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Open Source Graphic Card Project Seeks Experts

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the will-more-cooks-help dept.

Graphics 370

An anonymous reader writes "Could this dream of many open source developers and users finally happen? A 100% open sourced graphic card with 3D support? Proper 3D card support for OpenBSD, NetBSD and other minority operating systems? A company named Tech Source will try to make it happen. You can download the preliminary specs for the card here (pdf). The project, though a commercial one, wants to become a true community project and encourages experts and everyone who have good ideas to add to the development process to join the mailing list. You can also sign a petition and tell how much you would be willing to pay for the final product."

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370 comments

Dupe! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935174)

Does it count if it's more than 2 weeks old?

Re:Dupe! (3, Interesting)

log2.0 (674840) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935210)

They are trying to get devolper interest, not announcing the open card. Its a different story. Although I may have missed the story you are referring to? :)

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Great!! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935189)

I've kind of waited for this for years.

In theory other companies might steal the design and build and sell the card on their own, but if the design is community-owned, then that actually works to lower prices...

Anonymous Cow

Cool, first post! (nt) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935198)

Cool :)

I've never had a first post before!

The Cow

Re:Cool, first post! (nt) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935251)

Um, there were 2 more posts before yours.

Re:Cool, first post! (nt) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935269)

And you still haven't, punk ass motherfucker.

Dupe? Almost a repost (-1, Troll)

OmegaBlac (752432) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935193)

Older version [slashdot.org] of this article posted back in October.

Re:Dupe? Almost a repost (1)

freeJustin (751573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935200)

It makes me sick.

Not a dupe; it's a follow up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935216)

If you RTFA, you'll see that there's been some activity since the last Slashdot post. The designers want to try to raise some awareness.

Not a dupe (5, Insightful)

BumpyCarrot (775949) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935225)

Hardly a dupe, since the project has risen from speculation to preliminary specs and a petition.

they're naive (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935196)

just like OpenRPN... "Lets start a cool hardware project! oops, we don't know hardware. Someone please do all teh work for us"

RTFA/RTFWS/RTFE! (5, Informative)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935228)



If you'd read-up on this subject, you'd have seen that these folk *do* know their hardware.

They are also not being overly ambitious. While they expect to be able to develop a card which has 3D accelleration for desktop applications, they make no bold claims about gaming.

Indeed, this card is being designed as the ideal desktop-card for open-source systems with open-source drivers and firmware. Any gaming performance, while unlikely, should be treated as a bonus.

I have already pledged my intention to buy one of these cards just out of curiosity.

Re:RTFA/RTFWS/RTFE! (4, Interesting)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935378)

If you'd read-up on this subject, you'd have seen that these folk *do* know their hardware. They are also not being overly ambitious. While they expect to be able to develop a card which has 3D accelleration for desktop applications, they make no bold claims about gaming.

Falling anywhere short of, say, OpenGL 1.4 support would make it pretty much useless. In other words, it doesn't have to have pixel shaders, but it has to have good, filtered texture mapping, lighting, alpha, quite a bag of stuff. The Spartan 3 (not III as the tech spec suggests) has 1.5 million gates and 384 MHz, which ought to be enough for a decent 3D core, with one catch: it's got 32 18x18 multipliers, no dividers. Don't even think about floating point, obviously, but without dividers, perspective interpolation is going to be pretty tough. Without perspective interpolation... well, think "1970's".

I just hope there's a standard way of getting around this. Any hardware hacks out there?

Re:RTFA/RTFWS/RTFE! (2, Interesting)

grumbel (592662) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935452)

Only question is then what would be the big advantage of such a card vs say a Matrox card, which also have limited 3d capabilites, but are pretty good at plain 2d or vs. an NVidia card with the OpenSource drivers?

There is of course also the question if OpenSource driver can compete with the quality of say the NVidia drivers, after all they 'just work'[tm], which it not something that I can say about all the OpenSource stuff I use.

Overall I wish them luck, but I have a hard time imagening a market where such a card would really fit. Being OpenSource is sure a plus, but it alone won't be enough. And so far I still havn't seen a transmeta processor for sale over here in germany, don't really expect this piece of hardware to have much more success.

Re:RTFA/RTFWS/RTFE! (1)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935485)

The very argument is that the drivers would be open-source and a Good Thing(tm).

The drivers and the firmware would be open to ad-hoc development so users could change things as they would see fit within the limitation of the hardware.

Of course, this has never been done before but I wouldn't want to be a nay-sayer. I'd prefer to say "Lets try and see how we do".

Re:RTFA/RTFWS/RTFE! (2, Insightful)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935495)

The advantage would be that both the drivers and firmware can be adapted to suit certain needs.

Waste of time (4, Interesting)

jarich (733129) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935199)

This has come up before.

Building a good open 2D card? Mabye... I doubt it's really feasible, but have at it. Chase that dream.

