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Talking with Timothy Miller 222

Posted by Hemos
from the get-to-know dept.
barryman_5000 writes "Timothy Miller has written plenty of drivers for the open source effort and now kerneltrap has an interview with him on his newest effort for an open graphic card. He talks about his background, struggle with secretive 3D vendors and more."
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Talking with Timothy Miller

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  • ...what happened to this story [slashdot.org]? It's not like we haven't seen dupes before...

  • I can't wait to buy one!
    • This is really interesting

      ..and all graphics manufacturers that did publish specs have stopped doing so..

      Y. nVidia are probably the most helpful to the community yet have 2 sets of Linux drivers - the OSS ones and the closed (official) ones.

      A: Does the project have an official name?

      Timothy Miller: Depends on what you mean by "official". We're calling ourselves the "Open Graphics Project",

      cool, now Ill be able to play the doom3 engine with OpenGL and OpenGP ..

      All geometry and vertex processing wil

      • Keep in mind that no graphics card on the market can fully support Doom III, with all features turned on, at a high framerate.

        nonsense. nvidia 6800 series can do it just fine. 6800 ultra can support 1024x768 with full doom3 features turned on, and still get faster than monitor refresh (>100fps).
      • "All geometry and vertex processing will be done in software in the host computer"

        This is a bit disappointing. Ever played a game in S/W mode? Nightmare - last century. At least its only a part of the processing though.

        It's also a fairly cheap part and well suited to SSE processing. You wouldn't want your processor to be sitting completely idle, wasting all those expensive transisters would you?
    • Re:June 2005?! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wild_berry (448019)
      I cant work out if you're being sarcastic. You didn't mention running Duke Nukem Forver on it, so I think you may be serious.

      And thank you for being the first post to talk about the card and/or article, not spelling or grammar.

      In the Article, Mr Miller says he's heard quotes "I'd rather buy a used Rage128 from eBay". When this card becomes available, my Rage128 (Pro Ultra) will be on ebay.co.uk. Just so you can be ready ;)

      I don't know if it will actually be an upgrade to my system, or a sidegrade, but
  • duh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:17PM (#11469117)
    He has observed that there is a growing trend by graphics hardware vendors to provide less and less information to free and open source operating system developers.

    This is because the graphics card market depends on vast amounts of R&D and producing a product that is technically superior to everything else out there. Essentially being continually ahead of the game as your competitiors try to catch up.

    As much as OSS advocates would not like to hear it, opening up the graphics card specifications to all and sundry would be the equivilant of pooring your R&D down the pan. Selling support for graphics cards doesn't keep you in business - making a product that kicks the ass of your competitors (and them having difficulty working out how to beat it) does.

    • duh-IP Security. (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Funny A similar argument can be made for any IP, including software patents (especially software since that's all the product is).
      • IP Law gives them the right to sue for people illegally using/gaining access to the material.

        Sure, there's only so much they can do to protect their IP, but why shouldn't corporations have the right to sue the shit out of people stealing their R&D?
    • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pe1rxq (141710) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:28PM (#11469277) Homepage Journal
      There might be a lot of R&D, but also a lot of crap.

      Thinking that you can hide this precious R&D in software without anyone seeing is nonsense. (The software interface is all that is needed for writting drivers). Your competitor is going to need at most a few weeks more before they dissassembled everything. If that is enough for them to steal your market your card wasn't as far ahead as you thought.

      This 'black magic beyond us mere mortals' attitude is exactly what is to blame for this kind of thing spreading. (ie NVidea not releasing specs to their ethernet chip which ofcourse contains a lot of expensive R&D) Most stuff simply isn't as impressive as those companies want you to think.

      Jeroen
      • blah blah

        Your competitor is going to need at most a few weeks more before they dissassembled everything.


        blah blah

        Most stuff simply isn't as impressive as those companies want you to think.

