoded for use, which does raise the patent issue; but not at the driver level.

It is not "protection money..." (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362162)

My understanding, from TFPR, is that the card does h.246 encoding onboard(and the manufacturer of the card has paid their protection money to the MPEG LA) so the driver has no h.246 related duties, it just configures the card and collects the encoded output.

It is not "protection money."

It is a royalty.

It is royalty that maxes out at 20 cents per unit after the first 100,000 units you sell each year.

Unless your are producing on an industrial scale, the custom boards you are buildi for the academic and hobbyist market aren't of the slightest interest to the MPEG-LA.

SUMMARY OF AVC/H.264 LICENSE TERMS [mpegla.com]

Interesting freebies there. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363306)

Hmmm...

I see how the fees for codec products (in OSes or Apps) could be a problem for open source. The Freebie there only applies to the first hundred thousand units. There's no way to limit the number of units in an open source product.

But in addition there are freebies for services and encoding for broadcast:

  - Encoding as a service for a fee pays only if the encoded "title" is 12 minutes or longer. (At first I thought that might be related to YouTube's (former) 10 minute limit but the Wikipedia article claims otherwise.)

  - Encoding for free-to-user (i.e. advertiser or otherwise funded) broadcast has a lump-per-year fee for air broadcast station based on the market size and is free for Internet distribution.

Looks like they are trying to be benevolent to Internet broadcasting, figure there is no money to be made off it, or don't want to get caught in a publicity or lobbying meat-grinder here in cyberspace.

Re:patents (1)

subk (551165) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361050)

RTFA so you won't sound like you know diddly squat. They even put that part in bold for the "TL:DR" types.

Re:patents (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362414)

How does the patent pool get in the way? The manufacturer of this pays all the relevant royalties to the MPEGLA for the consumers thus there are NO patent issues at all for the end user. But don't let pesky things like those facts get in the way of your rant.

Re:patents (1)

Artemis3 (85734) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362480)

Again, read the update:

Update: June 7th, 2011 - Several important things to note, the BC-H series H.264 cards do not have at traditional firmware that is loaded. Everything is accessed directly from the driver / user space applications. Secondly, we report sales of each encoder to MPEGLA and pay any necessary patent fees for the sale of each encoder, meaning that any cards purchased from Bluecherry already have the patent protection from MPEGLA for the device level encoder.

http://www.bluecherrydvr.com/2011/05/multi-input-h-264-linux-supported-encoder-cards/ [bluecherrydvr.com]

That said, not every country accept such patents. I know mine doesn't, and its proudly listed in the 301 report [ustr.gov] .

The Stig (1)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360606)

I bet this driver runs like a 600bhp V8 being that it's made by The Stig [wikipedia.org] .

Re:The Stig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360608)

Wrong Collins:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Collins_(programmer)

Re:The Stig (1)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360656)

Hehe, I know... was just my poor attempt at a joke ;)

http://www.directcoachhire.com/ (-1, Offtopic)

directcoachhire (2240690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360616)

Some great comments here on this interesting article. It has made for a very good read! Thanks all! http://www.directcoachhire.com/ [directcoachhire.com]

Cable Card (2)

markdavis (642305) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360776)

The REAL issue with Linux/FOSS video right now is the total lack of support for Cable Card and Tuning Adapters. Without them, there is no way to make an effective Linux DVR other than just over-the-air recordings. Gone are the days of "cable ready", analog, and in-the-clear digital.

Of course, that is not the fault of Linux, but of the media giants and cable companies who are just terrified of someone sharing/ripping their content.

Re:Cable Card (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360966)

Ceton makes a 4-tuner internal CableCard device (already available), and Silicon Dust makes 3-tuner and 6-tuner network attached CableCard devices (available at end of July). Both devices will work under linux. The Ceton will have support in the next version of MythTV, and the Silicon Dust devices are already supported in the current version. The only downside is that they are limited under linux to only recording shows marked "Copy Freely". What this means will vary from cable company to cable company, and even from market to market. Comcast and Wide Open West tend to mark everything as "Copy Freely" in most markets, except for premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc) and PPV. Other companies like Time Warner seem to mark most every as "Copy Once" or "Copy Never" (though in some cities users have found most everything "Copy Freely").

Re:Cable Card (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361424)

Cable cards in general are not what they are hyped to be. Many people have been waiting on them longer than some of us have been using alternatives (namely the Hauppauge HD-PVR). PC Cable Card tuners have been somewhat vaporous while you've been able to get older Silicon Dust products and the HD-PVR at places like Frys and Microcenter for quite awhile now.

CC tuners are also completely useless for Satellite cable.

Re:Cable Card (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362474)

The point is, they are here now and usable (in at least some circumstances) under linux. If you are in a situation where you CAN use one of these devices, then it works out to be superior to the HD-PVR. With a CableCard device, you pay under $300 for the device up front, you only have to rent one cablecard for about $2-4/month, and it only consumes about 10 watts or less of electricity. This will get you 3-4 tuners. To get 3 tuners with HD-PVRs, your up front cost is going to be more than $500 (maybe $400 with the Colossus, though that isn't yet supported under linux), you have to rent a cable box for each one (about $8/month per box), each HD-PVR consumes about 8 watts of electricity, and each cable box will consume 20-50 watts of electricity (some even more).

For the cable card solution, your cost is $300 up front plus $24-$48/year for rental, and about $10/year for electricity. Your 3 year cost $402-$474.
For the HD-PVR solution, your cost is $500 up front, plus $288/year for rental, and about $20-$50/year for electricity. Your 3 year cost is $1424-$1514

That's a pretty huge advantage for the cablecard. Enough that, even if you've already invested in the HD-PVR solution, switching to cablecard will pay for itself in less than 2 years even if you just throw the HD-PVRs in the garbage.

Again, this only matters if your cable provider sets everything to "Copy Freely" and you don't need any of the premium content (and even if you do, you could just leave 1 HD-PVR around to handle those channels).

Re:Cable Card (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363016)

> The point is, they are here now and usable (in at least some circumstances)

Really? Do you have one? I had an HD-PVR as soon as it was possible to have one
after it was released. It was released on time and there were no delays in the release
of the product or extreme backorder delays as have been common with Cable Card tuners.

> under linux. If you are in a situation where you CAN use one of these devices,
> then it works out to be superior to the HD-PVR. ...probably not.

The ugly spectre of DRM raises it's ugly head and makes it very unlikely that a Ceton card is going to be as useful in Linux.

This DRM causes problems and imposes limitations even with non-Linux solutions.

Plus you still can't use it with anything except your local landline cable monopoly.

Re:Cable Card (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 3 years ago | (#36360986)

Of course, in my previous post, I forgot to add the following: You might be confused, because these don't appear to me to be just regular video capture cards. They appear to only work with security cameras. So the CableCard thing is a little off topic.

Re:Cable Card (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36361358)

> there is no way to make an effective Linux DVR other than just over-the-air recordings ...or an analog recorder that can handle HD.

Such an arrangement works very effectively with Linux and even avoids some of the pitfalls of using the DRM encumbered options.

Re:Cable Card (2)

mrand (147739) | more than 3 years ago | (#36362088)

An effective Linux DVR is possible. I know it is not ideal, but you can use an HD-PVR in Linux to capture (in 1080i) the output of any device that provides component output. That's what many MythTV users do... rent the cable company box and just capture the output. Like I said, not ideal, but it is possible, and many are doing it.

Marc

I have to admit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36360996)

I initially thought this headline was an April Fools' joke that got duped. ;-)

SD so boring (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 3 years ago | (#36363060)

SD crap is just boring. Wake me up when you can do HD.

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