But a 3D card? You are going to make a card to run the latest Quake and Doom? Or even release back of the games? Do you realize how much time, how many thousands of man hours go into these cards? The dollar amount for the simulators, the fabs to make the prototypes, etc

This could however, make a great teaching tool.

I take it back... if the card can target elementary 3D and stellar 2D, it could (in a few years) be THE card to own for a commodity Linux box. Target your audience carefully and don't get caught up in the IdSoftware upgrade cycle! :)

Re:Waste of time (5, Insightful)

eofpi (743493) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935249)

It seems to me that 2D quality and clarity is much more important than 3D performance in their target market.

A harder problem is getting enough of the target audience to accept that they're in the target audience, because people (or at least americans; i can't speak for other cultures) like to have the possibility of doing something, even if they'll never do it (hence the ubiquity of SUVs on our roads, but i digress). This should be easier with people that use open-source software though; 3D-intensive software for those isn't nearly as common as on windows.

That said, if they can convince someone to slap it on a PCB, i'll keep an eye out for these things next time i need a video card.

Re:Waste of time (0)

SirTalon42 (751509) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935362)

My dad is exactly like that, all he does is use Office and IE. He plans on getting a 3500+ AMD 64, with 1 gig of ram (he doesn't care that he will never get close to the whole speed of the AMD 64 running windows, cause it will always have to run in compatability mode).

That move will make my computer the slowest computer in the family (even though I'm the ONLY one that uses it for more than IE/Office. HL2 on a Radeon 7500 is going to be PAIN.

Re:Waste of time (2, Insightful)

bwoodring (101515) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935463)

Compatibility mode? What are you talking about? The Athlon 64 executes 32-bit x86 code natively, and very, very fast. The Athlon 64 is pretty much the processor to buy regardless of which PC operating system you intend to run.

Re:Waste of time (1)

ilyanep (823855) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935441)

This definately won't be an ATI Radeon x200 or an nVidia GeForce FX, but it may just open the door for open-source cards that are just that. People who are already on Linux don't need better graphics (AFAIC). However, to make Linux a feasable replacement for Windows, there must be a good card that can handle all the same software on Linux, and while this card may not do it, it may just get people thinking.

Re:Waste of time (5, Insightful)

Slack3r78 (596506) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935497)

The problem is, 2D compositing is in the process of shifting to being 3D accelerated right now. OS X has been for a couple of years now, Longhorn will be, and X.org is in the process of doing so.

You end up with much smoother window rendering, and it allows you to add in things like desktop transparency and shadowing without much of a performance hit. A 2D only card may be "good enough" for some, but the desktop environments are quickly moving in a direction where that may no longer be the case by time this card would come to market. Going for at least rudimentary OpenGL support from the start would be a good idea.

False logic (5, Insightful)

melted (227442) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935256)

It's like saying:

"No, it's impossible to build a replacement for Microsoft Office. Do you realize how much time, how many thousands of man hours went into this software?"

But there you go, Open Office is doing pretty well.

If anything, development of a good "open-source" 3D card could be hampered by patents.

Re:False logic (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935289)

StarOffice had thousands of man hours put into it before Sun bought it for millions of dollars and gave it away as Anti-Microsoft charity.

It would be impossible for the Open Source world by itself to build a replacement for MS Office in any reasonable timeframe.

Re:False logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935294)

i think the big problem is testability

with oss you can quickly test your ideas but FPGAs can from what i gather only simulate the likes of a 386 or 486 and thats the bloody expensive ones

Re:False logic (5, Insightful)

pyite (140350) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935322)

Your logic is the fallacy. While I can't play Half Life 2 on a Voodoo 3 (or at least I wouldn't want to try), the majority of people could use WordPerfect 5.1 (a great product by the way) for most of their word processing needs. They don't need the close to $1000 price of Microsoft Office. Let's face it, there hasn't been much innovation in Office for years. MS Office is a "moving target" for OpenOffice developers as much as a tortoise is for a hunter. Graphics cards are another story, however.

Re:False logic (3, Insightful)

kormoc (122955) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935453)

How about Doom 3 on a voodoo 2?
Linkie:
http://www.firingsquad.com/media/gall ery_index.asp ?media_id=244

The thing is, to make a card that runs say quake 3 wouldn't be nearly as hard as hl2. Quake 3 is opengl, and opengl is a wonderfully open standard. I wouldn't see why they couldn't throw in opengl support rather easly. The process is rather well known now and welp, there's enough info out there to do it, but with say hl2, it's all directx and new and rather unknown. I could see a simple 3d opengl rendering engine on the card.

Re:False logic (1)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935509)

>the majority of people could use WordPerfect 5.1

I see you drive a DeLorean. Dude, maybe this was the case back in 1996, but these days, Word owns the market.

