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Can Open Source Save Hardware? 327

Culexus writes "Tom's Hardware has a interesting story about Open Source saving the hardware industry. Pretty good read all in all. Hopefully chip makers and vendors won't have to bend to the iron might of Microsoft any longer." Some good comments on how early-adopters and enthusiasts are being marginalized by the industry, too.
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Can Open Source Save Hardware?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:32PM (#6372585)
    Was Windows XP Product Activation. This inconviences anyone who changes a lot of their hardware regularly, and many of these folks do. They upgrade to the latest stuff right away, and regularly build whole new computers. It's no fun having to call Microsoft a few times a year to get their permission to run a piece of software that you bought and paid for.
    • by leifm ( 641850 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:51PM (#6372658)
      You know I think XP PA is going to look great compared to what I think may well be coming from MS. I think the next step is basically buying a new machine every time a new major release of Windows comes out. MS is already saying that the broswer needs to be tied to OS revisions, and down the line I wouldn't be suprised if they say they need to control exactly what hardware is in there for security purposes.
      • I almost hope that happens. Something like that would definately turn MANY semi-knowledgeable users as myself from Windows to Linux, and hopefully Linux would also improve. I'm currently not a Linux user, but I've tested Mandrake 9.1 briefly, and got it to do almost everything I could do in Windows; the only thing it lacked was the convenience and familiarity, so I'm sure I could switch if MS pulled a stunt like that.
        • Linux needs to do more than improve to gain converts from Windows. Linux needs to offer something that looks really nifty to the average user, not just replicate Windows functionality. The Linux is cheaper argument doesn't work for the average home user either, as they don't generally see the cost of Windows (they either still have the OEM install or they pirate).
          • I do not agree. All Linux needs is to be "good enough". That is how Windows entered the server area. Was it better than commercial unixes? No. It was just cheaper and good enough. And then Linux which was even cheaper has started to replace Windows.

            And the same will (hopefully ;-)) happen in the user area.

            I don't know about US, but here, in Europe, it is possible to buy cheaper PC without Windows and the price difference is noticable.
      • MS is already saying that the broswer needs to be tied to OS revisions, and down the line I wouldn't be suprised if they say they need to control exactly what hardware is in there for security purposes.

        That would be the final step in copying MacOS after all: Microsoft LonghornOS: available on the new Microsoft LonghornPC.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      couldn't agree more - I've been running the evil OS since 3.11 and have been rolling my own boxes since pentiums didn't come with a verson #. Due to that fact I have a steady stream of hardware that gets passed down along my various machines like a shirt in a family with 10 kids.

      I still haven't installed XP even though I have a (legit) corporate licence because I know at some point (tinfoil hat time for some but I really believe it) no matter what version I use I'll need to "activate it." No thanks. After
    • hey upgrade to the latest stuff right away, and regularly build whole new computers. It's no fun having to call Microsoft a few times a year to get their permission to run a piece of software that you bought and paid for.

      If you read most of microsofts EULAs, you will find that you are only allowed to use the software on the computer is is *first* installed on. I.e. it is not allowed to transfer the OS to another machine..

      With Microsoft you have no rights, either 'get over it' or do something about it

  • If only... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paroneayea ( 642895 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:33PM (#6372587) Homepage
    If only it were possible for.... OPEN SOURCE HARDWARE!
    • Re:If only... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ruie ( 30480 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:47PM (#6372643) Homepage
      It actually is possible.

      See, for example, www.opencores.org [opencores.org].

    • Re:If only... (Score:5, Informative)

      by MonMotha ( 514624 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:48PM (#6372650)
      Open Hardware Project [openhardware.net]
      Enjoy. Most of it's still rather raw, and most of it's based off m68k, so don't expect to run "real" linux on it (uClinux is often the objective though).
    • Re:If only... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by UserGoogol ( 623581 )
      Oh, it's possible, it's just that "compiling" hardware is harder than software, and you can't distribute hardware as easily, either. You share the schematics and stuff.
    • Re:If only... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Yonzie ( 516292 )
      Open Source hardware is not impossible.
      It needs some requisites though:
      * Open Source design tools for PCB's, IC's, etc.
      * People willing to design hardware (or, more correctly, building blocks of it, like memory controllers and such) for free.
      * A way to get chips and boards produced cheaply, without needing massive quantities.

      Should this ever happen, it will be much like today's distributions, each different from the other, but all able to run the same software. It will be far harder to `roll your own' thou
      • Re:If only... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by MonMotha ( 514624 )
        Design tools:
        • gEDA (gSchem, and friends)
        • TrageSym for assistance with making your symbols and toutorial [gothicfury.com]
        • PCB (I hear decent version are actually getting decent, amazing)

        People: There's lots of them, see my link to openhardware above, soemone linked to opencores, etc. There's a community for this.

        Boards can be had fairly cheap (say $40 each) even in rather small quantity. Or for small projects you could always etch your own.

        The only issue is chips. ASICs and such, well, aren't cheap in small quan

    • From a microsoft standpoint, that is the last thing they want.
      Locking down hardware especially motherboards by adding "Microsoft solutions" ment to provide features that makes it harder for people to switch to Open Source would have been an excellent solutions to save their bussiness.

