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AMD Hardware

AMD Releases 900+ Pages Of GPU Specs 325

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the out-in-the-open dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ending off the X Developer Summit this year, Matthew Tippett handed off ATI's GPU specifications to David Airlie on a CD. However, the specifications are also now available on the X.org site. Right now there is the RV630 Register Reference Guide and M56 Register Reference Guide. Expect more documentation (and 3D specifications) to arrive shortly. The new open-source R500/600 driver will be released early next week."
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AMD Releases 900+ Pages Of GPU Specs

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  • Its (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:32PM (#20578645)
    over NINE HUNDRED!!
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:33PM (#20578663)
    The only way to get nVidia to release their specs is to show them that there is a real market.

    I'll do my part and replace my AGP nVidia card with an ATI one as soon as there is a good review of an available card with this driver on Ubuntu.
    • Actually this is the fun part. Governments have been "enforcing" open source as gimmicks. The only way to show there is a REAL market is to have an actual producer get involved and actually PROVIDE the goods and support. Red Hat did its part, various OSS groups did their part, etc.

      They weren't tax supported, but they did a better job than all the tax supported wealth consuming agencies out there :)

      I agree, once the cards hit my neck of the woods, if they're well implemented in hardware, I'll gladly suppl
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Are you on crack? Did anyone say anything about government? Has government ever made a peep about video cards and closed or open drivers? Did you read the summary before you spouted off?

        STFU, FOAD, and take your paranoid attitude with you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ross.w (87751)
        They won't work in your SLI rig. Only NVidia cards support SLI. ATI have a different system that uses a different motherboard, so you'd have to replace that too, if you want SLI type performance.
    • Well, there is a real market.

      Since DELL has been shipping pre-installed Linux PCs, they will eventually favor ATI if it performs better than nVidia due to higher quality drivers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nurgled (63197)

        Amusingly, when I bought my Ubuntu PC from Dell's UK site a few weeks back the graphics card section had a giant ATi banner above it but only offered an NVidia card as an option. I assume that this is because right now NVidia's linux drivers are better, though neither are open source. Hopefully this'll change soon.

        (Interestingly, the system shipped without NVidia's drivers installed, so I had to explicitly install NVidia's driver using the Restricted Driver Manager. I suppose you could argue that NVidia's

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:34PM (#20578681)
    no, wait, the other thing - tedious.
  • Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qbwiz (87077) * <john.baumanfamily@com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:34PM (#20578691) Homepage
    They've actually done it. It's time to buy an ATI card.
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

      by StormReaver (59959) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:43PM (#20578823)
      "They've actually done it. It's time to buy an ATI card."

      I've been recommending nVidia cards to everyone who asks, simply because their Linux support has been leagues ahead of ATI (now AMD, for those who haven't been paying attention). If the specs are credible enough to create a quality Free driver, then I'll switch to AMD in a heart beat.
      • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Xtravar (725372) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:39PM (#20579625) Homepage Journal

        I've been recommending nVidia cards to everyone who asks, simply because their Linux support has been leagues ahead of ATI (now AMD, for those who haven't been paying attention).
        True, true. My girlfriend got a laptop a couple weeks ago and one of the deciding factors was nVidia vs ATI. I haven't even considered an ATI card for myself and I recommend that others get nVidia.

        It's about fucking time that companies realize the trickle-down effect of abusing nerds. Who do the ignorant masses go to when they need advice? Their nerdy friend...

        ATI lost market share for almost the exact reason that IE did (albeit to less extent).
      • by Psykechan (255694) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:03PM (#20581799)
        The issue with a closed driver for the nVidia cards that actually performs somewhat well is actually a detriment for the community at large. It causes some people who would be interested in making a better open driver to just suck it up and use the existing closed driver because it's easier even though it has many problems.

        I am very thankful that AMD has released specs. Until nVidia follows suit there should be no real reason to buy nVidia cards. This means that they will be forced to eventually release specs and those of us who had no support from nVidia will finally get a working driver.

        As an nVidia customer, all I can say is Thank You AMD!
      • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dolda2000 (759023) <fredrik@d o l d a 2 000.com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @10:37PM (#20582583) Homepage

        If the specs are credible enough to create a quality Free driver, then I'll switch to AMD in a heart beat.
        Yes, me too. I was actually planning to do an upgrade of my box in a little while, for the first time in many years now, and I was sure that I was going to get an nVidia card, but this might turn that decision around completely.