Sad but true. Hell, I haven't even SEEN a WP5.1 installation in years. Maybe it's still big in some small business sectors but overall it's history.

Kind of sad, too. It was the last great word processor for DOS.

-Z

Re:False logic (1, Funny)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935519)

Whoah, nevermind. It's kinda late and I haven't gotten much sleep, I read that originally as "The majority of people still use WordPerfect 5.1".

Silly me, I'll read more carefully next time.. }:)

-Z

Re:False logic (2, Interesting)

niteice (793961) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935335)

If anything, development of a good "open-source" 3D card could be hampered by patents. What about Mesa? A custom version could be written for this card to provide at least basic 3D...actually, it'll be like running Quake 3 on an S3 Trio64V+, but you get my point.

Re:False logic (1, Offtopic)

Reducer2001 (197985) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935349)

OpenOffice was not built from scratch. It's based on Sun' Star Office. This driver will have no such base.

Re:False logic (1)

damiam (409504) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935381)

Where do you think Star Office came from? It didn't just spring fully formed from the head of Zeus; it was built from scratch as well (though not by Sun).

A New Hope. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935352)

""No, it's impossible to build a replacement for Microsoft Office. Do you realize how much time, how many thousands of man hours went into this software?""

Repeat after me. Hardware is not software. Software is not hardware

Overestimating is not any better than underestimating.

"If anything, development of a good "open-source" 3D card could be hampered by patents."

I've said as much elsewere. The vorbis people have shown that patents can be dealt with. However graphics is considerably more complex.

Re:False logic (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935367)

While open source software has been more successful than many people's wildest dreams, open source hardware has been a much tougher nut to crack, I think partly because to exploit it requires access to manufacturing capacity to make what is effectively a custom design, whereas open source software works on nearly any computer. FPGAs do help - and they are basically software. Having an FPGA perform (computationally) nearly as well as say a 5000 series nV or 9000 series ATI is probably going to be expensive.

I won't say it isn't possible. I think it might fit a nice niche.

I wish them luck.

Re:False logic (5, Informative)

justins (80659) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935427)

It's like saying:


"No, it's impossible to build a replacement for Microsoft Office. Do you realize how much time, how many thousands of man hours went into this software?"

But there you go, Open Office is doing pretty well.

Talk about "false logic." Open Office is doing pretty well because it has had a huge amount of time and money put into it over the years. By the way, it existed for many years as closed source before it became open source, even before Sun bought it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StarOffice

And it's not anywhere near being ready to replace Microsoft Office, but I guess they've only had 10 years...

Re:Waste of time (4, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935264)

But a 3D card? You are going to make a card to run the latest Quake and Doom? Or even release back of the games? Do you realize how much time, how many thousands of man hours go into these cards? The dollar amount for the simulators, the fabs to make the prototypes, etc

I don't think there's any requirement for it to be cutting edge. They just said "3D support", not "runs Doom3 at fast as the latest nVidia or ATI card". For a lot of people a card that was capable of running say Quake3 at reasonable (but not necessarily blindingly fast) frame rates would be quite sufficient. Not everyone gets 3D support on a card for gaming purposes, and for those people an open card that provides credible 3D support may be an attractive option.

Sure, you won't compete with ATI and nVidia, but then guaranteed open source drivers that will get the maximum performance out of the card are quite a benefit in themselves. Especially given the quality of ATIs Linux drivers.

There is a market for this card. No it isn't a huge market, but then Apple doesn't have a huge chunk of the desktop market, but they seem to be rolling along fine. As long as there is a big enough niche to support to company, that's all they need. More power to them.

Jedidiah.

Re:Waste of time (2, Insightful)

DarthWiggle (537589) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935460)

But wait! Assuming that the 3D support from this card will be dog slow assumes that a community project must be dog slow. Ok, OpenOffice doesn't launch as blindingly quickly as MS Word and Firefox (disclaimer: my browser of choice, so this is tempered criticism) doesn't appear instantly like IE, but I think the "market" goals of these two communities was to get something developed that was competitive and then work on optimization down the road.

I'm off-track though: my point is that if the "market" of community developers wants to focus on blindingly fast 3D performance, it's not impossible to believe that it'll happen. What's holding optimal 3D performance from 3D ATI cards on Linux? Seems to me it's ATI being stingy with their support of community developers (which is their right as owners of a property).

Which is kinda what you said. Heh. But if this company has any hardware savvy at all, then there's no reason this thing couldn't compete with ATI or nVidia.

So I guess we're left relying on this co. to come up with some decent hardware, which is pretty much what you said, so I'm just going to shut up and go back to reading about the Reformation. :)

Re:Waste of time (5, Informative)

wrecked (681366) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935266)

Remember, Tech Source is a boutique graphics card company, and the guy proposing this (Timothy Miller?) is a graphics card engineer.

