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Kickstarter For Open Source GPU

Unknown Lamer posted about 10 months ago | from the let's-try-this-one-more-time dept.

Graphics 108

First time accepted submitter eekee writes "The targets are high, but so is the goal: releasing Verilog source code for a GPU implementation. The source will be open source, LGPL-licensed, and suitable for loading onto an FPGA. The first target is for a 2D GPU with PCI interface; perhaps not terribly interesting in itself, but the first stretch goal is much more exciting: full OpenGL and Direct3D graphics." Unlike the Open Graphics Project, this is starting from a working 2D accelerator and mostly working 3D accelerator cloning the features of the Number Nine Ticket to Ride hardware. If they get a meelion bucks they'll overhaul the chip to support something other than PCI (although you can bridge between PCI and PCIe) and implement a modern programmable rather than fixed-function chip. Also unlike OGP, they do not appear interested in producing hardware, instead focusing entirely on the core itself for use in FPGAs (anyone want to dust off the OGD1 design?)

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108 comments

The Licking Of The Chops (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45081921)

Something just licked its chops. Can you guess what it is? I'll give you a few hints:
(1.) It starts with "my co".
(2.) It ends with "ock".
(3.) It simultaneously starts with "my co" and ends with "ock" at the same time.
(4.) It's my cock.

Can't figure it out? Well then, I guess I'll just have to tell you outright: it's my cock.

Wow! Such a thing!

Re:The Licking Of The Chops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45081951)

You sir are a cock

Re:The Licking Of The Chops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45081991)

my cousin Jock?

Re:The Licking Of The Chops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083581)

No, it's obviously your coock. 3 out of 4 hints agree.

nothing like (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45081941)

free advertising for your kickstarter campaign

Dubious Market? (2)

Petersko (564140) | about 10 months ago | (#45081985)

How is this not an Ouya in the making? Is there actually a market large enough for this thing to do anything but vanish without a trace?

Apologies for the negativity. Please do correct my world view. I'm amenable.

Re:Dubious Market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082037)

I suspect the cost of the FPGAs required to implement this will mean no-one would buy any boards produced

Re:Dubious Market? (2)

idunham (2852899) | about 10 months ago | (#45088549)

The Kickstarter is for a code drop, no hardware.

According to Francis Bruno [phoronix.com] , the 2D version fits on a Cyclone II 25 or a Spartan 3.

Re:Dubious Market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082087)

It could be fantastic for embedded systems and real-time computing. Medical and government, I think, would be the primary demographic for something like this

Re:Dubious Market? (2)

Enderandrew (866215) | about 10 months ago | (#45082535)

Why would embedded manufacturers prefer buying a GPU from someone who isn't established over the usual players? I don't think they care about having a 100% open source GPU driver.

I applaud this in principle, I just don't think there is a massive audience for this project, especially with Nvidia's recent mea culpa to the Linux community and their new promise to help deliver solid open source drivers for their cards. Given that Nvidia wants to be the heart of every Steam box (as well as every Android gaming device) there may be some truth to Nvidia loving Linux now.

Re:Dubious Market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082923)

This is a fool's project.
1. Go to opencores.org.
2. Download a video controller.
3. Profit!

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083305)

Did you even read the Bio. on the kickstarter link,
did you look at the company link provided?

More like:
1. Design GPU, then sell to S3
2. License design back from S3
3. Produce in the embedded space (aka Profit)
4. Start kickstarter to improve and openly release the Design from #1

Re:Dubious Market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45084065)

Perhaps you missed the big picture:
There is absolutley no need for this project.
What's so special about their outdated ancient tech that the world needs something compatible?
There are a bunch of open source GPUs of various complexity around. Grab one and improve it if it doesn't meet your needs.

Re: Dubious Market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45087777)

This tech predates nVidia and AMD!! This is super cool that they are still around and kicking, they are the ones that can grab the big boys by the balls with prior art and have enough leverage against patent trolls.

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 10 months ago | (#45088581)

Wrong. None of the projects on opencores have something that's anywhere near this far along and feature-complete.
There are LCD controllers, text mode VGA designs, and one or two framebuffer-level VGA adapters. And framebuffer is essentially garbage.

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 10 months ago | (#45088671)

This company already has somewhat of a market (air traffic being one, IIRC). But yes, it is niche.
Now, the full product has some nice features like a builtin VNC server...

Re:Dubious Market? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082123)

The point of this is NOT to produce a graphics card you'll stick in your PC. The card they're emulating was released in 1998. It's for embedded system designers to add graphics capabilities to a project that's already using an FPGA without completely reinventing the wheel. Speaking as someone who implemented a (very basic) 3D GPU for a class project once, it is quite a lot of work.

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

hattig (47930) | about 10 months ago | (#45082175)

Well if they can find 20 commercial FPGA projects that need a 2D display controller for their FPGA that are willing to fund $10,000 each, then this Kickstarter might get funded.

