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AMD Releases Register Specs For R5xx And R6xx

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the have-fun-storming-the-castle dept.

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ianare writes "AMD has recently released register specifications for the ATI Radeon R5xx and R6xx graphic devices. This will (theoretically) allow the OSS community to develop drivers, given time. In fact, engineers from Novell have released a first alpha quality Open Source driver which currently supports initial mode settings. Although current work is focused on 2D, rather than 3D acceleration, this type of information sharing could conceivably lead to an OSS 3D driver."

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R250 (2)

Iam9376 (1096787) | more than 6 years ago | (#20725973)

How about the R250 you jerks!!! My Mobility Radeon 9000 is slower than it ever has been under the open source driver! :(

Re:R250 (1)

burni (930725) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726017)

Well the Radeon9k kernel-DRI-driver, which is open source of course, I use for my R9000 card does very well on my System even through nearly all Q3-TD´s 5 fps faster than running under win2k, I´d just like to have an OS driver for my newly and very cheap aquired Radeon9800pro ;)

Re:R250 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726569)

that card is supported by the r300 driver

R300 opensource drivers (2, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726797)

Note that the opensource drivers are only available in the recent releases on most distros. Some not so-recent releases did disable the R300 driver because it wasn't deemed stable enough (opensuse 10.0 come to mind).

So either the GP poster will have to update to a more recent release of his favorite distro (latest Ubuntu FF and openSUSE 10.2 have it enabled by default. I don't know about the others distro).

Or if he wants to keep his current installation for some reasons, he has to get the latest DRM (kernel drivers) [freedesktop.org] and recompile them along with the Mesa3D library that corresponds to his X.org server.
(Note that older versions of Mesa3D are sensitive to versions of Xorg. If you start getting a lots of errors about undeclared stuff when compiling or missing functions at link time, then try to recompile a Mesa release with the same major and middle numbers as the one from your distro - i.e.: keep 6.5.x or 6.4.x depending on your Xorg).

If you read the instruction on Freedesktop linked above, it's not difficult at all.

Re:R250 (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20728823)

Not cost effective.
It takes time and money to release specs. They are not making money from those chips so it is illogical to put any effort in to releasing the specs.

Re:R250 (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730141)

Too short term and narrow a thought. Putting a little bit of effort towards supporting older, no longer manufactured hardware can help profitability. How? Sure, no direct profit is made off of someone buying a used video card from a third party, or just using an old card. But if old equipment is still usable, it still has value. One thing some people look for when deciding whether to buy a company's latest offerings all new and shiny, is longevity. If old equipment can still be used, then that makes it more likely the new equipment will not be a "flash in the pan". Making older products worth more on the secondhand market makes newer products worth more on the primary market. Reputation counts.

And, please, how much "time and money" can it be to release specs? Upload a few files to the Internet, and done! Takes all of, what, 10 minutes?

Re:R250 (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730239)

For cars yes for computers no.
A new computer has a life of around 3 years. In 3 years you can pay the same price for four times the performance. People that buy new computers know this. They buy hardware that has support NOW. Support for an old out of production video card just doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. I didn't say it was nice or good but just the way it is. ATI has been around long enough that it has no fear of being labeled a flash in the pan so no need to spend any money or effort on something that will at best get them a tiny bit of good will from people re-using old hardware.

glxGears needs to be updated! (3, Funny)

siDDis (961791) | more than 6 years ago | (#20725977)

With shader 4.0 benchmarking!

Re:glxGears needs to be updated! (2, Informative)

Drinking Bleach (975757) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726051)

Funny, but glxgears was never a real benchmark.

Re:glxGears needs to be updated! (2, Funny)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726251)

He's exactly correct.

Isn't it written into the GL Spec that all OpenGL benchmarks must include some sort of tea kettle?

Re:glxGears needs to be updated! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726299)

It's the OpenGL teapot, and yes it's written into the standard as one of the primitives. You've got your 0D, 1D, 2D in the form of GL's point, line and triangle. Then you've got solid 3D shapes, including the cube and of course the teapot. Obviously you rarely need teapots in a practical application so they're not usually hardware accelerated.

Re:glxGears needs to be updated! (5, Interesting)

Ahruman (806510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726757)

I's not the OpenGL teapot, it's the Utah Teapot or teapotahedron [sjbaker.org] .