        However, I have to wonder -- I really have no idea about ATI GPU parts, but the impression I got is that they are releasing the specs for the new top-of-the-line units, and since I don't even play games, I'm not interested in such things. What I'm interested in is having dual-display, TV output, 2D acceleration and XV working on the budget cards (and without making VGA BIOS calls, thank you very much), but I have yet to hear whether these released specifications will cover enough to create a truly free, fully featured driver for the budget model GPUs.

        Also, apart from budget models, how will these specifications apply to older cards? I still have a Radeon 7500 lying in a drawer doing nothing just because I never got the TV output working on it in Linux. As a side story on that one, I even engaged in communications with ATI to try and get some specifications on that card in order to enhance the X driver with TV output support, but even when I managed to get my hands on documentation, it conspicuously excluded any information on the registers controlling the TV output encoder (even though I had explicitly requested that information...). That's when I resigned myself and bought a GeForce 5200 instead.

    • Re:Great (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Workaphobia (931620) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:45PM (#20578861) Journal
      Is it really though? That's not rhetorical. Without RTFAing, I want the slashdot opinion - is this or is this not the proof that ATI is the solution for linux graphics? I was almost certain that my next card would be an nvidia, but this may change that.
      • Re:Great (Score:4, Interesting)

        by EzInKy (115248) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:42PM (#20579659)

        is this or is this not the proof that ATI is the solution for linux graphics?


        For those of us who absolutely refuse to use closed sourced drivers their older cards have already proven to be the best solution for desktops.
      • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

        by poopdeville (841677) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:48PM (#20579729)
        Is it really though? That's not rhetorical. Without RTFAing, I want the slashdot opinion - is this or is this not the proof that ATI is the solution for linux graphics? I was almost certain that my next card would be an nvidia, but this may change that.

        It will be, in a few weeks. Moreso in a few months as the drivers improve. Performance tuning is one of the open source methodology's strengths.
    • by icepick72 (834363)
      You're not jumping on a bandwagon, you're creating one. Kneejerk reaction! Care to expand on anything like "it", what "it" means to them and us, etc?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by amiga3D (567632)
      I've got a new in the box nVidia card I was going to put in my new tower I'm building. It's off to e-bay for it and back to the store for an Ati card. amiga3D
    • Well hold on there (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:12PM (#20579259)
      They've released the specs, this doesn't mean anything yet. People forget just how complex graphics cards are. Writing a driver for something like a network card or SCSI controller is fairly easy, and that's also evident from how small the drivers are. There's just little to do. 3D cards are extremely complex, hence the massive amount of documentation. It isn't like there was just some magic number that needed releasing and the OSS drivers would be perfect with full support. There's now a ton of work to be done, since it sounds like it is just specs, not code, they are releasing.

      So you'll probably want to wait and watch until the driver is ready to go and up to whatever performance and stability standards you need for your application. Switch now and you are likely to find yourself in essentially the same situation as before: ATi's binary driver, or an OSS driver that doesn't do what you want.

      It'll be some time before this information can be transformed in to a fully functional, stable, fast driver. After all, if it were so easy, ATi and nVidia would have perfect drivers out on the launch of a new card and never need to do anything but minor updates.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dr. Spork (142693)
        I think this is a good point. After all haven't we always said that ATi drivers (for windows) suck? And those were written by professionals, the best that ATi could hire, and they certainly had access to all the specs. Now, I'm convinced that if all the relevant documentation is released, the open source drivers will be better than the professional ones, but that's because the OSS community will put countless hours of grueling work into the project. It's definitely worth it. Crappy graphics support has been
      • Of course it's going to take time, but the crucial point here is that it can be done with officially released specs, without having to waste time reverse engineering and wild-guessing how things should be done.

        Consider this: I'm actually surprised how far nouveau development already went, without any specs and starting from the obfuscated nv driver. How much further could they be now if they had the specs and didn't have to waste uncountable hours tracing register changes and second-guessing their use?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yeah, there might be bugs. Who cares. That is the reason why we have the code, so that I can look at the source and fix stuff I want to get working.
    • No they haven't (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@co[ ]ll.edu ['rne' in gap]> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:21AM (#20586577) Homepage
      "Expect more documentation (and 3D specifications) to arrive shortly."

      In short, we have 2D documentation but no 3D documentation. It's been this way for years, nothing is different.