      Anh know I have an idea of what Microsoft can use their $46 billion on.
      1.Buy a large chipset maker (VIA) or motherboard maker (Gigabyte or Asus). Or the complete /. acquisition nightmare; AMD.
      2. Develop and add extra Micr

      • It's here today and it's called XBox

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Anh know I have an idea of what Microsoft can use their $46 billion on. 1.Buy a large chipset maker (VIA) or motherboard maker (Gigabyte or Asus). Or the complete /. acquisition nightmare; AMD.

        Heck they could buy the Senate and entire House of Representatives for a whole lot less than that. Add them to their Administration and Justice figures and they would have nearly a complete set. Someday it could be worth a lot of money especially if they keep the original packaging.

      • . . .
        5. Insane profit margins.

        While I agree with your point, I think Microsoft's current 80% profit margin is already insane. That's how they got $40 billion in the bank. The profit margin in many industries is in the low single-digits.

  • Remember... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:33PM (#6372590) Homepage
    How it was the mass-availability of MS-DOS that made clones possible. Have we gone full-circle? :^)
    • that's odd (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrSkwid ( 118965 )
      I remember it being the BIOS not DOS as the hurdle for clone makers to overcome.

      running Lotus 1-2-3 was *the* most important aspect not ms-dos compatibilty, that came later
    • Re:Remember... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <mdinsmore@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:51PM (#6372874) Homepage Journal

      Have we gone full-circle?

      Yes. What makes it more amazing is that MicroSoft itself has forgotten the strategy that made it so popular against the behemoth of the time, IBM. Now, just as IBM did, they want full control; probably, they will lose that control for just the same reasons IBM did.

      Furthermore--MicroSoft has forgotten the lesson of "good-enough". Their software may have more capability than Linux--I think it does, especially for end users. However, one of the reasons that MicroSoft won against Apple was that MSFT's offerings were like enough, and good enough, compared to Apple's--but also were cheaper.

      Good enough + cheaper=adoption.

      Now, Linux is cheaper that MSFT--and it will become "good enough" very soon. Very very soon. And in a down market, people will count their pennies and decide that Linux is good enough for the price, and MSFT loses. So goes my fantasy.
    • IIRC it was the availability of the spreadsheet that caused the proliferation of PCs.
      DOS and a PC was just a way of running Lotus 123.

      To understand the significance, take a fairly simple spreadsheet and program the input, output and computations in Pascal or C.
  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:39PM (#6372607)
    This article makes the assumption that Microsoft is currently or has in the past somehow inhibited hardware vendors. Now, there are all sorts of "hardware vendors," but I would say universally most hardware vendors have bennifited tremendously from Microsoft, especially around Plug 'n Play (once Redmon got it working).

    I would say that for many of today's hardware vendors, supporting the Linux OS is more painful than supporting the traditional unix vendors which were difficult enough.

    The problem is that there is zilch technical support for linux, outside of the open source community. Most of the boutique hardware vendors cant afford the huge support teams to handle calls on every version of linux and all distros out there. Plus, they have a good deal of their IP in the software and they are leary of giving that away to competitors.

    Not to mention, there is no partner marketing bennifits with linux. At least Microsoft promotes its hardware vendors, and comarkets their products with Windows, including them in its collosal marketing machine.

    To be fair, the computer world in general has bennifited tremendously from open source. Don't get me wrong: I love linux, gcc, bash, etc. NetBSD has been a huge win for appliance vendors looking for instant-OS.

    However, to say generally that hardware vendors are being saved by open source is actually the opposite of what the hardware vendors are really feeling. My experience with every hardware vendor that I've worked with is that Linux and open source is their #1 pain in the butt.
    • I agree completely. I've worked as both a Windows and a Linux driver developer. Developing a driver for Windows is way easier. Linus doesn't even want anyone to use a kernel debugger! How stupid is that?

      Then of course, there is the problem of not supporting binary-only drivers. Not only does it make it almost impossible to protect a company's IP by closing the source, but it's extremely difficult to ship just a driver and have someone just install it on his system. If the user is using a lesser-know

    • by listen ( 20464 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:08PM (#6372717)
      I'll tell you what pisses off the vast majority of hardware companies:

      If a significant number of them act as their customers would like, they will only be able to compete on hardware.

      What hardware vendors *should* do is open up the specs to their hardware. If they are especially competitive, fund the development of open source drivers.

      The fact is that hardware with well defined and open specs works brilliantly in linux and the BSDs. Thats because the drivers are generally better written, usually because the drivers can share infrastructure and code from drivers from similar hardware, and these drivers are often written by the same people.

      Hardware vendors who do not open their specs or write drivers for Linux are writing themselves out of the future.

      If a driver is accepted into the mainline kernel, and has an appreciable userbase, its very unlikely that there will be a lot of tech support issues - IF the hardware isn't flaky.