Re:glxGears needs to be updated! (1)

tanguyr (468371) | more than 6 years ago | (#20731263)

mod up "useless yet fascinating"

Hurrah (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#20725981)

Hurrah! I just bought a Radeon X1650 Pro this weekend trusting that AMD would honour their commitment to open up the specs for their ATI cards, and I'm glad to hear about this. I'm currently running the ATI binary driver, but the sooner I can move off that, and onto something nice and open, the better.

Re:Hurrah (5, Funny)

whichpaul (733708) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726001)

OSS 3D driver, great! Now we just need some games play.

Re:Hurrah (4, Insightful)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726077)

Games, schmames. If we have complete specs of the hardware, there are plenty of things [gpgpu.org] besides graphics we can do with it.

Re:Hurrah (1)

BrentH (1154987) | more than 6 years ago | (#20729179)

You mean that we'd have nothing BUT to do with it.

For Linux on the Desktop those games are essential for succes, and these driver (OSS or not) too.

Re:Hurrah (2, Insightful)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730905)

Opening the source hasn't got much to do with gaming success. The so-called succesful platforms, Windows and all the game consoles, are closed. Linux gaming could be pretty good right now, with NVidia's drivers for example. Opening the source will hardly make things less geeky, more attractive, or easier for the masses.

Quite another thing is your definition of success. For me, Linux has been a major success since 1999, and I hope I'd have discovered it even earlier. I'm not very interested in games, so it's not a factor of success IMHO. It's the same issue with 'being ready for the desktop', it depends on what you do, so you should never generalize (except in this sentence ;)

Re:Hurrah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20730249)

For example ray-traced graphics for games?

Re:Hurrah (1)

Helge9210 (759666) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727485)

http://www.valvesoftware.com/job-SenSoftEngineer.html [valvesoftware.com]

See that "Port Windows-based games to the Linux platform" thing?

Re:Hurrah (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20731385)

Required Qualifications
  • Bachelor in Systems Engineering (or equivalent).
  • Requires two years of experience in systems engineering designing and developing communications software and hardware solutions including resolving problems surrounding real-time and non real time PC- based systems using C++ and network programming algorithms and their interaction with physical devices.


Note the emphasis on networking and lack of mention of anything like OpenGL or graphics. This is to maintain their existing dedicated server codebase.

Hurrah-Specs and obsolescence, neck and neck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726119)

"...but the sooner I can move off that, and onto something nice and open, the better."

And how long is "sooner"?

Re:Hurrah-Specs and obsolescence, neck and neck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20727007)

this long

If you really wanted open source... (1)

Kludge (13653) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726999)

you should have bought an Intel motherboard.

Obviously your priority for open source is below your other priorities.

Old files? (4, Informative)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726023)

These files are 12 days old. Aren't these the same files that were released sometime last week?

Re:Old files? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726043)

Most probably they we're released sometime two weeks ago...

Re:Old files? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726153)

These files are 12 days old. Aren't these the same files that were released sometime last week?
Yes, and this was reported on slashdot [slashdot.org] at that time.

Zonk doesn't post dupes! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726253)

He just doesn't want us to forget important news like this! You prick!

This aren't the 3d registers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726041)

Am i right or is this old news. The files released didn't contain the information for 3d programming. But as far as i know they should be also released as soon as the laywers give their nod.

Sorry, I RTFA (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726055)

And it appears that the real news is the alpha-quality, open-source driver. There doesn't appear to be any release of specs other than those done around the time of the previous announcement.

Oh, it's a "Zonk" story ... *shakes head*.

And even the alpha driver is old news (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726085)

The release of the alpha-quality, open-source driver was announced on Tues 18th Sept.

Yep, it's a Zonk story ....

Novell's engineer started earlier (5, Informative)

renoX (11677) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726099)

Note that the reason why Novell's engineer were able to deliver an alpha driver this week is because they had access to the ATI's specification under NDA since two month.

So the driver isn't the result of only one week of work, even if it's still in an alpha state.

Re:Novell's engineer started earlier (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20730295)

Furthermore the 2 PDFs that can be downloaded *only* contain details of the 2D setup and nothing related to 3D at all, so a 3D driver is certainly not going to come out of this.

drivers (1)

sylverboss (846288) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726117)

Let's hope this will encourage manufacturers to "systematically" develop linux drivers !