However I'm sure you can buy 2D cores (proprietary) for less money already.

It is important in some ways to have a 2D LGPL GPU though, especially an optimised, proven design, one with hardware acceleration for drawing, text and blitting - it could benefit a lot of FPGA projects - e.g., FPGA reimplementations of classic hardware, especially Amigas (this hardware could be used for RTG support).

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

ninlilizi (2759613) | about 10 months ago | (#45082701)

I guess thats what their betting on.
That enough people see the value in the concept, regardless of an immediate need for the product.

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 10 months ago | (#45087235)

Not to mention that there is a REASON why they have to use a design from the late 90s, anything newer has so many patents and cross licenses attached you'd sooner raise the titanic than get a FOSS card that does full D3D and OpenGL any newer than the late 90s.

Like it or not, and I personally don't believe in allowing software patents, but as long as software patents exist you can give up on getting any kind of FOSS GPU that isn't ancient because its ALL patented by the big three and cross licensed. From S3 to HDCP its all patented, cross licensed, and requires an NDA to even look at so you can give up on having 100% FOSS hardware when it comes to GPUs, there is too much of a legal minefield between FOSS and the hardware. Hell look at AMD, even when they wanted to hand over the specs they had to wait and let the lawyers go through it first and to this day there are parts they can't share thanks to licenses.

Re:Dubious Market? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45087669)

it's all patented and cross-licensed and patented and you won't get it because it's patented and also PATENTS patentsepatenspatents1 [paraphrased]

hey could you speak for yourself please. not everyone lives in a country where some asshole said "let's monopolise preliminaries" and a hundred million other assholes said "ok".

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 10 months ago | (#45082129)

Clearly they aren't looking for markets otherwise it would be closed source and they would be proposing to sell IP licenses or actual hardware.

What they are doing is making a freely available Verilog implementation of a graphics chip. This means electronics designers (whether they be hobbyists or people designing embedded hardware for their business) have an accelerated graphics core that they can use with their design. Given it's an LGPL and open source design, they can adapt it to use something other than PCI (for example, whatever internal bus their embedded system may use) or given that PCI is something that's well documented, they could implement PCI in their design.

As such it doesn't matter if the market is one person or ten million. The goal is to produce an open source graphics core that electronics designers can use, not to market something to PC users. Finding a market is up to the users of the Verliog code.

Re:Dubious Market? (1)

hattig (47930) | about 10 months ago | (#45082193)

To me it looks like a last-gasp effort to get $200,000 from their old graphics IP, and possibly a nice year or two gig to enhance it.

This is hardware (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082015)

A lot tougher to get right than software. In software you can implement anything you want, as badly as you want. It doesn't cost anything and it's easy to start over. So what if you have an open source GPU? How are you going to connect it to the computer? You need an above-hobbyist PCB designer (sorry, it's true), you need someone to build the boards, test them, solder on the parts (assuming you were able to make a schematic and a BOM and order the parts), test again, and then you can start debugging software as maybe hardware bugs come out at the same time.

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082115)

Xilinx makes eval boards ready to plug in a PCIe slot.
Plug in, program. Some even have HDMI/DVI outs.

Of course they're not $199...

Re:This is hardware (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 10 months ago | (#45088701)

This fits on some pretty small Xilinx and Altera boards:
Spartan 3, Cyclone II 25, and Cyclone III.
If you look in the right place, $30 is likely to be enough.

Re:This is hardware (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082149)

Keep in mind that these guys are former #9 Visual Tech. engineers, so it's not just some shmuck of the street saying lets clone a #9 card and fully open the specs.
They have done hardware before.

Re:This is hardware (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#45082197)

This isn't aimed for plugging in to a PC. It's for embedded devices.

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082245)

In software you can implement anything you want, as badly as you want.

Sure, unless you want it to work.

How are you going to connect it to the computer?

I don't know, maybe like any other GPU..?

Sure, hardware is different from software, just like a pizza is not a burger. But it's not impossible in any way. You need money and passion. And a healthy dose of persistence.

As am embedded developer.. (3, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | about 10 months ago | (#45082269)

Open reference designs are invaluable.. they allow integration of this into an existing design or SoC, but more interestingly, provide an easy platform to customize at the hardware level.

Re:This is hardware (3)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 10 months ago | (#45082475)

A lot tougher to get right than software. In software you can implement anything you want, as badly as you want. It doesn't cost anything and it's easy to start over. So what if you have an open source GPU? How are you going to connect it to the computer? You need an above-hobbyist PCB designer (sorry, it's true), you need someone to build the boards, test them, solder on the parts (assuming you were able to make a schematic and a BOM and order the parts), test again, and then you can start debugging software as maybe hardware bugs come out at the same time.

Not really - PCI (not PCIe) is fairly easy these days (it's 33MHz, so it's not "hard"). And since it's an FPGA, you just need one with a PCI compatible interface. The other parts would be a video DAC to output to VGA or an FPGA with TMDS lines (yes, they make those) to hook to DVI directly.