If you read the mailing list archive, you'll see that what they are proposing is a card with simple, OpenGL compatible 3D. The interface will be PCI at first. My impression is that they have mini-ITX boards in mind. The last paragraph of your post is correct: they will probably target commodity Linux (and significantly, BSD) boxes.

I think that this is a great idea. Right now, if you want open source 3D, the only good hardware available is the Matrox G400/450/550 line, and that's over 5 years old. I bought my G450 in 1999 and am still using it quite happily, but I would certainly buy an open hardware card from Tech Source if this project comes to fruition.

As someone on OSNews posted, this project could be profitable for a small company even if it would be considered a flop by ATI or Nvidia.

Re:Waste of time (2, Interesting)

skids (119237) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935304)

Not to stomp on TechSource, but the proposed feature set is over 5 years old. So why would they have any market advantage over 5-year-old Matrox cards (especially given Matrix has quad-monitor cards)?

I'm all for open-source hardware products, but lets make them something that isn't already readily available in a form opensource folks find to be generally acceptible. They should at least give the thing *one* major feature advantage (how about quad DVI? noone is doing THAT yet... at least not in any reasonable price range.)

Plus PCI-Express really wouldn't hurt.

Re:Waste of time (2, Interesting)

wrecked (681366) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935354)

Well, the difference is that the proposed Tech Source card would be open source, and therefore would (hopefully) evolve, slowly but surely, in the same manner of other open source projects like Linux, Mozilla, OpenOffice.org, etc.

While I love my Matrox G450, the fact is, Matrox will never release another card like it, nor will they improve on it. If the Tech Source project works, then one day, it will release a card that is superior to the G450.

Re:Waste of time (1)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935307)

Agreed.. I still use a G450 because it works with nearly anything, can do limited 3D, and doesn't have a fan (quiet).

Re:Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935274)

"The dollar amount for the simulators, the fabs to make the prototypes, etc"

Read before posting. They are using an FPGA.

Re:Waste of time (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935282)

if the card can target elementary 3D and stellar 2D, it could (in a few years) be THE card to own for a commodity Linux box.

Commodity Linux boxes already have elementary 3D and stellar 2D. It's called Intel Extreme Graphics, has open source drivers, and it costs like $10.

Just want to repeat that $10 figure again. You are a going to have to do better than Fanboyism to beat that.

Re:Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935297)

Why sp pessimistic? All they have to do is draw one on a napkin during dinner and put into that new fabricator thing.

Re:Waste of time (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935302)

Oh I don't know.

Hardware is fairly straightforward to build 80 percent of the speed ups in hardware come from process and fabrication technology. The other 20% is clever hardware and gate arrangements.

I mean if I remember right, such things as latches, memory cells...etc are just the same circuit pattern repeated for th emost part.

I am not so sure the community wants THE fastest card.

I would be happy with three cards:

1) Super High End using PCI Xpress with complete Support for 3D..particularly OpenGL not so much Direct X.

$500 Plus, with 256/512 DDR3.

I think we should split the graphics market and purposely NOT support Direct X. Primarily, because THAT is the primary reason we do NOT have a decent card for Linux NOW.

2) MidRange Card with 3D support in the AGP 8x/4x/2x spaces. OpenGL.

Same with lower clock speeds, DDR3

$250

3) 2D SDRAM PCI card with contracts with board makers for such thing as blade servers and servers who need minmal video support.

$50-100 dollars.

But Direct X is way too encumbered with Microsoft, and I think it would hamper development.

-Hack

Re:Waste of time (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935465)

3) 2D SDRAM PCI card with contracts with board makers for such thing as blade servers and servers who need minmal video support.

$50-100 dollars.


Er, only problem is this market is already served by generic $20 cards.
Personally, I've never paid more than $50 for a video card and I doubt I ever will. This goes for everyone I know both personally and professionally because, as unlikely as it might seem here on /., a substantial portion of the rest of the world could care less about games.
In the business arena there are only two concerns: reliability and cost. (Granted, there should be a third - compatibility, but it rarely makes an appearance. :)
So yeah, since $100 was the lowest amount I didn't sign the petition... :(

Not For Quake (5, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935338)

Sure, this thing probably won't compete with a GeForce 6600 AGP in Doom 3 or HL 2 (that's a $200-$250 card), but do we really NEED that?

For 99% of users, this could be a great card. If it does great 2D, and can do good 3D (especially features like those used in Apple's Quartz, or Project Looking Glass) it would work more than well enough. Lets face it, for a large number of applications, a GeForce (origional) quality 3D would be MORE than enough for most anything many people would do. And if the graphics are localized into a small area (say a little 200x200 area of a window), then even such a card would be able to render very nice looking graphics (just like a "slow" card could run Doom 3 looking great at such a low resolution).