Re:drivers (4, Insightful)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726207)

No, let's hope not. Just release the specs for the benefit of the entire free software community, and let people who know what they're doing write the drivers.

Re:drivers (5, Insightful)

ameoba (173803) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726273)

It's entirely possible that they don't -have- specs written in a way that's suitable for public consumption.

Re:drivers (2, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726623)

Very true. There are lots of projects out there where the best (or only) way to find out is to wander down the hall and ask someone.

Re:drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20729415)

They have essentially said they don't have suitable documentation for their 3d stuff, they are working on putting it together and then getting their legal dept to go through it.

You say that... (2, Insightful)

Spasmodeus (940657) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726727)

...as if there are legions of qualified 3D device driver writers just waiting around with nothing better to do.

Writing drivers for 3D cards is difficult work. "Release the specs and we'll write the drivers" has been the mantra of the open source community for years, but I think we're all in for a disappointment if we're expecting feature-complete, high-performance open-source drivers for these cards any time soon.

I think some kind of sponsorship to dedicated, full-time devolopers is going to be necessary if we want to see drivers that can compete with even ATI's crappy binary drivers. Otherwise I'll bet the hardware will be long obsolete before the drivers are complete.

Re:You say that... (2)

thegnu (557446) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727789)

"Release the specs and we'll write the drivers" has been the mantra of the open source community for years, but I think we're all in for a disappointment if we're expecting feature-complete, high-performance open-source drivers for these cards any time soon.

I think that if you have a community making a decent driver, there will be enough 3D driver writers available who know the hardware well enough to delegate simple responsibilities, make good decisions, and code the hard stuff themselves. Probably. I hope.

Re:You say that... (1)

Movi (1005625) | more than 6 years ago | (#20728027)

So i guess we'll see that on Google Summer of Code

This more than a week old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726131)

~10 days ago ATI released 2D spec documents for R5xx and R6xx, than bit later Novell released their 2D "radeonhd" driver. Let me repeat: it is ONLY information on 2D programming. 3D documentation will follow when they can clear it up for a release (i.e. make sure that those docs don't have legal issues) and coding 3D portion hasn't even begun yet. At least R5xx should be similar to R300 & R400 as main difference is Avivo, but R6xx will require probably a completely new driver, so maybe it will be based on Gallium (new Mesa architecture).

Re:This more than a week old (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726859)

hey, if 2D works already then 3D is just one more D to implement. we are 2/3rds on the way to linux 3d nirvana!

Re:This more than a week old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726979)

Mmmm, DD breasts!

About time! (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726155)

Given the quality of their *nix drivers...

But I think ATI made a smart move. Outsourcing driver development to the OSS community certainly cuts costs.

Re:About time! (1)

Taagehornet (984739) | more than 6 years ago | (#20728361)

I can't comment on the quality of ATI's *nix drivers, but FWIW I've never had any trouble with their win32 drivers. My x800xt has served me well the last three years and it still ticks on nicely.

However, much to my regret the ATI of today seems to be a mere shadow of its former self. Given ATI's failure to meet expected release dates with the last two generations, the somewhat disappointing performance [dailytech.com] of both families when finally released, and the latest string of stories of senior employees signing off [beyond3d.com] , I can't help but think of Netscape's fall from grace and Jamie Zawinski's letter of resignation [jwz.org] :

The magic was gone, as the magicians had either moved on to more compelling companies, or were having their voices lost in the din of the crowd [...]

JWZ of course wrote the piece before Firefox saw the light of dawn, so...

Bad move? (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726177)

So, if you want to run OS software on your OS operating system then now you will have to use OS drivers. Doesn't this just encourgage the hardware developers to leave it to "the community"? How many other companies will do this now?

Secret codes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726185)

What are those code words in your signature? I feel like I've seen them somewhere before...

Re:Secret codes (2, Funny)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726203)

They are from the next series of "Lost".

Re:Secret codes (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727961)

They are in rot13 encryption, then you have to read them backwards.

Re:Bad move? (4, Insightful)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726223)

Doesn't this just encourgage the hardware developers to leave it to "the community"?
This is precisely what we want. Leave driver development to those who know best how the operating system works.