      And thats what they hate. A huge amount of vendors make *really* bad hardware. If it becomes known that a bit of hardware works well in linux, more people buy it. As Linux market share increases, *this* PR ( the hardware is actually *good* and *works*) will take over from the MS crap ( the hardware company has some agreement with MS that says *nothing* about the quality of the hardware).

      I know which kind of PR I take more seriously.
      • by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @02:57PM (#6373125) Homepage Journal
        The issue is that much hardware was originally designed to have access, through drivers, to the CPU, such that the API that developers see is easy to understand, and so that the hardware manufacturer doesn't have to put all of their technology in chips on their hardware.

        They have proprietary (and licensed) technology in the form of software which they can't release; this isn't fundamentally different from having chip designs they can't or won't release, except that it is tied to a particular operating system.

        The solution, probably, is to move to less functionality in the driver and more in the chipset, so that no proprietary technology remains in the driver, and the driver simply passes all the API calls off to the hardware.

        On the other hand, it would be interesting for somebody to write an API for proprietary drivers, such that they can run on a virtual machine on any platform. (This is actually not all that different from some aspects of ACPI, in that you end up running a bit of code sent from the hardware); then manufacturers could provide a driver which works on different platforms, is coded to a standard, and the system would be protected against bugs in the drivers (except for them locking the system bus or such).
    • by blibbleblobble ( 526872 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:45PM (#6372852)
      "The problem is that there is zilch technical support for linux, outside of the open source community."

      Yet people are lining up outside of your house to support your Windows installations for free? Pay people to support linux, and they'll support linux. Pay them to support Windows, and they'll support Windows. You can hardly complain about lack of Linux support when you've hired a support team of trained monkeys who know only Windows.

      If you're anywhere remotely technical, then half the people in your office are part of that 'open-source community'. Zilch support indeed!

      "Most of the boutique hardware vendors cant afford the huge support teams to handle calls on every version of linux and all distros out there."

      Yet they can somehow get enough people to support a vastly less stable, less predictable operating system which changes more between versions than linux does between distributions?

      GNU has tools called automake and autoconf. They allow the same software to be installed correctly on machines so varied that microsoft hasn't even heard of them, yet your linux software will compile without a problem on them all. Even if you're only designing for Intel-compatible computers, it's nice to know that ./configure will work on every linux distribution ever created.

      Please don't reply pointing out that your software won't install on a linux firewall or other specialised machine: the Windows install CDs don't work on palmtops either.

      "Plus, they have a good deal of their IP in the software"

      There's no such thing. You're deliberately trying to cause confusion by using the word IP to describe trade secrets.

      "Not to mention, there is no partner marketing bennifits with linux"

      Putting a "works with linux" penguin sticker on a product costs a lot less than getting microsoft certification, and will be a lot more use when people are wandering around the stores looking for hardware which works with their linux home PC. When my family are wandering around PC_world, and every single modem has a "minimum spec: Windows 95" on it, imagine how much safer they'd feel if they found a modem which actually claimed to work with their computer. (since all these devices work 100% on linux, it's not exactly a difficult claim to make)

      Support costs? Bullshit. Tell me the last time you phoned a modem manufacturer in taiwan hoping for technical support on windows dial-up? My modem manufacturer doesn't even have an english website, and the store sure as hell won't do technical support, MS-Windows or no.

      "Designed for Mandrake 9.1 or later. Compatible with Linux" -- 10 seconds to write on the packaging, and you've suddenly got sales to everyone who runs linux and wants to buy hardware.

      Do the manufacturers of keyboards and mice really understand that Windows is not actually required for their product?

      Shops are there to make things easy to buy. I shouldn't have to consult enthusiasts' websites to find out if I can even use something that the shop is selling.

      • Perhaps part of the requirements for displaying the 'works with Win95/WinXXX' sticker on your hardware is that you don't slap on another sticker for another OS. If you had the choice between the Windows sticker or the Linux one, which would you choose? Linux may be growing but it's still a featherweight in the desktop market.

    • I think part of the problem vendors face is that the Linux device driver API/ABI is constantly changing, between major releases and even with "stable" kernel series. I know Linus does not want to bloat his kernel with backwards compatibility support, but why can't the kernel developers define a stable, well-defined device driver API/ABI? If a vendor wants super-performance, they could side step the standard device driver API and directly access other kernel functions. Linus seems to favor all out performanc
      • Linus seems to favor all out performance over "bloated" abstraction and information hiding. :-\

        Why do you consider this philosophy to be a Bad Thing (tm)?

        Abstraction breeds inefficiency. It (abstraction) also breeds ignorant programmers. The very last thing we need in a Linux kernel is inefficiency.

        I'm not advocating a hard-line "all your programs are belong to assembler" stance, but I'm a victim of "point-click-compile" programmers and I curse their software every day because their programs SUCK

      • Linus doesn't want to be hindered by not being able to change the API/ABI for drivers when something better comes along. They've changed the framework EACH AND EVERY TIME that a new release has come out. Not enough each time to merit a new major number, but enough to need to re-write the drivers a little bit. Because he and the other kernel developers had a better idea than the last time for dealing with the driver infrastructure. If the vendors want closed source drivers, they need to keep up. Hell, i
    • Most of the boutique hardware vendors cant afford the huge support teams to handle calls on every version of linux and all distros out there. Plus, they have a good deal of their IP in the software and they are leary of giving that away to competitors.