I'm with you. For a quality, commodity card this could be great. Plus, with the FPGA, not only could be hack the DRIVERS, you could hack the FIRMWARE! Think! You could buy the card, and write software to take the burden off the CPU for decoding MPEG2 or 4. You could even (with a little kernel help) swap firmware on the fly so you could have that video decoding, and then enter a command (or press a button on your desktop) to have the 3D firmware put in. When you're done, go back to video decoding acceleration.

Hell, make it run SETI in the background at super fast speed when just using 2D (like using nVidia cards to do scientific calculations on the GPU).

These things could be a LOT of fun to mess around with. I think I just sold myself on one ;)

Re:Waste of time (1)

InfiniteWisdom (530090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935472)

You're gonna make a full Unix-like operating system and desktop environment? Maybe you could make a little toy system. Do you know how many MILLIONS of man hours would go into that?

You could try and target that old 386 box in the basement, but don't even bother with SMPs, clusters and large high end machines!

I won't satisfied... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935201)

...until we have open source DRAM.

Great Idea (5, Interesting)

mhaisley (410683) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935204)

This is a really great idea, but it will probably never work, a mailing list will bring way to many points of view.

Really what a project like this needs is the developer to shut out the open source community, until the project is done. If linus had made a large project out of the original kernel, I seriously doubt if it would have ever been completed. This should be kept simple, and then open sourced, only once there is a good code base to build from.

Re:Great Idea (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935260)

You can operate completely in the open without necessarily taking every patch or every suggestion (you know, how most such projects work). And being open from the start assures everyone that if it doesn't make 1.0, there are still pieces for others to salvage, which in turn makes them more likely to contribute in the first place.

Don't let them turn this into a HURD (5, Insightful)

tetromino (807969) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935387)

It's better to have a finished product that meets a limited set of goals than an over-engineered design that never gets properly implemented...

Price? (1)

shazbotus (623281) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935205)

Graphics cards are so expensive these days when they are first released, and I can't imagine this every becoming very profitable or worthwhile if they are only going after a very small niche market. Maybe by having us do all of the work for them, they won't see any labor costs...whatever, as much as I hate to be negative about this, I don't see it getting past vapor.

ati & nvidia release old specs? (4, Interesting)

Goalie_Ca (584234) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935214)

I can understand that this card will never compete with ATI and nvidia which raises the question, is there any reason why ATI can't open source their old graphic cards, such as their 7000 series. Surely that technology is no longer critical to their lead. Sure many of those cards aren't being sold any more, but there are still plenty around and this may open up a niche market so they can produce some as a low-cost device.

Re:ati & nvidia release old specs? (3, Interesting)

DaHat (247651) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935246)

I'd wager that even the older cards still bare some similarity to the newer ones, enough so that such designs could give a competitor a major head start in designing future cards. Opening up their plans is nice in theory, but in practice... would almost certainly come back to bite them in the rear.

Re:ati & nvidia release old specs? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935321)

Graphic card drivers contain an enormous number of application-specific optimizations, both for games and professional applicaitons. The testing and development behind this is very expensive. No company is going to give away secrets that let their competitiors benchmark faster.

So if you do get a OSS driver, it will be unoptimized, much like the current OSS ATI drivers.

Re:ati & nvidia release old specs? (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935358)

Its kind of like Chuck E Cheese.... rather then sell, give away, or donate their old and broken down machines, it is strict policy to have the games destroyed to hinder and kind of, sort of, maybe even a million years from now, competition.

Re:ati & nvidia release old specs? (1)

leonbev (111395) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935499)

Geez... Cynical, aren't we? Anyway, this topic has showed up in Slashdot in the past, so you might want to search on it.

If I remember right, though, most video card companies can't open source their drivers even if they wanted to. Parts of them contain licensed copyrighted code from companies like sgi, which will not permit their stuff to be released to be public.

Bloody Stupid (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935217)

If you want to do 3D work, use an operating system that has been designed for it.

OpenBSD has been designed to be a border network system. NetBSD has been designed for portability and targeted mainly in embedded systems. Sure, you can use them as desktops (and ive used openbsd as a desktop for 5 odd years now), but if you want to do serious 3d work or play games, you use something more suited to the task.

oh my god! ive got a hammer! where are those nails....

Re:Bloody Stupid (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935242)

"use an operating system that has been designed for it"

We are designing our operating system for exactly what we want. I think you missed the point of Free Software.

Re:Bloody Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935288)

What "we" want?

I don't even know what *I* want exactly .. all I've got so far is vague idea what the case should look like. [fantasygifts.com]

Re:Bloody Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935411)

cool

another half assed attempt that will die due to lack of support and lack of skill. be sure to come up with a great website and heaps of mailing lists to discuss the project before coming up with any tangible code though. design by commitee works

i think you missed the point of UNIX

Re:Bloody Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935448)

UNIX missed its own point. It was fragmented into oblivion, and what's left is currently being strangled by a mountain of lawyers. That's probably the least relevant response I've seen posted all year.