Re:Bad move? (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726245)

I would have though that detailed knowledge of the actual hardware would be more useful than knowledge of the operating system and that's precisely what the hardware developers have.

Re:Bad move? (2, Insightful)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726483)

Which is why releasing the specs is a great thing.

Hardware makers do their thing and then they should pass the necessary info to the community so we can write the drivers.

Re:Bad move? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726509)

Considering that a lot of the older Windows' crashiness was due to bad hw-manufacturer written drivers, knowing the hardware doesn't seem to help all that much if you don't know the OS or even just can't code your way out of a wet paper bag.

Re:Bad move? (3, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726225)

Doesn't this just encourgage the hardware developers to leave it to "the community"?



Professional customers might still want a HW-developer-written driver.


Regardless of that, it's a better move than keeping the specs secret. Because in the latter case, you're totally at the mercy of the HW developer as far as driver availability and quality goes.

Re:Bad move? (2, Insightful)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727189)

In the long run, I think you'll find that the kind of customer who won't trust a community-written open source driver to be very high quality won't be using Linux (or BSD or any other Unix) at all.

Re:Bad move? (1)

Erikderzweite (1146485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20728739)

Customers don't care if it works. I prefer open-source drivers - they don't get unsupported because some company wants me to buy their new products and doesn't release drivers for old hardware to work with new specs (see legacy nvidia drivers and X.org 7.3).

Re:Bad move? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20728953)

I use Linux but I have little faith that we will every see FOSS 3d drivers that are written for free by the "community"
So far there are zero modern 3D drivers that do not have a lot of manufacture support.
I will bet that the FOSS ATI drivers with still have a lot of code from ATI.

Re:Bad move? (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#20729203)

3D hardware acceleration still works for my Voodoo 3 card years after 3dfx went bankrupt and got absorbed into NVidia. It has even gained some features since 3dfx disappeared. The specs are open, so the community keeps the code working.

In general, drivers that are open-source and included in the main distribution (be it the kernel, X, or whatever) don't bitrot, even if the manufacturer stops maintaining them. So what does it matter whether it was written by the community or started as a binary blob and got open-sourced by the manufacturer?

Re:Bad move? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730067)

"So what does it matter whether it was written by the community or started as a binary blob and got open-sourced by the manufacturer?"
To the end user none at all. What it does mean is that the heavy lifting was all done buy the hardware company. No really big money savings from going FOSS are just bug fixes and maybe some small improvements to drivers for hardware that you don't sell anymore.
I am all for FOSS drivers. What I am sick of is the "all they need to do is give us the specs" driver fantasy. Heck if AMD/ATI can deliver drivers that are FOSS or even closed source for now that match NVidia's they will have my business.
What I really want to see from AMD/ATI is Linux support for their motherboard chip set that matches Windows. I would love to have an all AMD system running Linux.

Re:Bad move? (3, Insightful)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730753)

So, you think the "give us the specs and we'll do the rest" bit is a fantasy? Has it occured to you that all those reverse-engineered drivers would have been done 100 times faster with specs, resulting in working drivers while the products were still fairly new?

Look at the resources the r300 and nouveau projects have. If the manufacturers simply dumped the specs on them, they would be able to produce high quality drivers quickly. Even without the specs, they've proven their abilities to make decent drivers the hard way. Or do you have some reason to believe that they wouldn't be significantly more productive with specs? Is there something magic about ATI's programmers that makes them vastly more productive with the same specs to work from?

Re:Bad move? (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726227)

ATI(AMD) and NVidia by themselves are able to create drivers for most of the probable market. However, the community is not totally content with their drivers.
      Other companies that produce well used hardware does not have drivers for Linux, and when access to their documentation will be available, the quality of the open source drivers will hopefully improve.
      Calin

What's wrong with that? (3, Insightful)

babbling (952366) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726705)

Cheaper for the companies. Better for the community.

The only losers are the companies (eg. nvidia) that compete with companies clever enough to do this, and companies (eg. microsoft) who have a vested interest in there not being any Free Software drivers.