        Which is why driver software has never had anything to do with the success or failure of graphics cards in the market.
      • by gl4ss (559668)
        * (The software interface is all that is needed for writting drivers). Your competitor is going to need at most a few weeks more before they dissassembled everything. *

        if it's that easy... surely it wouldn't be much of a problem that they don't release the code.

        as to the "open source gpu".. it's going to be hideously expensive. chip producing takes real money and is cheaper the more you do them - it's expensive, very expensive. it's easy to come up with the idea for such a product, but to make it happen a
        • as to the "open source gpu".. it's going to be hideously expensive. chip producing takes real money and is cheaper the more you do them - it's expensive, very expensive

          Read the article. It's a FPGA design, not a chip. Or do you prefer to spout first, get caught later?
    • This isn't insightful or interesting. Apparently the parent has never heard of NDA contracts.
      • Re:duh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by radish (98371)
        What's an NDA got to do with anything?

        How can I possibly write and publish an open source driver to an interface, if that interface us under NDA?
        • The ATI open source driver was developed with NDA documentation. If it weren't for the NDA, it wouldn't exist at all.
    • Okay, for the sake of argument, I'll agree.

      Now what's stopping them from releasing specs for cards which no longer ship (let's say graphics cards that are older than one year)? The problem is really that video cards supported by open source drivers are all 3+ years old (ie. obsolete). The performance gap between competitors is not 3 years; keeping specs secret after the performance gap has evaporated does not protect a company's lead.

      Closed-source drivers do not allow for easy debugging/tuning, making t
    • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by farnz (625056) <slashdot AT farnz DOT org DOT uk> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:47PM (#11469539) Homepage Journal
      All a decent specification document reveals is how to tell a particular chip what to do, not how that chip does it. Any competitor knows what a chip is supposed to do (you can get that information by disassembling a binary driver, or by monitoring the bus while you send the binary driver commands), so the only "IP" you risk losing is the discovery that your "hardware" features are implemented by the device driver.
    • making a product that kicks the ass of your competitors

      only if you choose that arena

      This Open Graphics Card will kick the ass of its competitors as far as a lot of prospective purchasers are concerned, and I am one of them.

      It won't be sat in my XP box running Half-Life but it will be sat in my terminal and get the hours and hours of use it hopefully will deserve.

      2048x2048 and up - yay, now that's kicking ass.

    • Re:duh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lisandro (799651) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @01:23PM (#11470070)
      As much as OSS advocates would not like to hear it, opening up the graphics card specifications to all and sundry would be the equivilant of pooring your R&D down the pan. Selling support for graphics cards doesn't keep you in business - making a product that kicks the ass of your competitors (and them having difficulty working out how to beat it) does.

      Well, that's fine; i don't want the silicon blueprints for their beloved R&D. I just want specs on the interface which lets me use that particular hardware. As much as graphic vendors would like us to beleive, there's not much that can be "stolen" from gfx card specs. Don't take my word for it; just check the ones available for older cards and see how much you can get from there.

      I think GFX vendors are reluctant of releasing specs for a number of reasons. One, it leaves them in a controlling position, since they dictate what you will and won't be able to do with your beloved card. Two, some parts of GFX cards might contain licenced technologies (stuff like MPEG decodig, perhaps? texture compression?), but still, we can do without. And three, almost every major GFX vendor has been caught cheating in their drivers (oh, oh, "optimizing"), which leads me to beleive more than one common GFX card might be software crippled. Hell, ATI had a card in which you could unlock four pipelines with a small program.

      Desiging GFX hardware is hard, and writting driver is too. Yet, why can't you release specs for hardware we bought? There's an amount of zealotry to the OSS desire of open-source-for-everything, but if anything benefits from open source, that is system drivers. GFX cards or anything else.
      • by renoX (11677)
        > Hell, ATI had a card in which you could unlock four pipelines with a small program.

        But remember that those four pipelines may work *or not* as it is also an easy way to disable faulty units, thus allowing the HW makers to sell at reduced price something which should have been trashed otherwise..
        • Actually, it's more common than you think [google.com]. Some nVidia-powered GFX cards brand were softmoddeable too; i remember reading something about the 6800 and software locked pipelines.

          The 9700 -> 9800 ATI softmod was supposed to be doable on 9700s that were, like you said, 9800 with faulty units. I know four people that did this mod and all had the card running just fine - only one had artifacts, and was due to the GPU running much hotter, which was fixed by sticking a larger heatsink. ATI recalled that p
    • As much as OSS advocates would not like to hear it, opening up the graphics card specifications to all and sundry would be the equivilant of pooring your R&D down the pan

      They have found a company willing to produce an OSS friendly card, because that market is not taken at the moment. How is that "pooring your R&D down the pan".