      You are flat wrong on both counts. #1.) Hardware vendors don't need to worry about support teams for Linux. The fact is, fully documented hardware typically ends up 'just working' in Linux. If users do have trouble, that's where distributions and the comm
    • This article makes the assumption that Microsoft is currently or has in the past somehow inhibited hardware vendors.

      You want to know what's really funny? Without Microsoft, and their "bloated" applications there wouldn't have been a mass market for the 80386, with its features such as protected memory and pre-emptive multitasking. Sure, you can do those on a 286 if you really have to, but it's not easy. Without the 386, there would be no Linux, since Linus could never have afforded a "professional" workst
    • by leandrod ( 17766 ) <l@d[ ]as.org ['utr' in gap]> on Saturday July 05, 2003 @03:51PM (#6373336) Homepage Journal


      This article makes the assumption that Microsoft is currently or has in the past somehow inhibited hardware vendors.

      Let's see... MS all but killed three RISC platforms -- MIPS, Alpha, PowerPC -- whose vendors had spent huge amounts of money promoting. MS stole wind from their own flavors of Unix, they promoted specific models for MS WNT which never sold well for there was no version of MS Office Pro and VS Basic for it.


      Now, there are all sorts of "hardware vendors," but I would say universally most hardware vendors have bennifited tremendously from Microsoft, especially around Plug 'n Play (once Redmon got it working).

      No, PnP was always a pain. What would have benefitted hardware vendors was wider adoption of EISA, earlier adoption of PCI and its fastest flavours, and a stable OS. MS had nothing to do with the first two and prevents the third to this day.


      supporting the Linux OS is more painful than supporting the traditional unix vendors

      I fail to see why. Old Unix had each its own hardware platform with different interfaces, while GNU/Linux runs in only a few platforms -- Alpha's dying as is PA-RISC, Clipper died, there is no more DEC TurboBus or Sun SBus, everything is IDE, SCSI, PCI, AGP, USB and FireWire. Creating drivers for GNU/Linux makes them portable, and it is easy in the first place, while old Unix had a different driver model for each platform and none were easy. The Haloween documents proved that even all MS effort to facilitate drivers develpment GNU/Linux drivers are still easier, and they cover nearly all the market instead of bein confined to one platform only as MS WNT currently is.


      there is zilch technical support for linux, outside of the open source community

      First, this is wrong. IBM, HP, Red Hat, SuSE and other do give support. Technical documentation and source code are much cheaper and better than what is available for any other platform, with the possible exception of BSD, incidentally another free software OS. Second, why the community isn't enough? The rules are clear: submit your driver to Linus, if it is good enough it will get all the criticising it needs to get finished. I wonder what more is needed in support for hardware vendors...


      Most of the boutique hardware vendors cant afford the huge support teams to handle calls on every version of linux and all distros out there.

      You obviously haven't the foggiest about GNU/Linux. There is precisely one stable, up-to-date version of the kernel available at each time. At this moment it is 2.4; all the variants of it are exactly equal AFA drivers are concerned. There is no reason whatsoever for a hardware vendor to support 2.5; 2.2 is still used but its drivers are much more similar to 2.4's than are those of MS WXP, WME and WCE.


      they have a good deal of their IP in the software and they are leary of giving that away to competitors.

      You mean trade secrets, because IP has no meaning apart from the aggregation of trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights and patents; obviously the last three are protected no matter what is published. As for trade secrets, I wonder why one would want its feeble protection instead of the much more substantial protections afforded by copyrights and patents. And even then your argument is bogus, because both the Linux kernel and the X Window System accept binary drivers, evil as they are.

      Obviously you ignore the evilness of binary drivers: without source code it is impossible to audit and debug them thoroughtfully, and this is one of the causes for MS W32 unstability.


      Microsoft promotes its hardware vendors

      No it doesn't. In

  • In Theory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by agent dero ( 680753 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:42PM (#6372625) Homepage
    This should make hardware cheaper, from major manufacturers at least.

    Dell, HP, and Gateway all are in pretty deep with Microsoft, to produce Windows PCs. So if the hardware companies don't have to contract with Microsoft anymore, theoretically, the prices should go down, if not the price of Windows XP Professional ($143).

    Is this wrong? Or will the big guys continue to rip-off the consumer?

    (Note situation in Europe after changing to the euro)
    • Dell, HP, Gateway, et al. are doing fine selling Windows PCs. I somehow doubt that Microsoft charges a whole lot to them for the OEM licenses since they're pushing a whole lot of Windows machines. And more Windows machines means more people that may upgrade in the future and will possibly run things like Office. Microsoft would be winning by keeping the cost of their OS cheap on OEM machines. When I bought my Dell they refused to lower the price if I didn't want Windows on the machine. I think they said if
  • Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SlamMan ( 221834 ) <squigit.gmail@com> on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:44PM (#6372636)
    That has got to be one of the worst articles I've read. Certainly that I've read, posted to Slashdot. The auther said abosultely nothing at all. "Hey look, neat new stuff coming out that nobody really cares about" followed by "I've got no idea if Linux can save the hardware industry."