Re:What's wrong with that? (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726783)

Presumably is an advantage if they release the documentation AND distribute some hardware to develop/test against. Otherwise you have to wait for someone "in the community" to buy the card and start working on the driver. That could mean real delays. Alright, a delay is better than what you have at the moment, ie nothing. To me it just sounds like ATI shirking all responsibility, not making any tactical moves.

Re:What's wrong with that? (1)

baadger (764884) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727225)

Exactly, one of the things that held (or is still holding?) back the Nouveau project (an open source reverse engineered driver for nVidia cards) is the lack of developers with hardware to test their work against.

Talking of Nouveau, the 2D performance of their driver at one point exceeded that of the nVidia sponsored "nv" driver, but I think since they moved to the new EXA framework (some X acceleration API) they have negated these advantages.

Open source drivers (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726909)

companies (eg. microsoft) who have a vested interest in there not being any Free Software drivers.


Note that, with the availability of Mesa3D's source, it's not that much difficult to provide open source drivers for Windows, at least for openGL.

The 3DFX source community has been doing it since a long time. Because the source of the Glide API (the low level talking to 3DFx hardware) has been available, since the demise of 3DFx and because windows XP didn't provide any support for openGL on Voodoo boards, a stack made of the opensource Glide and Mesa3D has been quickly released by the community (enabling users to play Quake3 and other openGL games at reasonable frame rates).

(Note that, in that precise story, becase the Direct3D driver were closed source and nVidia's IP, those were much more slowl to develop. Nonetheless, in a paradoxal way Voodoo boards are among the few supported hardware under Windows XP 64bits, because partial availability of source code enables the community to quickly develop a port, whereas other hardware may not be ported because the makers see little benefits in supporting an OS that has an even lower market share as Mac OS X and Linux)

Re:What's wrong with that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20728641)

Actually... there's a fair bit of vested interest in the hardware companies not wanting to release the information to the public as well. In order to be able to write the drivers and use the hardware to an efficient degree, hardware specifications and internals have to be released as a part of it. This lets any competitors know what you have under the hood and allows them to copy you relatively cheaply (just copy it, while your company had to pay engineers' salaries to develop it) and compete with you even better than they do now. Also, you're practically developing the manual for a competitor to reverse engineer your part. It may have cost your company $10M to design the thing but may only take some other company $100K to copy it. You've done all the hard work so they can compete with you even better than they do now (or even allow some small player to rise up to the level of major competitor with you).

How does that work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20728693)

If you have "Set Pin 8 up and set the data lines to the address in DMA that will load the texture in 8-bit format..." help someone design the silicon that does it? If it isn't the silicon doing it, then the company is using your CPU to do work it is supposed to be doing on the GPU.

Re:What's wrong with that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20729197)

>> companies (eg. microsoft) who have a vested interest in there not being any Free Software drivers

Sorry...
I see MS having interest in no open office format, in no interchangeable documents, in no common browser etc.

But I can't see their interest in closed vs open drivers for non Windows OSs... (no you are not going to write a complete Windows driver from specs...)

Re:What's wrong with that? (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730299)

Microsoft in interested in Linux not having good drivers for modern hardware.

Re:Bad move? (1)

krbvroc1 (725200) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730921)

Doesn't this just encourgage the hardware developers to leave it to "the community"?
Well, we left it to the hardware developer (ATI) for how many years and look where it got us! Information in the customers hands is always better because it gives more choices/options.

These documents are not as exciting as you think (4, Insightful)

Tom Womack (8005) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726209)

That the words 'texture', 'instruction pointer' or 'blitter' appear nowhere in either PDF file is a bit of a giveaway.

Whilst the registers are essential for getting any kind of driver to work, the documents don't describe the exciting features of the graphics processor. They give you enough control over the memory-controller timings to convert any Radeon card into a smoking brick with a small kernel-mode driver, but they don't give instructions which actually make the graphics silicon do things. There's no indication of what the machine-code for the vector processors looks like.

If you compare this to the documentation that Intel has for its (obsolete) 845 graphics controller, you notice that the whole block of registers for controlling even something as basic as the blitter, let alone the 'set instruction pointer for processing unit N' registers which actually let you set the high-performance processing units in the card to work, are missing.

These documents let you use an R500 or R600 card as a frame buffer. Not worth making a song and dance about that one.