Connect to a computer is easy - it's PCI, most modern PCs have one. If not, they make PCIe-to-PCI bridges that do the same thing (albeit with more work). Or I'm sure if you look around, there's a reference design card you can have that has PCIe, an FPGA and a variety of connectors and ports for plugging straight into a PC.

And hobby manufacturing is actually fairly easy these days - given how kickstarter seems to have spawned a small industry of contract manufacturers and such with pick and place machines and all that that are reasonably affordable to use to build a small (under 1000, above 20 or so) run with.

No, the biggest problem these guys will encounter is it's impossible to do an open-source GPU. Because everything they need to do is patented, some of it quite heavily (like S3TC - a core part of OpenGL and DirectX these days, of which there is a software and a hardware part, all owned by Via).

And that's just 3D graphics. 2D graphics is also a minefield (stuff like overlays are patented). Or if you want to do hardware assisted video decode (patent minefield! Even if you don't want to do h.264). Since the drivers are probably going to be open, that means pushing a lot of the patented material into hardware.

Hell, the hardware is to be honest the easiest part. Even doing the GPU is fairly straightforward.

Re:This is hardware (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 10 months ago | (#45083041)

Well, most of the patented stuff isn't essential. In fact they could probably do a GLES 1.1 compatible part without breaching any patents. By the time they're ready to implement any extensions, the patents will be close to expiration.

Re:This is hardware (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | about 10 months ago | (#45083063)

What you said is exactly what I thought. As somebody who has done several high end graphics cards and even worked on the first "Paradise" VGA compatible, drivers, VESA, stuffing, ASIC, fabless, FPGA, and CAD for a board are all commodities ( and 200k isn't a big sticker price for that). I like the idea, but doing this is like asking to be sued. It is something that should be done and perhaps a better way would be to create a multi-core RISC that was so flexible that it could run from an installed microcode.
But then if you make money you will get sued anyway by some patent troll. I wish there was more information than just a page of description as it would be nice to know how they would answer the patent question.

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083885)

PCI? No PCs have had that for years now. Please show me these PCs.

You are stringing sentences together as if each one of your points are already solved. If it's the case, I encourage you to present your work. Until then, you're just another internet loudmouth who has no clue.

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45085353)

the motherboard I bought a few months ago has PCI... it's ISA, and then AGP that has been gone for years.

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45086221)

My i7 mainboard has 2 PCI slots.

                Manufacturer: ASUSTeK Computer INC.
                Product Name: P8Z68-V GEN3
[...]
Handle 0x0023, DMI type 9, 17 bytes
System Slot Information
                Designation: PCI1
                Type: 32-bit PCI
                Current Usage: Available
                Length: Short
                ID: 4
                Characteristics:
                                3.3 V is provided
                                Opening is shared
                                PME signal is supported
                Bus Address: 0000:07:00.1

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45086243)

gven how kickstarter seems to have spawned a small industry of contract manufacturers and such with pick and place machines and all that that are reasonably affordable to use to build a small (under 1000, above 20 or so) run with.

I was with you aside from this. Reasonably cheap small-run contract manufacturing has been around for a long time and the total market for it is much larger than the kickstarter market. There is a huge "long tail" of custom industrial controllers, etc. Falling costs in this area are mostly a function of the automated equipment getting better and cheaper, which was driven by demands other than KS.

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082803)

A lot tougher to get right than software. In software you can implement anything you want, as badly as you want. It doesn't cost anything and it's easy to start over. So what if you have an open source GPU? How are you going to connect it to the computer? You need an above-hobbyist PCB designer (sorry, it's true), you need someone to build the boards, test them, solder on the parts (assuming you were able to make a schematic and a BOM and order the parts), test again, and then you can start debugging software as maybe hardware bugs come out at the same time.

There's this little company called XBMC and an open source media center and all of these "hardware" manufacturers who've been producing products based on this open source library.

The model isn't any different here. If it's good OEM's will use it.

Re:This is hardware (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 10 months ago | (#45082919)

A lot tougher to get right than software. In software you can implement anything you want, as badly as you want. It doesn't cost anything and it's easy to start over.

readmefirst.txt [amazon.com]

Re: This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083217)

All they need is to start a GPU project at OpenCores.org and let the tinkerers with FPGAs test it and work on it further.

Re:This is hardware (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 10 months ago | (#45083405)

Its a softcore for an FPGA so you can get as sloppy as you want. Doesnt work? Debug, compile and re-load the bitfile into the FPGA. Then optimize in places that need it. I doubt this is going to make its way into an ASIC unless the design can compete with other embedded IP like the Mali or PowerVR. If you read the article they say specifically they will change the interface from PCI to another bus: "generic interface as well as AXI, Avalon and Wishbone". AXI, Avalon and Wishbone are embedded busses for on chip interconnects in ASICS and FPGA's (wishbone is opensource from opencores). However, the FPGA SoCs that are out there are quite capable little chips with embedded SoCs but no graphics which leaves a lot of opportunity. The Xilinx Zynq and the Altera SoCs both feature dual core ARM cpu's with their interconnect directly wired to dedicated FPGA I/O creating a bunch of dedicated AXI interfaces. In the case of the Zynq, you have 8 high speed multi gigabit transceivers to implement PCIe, HDMI, DVI or Displayport or whatever and a bunch of GPIO. So you can develop an open source GPU which is tied directly to the CPU bus and tie its outputs directly to an HDMI port and off to a monitor.