      The last time someone (Matrox) said "3D specifications to arrive shortly", a whole bunch of suckers (including myself) bought cards and got shafted because the promised specifications were never released. My G200 was replaced by a Riva TNT2 within six months and I haven't left NVidia since then.

      Others promise open specifications and fail to release them fully, resulting in cards that are paperweights.

      NVidia doesn't promise open specifications, but at least they deliver solid drivers that work (and work well).
  • Sweet! (Score:5, Informative)

    by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:34PM (#20578695)
    Closed-source drivers can be OK, except they tend to discontinue support after a while. Eventually the binary driver won't load into a current kernel and you are high and dry. With open-source drivers, the prospects for long-term support are better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by walt-sjc (145127)
      Considering the issues I've had with closed source drivers over the years, I just can't EVER agree with them being OK. Closed source drivers have had all sorts of issues with not only kernel changes, but distro versions, architecture (64bit), xfree86 vs x.org, have issues with redistribution rights, etc.

      Furthermore, BSD / vs linux vs Solaris. No, IMHO closed source drivers just suck in all cases. We need the specs. Specs for all hardware would allow us to have working scanners, webcams, wifi adapters, etc.
      • by walt-sjc (145127)
        Forgot to mention that open source drivers are almost always easier to install due to the fact that they are normally included / maintained by the distro.
    • Closed-source drivers can be OK, except they tend to discontinue support after a while.

      Exactly. I have an aging GeForce 4 that's slow by current standards but still quite enough to mess around with Beryl and play Unreal Tournament. And yet, Nvidia has deprecated its drivers. When new kernels can no longer load the old module, I'll have to decide between resigning myself to that kernel version forever on this system or forking out a comparatively huge amount of cash. (Since this is an AGP system, I'll also have to replace the motherboard. And CPU. And memory. And probably throw in an

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sark666 (756464)
      Well, one time where people were left high and dry, was when voodoo went under. Lots of people had voodoo3s and its brethren. In this case, 3dfx had already released specs for linux (and I believe provided an open source driver at one time? can't recall). Yet with the specs released, the open source driver never achieved the same performance of what the card was capable of (comparing it to windows drivers' performance) and problems with some functionality.

      When investigating for info on updated drivers th
  • It seems to me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrNaz (730548) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:35PM (#20578701) Homepage
    AMD ie recently making more moves toward the open source community than either it or ATI did prior to the merger.It seems to me that AMD has realized that there is value in not only having the right products rolling off the lines, but also having a greater mindshare.

    Google realized this early, and bought off a great amount of geek awe by using Linux as the basis for its computing grid. This popularity among geeks turned into word of mouth advertising which turned into huge market share (having a great product didn't hurt either). Google still tries to maintain the "we're just a benign bunch of geeks" image (an image which is eroding, as it becomes more apparent that they are more akin to a lovechild of M$ and the NSA than a giant sushi eating LAN party). This appeal to mindshare by making steps toward the community, genuine or not, may be part of what AMD is trying to do, at least to an extent.

    There are other genuine benefits to being more open about its specs, most clearly highlighted by the use of ATI GPUs to process Folding@Home. Therefore it is conceivable that AMD GPUs and GPU/CPU combo chips in the future may, if more openly specced, be used in a wider variety of HPC applications.

    Disclaimer: I am an AMD fanboi.
    • by NerveGas (168686) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:40PM (#20578791)
      Linux kind of carried the Opteron for the first year or so, since it had 64-bit and NUMA support, while M$ obligingly waited to release any such thing until Intel had an offering as well. Maybe AMD learned something from that.
      • by AJWM (19027) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:36PM (#20580325) Homepage
        I think AMD said almost as much when they announced that they'd be releasing specs and open drivers for these GPUs. The next step in processor development will be to combine the CPU and GPU on the same chip, and AMD wants to be sure that Linux and other OSS is there to support it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        Linux kind of carried the Opteron for the first year or so, since it had 64-bit and NUMA support, while M$ obligingly waited to release any such thing until Intel had an offering as well.

        Opteron released: April 22, 2003.
        Windows 2003 released: April 24, 2003.

        2 days != a "year or so".

        • Re:It seems to me... (Score:4, Informative)

          by dreddnott (555950) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @02:09AM (#20584211) Homepage
          That's great, except x64-native versions of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP were not released until 2005. Until then, Windows Server 2003 was available only in 32-bit x86 and Itanium-compatible flavours. Grandparent's observation is quite astute.
    • Re:It seems to me... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gmack (197796) <gmack@innerfireNETBSD.net minus bsd> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:44PM (#20578857) Homepage Journal

      AMD ie recently making more moves toward the open source community than either it or ATI did prior to the merger.It seems to me that AMD has realized that there is value in not only having the right products rolling off the lines, but also having a greater mindshare.