      Linux,t he BSDs and smaller OSes needs documented hardware. If the big players can't deliver new companies will fill that gap.
  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:20PM (#11469157) Homepage Journal

    JC should stick some of his $ behind this project instead of making rockets.
    • I bet he would not touch this with a 10 foot pole. Why? Because Armadillo is FUN for Carmack. This project whle fun to alot of us, would likely not be fun for Jon. Why? Cuz he sites in front of a computer at least 10-12 hours a day already writing code. Volunteering for this would make him do it longer.
    • Your statement is equivalent to people saying stuff like "Stop spending money on yourselves and send that money to all the starving people in Africa!" He does the rocket stuff for fun. He enjoys it more than writing graphics related code. I'm sure there are skills that you are talented in, but I'm sure you don't enjoy doing your skills when you're on vacation. Making rockets is like a vacation to him. I really enjoy software development, but when I go on vacation, I'd rather not be sitting in front of
  • by Ratbert42 (452340)
    Same Tim [google.com]
  • Alternative OSs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrSkwid (118965) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:35PM (#11469386) Homepage Journal
    These platforms, both free and non-free are valuable alternatives to the Microsoft monolith

    I hate this. I don't use an "alternative" OS any more than I drink an alternative to milk or live an "alternative" lifestyle.

    I know it's grammatically correct but it's the hidden implication that does my head in!

    • But you do use a minority OS. And vendors do discriminate against their minority-OS customers. Draw whichever parallels you see fit.
    • What's the implication? I don't see one. Alternative means "different", and Linux is different to Windows. Any bias you have about the use of the word Alternative is yours, and you'd be well served to rethink it. Many bad things have good alternatives.
  • "Has wrote" is perfectly cromulent grammar!

    Some people these days...

  • barryman 5000 wrote that. Not the /. editors. Just because you hate those editors because of the fact that they reject every article that you send them DOES NOT mean they are responsible for spelling and grammar errors. The job of the /. editors is to approve stories that are interesting and relevant to slashdot.org

    barryman 5000, pleez goo bak an laern Eanglich.
    • I guess /. has redefined the definition of "editor" and forgot to tell the rest of us.

      editor
      SYLLABICATION: editor
      PRONUNCIATION: AUDIO: d-tr KEY
      NOUN: 1. One who edits, especially as an occupation.
      2. One who writes editorials.
      3. A device for editing film, consisting basically of a splicer and viewer.
      4. Computer Science A program used to edit text or data files.
      ETYMOLOGY: Late Latin ditor, publisher, from Latin ditus, past participle of dere, to publish. See edit.

      edit
      SYLLABICATION: edit
      PRONUNCIATION: AUD
    • In that case, they should reject submissions with such glaring grammatical errors: "sorry your submission has been rejected, because of your sub standard use of the english language".

      But I guess that's too much to ask from editors, who do not even check the content (dead links, substance), and continue to post duplicates.
  • All geometry and vertex processing will be done in software in the host computer.

    Geometry acceleration was a newfangled, fancy feature five years ago. Something that previously required thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars worth of hardware. Now it's a considered a given, and there is no reason to buy a card without it.

    This card is going to suck. :(
    • But they're implementing this in a FPGA. Geometry processing would take up to many gates in the FPGA. Just fitting what they have listed already will be a challange. If they can make it work, I'll buy one. Maybe the next generation will be an ASIC and have more gates to spend on features.
    • This card isn't being created for gamers. It's been created for desktop users. KDE, GNOME, Qt and GTK+ will want hardware 3D acceleration to do all sorts of fast rendering. But they won't need in-hardware geometry and vertex processing.

      Yeah, it will suck playing Doom III on this, but that's not the target market.
      • This card isn't being created for gamers. It's been created for desktop users.

        Then the question becomes "why bother?" If you don't need the most modern OpenGL features in silicon there are cards which are documented quite well enough to have completely open-source drivers. (In fact there are cards like some of the Radeons that actually HAVE some of these features in 100% open source drivers)

        It's nice that somebody has a pet project, though.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why because I am a zeolat?

    NO!

    I beleive in Free software, but this is a very personally selfish reason!