As for this project, there's nothing wrong with a group of people getting together to try to make something interesting. Regardless of whether a final product is created, they're likely to have learned quite a bit along the way. The experience might even land them a job.

This FP for GNNA?! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935220)

As someone who build his own computer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935232)

May I suggest you use a new type of interconnect? My video card was kind of hard to push into place.

And the screws that hold it in place should be square heads.

Yay! It has an FPGA on it. (4, Informative)

imadork (226897) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935248)

I'll bet that most of the actual hardware for this project would actually be rather easy to design, just using some reference diagrams of the interfaces involved (AGP and DVI). Using that big-ass FPGA in there makes all the difference -- now, most of the complexity of the design looks more like software than hardware. Open-Source Hardware doesn't make sense without a part like an FPGA, which blurs the line between software and hardware. Except instead of C++ or java, you're programming in God's Own Language, VHDL. (except for the fallen who use Verilog...)

I think the company would make a ton of money just making these as a reference platform and selling them to University students looking for a way to program their own GPU on the cheap for research purposes. Heck, Xilinx should do it themselves, and give all these students exposure to Xilinx parts (and their crappy design software) before they even find out who Altera is.

This project looks interesting. I'd sign on to help out, but this gets dangerously close to what my Day Job is, and I don't think my management would smile on my participation...

Re:Yay! It has an FPGA on it. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935364)

Everything that's wrong with the world can be traced to one of two places: Lawyers, or the Fox Network.

Don't forget to add CNN and the New York Times to your list.

Re:Yay! It has an FPGA on it. (3, Interesting)

eigendude (563238) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935491)

Well, it seems that Xilinx and other big FPGA vendors have already thought of making cards on which you may try to create your own GPU.

Boards such as the Multimedia Board http://www.xilinx.com/products/boards/multimedia/ [xilinx.com] contain everything you would need. Not cheap though...

They have not put the whole thing on a PCI card, probably because it's even more fun to integrate a CPU core and build the whole system-on-chip on the FPGA while at it.

Cheers!

Open Source Hardware? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935252)

WTF? Free hardware? Why not try Open Sourcing a new G5 for me? Just let me know where I can pick it up. Thanks bitches.

tech source isn't some n00b company... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935257)

tech source makes graphics cards for sun microsystems computers, i've got a raptor in one of my ultrasparc10's. I'm sure they have some fabrication experience, just visit their website, they've got quite a few products.

tell how much you would be willing to pay (4, Insightful)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935273)

You can also sign a petition and tell how much you would be willing to pay for the final product.

Wgat sense does this make. There are some people (not me) that might pay up to $500 for the newest ATI or Nvidia cards. But they do that with the knowledge that the hottest 3D applications will take advantage of them. More importantly, that is the price they might pay for those cards today. It's well known that in six months those cards might be worth half that, in a year perhaps around $100. How can anyone say how much you would be willing to pay for the final product when by that time it might not even compete with the $100 cards?

Re:tell how much you would be willing to pay (1)

Horse Rotorvator JAD (834524) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935315)

I signed the petition. It asks if you would be willing to pay $100.00 for the card and it asks if you would be willing to pay $200.00 for the card.

Why did I sign the petition? I just really like the idea of a video card made especially for Linux (and BSDs). I like the idea of open hardware. I believe that in the future things like DRM will be tied more and more to hardware and it is a good idea to now start working on creating an open source alternative. There are lots of other reasons why open source hardware would be good. Some of those reasons can be found here: http://opencollector.org/Whyfree/ [opencollector.org]

Re:tell how much you would be willing to pay (1)

MourningBlade (182180) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935333)

There's a certain amount of money people are willing to pay for basic functionality, and then on top of that you add the amount you'd be willing to pay for a fully open-sourced card.

Add the two up, there you go.

As there is no competitor for the open-source aspect of the card, that's pretty much the only factor.

Re:tell how much you would be willing to pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935345)

How can anyone say how much you would be willing to pay for the final product when by that time it might not even compete with the $100 cards?

I can safely say I'll be willing to pay $200 for a card that (a) works perfectly on my preferred platform, including basic 3-D games on the level of tuxracer, or Quake, and (b) is hackable and tweakable. And I'm quite certain that even a year or two from now the offerings from ATI and nVidia won't provide (b) and it's pretty unlikely that they'll provide (a).

How many frames per second that card can turn out as compared with a $90 closed card will be completely irrelevant to me.

Re:tell how much you would be willing to pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935484)

The kind of card you are talking about costs less than $20, not $90. However, I don't doubt your ridiclous intention to pay 10x the price to "support" some doomed cause.