Myself, I'd be fascinated to see documentation for the Intel G965 like the documentation for the G845; it clearly exists, there's a paper in the most recent Intel Technical Journal about low-level programming on the 965, it's just not available to mortals unless by attempting to reverse-engineer the x.org 965 driver.

Re:These documents are not as exciting as you thin (4, Informative)

AntiDragon (930097) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726403)

If I remember correctly, AMD have stated that there is more to come - the specs and documentation covering the 3D functions has been promised for the "near future". The reason for the delay is due to patents and third party code in those areas and have had to take greater care to make sure the specs and docs aren't encumbered. I hope they follow through on this.

Re:These documents are not as exciting as you thin (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727343)

i doubt specs would include 3rd party code.
patents seem to be a better excuse this time.

Promises mean nothing (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727981)

Matrox promised full specifications including 3D capability for the G200 series cards back in 1998. Being an idealistic sucker, I bought a G200 based on those promises.

Those specifications, promised nearly ten years ago, never arrived to my knowledge. If they ever did, it happened long after the G200 was obsolete.

About six months after wasting money on that G200, I bought a Riva TNT2 and have been an NVidia customer since then. They don't make empty promises that we MIGHT be able to write a decent working driver some time after the card has been obsolete for over a year and fail to deliver on those promises, they deliver a working driver that gives the customer 3D capability *NOW*.

Simply put, if you want working 3D support under Linux, NVidia is still your only option, and probably will be that way for a long time. The current ATI "news" so far sounds to me exactly like the Matrox "non-news" nearly a decade in the past.

Re:Promises mean nothing (1)

spirit of reason (989882) | more than 6 years ago | (#20730003)

Whoa, there. The 8.41 driver provides "working 3D support" for at least the R600 cards (I think that was all AMD said was officially supported for the moment). Nvidia is no longer the only option.

Re:Promises mean nothing (2, Informative)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 6 years ago | (#20731753)

Those specifications, promised nearly ten years ago, never arrived to my knowledge. If they ever did, it happened long after the G200 was obsolete.

They did arrive, and for the G400 as well. The first driver to make use of this information was the Utah-GLX [sourceforge.net] module thingy for XFree86 3 - that John Carmack helped with their development. I think the specifications for some particular, programmable section of the cards (WARP setup engine?) weren't released, but microcode blobs for the necessary functionality were.

I think the G200/G400 were among the first to be supported in whatever the 'proper', non-hacky drivers for XFree86 4 were called, but from my experience with a G400, the open-source 3D drivers weren't always that stable.

I moved on to Nvidia after that too - stable closed-source drivers for Linux were much nicer than unstable, open-source ones...

Re:Promises mean nothing (2, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#20732139)

I sort of recall hearing sometime down the line that some of the 3D specs were released, but critical stuff needed for acceptable performance or modern effects was missing.

Re:These documents are not as exciting as you thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726411)

Hint: These are the documents to generate a driver that's more than enough to drive Xorg. Documents for 3D acceleration are still being hacked on by AMD Legal.

So yeah, while it's not useful to everyone who's waiting for higher performance open source 3D graphics. But for all of those people who simply can't use their machines with X, this is a huge start.

Re:These documents are not as exciting as you thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726463)

Can you point me in the direction of the full 845 specs you mentioned? All I could find on the Intel site was register documentation. I couldn't find info about stuff like 3d acceleration. Maybe I overlooked something.

Re:These documents are not as exciting as you thin (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726771)

Well, if they said "that's all folks" then it'd not be much. But they've said 3D specs are coming, and you have to walk (2D) before you can run (3D) so it's better they release 2D when it's ready and 3D soon than nothing now and then all at once. Let's just hope that they'll actually give complete specs and not some half-accelerated stuff.

Complexity of moderns GPUs (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726973)

Welcome to the nice world of 2007, where graphic cards have more in common with supercomputers than with hardware blitter and rasteriser of early Amigas and 3DFx'.

More seriously, once the 3D specs gets released, due to the highe programmability of latest generation of hardware, the 3D specs are probably going to contain much more information about building and uploading fragments, and setting up input and output streams, than occurence of the words "blitter" and "texture". In fact, I don't actually know if the R600 has a dedicated hardware blitter, or if blitting is produced by programming the general purpose stream unit used in 3D in a special way.
(Perhaps it's like complaining that specs of modern sound cards doesn't feature the words "ADSR envelope filter" and "LFO")

Absolutley _Spot On_ (5, Informative)

burnttoy (754394) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727449)

I develop drivers for a living (actually for the last year I haven't). I went through the docs a few weeks ago - I spent about 2 hours having a "good" read.