      AMD has actually been making moves for a long time so this isn't as large a step for them. Even before the amd64 cpus came out AMD had specs available and a machine simulator as well as several kernel developers working on getting Linux to run on their hardware.

      On the other hand this is a huge step for ATI and I may very well find myself reconsidering my ATI boycott.

    • by joeflies (529536)
      Google realized this early, and bought off a great amount of geek awe by using Linux as the basis for its computing grid. This popularity among geeks turned into word of mouth advertising which turned into huge market share (having a great product didn't hurt either).

      Although I think you're probably right on the amount of geek cred google gets for the computing grid, I'll bet that you'll probably need to flip the two arguements around - the word of mouth and market share are driven by great product, not

      • by MrNaz (730548)

        People talk positively and negatively based on the question of "does it work", not "does it run linux".

        Dude, seriously? "Does it run Linux?" was such an important question in the common mindset here that it has become a meme.

    • by N7DR (536428)
      AMD has realized that there is value in not only having the right products rolling off the lines, but also having a greater mindshare.

      Or, as you implicitly suggest later but don't actually say: greater mindshare amongst technologically literate and influential people. My opinion (which is worth what you're paying for it) is that such people wield widely-underestimated power in the mid and long term.

    • by Somegeek (624100)
      I would say that the buzz about Google came %99.98 from the relevance of their search results as compared to what came before; alta-vista, etc., and %.02 from geek awe over Linux infrastructure.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      I doubt that Google used Linux to gain mind share. They used Linux because they could get the source and was free. It was the cheapest and best solution for building a super large COTS cluster.
      It is nice that AMD gave the 2D specs away. I will go to great when they give out the 3-D specs. I will buy and AMDTI video card when we have good working drivers.
  • by raydobbs (99133) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:35PM (#20578717) Homepage Journal
    One can hope that it actually had the specifications for modern GPUs... and not just stuff you might find in scrap piles or in 15+ year old government computers. Otherwise, it will be like when the RIAA gave a crap-ton of Whitney Houston Christmas CDs as a settlement for their price-fixing practices... technically within the letter of the law, but violating the spirit of the law all to hell...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      it will be like when the RIAA gave a crap-ton of Whitney Houston Christmas CDs as a settlement for their price-fixing practices... technically within the letter of the law, but violating the spirit of the law all to hell...
      Not to mention violating our ears too!
    • by ThisNukes4u (752508) * <tcoppi@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:45PM (#20578863) Homepage
      The specs are for the brand-spanking-new RV630 series, the mid to low range chip in the r600 line. And the specs are only for 2d modesetting at the moment, so they likely apply to the whole r600 series. When the 3d specs are released they'll likely be a separate spec sheet for each specific chip. So to answer your question, they are for the newest cards ATi currently makes not their old, outmoded ones.
    • by VGR (467274)
      I agree with you, except that the older cards should not be written off. I wonder how many of those older All-In-Wonder cards would be sitting in scrap piles if their video ports were usable in Linux. I know I'd use them. I get the impression they're quite a bit better than BT8xx cards. Sadly, they're currently only usable as generic SVGA cards.

      Yes, I know there have been some attempts at reverse-engineering the older cards' video ports, but it's spotty, difficult to use, and if I remember correctly, re
      • What they have to lose is the work it takes to do that. They said there's proprietary IP involved in the specs for the newer cards that they'll have to find a way to not release along with the specs, probably there are similar issues with the old cards. And the older cards no longer generate revenue, so from ATI/AMD's point of view it's not really worth the trouble.
    • by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:51PM (#20578943) Journal
      The RV630 chip is anything but "old", and what runs the Radeon HD 2600 PRO and Radeon HD 2600 XT. These belong to the very latest Radeon R600 line [wikipedia.org] -- AMD's Direct3D 10 / Shader Model 4.0 supporting GPU's. These are high end chips from 2007, currently only beat by the Radeon HD 2900 XT in performance, if only speaking of AMD/ATI. The M56 chip is the core of the ATI Radeon Mobility X1600 (released December 2005), which is still a very decent mobile chip, roughly corresponding to an NVIDIA Geforce Go 7600 in performance.