Also, how does needing beyond hobbyist PCB design software make this any more of a challenge? OrCAD isn't going to break the bank if you are working with a million dollar pledge. Also, you can do a lot of design work in the basic tools like KiCAD or Eagle (though Eagle is more comprehensive.)

Re:This is hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083759)

Who said anything about the PCB SOFTWARE? I said you need above-hobbyist PCB designer.

GPU shaders in Parallella's Epiphany? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45084097)

Since the Zynq's FPGA is a good match for a GPU project, how about implementing the entire open design on the Parallella [parallella.org] board?

In addition to the FPGA, Parallella gives you a very powerful 16-core floating point accelerator in the Epiphany device, so most of the shader work can be done in the Epiphany cores leaving only the most time-critical parts to the FPGA. Needless to say, Epiphany already has the hardware parallelism required for shaders, at least 16 of them, and 64 in the larger board. At most this approach would require a small external PC board carrying the graphics sockets, connected to the Parallella's I/O headers with a short cable.

Refining the shader code on Epiphany would be VASTLY easier than refining the Verilog on the FPGA, by orders of magnitude, and the number of people able to help would be comparatively vast.

Re:This is hardware (1)

sergueyz (1509151) | about 10 months ago | (#45085029)

You can get away with starter kits.

For one example, Altera has a starter kit with HDMI support. This is for previous generation of their FPGAs (Stratix IV), but still.

What you have to do right, is to write the driver. And here we have a huge task, because no current 3D accelerator card will do any good without optimization of shaders and, more importantly, the combination of shaders and other calls, like texture loading, etc.

It's fine to be fabless (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 10 months ago | (#45082055)

But at least make something that can be fabbed. MIPS and ARM are doing great with implementing reference designs.

Heck, I'd *love* a Chinese factory to take an open graphics card spec and crank out $9 low-power cards for me to use in a server. PCI is fine, but it kills me to put a $50 GeForce card with a heatsink and fan in a normally headless machine!

FPGA is a great target for distributed development; just support those who want to implement it in an an ASIC.

Re:It's fine to be fabless (1)

paskie (539112) | about 10 months ago | (#45082147)

Why not just buy a motherboard with onboard GPU? Plenty of these around, though the offers are diminishing with the onset of APU generation of CPUs (which you probably don't really want on a server, modulo special cases). I think you are paying around $9 for the graphics card then.

Normally Headless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082243)

The fact that commodity hardware is unreasonably hard to run headless is a long-standing problem in peecee land, one unfortunately left entirely unadressed with UEFI. And no, even IPMI is simply not good enough.

Though if you happen to be lucky enough to have hardware supported by coreboot, you can put OpenBOOT on it, and see if you can't make it boot off of serial only. Plenty OSes support that fine, it's just the BIOS/UEFI part that can't cope.

Now all we need is a cheap ($20 or so) box you can bolt onto a monitor, with ps/2 keyboard (and possibly mouse), vga out, and at least one serial port, turning a monitor into a good old fashioned terminal. The fancier model can perhaps double as an X display server (with added ethernet). While at it, make me a 3 button (no wheel) optical mouse. Just the old m-s35 model is fine, with an optical back end, thanks.

Re:It's fine to be fabless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082745)

All server mobos have integrated GPUs. If you're ghetto enough to drop a fanned GeForce into a 'server', buy one of those all in one desktop boards that has one....

Re:It's fine to be fabless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083883)

>it kills me to put a $50 GeForce card with a heatsink and fan in a normally headless machine!

No it's your own stupidity that kills you in this case if you buy those for your servers.

Re:It's fine to be fabless (1)

sootman (158191) | about 10 months ago | (#45085617)

> it kills me to put a $50 GeForce card with a heatsink
> and fan in a normally headless machine!

Then take off the heatsink and fan, duh. :-)

Re:It's fine to be fabless (1)

washu_k (1628007) | about 10 months ago | (#45087475)

I've found a surprising number of modern motherboards that boot fine with no video card (and no onboard video). They often give a "no video" error beep, but keep on booting. Try it without any video card.

utterly utterly worthless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082065)

With the rise of ARM, SoC parts with fully open GPU APIs of amazing power are essentially almost ZERO cost. Tiny circuit boards are available for experimenters and developers with first class 2D, 3D, Video and JPG acceleration, and even video ENCODING is becoming a common hardware feature in low-end parts.