Re:tell how much you would be willing to pay (1)

theLOUDroom (556455) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935512)

Wgat sense does this make. There are some people (not me) that might pay up to $500 for the newest ATI or Nvidia cards. But they do that with the knowledge that the hottest 3D applications will take advantage of them. More importantly, that is the price they might pay for those cards today. It's well known that in six months those cards might be worth half that, in a year perhaps around $100. How can anyone say how much you would be willing to pay for the final product when by that time it might not even compete with the $100 cards?

The price for a decent 2-D video card is not NEARLY as time sensitive.
If you're not interesting in playing the newest 3d games, but instead would like an "open-source" video card, you care a lot less about how it compares with the newest ATI and Nvidia cards.

Personally, I would like an open-source fully-supported video card. I don't really do anything that uses even the 3D processing power of my GFII let alone something that needs the latest monster video card.

The thing I would most like to see is Matrox-quality D/A conversion for the analog output. 3D performance may be improving across the board, but not all cards are equal in the analog realm.

2D and 3D Patents. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935280)

Well as mentioned over on OSNews. There's the always issue of patents. The vorbis people had to deal with them. These people will as well. I suggest looking through the archives for suggestions already discussed. e.g. DSPs.

I recommended them buying their way in by obtaining the patents to the Tseng 2D chip, and the PowerVR Kyro 3D chip and building from their.

The other way is doing some truely innovative work (basically reinventing 2D and 3D graphics).

Re:2D and 3D Patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935370)

Hmmm, when MS buys up or into other companies to acquire/explore technology they're considered the bad guys. But if OSS does this, they're the good guys, hmmm.

Re:2D and 3D Patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935468)

There's a difference, OSS becomes freely available to the community at large. It effectively becomes public property, and enriches all of society. When MS buys up a technology it either enriches MS' pockets, or ends up in a closet somewhere so it won't compete with an MS product. Unless you're MS, you lose when they purchase something.

mod daOwn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935285)

I typqe thiS. [goat.cx]

whaaaaat? fixed-function shading? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935293)

Dude, come back when you got pixel shaders.

"Could this dream... really happen?" (2, Interesting)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935317)

Yeah, it COULD happen. But it will also be crap. Does anyone really think a company could simply start competing with nVidia or ATI on features and power?! Heck, 3dfx couldn't do it. Matrox essentially gave up. And what about Virge?! Dare I even mention bitboys?!

Come one folks, let's get real.

Re:"Could this dream... really happen?" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935436)

>Come one folks, let's get real.

Given that 3dfx was once the king of the 3d world and Nvidia came out of nowhere and ursurped them. Then ATI did the exact same thing with Nvidia. It's not like it has never happened. But that's NOT the point here. This card uses a FPGA, ATI and Nvidia use ASIC's with more transistors than a pentium 4. The point is open-source REPROGRAMABLE card.

Re:"Could this dream... really happen?" (1)

kormoc (122955) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935514)

Why do they have to compete with nVidia or ATI?

From what I gather, this is for a linux or *nix workstation, with minimal opengl rendering, but more towards open and fast and good 2d support. Why does graphics cards have to be the latest or best for a workstation that does 2-d work? Why not get a opensourced driver card that you know will work and continue to work?

I think it will be a nice nitch market that this card will fill nicely.

They already make cards for Sun, Medical companys, and for use in Air Traffic Controler's computers and similar places, so they even have experence in graphics for workstations.

I'd throw a few bux their way (2, Insightful)

multiplexo (27356) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935336)

Sure, it might be impossible for them to build a card that is the equal of the Radeon x800 or nVidia GT chipsets but on the other hand these guys are trying to broaden the frontiers of open source software by building some open source hardware. People should be encouraged to do this kind of thing.

Interesting tech... (3, Insightful)

Sensible Clod (771142) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935351)

while not exactly a GF6800, it does use a FPGA, which may lend itself to some interesting modifications.

I can see it now: custom logic patches to change the core for extra performance on your favorite game...

A semi closed source model (1)

yorkpaddy (830859) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935353)

What if a large company got behind this. They would say, we will release the specs and let you open source them, everything chip design, reference board. But, we are the only manufacturer that is allowed to produce these boards that run this open source. Would you work on it? Do you think other people would How long would it take to get to production? What kind of premium would you pay for it?

Re:A semi closed source model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935458)

If only one company can produce them, but otherwise the design in published, that doesn't count as "Free" or "Open Source". It just counts as "not secret".

Short answer, No. I don't work for free. I publish Free Software when I think I am getting something for it -- instead of money, more Freedom in the world.

3d (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935410)

If that FPGA is still in there when the card is completed then there's going to be alot more this card will be capable of than just 2d/3d. 3d accelerator cards for games showed up around 7 years ago. We're starting to take advantage of other processor intensive things now. Where's my physics/ai accelerator? 2d and 3d graphics will make the card usable now, but where's the next step?

Of course, there are going to be more concerns than what cool stuff you COULD eventually use the card for. Like if it's too expensive and won't sell.