    Here's a big shock: the hardware industry doesn't need saving. They need to make and market products useful to consumers, and to corporate clients. And thats what they do. Because consumers decided that GigE and PCI-x really don't do anything for them doesn't mean the industry is going to burn to the ground.
    • Re:Boo (Score:3, Informative)

      by vondo ( 303621 ) *
      Yeah, Tom's is pretty good for hardware reviews, but my impression is that when they do "editorials" it isn't good. Saying nothing real. The other ones I've read were so forgettable, I can't remember what they were about.
    • Re:Boo (Score:4, Interesting)

      by skillet-thief ( 622320 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:09PM (#6372723) Homepage Journal
      That has got to be one of the worst articles I've read.

      I agree. I kept flipping through those annoying THW pages waiting for some kind of logical link to the conclusion. I was waiting for him to at least say: "If Linux catches on big time, XFree86 takes so much memory that we will all need huge machines." That might be wrong, but it would have been some kind of point to the whole thing.

      As hardware becomes a commodity, places like THW become less and less relevant. Maybe this article is just a sign o' the times.

    • Re:Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:10PM (#6372726)
      I have to agree. Not only that, the article just plain didn't make sense. I just read it beginning to end, and I still don't have any clear idea what it's supposed to be about. Is it about hardware innovation? Software innovation? Corporate adoption of 64-bit computing? Open source? Enthusiast communities? All of those things are mentioned, but there are no clear lines drawn to connect them.

      It's possible that there's a thesis in there somewhere, but the author never actually says what it is. It shows no depth of thought, fails to articulate an argument, and and provides no coherent evidence for any of the points it actually makes. If I were grading this, it'd get a C minus. Maybe a D plus if I was feeling uncharitable.
    • by bafu ( 580052 )

      That has got to be one of the worst articles I've read. Certainly that I've read, posted to Slashdot. The auther said abosultely nothing at all.

      hmmm... assuming that you also suffered through the last Tom's hardware post to slashdot (the one on home networking [slashdot.org]), that's a pretty serious charge...

    • Re:Boo (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Master Bait ( 115103 )
      I have a beef with most of those PC fanboy sites because they immerse themselves in a very incomplete survey of computing. Hardware is just one component. They have little expertise in software, preferring to use it only for benchmarking hardware. Their lack of software expertise leaves them with poor rationalizations of the capabilities of their hardware!

      In 2003, if they aren't experts in Linux, they aren't experts in computing.

    • It seems to me if prices would come down a little bit, I'd be buying more hardware. I guess that's a shock to some, who want "Open Source" to save the industry...but how about saving my wallet first?
  • THG Insightful? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by baseinfinity ( 18023 ) * on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:46PM (#6372642)
    Ok, so THG gets through this week enfuriating [amdmb.com] the enthusiast [hardocp.com] community. Posting infomercials [slashdot.org] labeled as articles, then throws the community this pat yourselves on the back editorial on Open Source? Anyone else find the timing a little suspicious?
    • Re:THG Insightful? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GoofyBoy ( 44399 )

      THG is pretty scummy in my books.

      Ever since that Nvidia deal way back.

    • I agree with your whole post exept for the last part.

      This article doesn't pat anyone on the back. It doesn't even say anything at all. It's a terribly written piece of crap with no point and no logic. Immagine... assuming that any of us give a shit about how we all have to "save the hardware industry".

    • THG has always been fairly clueless about Linux.

      AFAIC, they've mostly been fairly clueless. I quit reading their site more than a year ago.

  • missing the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meador ( 618932 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:48PM (#6372648)
    It's not a matter of open source saving the hardware industry, and certainly not a matter of open source GAMES saving it. There are already good open source game creation tools available on most platforms today. Games are more about quality content now. It takes serious non-programming talent -- i.e. artists, animators and composers -- to create a modern game, no matter what tools (open source or closed) are used. And as long as that talent in in relatively short supply, it will graviate to the existing game creation houses and they will continue to develop for the lowest common denominatior -- consoles. The hardware industry will save itself by contining to push speed and feature sets. The biggest advantage a PC has over a console is the ability to upgraded on a regular basis, while the console is a static design. The article points out that next-gen consoles will have 'processor cycles to burn' but misses the fact that the latest PC will always have more cycles (or at least it will while Moore's law holds up.) And none of this makes a differce in the enterprise... Big business will usually replace or upgrade on a budgetary cycle, not on application release cycles.
  • Open Source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shoemakc ( 448730 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:48PM (#6372649) Homepage

    I've just read the article 3 times and I have to ask; what part of it deals with open source? It's a TH article for christ sakes....are you slashdot editors just reading tag lines now?

    Look guys, not everything MS does is an attack on open source. OS might be a threat, but it's hardly their only threat.