What exactly does the cretinous idea of 'open-source' hardware bring to the table. Sure, it's an environment for budding chip designers to cut their teeth on, but SIMULATIONS on powerful PCs actually provide this teaching resource far better. For people who simply want to USE hardware, it is of less than zero use.

ARM hardware isn't open-source- nor ANY of the hardware 99.99999% of you use on a daily basis. What exactly are you missing because of this fact?

Sure, a bunch of non-too-bright fiddlers would love free money from suckers to allow them to indulge in their pointless hobby. And worse, just about any GPU design of value is covered by insane numbers of existing patents, giving these chumps the perfect excuse when they fail to provide ANYTHING to their investors. And I don't mean because the big boys will actually threaten them- simply that this is a project with "meant to fail" written through it like a stick of seaside rock.

Competition in the GPU market means that GPU cores (tried, tested and licensable) have never been cheaper or more varied in options. People who write open-source software most certainly do NOT want to be targeting some joke open-source hardware, as if this is some cretinous doctrine of a religious organisation. What all software developers need is well supported, well documented hardware that is bug free and widely used. Those that see the open-source movement as a church are mentally ill.

Re:utterly utterly worthless (4, Interesting)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about 10 months ago | (#45082157)

With the rise of ARM, SoC parts with fully open GPU APIs of amazing power are essentially almost ZERO cost. Tiny circuit boards are available for experimenters and developers with first class 2D, 3D, Video and JPG acceleration, and even video ENCODING is becoming a common hardware feature in low-end parts.

Care to name any? Most of the ones I've heard of with any form of acceleration are using a proprietary GPU core, where you get a binary blob for Android and bugger-all else. Maybe things have changed since, but last I hard the driver situation was worse for ARM cores than it was in the PC space. Indeed, that was the rationale behind Mir - that it would be able to use the Android blobs under Ubuntu.

Re:utterly utterly worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082437)

MOD PARENT UP.

This is a huge deal - This, admittedly old, #9 Revolution IV core is vastly simpler and more open than a modern GPU built-in to a SoC. I'd wager that the reference manual isn't a multi-thousand page obfuscated affair like the docs AMD and Nvidia have released either..

Any open source enthusiast should support this endeavor - MUCH higher probability of ending up with a reasonably fast & bug-free 2D card vs the now-dead OGP or Project VGA, both of which were AFAIK starting from scratch, as more-or-less hobbyist projects!

Granted, the thing doesn't have much useful 'modern' 3D support - but really: Do grown-ups need spinning cubes on their desktop? Let's leave 3D action gaming to the consoles and locked-down WinGPUs running SteamOS, and at least have _one_ fully open workstation design.

Imagine this core combined with an open CPU and motherboard? It would be the "holy grail" of a fully open, DRM-free, NSA-proof, forced obsolescence-proof, Linux/BSD/Haiku workstation!

Re:utterly utterly worthless (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 10 months ago | (#45082917)

Unlike the Open Graphics Project, this is starting from a working 2D accelerator and mostly working 3D accelerator cloning the features of the Number Nine Ticket to Ride hardware.

Not surprising since one of the reasons Number Nine closed its doors was its failure to embrace 3D acceleration quickly. Still, this is a good thing and I would love to see some one add some really cool graphics to an ARM SoC or something. Wouldn't it be cool to see some hot gfx action out of a system the size of a USB stick?

Re:utterly utterly worthless (1)

Big_Breaker (190457) | about 10 months ago | (#45083179)

No mod points so I'll comment. The binary blobs are generally not updated after a short period - sometimes as little as year. At that point you've effectively been EOL'd by your GPU because it is incompatible with later kernels. Sometimes, as is the case with the IMX6 SOC, the drivers are old when the device is released. Mir helps because android is more likely to get updates but serously... being unable to update your two year old ARM box is super lame.

Fortunately there are efforts to reverse engineer open source drivers but its an imperfect and time consuming endevor. It would be better to have open source from the get-go or code escrow at worst for 2-3 years. I bet you modern GPUs with reverse engineered drivers will trump FPGA implementations.

Re:utterly utterly worthless (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | about 10 months ago | (#45085295)

Seeing as how I don't have a holographic display, why in hell do I need 3d capabilities in the fscking GPU? The first Pure Linux system I built was based on the Nvidia TNT2-M64 AGP card specifically because of 2d Graphics. Now days, you can't get a fucking card that supports 2d graphics as every fucking thing is 3d this 3d that and 3dnow. Fuck this crap. Give me a solid card that's low power, doesn't need a fucking Reactor just to power my desktop and does over 10k in GLGears like that TNT2 card did and I'd be a happy camper.

BTW: Anyone who thinks that ARM/MIPS are open source is an idiot. They're cheap and readily available for a very reasonable license fee but they are not Open Source.

I'll take a fully Open source design that works nicely with X11/Wayland/Mir/?ever they come up with next that does everything I need (video playback, OpenGL support, CAD/CAM) that I can tweak/optimize the fucking drivers for because I have the source over Nvidia, AMD or even Intel.