    I like the PowerPC platform and like to screw around on it. I know that x86 is cheaper and faster, but for what I use a computer for the Ibook is plenty fast.

    However I will never buy another mac product again because newer cards are either Nvidia or ATI. The current Ibook has a ATI 9200, which is supported by Open source drivers, which means that it works with PowerPC and x86.

    Nvidia and ATI binary driv
  • Thx mods (Score:3, Insightful)

    by barryman_5000 (805270) <barryman5000@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:58PM (#11469717)
    I type "has wrote" and nearly 40 comments about how dumb I am. Next time I won't even submit news and you people can go to kerneltrap for yourselves ;) Thx mods for fixing it to "has written"
  • How can he be motivated to work on a universal open sound card driver instead? All my video cards have worked fine under linux... sound cards have not fared as well. :|
  • by iplayfast (166447) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @01:22PM (#11470050)
    Make you visible to TS new open 3d videocard [petitiononline.com]

    Let the company know what the demand is.
  • FOSS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Deanalator (806515) <pierce403@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @01:22PM (#11470054) Homepage
    I would have no problem dropping 100 or so dollars on a card that could do 2000fps in glxgears with an open source driver in the main kernel tree (on par with my current geforce3 ti200).

    These shoddy nvidia drivers really bug me, and it would be nice to see a hardware accelerated opengl X enviroment sometime in the next 5 years (before longhorn), and that is never going to happen unless we can get some real hardware support.
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @01:27PM (#11470121) Journal
    You couldn't get card driver specs from the card manufacturers but did you approach ATI or nVidia about building a card aimed at Linux using their chips?
  • I'll buy one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @02:21PM (#11470860) Homepage
    I'm not a huge gamer. bzflag is about the limit of my occasional forays into games these days. If it can:

    - accelerate all the eye candy I enjoy
    - make things like alpha transparency and video rendering fast and smooth and not impact system performance
    - allow me to manipulate 3D plots or complex CAD objects in three space in real time smoothly

    then it does what I need from a graphics card. If it can make bzflag run smoothly, so much the better. And I suspect a middling card with excellent drivers will stack up OK for normal worka against a really fast card with iffy drivers. Plus, if this is a success they might make better cards in the future.

    Guys, let's make this the standard card for non-gaming open source boxes. Especially if it's a quality piece of work. That counts for quite a lot, too - solid hardware is a blessing if you don't have the $$ to casually replace it.
    • Me too.

      Stability and reliability (over time) are the most important features of my linux box. Open source specifications means the product can never be "end of lifed" by the manufacturer. When nvidia or ati decides to stop supporting old cards in their new drivers then you are one kernel upgrade away from an non-functional graphics card.

      I'm guaranteed to buy one card to check it out. If it works well, I'll buy one for each of my linux boxes.

    • "Guys, let's make this the standard card for non-gaming open source boxes. Especially if it's a quality piece of work."

      It's going to be able to run a lot of good games. Not Doom 3 or anything that relies on programmable shaders, but it should be able to handle Quake III level engines.
  • Now can you write some decent drivers for WiFi cards?
  • by pherthyl (445706) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:51PM (#11472859)
    My initial reaction to this project was "Bah, who cares about open source, my NVidia card works fine for under 100 bucks canadian".

    But the more I read about this, the more enticing it sounds. I don't play games on Linux at all, so I don't care about that. And to have a nice driver, that is optimized for the new features in X11 like XRender and stuff would rock. The longer I use Linux, the less I want to bother messing around with compiling modules, so I don't even bother using the official NVidia drivers. Sounds like this will perform much better than the generic, 2D only, NV drivers.

    Who knows. Might actually buy one of those. But his projected price point at $200 is too high. Even in my best "Stallmanesque" spirit, I can't justify spending over $300 canadian on this card.
    • Who knows. Might actually buy one of those. But his projected price point at $200 is too high.

      Sentiment seems to running around a $150 price point as a reasonable compromise. I know that for me, $150 versus $200 makes the difference between grabbing one right now or thinking hard about it.
  • But why go with PCI only for the first release?
    AGP is what everyone wants.

    I suspect it is because developing glue logic to talk to the PCI bus is easier than developing glue logic to talk to the AGP bus...

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