A further question. (1)

dmaxwell (43234) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935418)

I'll leave the speculations about the price/performance vis-a-vis ATI's and Nvidia's cards to others. There is something else that worries me. The management behind this engineer gives the go-ahead based on positive techie feedback. They actually go ahead and build the things and techies actually buy it and improve the drivers. The likely subpar performance is overlooked because it is still the fastest video they've ever had on their Powerpc and Sparc boxes.
Now that a little bit of money is rolling in, it is time to start the ball rolling on the OpenGPU2. ....only maybe it won't be based on an FPGA and it isn't going so open this time.

Do we have any idea if this botique manufacturer won't jerk the football up at the last second?

english pleeze? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935424)

From the petition site:

We endorse the Make you visible to TS new open 3d videocard Petition to .

What does that mean?

get it out quickly and create a framework (4, Interesting)

jeif1k (809151) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935439)

Some advice:
  • Get the hardware out quickly; if you wait too long, it will be obsolete before you ship.
  • Create a basic development platform (gcc, loader, etc.) and a basic framework with at least a little bit of useful functionality (2D acceleration, minimal 3D); it can be quite incomplete, but it should make it easy for contributors to add functionality one small piece at a time.
  • You can charge a little more than a comparable regular graphics card, but not a lot more. If this becomes a premium custom hardware product, it's dead on arrival.

Re:get it out quickly and create a framework (4, Insightful)

Pulzar (81031) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935488)

Get the hardware out quickly; if you wait too long, it will be obsolete before you ship.

It's already obsolete. It's on par with cards from about 6-7 years ago, if they achieve everything in their spec. It's only good enough as a teaching tool.

You can charge a little more than a comparable regular graphics card, but not a lot more. If this becomes a premium custom hardware product, it's dead on arrival.

A comparable graphics card costs $10 if you can even find it these days.

I don't see how this is worth the effort when you can buy the cheapest ATI card, and use the generic open-source VGA driver and achieve better 2D performance. This is somewhat like somebody trying to get people to work on an open-source version of DOS. Sure, you get your freedom of the free software, but who would want to use DOS? I'm all for open-source, but it has it be at least remotely competitive to get somebody to look at it.

What about OpenGL, 3dFX and gameing? (4, Informative)

sllim (95682) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935454)

I am glancing at the specs and I have a couple thoughts.
The first is that these are respectable specs - providing you don't want to to any gaming.
I think that is a really important caveat. I know that every once in a while people get all excited because the usual suspects port there games to Linux - you know ID and Blizzard come to mind.
It is a good thing that these two companies do this, but it is a bad thing that there are really only two companies that do this with anything approaching reliability.
Thing is... a card with these specs, especially considering that it is a year if not more away from reality will never cut it for any sort of gaming. You are going to produce a card with 3D support that doesn't have the muscle to handle any 3d games that are produced.
If you are fine with that then there is nothing wrong with those specs. This card will be able to handle email, porn and movies as well as anything ATI produces.

My 2nd thought is a bit more practicle.
Actually there may not be anything practicle about it. Might just be wishful thinking really.
What about 3DFX? What about OPENGL?
Between the two things isn't half the work already done?
I know it might seem insane - nuts even, but back in the day 3dFX had some very respectible hardware. They didn't fail cause there stuff was poop, they failed cause they underestimated nVidia (which in turn underestimated ATI). The hardware is still out there, the code is still out there. It just isn't being utilized.
Would there be anything wrong with utilizing these old resources to achieve this goal?

Sweet! (4, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935462)

I can't wait for these to come out so I can put one in my Indrema... Imagine how many FPS I'll get in Duke Nukem Forever!

They're addressing the wrong problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935471)

I couldn't find any details of the project on Tech Source's web site, so I don't know what their motivations are. But if they hope to corner the Linux market, designing it via committee and then open sourcing the final hardware design won't solve the real problem.

Open source the API -- that's all anybody needs.

Oh No! (0, Offtopic)

bryan986 (833912) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935475)

I can see it coming, a microsoft gfx card, sigh.

Not going over well... (3, Informative)

ReeprFlame (745959) | more than 9 years ago | (#10935479)

The proposal itself does not look like it is going over well. Look at the comments on the Tech's proposal site and you will see flames about the card not holding up to the standards of gaming such that ATI and nVidia do. If they are able to find programmers and developers that are superb at their jobs, maybe even ex-ATI or ex-nVidians, the card has a great chance at surviving among its rivals. Furthermore, ATI never had good software to begin with [drivers, etc] compared to their hardware. Opensource has also always seemed to prevail in one aspect or another in comparison to closed source. the development is a great idea, and even if it does not take off right away, it is a step in the right direction...

Idea (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10935490)

Make sure you can "beowulf" them together. The GPUs are not going to be powerful so there needs to a way to make it more powerful.
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