  • by arashiken ( 247701 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:52PM (#6372659)
    I've always thought that a creed of Linux was to do more with less. It's the continual bloat added to Windows that drives the need for new hardware. Linux development strives for more efficiency. The only way Linux could spur sales of high-end hardware in the consumer market would be if they could finally get a stable gaming base. The lack of a killer app for the masses for so long is why most people are content with a $200 PC. They don't need anything better, because that $200 buys a great system.
    I think the decline in new tech development will continue, now that most people in North America have a computer, or can afford a cheap one easily. Perhaps hardware manufacturers will concentrate more on useful features and cross-platform compatibility in the future, instead of making stuff faster just for the sake of making it faster.
    • I've always thought that a creed of Linux was to do more with less. It's the continual bloat added to Windows that drives the need for new hardware. Linux development strives for more efficiency.

      In the kernel, perhaps...

      But give Mozilla a try for bloat. Or launch a gnome-terminal and time how long the first one takes to come up... or worse yet type "ls -l /usr/bin" and see how slowly all those pretty anti-aliased fonts take to scroll.

      There's plenty of bloat to go around.

      • Linux runs faster on my computer than Windows 98 did (2000 wouldn't even install on this old piece of crap). That's because I'm using fluxbox and xterm instead of gnome and gnome-terminal. In the open-source world there are usually alternatives to bloatware if you don't need bells and whistles.

        I'm not aware of a good, fast alternative to Mozilla, unfortunately. Dillo is blazingly fast, but chokes on a lot of pages. Hopefully it will be ready for prime time soon. Does anyone know of a better alternative

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:52PM (#6372660) Homepage
    On every side, the early adopter is being left hung out to dry.

    In other words, what really bugs Tom's Hardware is that nobody cares about Tom's Hardware any more.

    Consider "overclocking". Overclocking in the 486 era was marginally useful. Overclocking today belongs in the same category as car stereo loudness competitions.

    Open source can, and has, done a lot for server-side hardware. But it just doesn't sell enough iron on the desktop to matter. Look what happened to VA Linux.

    The next "must buy" computer thing for consumers will probably be DRM-equipped hardware. They'll need it to run popular games and play popular music. All across America, kids will be screaming at their parents to buy the new "entertainment-ready" computers. Open source will be locked out of that world completely. (Yes, you can write DRM code for Linux. But Vivendi, Universal, and the RIAA aren't going to let the decrypt keys out into the open source world. So all you'll be able to play is off-brand protected content nobody will pay for.)

    • The failure of VA Linux doesn't mean much. Consider the success of Red Hat. VA Linux's problem (yes, I used to work for them) was that by the time they were putting out hardware, Linux ran on just about everything. Why buy a VA Linux server for a 50% premium when you can buy the same style hardware from IBM and know Linux will work on it?
    • Consider "overclocking". Overclocking in the 486 era was marginally useful. Overclocking today belongs in the same category as car stereo loudness competitions.

      You can buy an 2.4Ghz P4 (800Mhz FSB) processor for ~$170 (pricewatch) right now.

      These things have been reported to do 800 to 1000Mhz overclocks without water/pelitier/anything extreme cooling. Never mind that the 3.4Ghz doesn't even exist yet, but note that the 3.2Ghz costs $700 (pricewatch).

      You do the math.
      • I think you kind of missed the point. Sure, you can overclock a P4 2.4Ghz pretty insanely if you want to, buy why? For most common tasks you would be very hard pressed to tell the difference between a 2.4Ghz and a 3.2Ghz chip. I know I couldn't. Even in many games, a P2.4 is quite enough to run it with a decent framerate.

        The benifits for me would be so marginal I would just keep it clocked at 2.4Ghz and use a quieter cooler and not worry about potential unstability due to overclocking. And I bet most
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:56PM (#6372888)

      In other words, what really bugs Tom's Hardware is that nobody cares about Tom's Hardware any more.

      Yeah, and guess why- every time you went and looked at Tom's Hardware, the information and reviews were months old, or worse. I was continually frustrated, while shopping for PC components, at how out-of-date THG was- so I simply stopped bothering to look at their site.

      THG should have stuck to what they were most useful for- a place to learn about PC technology. Not a lets-run-some-benchmark-scripts-with-different-vid eo-cards. THG has turned into what I call "two guys in a dorm room who have a hardware review site". Unfortunately, that market is a dime-a-dozen; every stupid moron who knows how to use Front Page has one.

      Open source can, and has, done a lot for server-side hardware. But it just doesn't sell enough iron on the desktop to matter. Look what happened to VA Linux.

      Open source sells plenty of iron- it's just that there's no point in going with some boutique rackmount company with absurd sales policies(see below), when you've got better support, better hardware, better access to parts, etc from IBM, Gateway, HP, Compaq...all of whom have supported Linux on a lot of their hardware for years.

      VA filled a niche that disappeared the second the Big Boys supported Linux; none of the big corporations really knew who VA was, and nobody cared; they just called their IBM/HP/Gateway/Compaq rep and ordered up systems from them. What made it worse was that VA didn't have stock on 'accessory' items, and you couldn't get parts. For example, this is an almost word-for-word phone conversation between VA and myself, trying to get carriers for adding new drives to our one VA Linux DB server(we needed the drives within 2 days.)