Re: utterly utterly worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083271)

True, even RaspberryPi have that Broadcom GPU with the binary blob, it would be great and much appreciated to have an open GPU on the board as well.

Re:utterly utterly worthless (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082209)

These guys have licenses covering the original #9 tech that was sold to S3.
The are former #9 engineers, not as you say non-too-bright fiddlers.

"By mid 2000, S3 had completed the acquisition of Number Nine's assets and Number Nine had ceased operations. In 2002, two former Number Nine engineers, James Macleod and Francis Bruno, formed Silicon Spectrum, Inc., and licensed Number Nine's graphics technology from S3 to implement in FPGA devices."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_Nine_Visual_Technology#Number_Nine_Video_Cards_using_Number_Nine_GPUs

"Rather than trying to start from scratch, Silicon Spectrum licensed the same graphics technology that we had developed for Number Nine and optimized it for use in an FPGA. During that same period, both Altera and Xilinx introduced cost effective low priced FPGA chips which we could fit our design into which turned a former high end PC graphics accelerator into a lower cost solution."
http://www.siliconspectrum.com/overview.htm

Re:utterly utterly worthless (2)

hattig (47930) | about 10 months ago | (#45082281)

None of the GPUs in current ARM SoCs are open in any sense of the word.

Some of them are getting painfully reversed engineered open source drivers - Lima (for Mali), Grate (for Tegra), etc. But the hardware and firmware is still closed source.

This isn't about getting cheap hardware en-masse. It's about getting fully open source hardware at any cost. And the market for that (from a user perspective) is quite small, although the benefits for FPGA computer projects could be massive - essentially a free GPU if this gets funded.

I don't see a problem with patents for anything but the new functionality on the $1m bounty - this is all proven pre-existing hardware being open sourced at the Verilog level.

This will need some major backing from the open source extremists to get funded.

Who wants this? (1)

jandrese (485) | about 10 months ago | (#45082121)

If this succeeds its ultimate product will be the ability to make an expensive and slow GPU using a FPGA? One that almost certainly won't be good enough to run most games? Who is clamoring for this? If they were manufacturing their own chips instead of using FPGAs then I could see it maybe as something for a Raspberry Pi like device, but that's right out the window when you're talking about $300 FPGA chips.

Re:Who wants this? (2)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | about 10 months ago | (#45082189)

Who is clamoring for this?

People who fetishize the term "open source" almost to the point of religion.

Re:Who wants this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082307)

Yes, clearly greater public knowledge of hardware techniques is a bad thing and couldn't possibly lead to a better libre implementation in the future.

Re:Who wants this? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#45082257)

Embedded hardware designs. This doesn't get it's own FPGA - it shares an FPGA with whatever else the application requires.

Re:Who wants this? (1)

cb88 (1410145) | about 10 months ago | (#45087781)

Therein lies the problem... Its far too big to share an FPGA unless the FPGA is massive.

from what they say it will fit on a 100-120k LUT Xilnux device... those run around 100-150 USD. Also any bigger than those devices and you must have a licensed version of the tools (costs 5-10K USD). I think the same applies to other FPGA vendors but I'd love to be wrong.

Number Nine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082139)

Now that is cool. Sounds like the right approach to me, at least. Not least because it isn't merely a working 2D implementation, but the product of an academic survey-and-implementation exercise, that had some seriously nice features. I'm mostly missing OpenCL and GPGPU as stretch goals. But even if those never happen, this might be a viable option for a Raspberry Pi C model, to get over the problems with the broadcom blob needed for the A and B.

Re:Number Nine (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | about 10 months ago | (#45085161)

Are they going to keep the tradition of reusing Beatles titles?

UltraSPARC cores already fully opensource (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082169)

Sun released the (IIRC) VHDL code for their UltraSPARC cores used in the T1 and the T2 multicore CPUs.

Re:UltraSPARC cores already fully opensource (1)

hattig (47930) | about 10 months ago | (#45082329)

I was wondering about open source CPU cores to go along with this GPU - thanks. A better bet than the T80 or T68 core!

Sounds Expensive (1)

Gavin Scott (15916) | about 10 months ago | (#45082179)

I've been out of the FPGA world for a while, but I would expect anything interesting in terms of a 3D chip to require a largeish FPGA chip, and if you have to use a $200-$2000 FPGA (with exotic surface-mount and power requirements) then this seems like maybe not that much of a win.

G.

Re:Sounds Expensive (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#45082271)

Page says the 3D part is optional - you can leave it off to save gates, if you don't need the acceleration.

Re:Sounds Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082317)

This 3D GPU will be 3D printed. Haven't you heard? It's the future.

Re:Sounds Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082387)

3D printing an ASIC in an interesting concept, mind if I patent that ;)

Re:Sounds Expensive (1)

gmarsh (839707) | about 10 months ago | (#45083469)

Even the highest end Virtex can't touch one of AMD/nVidia's ASICs for 3D rendering, but that isn't the target market for this design.