These docs will let one do the following

1 - Setup you own video mode
2 - Setup up a video overlay (not video acceleration)
3 - Setup a full colour mouse cursor

That's all. These do not explain how to blit, alpha blend, scale, ROP2, ROP3 or ROP4 or perform any other transform.

This is useful, but not _that_ useful!

Hopefully there will be more to come specifically more on the memory/cache controller (essential to get performance up), more on the PCI/AGP bus control, more on the 2D source/dest blit registers, pitch, loop counters and I'd like to know how much of the 2D guts is programmable. TBH I thought we'd have moved on to the point of (somewhat) programmable shaders for 2D these days with loops etc built into the HW (0 clock loops and addressing etc).

Re:Absolutley _Spot On_ (3, Interesting)

amigabill (146897) | more than 6 years ago | (#20729571)

I'd also love to see some documentation for the terms and concepts you've mentioned. What are ROP2/3/4, why do we want them around, etc. Not just the registers for them, because not all of us know what those are for or why we care. How does one go from knowing little if anything about graphics to knowing what to do with registers defined in these and other Radeon documents?

GPGPU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726221)

Will this allow the community to create drivers capable of using the gpu as a GPGPU accelerator?

Big Deal (-1, Offtopic)

IronWilliamCash (1078065) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726287)

I don't see why a guy who has the money to buy 20 iphones for him and his friends can complain on not getting the 200$ reduction. He probably makes millions a year so tough for him, he should have waited longer before buy them.

Dell want open source drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726507)

According to phoronix (http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=850&num=1 [phoronix.com] ) a major OEM, probably dell, is insisting that "hardware suppliers must either have an open-source driver available or be able to provide an open-source driver within the next twelve months". Looks like Dell selling ubuntu is providing traction.

Nvidia (1)

SniperClops (776236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726561)

Hopefully Nvidia will release their specs...

Hey, make your own drivers! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726591)

What is stopping AMD from making their own driver for linux?

Why does it have to boil down to some volunteers to create a driver for a multi-billion dollar company for free, instead of said company creating and releasing their own drivers?

I'm not trolling, I'm being serious.

I don't get why the OSS community is rolling over and making these drivers. While I am aware this will make ATI drivers a lot more stable, I don't see why nVidia can create their own drivers but AMD/ATI can't.

What is to stop other companies from just not bothering to create linux drivers and instead release the specs and let the community do the work, saving them money and making sure that any support issues are "not their responsibility"?

Just keep buying nVidia cards to be honest. At least they actually bother to create drivers, instead of outsourcing them and then be able to deny any responsibility or support.

Re:Hey, make your own drivers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20726789)

AMD/ATI are not "outsourcing" anything. Bother to read the press releases and you will realise this.

AMD/ATI will continue to create their own binary drivers for their cards. They are merely making available basic specs to OSS developers to allow them to create an open source driver with basic functionality.

Re:Hey, make your own drivers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20730177)

The hardware manufacturer's responsibility is to enable the buyer to use the hardware. So, by giving the complete specification of the hardware the manufacturer has done its obligation. It cannot assume the hardware user's operating system, especially in today's situation. The OS could be distribution based on Linux, GNU/Hurd, various Microsoft Windows, QNX, or perhaps even a custom operating system that is used by one person. Regardless of the operating system, 100% use the manufacturer's product. To satisfy ~100% the requirement to fully and efficiently use the hardware, it is in the manufacturer's best interest to release the specification to every buyer.

This is something we've been begging for! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20730531)

> What is stopping AMD from making their own driver for linux?

Money? Talent? Time?

> I don't get why the OSS community is rolling over and making these drivers.

We've only been begging for specs like these since forever, and we want lots more. Did you miss the whole story about the kernel team offering free drivers given sufficient specifications? If they make the driver, it'll almost have to be closed source, and then it won't be maintainable, so future kernels won't be able to use the hardware, etc.

This isn't a "concession" on the OSS side, it's a dream come true.