      Hmm, I now also see the ATI FireGL V7600 runs the RV630 too. Maybe that could work out for something too...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ruie (30480)
        I just want to highlight a couple of points about released docs.

        In the past the hardware did not change much between releases (which is why one can have unified drivers). In particular, having documentation for one card goes a very long way to figuring out how to use a similar, slightly modified card. What happened after R300 is that ATI ripped out their 2d engine which made it impossible to figure out how to set modes on the new cards. Thus, we did not even have a 2d X-server, let alone 3d. With this docu

  • by Briareos (21163) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:37PM (#20578747)
    ...will that GPU run Linux?

    Just imagine an SLI'd Beowulf cluster of these!

    np: Masha Qrella - Insecure (Luck)
  • Wow! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nonsequitor (893813) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:38PM (#20578761)
    This is amazing news, not only that the specifications have finally been opened, but that the open source community has immediately utilized them to update the driver with a turn around time of only 2 weeks.

    I guess we can thank Dell for pressuring ATI for better Linux support.
  • Maybe now this means we can have some dedicated video cards on the Ubuntu Dell Laptops, instead of just the onboard Intel chip they're using now because of the driver issues?
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rod Beauvex (832040) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:39PM (#20578775)
    I wonder if this has more to do with trying to get mind and market share over intel than them really beleiving Open Source is the future of the market. maybe it's both.

    Nice bit of good news anyway.
    • From their perspective, who cares if Open Source is the future of the market (it's doubtless the future of some portion of the market.) What does matter is that non-Microsoft, non-proprietary systems are a significant and growing aspect to modern computing, and they'd just continue to be fools to ignore it.
  • 900 pages? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 26199 (577806) * on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:41PM (#20578803) Homepage

    Come off it... that's not even enough for an Office document standard.

    Worthless!

    • by cnettel (836611)
      But this is only the 2D parts, no 3D formulas (no specified shader language, akin to spreadsheet formulas). And I would damn assume that they have left out the VESA BIOS specs, so no backwards compatibility!

      (jk, not troll)

  • I have not bought an ati for a long time after I switched to linux. My last ati card was a 9800. I will next time.
  • by Duncan3 (10537) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:45PM (#20578859) Homepage
    Bits 12 and 13 of D2CRTC_TRIGB_CNTL are D2CRTC_TRIGB_RISING_EDGE_DETECT_CNTL !!!

    Hurray, now all Linux graphics problems are solved, it will autodetect all graphics cards like Windows 1.0 did and penguins will dance in the streets.
  • My current card is nvidia because they had the best 3D drivers so far. That's going to change.

    Thanks AMD for taking this step!
  • by Eneff (96967) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:08PM (#20579189)
    I am not a hardware hacker, so I was wondering what cards would benefit from this first release.
  • The Athlon 4800+ runs at 2.4GHz so this 900+ GPU thing must be really dragging ass.
  • With portables on the up, are we going to get specifications for the Radeon IGP chipsets? These seem to be causing the reverse engineering folks a huge headache and I've seen no mention of the Radeon Xpress 200M RS480 (yes, I have one, so I suppose I had better declare self-interest) or the Xpress 1100 so far. OK, we have 2D with the radeon(4x) driver in Xorg 7.2. 3D would be nice, though.
  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn AT earthlink DOT net> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:38PM (#20580355)
    The last time I bought a computer, I went with AMD because I was mad at Intel. I still am, though less so. It fades over time.

    Last year I did an evaluation, and Intel came out on top ... solely because they had an open source video driver. This will soon eliminate that benefit.

    N.B.: For me to choose Intel it must be 5% better than the competition. This is due to various corporate actions that I dislike. (Two years ago it was 10%...I use a time decaying function.) If they were up against a competitor that didn't support DRM, they'd need to be 50% better, but I don't see one, so that part of the playing field is level.
  • by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:45PM (#20580443) Journal
    I have been buying nVidia video cards for forever for their... let's say less bad support for GNU/Linux and I recomended them to my Windows-using friends. But this changes everything: from now on I know that I can buy ATI cards and be sure that they'll work and have good software support. Thanks AMD, thanks ATI: you have made a new loyal customer today.
  • by ceeam (39911) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:51PM (#20580517)
    ... what about all those X1100 and similar in all these notebooks? And pardon my ignorance - are there already good, reliable, full-featured drivers for the likes of 9800 etc?

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