Here's an evaluation board for a low end FPGA chip, emulating a full 80186 PC including CPU, BIOS, keyboard controller, and VGA video:

http://zet.aluzina.org/index.php/Altera_DE1_Installation_guide [aluzina.org]

The Cyclone II on that card is several years old, a modern equivalent of the FPGA is about $12. Now if you haul the x86 and everything else out, you've got plenty of room freed up to enhance up that VGA controller into something more modern. That's what they're going for here.

WTF is a "meelion" (1, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#45082261)

That kind of shit should be stripped out by "editors." No slang, please.

Re:WTF is a "meelion" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082993)

Agreed. Right after I read that, my immediate thought was "I don't want to live on this planet any more".

Re:WTF is a "meelion" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083085)

As soon as I saw that word I thought "The Register", yet I can't see any link to them in the summary... Which I guess means that the submitter is a fan of El Reg, and there's no El Reg article to go with the submision...

Re:WTF is a "meelion" (1)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about 10 months ago | (#45085593)

It can't be an ARTICLE from El Reg if the capitalization of the HEADLINE isn't retarded and is missing any reference to BOFFINS.

Re:WTF is a "meelion" (1)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | about 10 months ago | (#45083109)

After over ten years perusing this site, I have yet to form the opinion that editors edit the submissions in any way until there is a bunch of backlash from the comments about a minor transcription error. If there is a major error, it usually is not fixed.

Ummm (1)

Iconoc (2646179) | about 10 months ago | (#45082323)

This is so ridiculous I don't even know where to start. Whoever is promoting this has no idea what is involved.

If you want to learn, buy a Xilinx demo board with a VGA or HDMI connector. You can learn something from it, and begin to see what a huge amount of work something like this requires.

Leave your high-minded ideas for open source (or free money from Kickstarter) and get a vague of idea of what you are proposing. The costs to fab anything are enormous. A $35 PCI-Express video card with no fan is a much better bargain.

Re:Ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082577)

This is so ridiculous I don't even know where to start. Whoever is promoting this has no idea what is involved.

"Rather than trying to start from scratch, Silicon Spectrum licensed the same graphics technology that we had developed for Number Nine and optimized it for use in an FPGA. During that same period, both Altera and Xilinx introduced cost effective low priced FPGA chips which we could fit our design into which turned a former high end PC graphics accelerator into a lower cost solution."
http://www.siliconspectrum.com/overview.htm

Re:Ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082623)

You are the one who has no idea what is involved. These guys have over 20 years of ASIC/FPGA development each including embedded graphics development. They have a prototype for the 2D graphics core which is basically feature complete. They'll be developing and releasing the source in Verilog, so it doesn't HAVE to be fabbed. RTFM before bashing like an idiot.

Of course the costs to fab anything are enormous but increasingly the value of a transparent design is becoming obvious. Having an embedded base version that other people could work from is not a bad thing, nor merely a high minded idea. It provides actual value, and I for one thing it would at least be very useful for small ARM/MIPS processors. They are releasing a design, not just a single chip. Other people can work from this.

How about focus on OpenCL (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082353)

I would prefer OpenCL-only chip, for massively parallel computations. I would like some really simple CPU, like MC68000 + vector FPU, with some 128KB of private memory for each core, with thousands of cores, working on 3GHz or more. It would be even better, if cores are setup in 2D grid, so that each core can access private memory of neighbouring 4 cores.

Re:How about focus on OpenCL (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 10 months ago | (#45083151)

Not exactly what you asked for. [parallella.org] Only 1 GHz, and less cores than you asked, but there are already plenty of people complaining that it's too distributed to be useful, so I guess something like that needs to prosper before people try that OpenCL chip.

Not a 'clone'! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082601)

I believe the submitter is in error here - these guys are actual engineers that used to work for #9 graphics, and the IP core they are proposing to open-source is indeed the actual (updated, cleaned up and commented - see thread on phoronix) Verilog source code for the 'Ticket to Ride 4' graphics core, which was used in the final product that #9 put out in 1998 - the Revolution IV.

As far as I know, the original card was quite fast - about the same level as a Matrox G200 or Riva TnT. It would support 1920x1080 at around 70-80 Hz. Given a modern-day realization with what, 20 times smaller feature size (gotta love Moore's law), they can probably clock it at vastly higher speeds within the same miserly power envelope!

Too financially ambitious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082607)

The $200,000 goal is ludicrous. They will be very lucky to collect even 10% of that goal.

Definitely put money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45082767)

Yes/Yes/Yes

Patents? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 10 months ago | (#45082979)

Designing a GPU is much easier than desiginging a GPU which doesn't violate any of the massive number of GPU patents. For a while, it seemed like 'doing something a CPU does but on a GPU' was the patent equivalent of 'doing something computers have been doing for years, but on a phone'.