Video Acceleration (1)

Tanaka (37812) | more than 6 years ago | (#20726627)

Wish they would focus more on video acceleration. Linux HTPC's need to be able to decode 1080p without using a powerful CPU.

Re:Video Acceleration (1)

lordtoran (1063300) | more than 6 years ago | (#20731215)

They do - on Avivo powered cards (R500 or later). I am able to to watch digital TV in 1080i with less than 20% CPU utilization (on an Athlon 64 3200+).

Eating my words (3, Interesting)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727061)

When ATI were making their first murmurings of releasing specs a few weeks ago, I have to say I wasn't convinced - I've been burned by ATI's shoddy Linux support in the past, and it was going to take alot of convincing that AMD (traditionally very friendly to FOSS) was trying to steer the ship in a different direction.

And now they've released scads of docs - kudos. This was probably the only way to make a FOSS driver a reality without violating reams of licensed IP. On top of that, I believe their latest set of Linux drivers fix a number of long standing issues, as well as vastly increasing 3D performance (although obviously there are still are QA problems).

Granted, it's almost all 2D stuff at the moment, but being able to ship a functional, fast and non-crash-prone driver for ATI cards with every modern distro will be another win for Linux in general.

I'm quite interested to hear about advanced features though - will implementing things like iDCT in XvMC for MPEG2, MPEG4 ASP and H.264 be a reality? Can these things be implemented with 2D registers or do these things need to be run through the 3D shaders nowadays? The low end ATI cards, including the IGP's, would be ideal for HTPC boxes, espcially with Intel dragging their feet on similar support/documentation for their (admittedly otherwise excellent) GMA X3xxx series.

Re:Eating my words (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#20728031)

"When ATI were making their first murmurings of releasing specs a few weeks ago, I have to say I wasn't convinced - I've been burned by ATI's shoddy Linux support in the past, and it was going to take alot of convincing that AMD (traditionally very friendly to FOSS) was trying to steer the ship in a different direction."

Just like I was burned by Matrox's promises to release 3D specs shortly after they released 2D specs for the G200 nearly a decade ago. They never delivered the documentation that was promised.

"And now they've released scads of docs - kudos."
No they haven't. Note quite a few posters have indicated that the currently released docs don't even allow driver authors to implement 2D acceleration - they allow you to set up the card as a framebuffer and not much else apparently.

Even Matrox did better with their first release in 1998.

Snooze (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 6 years ago | (#20727201)

Of course, this news comes just after I've replaced my ATI and AMD with a screamin' fast Intel and NVidia rig.

I agree that releasing specs is a step in the right direction, but all of their products are kinda bland right now, and they lost their price advantage over the summer when Intel went apeshit with deep price cuts, and that's before even considering that current Intel chips can be overclocked to ridiculous heights with little effort.

The Linux distros have always been good to low-end hardware, but there's something absolutely erotic about running it on an overclocked quad-core beast with a really beefy video card. Linux lets you max out the power in ways that Windows can't even conceptualize, and Compiz Fusion beats the tar out of Aero Glass.

One can only hope that AMD's bone will entice competitors to follow suit.

Re:Snooze (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20730469)

The Linux distros have always been good to low-end hardware, but there's something absolutely erotic about running it on an overclocked quad-core beast with a really beefy video card.

You, my friend, need to get out more.

What I want to know is... (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 6 years ago | (#20729963)

1.Which features of the cards ATI will never document (will we see documentation for the TV out functionality in these cards for example?)
and 2.Which features are going to take the longest to document (because of patents/3rd party code)

Re:What I want to know is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20730589)

1. the register specs did include tv-out function

2. why would ATI's code releases be bounded by patents and 3rd party codes when it designs its own chip, especially when it had bought chip designers such as ArtX and MacroSynergy? Even if it is bounded by those things, it would only affect things that have NOTHING to do with instruction sets or anything else necessary to program Radeons. Yes, there is the macrovision and hdcp, but that would not have affected the rest of the instructions, even S3TC. Just because something is patented doesn't mean it is enforceable (if patent holder want to enforce it), valid, or have no workarounds. Besides, S3TC is public knowledge, and given R300 or higher use shader-based architecture, someone else can just reconstruct S3TC with shader ops anyway.
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