      Operator:"Thank you for calling VA blah blah"
      Me:"Sales please."
      Sales:"VA sales, this is ____, how can I help you?"
      Me: "I need two SCSI drive carriers for my VA ____."
      Sales:"Ah, you'll need to talk to someone in our parts department, they handle those requests. Let me transfer you."
      Parts:"VA Parts, how can I help you?"
      Me: "Yes, Hi, I need two SCSI drive carriers for my VA ____."
      Parts:"Okay, hmm, one sec..[click click click click]...I'm sorry sir, they're not available."
      Me:"Oh, backordered? When will they be in?"
      Parts:"We have them in stock. I'm not authorized to sell you this part."
      (very long pause while I censor myself)
      Me:"Okkkkaaaaaay. Do you have any 36GB 10,000 RPM drives?"
      Me:"How much?"
      Parts:"$800 each"
      Me(I actually laughed):"I can get those drives from any of a dozen vendors for half that. Alright, fine. How soon can you have them shipped to me?"
      Parts:"We don't have any in stock. Maybe two weeks."

      So you know what we did? We swore never to buy another VA Linux system, ordered two drives from a vendor who had them there by 10am the next morning, and jury-rigged them in the drive slots. VA sunk themselves with stupid bullshit that kept customers from meeting critical deadlines. Many IT departments work on a "we needed this two days ago" schedule, not a "we might need this in two weeks" schedule. There are those that recognize this, and those that try to force you into buying product they don't even have in stock, by not selling you parts like empty drive carriers- and consequently go out of business when suddenly they're the dinky little hole-in-the-wall company nobody cares about in a market full of Big Boys. We bought over two dozen rackmount servers within a year of that incident, and they came from Gateway- not VA.

    • If there is never again to be non-DRM enabled hardware then I would rather sit back and enjoy the hardware I still have while I can maintain it even if needing to go the computer equivalent of a junkyard to pick up spare relacement parts. Also enjoying any non-DRM enabled hardware while it exists. As far as kids yeah maybe for other people but not with me. I'm that politically against it and always will be. Further more those who are willing to use and purchase that hardware will NOT make good company eithe
    • Consider "overclocking". Overclocking in the 486 era was marginally useful. Overclocking today belongs in the same category as car stereo loudness competitions.

      You're painfully correct. Overclocking used to be about maximizing one's performance/price ratio, to get the equivalent of better hardware for a lower price, the object being to have money left over for other things. It was a rational thing to do!

      Now, overclocking is all about who can spend the most money to get the most performance, and the pri

  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bazik ( 672335 ) <bazik&gentoo,org> on Saturday July 05, 2003 @12:55PM (#6372667) Homepage Journal
    ...if OpenSource saves Hardware vendors, why dont they make drivers for OpenSource platforms (Linux, BSD, whatever)?

    Except for some companies like Nvidia or ATI, I dont see any great moves towards non-Windows driver development :(
  • by kirun ( 658684 )
    What point was this article making? There's all this shiny hardware coming out, and nothing that needs it?

    Apparently, the evil Open Source / Linux people aren't writing inefficient enough software! We really need to write another 1,000 useless effects into our window managers, so that £5,000 machine has something to do!

    It would be nice if the article had a few ideas of what the power could be used for. Otherwise, it's as pointless as those "Desktop metaphor is dead!" articles that fail to sugges
  • by dbrutus ( 71639 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:00PM (#6372683) Homepage
    an article on hardware and no mention whatsoever of Apple/Macintosh? The iMac kick started the USB peripheral market. It's likely that the PPC 970 will validate 64bit desktop computing. The G5 Macs will help push SATA into the mainstream and the iLook will push a variety of hardware into mainstream computing because mac users will laugh at PC users who don't have these features and whatever else PC users fight about they refuse to be laughed at by macheads.

    Here's another thing that will save the hardware industry, the home server. But that won't be the open source community saving the hardware industry but the construction industry rolling in $10k servers into new construction home mortgages and making sure that the line stays current for the next couple of decades.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:05PM (#6372700)
    All serious IT analysts should be asking a different question: Can open source save itself? Yes, contrary to the denials of "open-source" pundits, it is already in decline. With Linux's much heralded "stability" and "security" being debunked as myths, and the amazing improvements made to Windows recently, any technical reasons for using open-source software disappeared. More and more businesses are rejecting the anti-capitalist attitude of open-source developers and licenses as a possible threat to their own businesses.

    But the coup de grace for the "open source" world is the recent revalation that open-source developers have been copying SCO's patented source code directly into open-source products including Linux, without signing a proper widespread agreement. According to SCO's chief executive officer, Darl McBride, and every industry analyst who has actually viewed the code, the copying is so widespread and integral to Linux's operation that removing it may be impossible. Instead of trying to negotiate fair licensing agreements with SCO, Linux developers have gone into denial, and there is every reason to believe that companies such as IBM continue to copy protected code without restraint. No one has even suggested that Linux, or other possibly compromised projects such as the "Apache" web server or the "Perl" web scripting laguage, adopt tougher guidelines for the acceptance of code, that could lead to sniffing out copying. And this means that all open-source software could be illegal to use within a few short months, barring the liberal interventionist judiciary's refusal to enforce the relevant laws.