Drivers? Resource utilization? (1)

mako1138 (837520) | about 10 months ago | (#45083011)

Software drivers are a challenge, and we will work on providing some level of drivers, with the hopes that the community takes them up and pushes them to new levels and provides problem reports to us.

I assume the #9 is not nearly as complex as a modern-day GPU, but this sentence really concerns me. As a hardware guy myself, I'd want some more experienced hands on board for the software side. And a Linux driver needs to be part of the deliverables at least.

Also, what's the resource utilization? If this thing only runs in large Virtex-class chips then it's not terribly useful to the open-source community.

It would be really cool to have a graphics core of this level open-sourced, but I think the audience for this project is kind of small. You could build yourself a PCI graphics card for kicks, I guess, but you'd still need a PCI motherboard. Where it gets more interesting is with the "generic interface" option. Then for example you could use a Xilinx Zynq (which is an FPGA+ARM), implement the GPU in the FPGA, and talk to it on-chip over AXI. However I have a feeling they won't get to the $600000 level needed to make this possible.

Re:Drivers? Resource utilization? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083399)

I was under the impression that the design for FPGA's was software...like.

Hence, none of those patents would be applicable, so long as you did not sell it preloaded....

It would be up to the user to "install" the software...

Is this plausible?

I second the request for a monster Open-CL chip...;-)

Oh wow, Number(N)ine! (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 10 months ago | (#45083159)

I remember having a Number(N)ine card back in the day (an Intergraph card?). It was a little obscure but came with the territory (I think that was the card I paired with a Gravis Ultrasound, as well). Good to see someone using that tech again.

But Why? (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 10 months ago | (#45083287)

They aren't exactly asking for pocket-change here. They want fairly extensive funding in order to produce a product that will be utterly worthless in the marketplace... (running a GPU on an FPGA isn't exactly going to be at the upper-right of the price/perf graph.) It'd be nice if the top contributors at least got a copy of a reference design, not just a USB stick with source on it.

It's nice that it will be "open", but I kind of think they'll have trouble getting funding for a "hobby" project that few, if any, of the backers will even be able to use. (And even if they could, would they want to?) This would be like contributing money to a new car company so they could design (but not actually build) a hand-built, but otherwise generic, mid-size sedan, but with a riding lawnmower engine in it instead a car engine. Yeah, the whole world will get a copy of the blueprints, but why would anyone ever want to build it?

Re:But Why? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 10 months ago | (#45083797)

This would be like contributing money to a new car company so they could design (but not actually build) a hand-built, but otherwise generic, mid-size sedan, but with a riding lawnmower engine in it instead a car engine. Yeah, the whole world will get a copy of the blueprints, but why would anyone ever want to build it?

So they could still travel after the NSA backdoored their 'driverless car' and shut it down?

What a joke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45083755)

It takes 10-100M$ to create a competitive GPU. And that's only if you've got a great team (see how many times Nvidia and AMD have messed up) and have access to the critical patents. This is an absurd idea.

Will be a backer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45086319)

I have high hopes for this in the event it gets funded. Not when it immediately comes out, but an open GPU hardware specification would allow smaller manufacturers to enter that field, allow easier integration on other chips, improve low-level access, and make for more bug-free drivers. The sooner something like this occurs, the better.

Not really an Open Source development (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about 10 months ago | (#45086917)

It's funny, but it seems their development model isn't really open source, they just plan to release the source when they're done.
Mind you, I'm not saying they're lying. They never stated their development model was open source.

What's the big difference?
An open source development model means the source is open from day 0, both for contributions, testing, etc, etc, etc.
This is actually a closed development (ie: behind closed doors), which later gets published.
The quality of the end result of both development models varies greatly.

Re:Not really an Open Source development (1)

cb88 (1410145) | about 10 months ago | (#45087871)

But once it is published.. it is then an open source project like any other.

And of course it isn't open source yet... they haven't gotten paid yet ;-)

all in all I think its a great idea... and might actually lead to some open source traction in this area. Everything else has failed so a project based on designs once implemented in ASICs is a pretty good head start.

Re:Not really an Open Source development (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45088839)

Trying to go to https://hugoosvaldobarrera.com.ar/ [hugoosvald...era.com.ar] I get an error:

Secure Connection Failed

An error occurred during a connection to hugoosvaldobarrera.com.ar. The OCSP server has refused this request as unauthorized. (Error code: sec_error_ocsp_unauthorized_request)

        The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.
        Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem. Alternatively, use the command found in the help menu to report this broken site.

Number Nine, Silicon Spectrum, old IP (1)

Theovon (109752) | about 10 months ago | (#45087091)

This is from Silicon Spectrum, who bought the graphics accelerator from Number Nine (i128, Ticket-to-Ride, etc.). It appears they've deviced to open source that IP. The i128 was mostly 2D with some very limited 3D support. I don't know if they managed to develop anything with programmable shaders, but they might have. Also, I think they've been selling graphics accelerator IP for FPGAs for a while; not sure.

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