    What can open-source do? Well, a good first step would be to enter into license agreements with intellectual property owners so that the software becomes less legally dubious. A second step would be to move away from such obviously anti-American licenses such as the 'BSD" and "GPL", to something which is more protective of the rights of property holders, and does not impede proprietary redistribution. I think Sun's Community Source License and Microsoft's Shared Source program are good examples of this. Finally, they need to stop accepting code from known IP pirates like IBM. With these steps, Linux can continue to be a popular low-cost platform for hobbyists, and the rights of intellectual property holders such as Microsoft and SCO won't be compromised.
  • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:07PM (#6372709) Homepage
    It seems the article could be boiled down to the lack of a 64-bit OS from Microsoft. But do games really need a 64-bit OS yet? Can't they already take advantage of 64-bit registers and instructions in current Windows OS's? If so, then the only thing a 64-bit OS would be needed for is to break the supposed 2GB memory barrier. But IA32 is already up to 64GB, and could go up to 281TB if all 48 bits of 16-bit segment plus 32-bit offset were used. If and when games breach the 2GB or 64GB barrier, Microsoft may chose to unleash a 64-bit windows, which it has been talking about for at least five years.

    The biggest role I see for Linux helping out games from a technological point of view -- and even this is a stretch -- is if games need more RAM than Windows can provide and Microsoft has not released a 64-bit Windows. In that case, Linux would serve as a stop-gap measure much as DOS4GW did between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.

  • I wasn't aware that hardware required saving! Did everybody ont he planet suddenly stop buying computer hardware and not tell me about it? What's this big crisis that the article completely fails in describing?
  • Um... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:08PM (#6372720)
    Don't link to Tom's Hardware anymore Slashdot. This past week they threatened to sue AMDMB.com for defamatory comments.

    http://www.amdmb.com/article-display.php?ArticleID =243 [amdmb.com]

  • In other news, air guitar found to eliminate smog [geocities.com].
  • by newsdee ( 629448 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:30PM (#6372796) Homepage Journal
    From the article: "you can't blame Microsoft for following strategies that don't help the hardware community."

    That sentence opened a whole new perspective on the subject for me... OSS "saves" hardware but I would say the savings occur in the consumer's pockets (us, so, it's good :-) ). However, there seems to be an underlying struggle between the hardware and content-creating industries. The latter are lobbying for legislation that, aside from effects on freedom and rights of everybody, will also result in loss of profits from hardware companies. For example, they could be forced to implement a "controller" technology (e.g. v-chip) that not only makes the product less desirable, but also increases the sale price (or reduces margin).

    Either way they (hardware manufacturers) can lose along with the consumer. That for example explains why Apple had their campaign of "rip mix and burn": the mere possibility of those activities is an incentive that drives purchases of CD-R and DVD-R drives, new hardware, more powerful computers, etc. Of course some of these activities may be legal gray areas, but it's not a matter of doing them or not, but rather of knowing that they can be done, like having a sports car and still drive at 70mph. In other words the features may be useless or even misunderstood [for that particular person, not power users], but it makes people [joe sixpack] want to buy hardware.

    If you take a paranoid point of view you could say we haven't lost all of our rights yet because another industry has something at stake... personally I think it's more of a side effect rather than a direct cause - since where there are liberties there's always somebody that can make a business out of them.

  • by cenobita ( 615440 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:34PM (#6372808)
    I'll give Tom's Hardware some credit for mentioning a few key points, but I also think they missed one very key issue.

    What does 'save hardware' really indicate?

    From the slant of the writeup, they're assuming that this means the creation of software that will spur revolutionary, fast-paced hardware development. In part, this is accurate, as these companies do need to release products on a fairly consistent basis if they want to stay in business.. ..but there are a few things missing here. Namely reliability and focused innovation.

    How often do we hear about or experience first-hand hardware failure? Weird driver bugs on video cards, hard drives that have to be RMA'ed after 3 months to a year, heat dissipation issues, the list goes on. Undoubtedly, things have become much more advanced since the days of the 486, but on the same token, we're also being introduced to a different set of problems. The technology is largely the same; it's just a new set of boundaries and guidelines.

    The manufacturers are pumping out products every goddamned month, mostly introducing only minimal changes from product to product. I'm sorry, but this just isn't realistic.. the average buyer doesn't shell out cash for a new video card or whatever every goddamned month. When the time comes to upgrade, we want it to be a worthwhile one.. not just a $300+ clock-speed increase or an even more ridiculously huge heatsink added.

    I think if the hardware industry needs saving, it's going to take a change in how things are done. From a user standpoint, at least, i'd like to see a greater emphasis on *quality* for once. There are very few companies I have genuine, lasting faith in. Everyone's in such a mad rush to be first, to hit the best benchmarks on the goddamned review sites, that they're making quality a secondary focus to just releasing something. I see it in software, I see it in hardware, and it's simply ridiculous.

    Take this, for example:
    A quick search on Pricewatch for 'Nvidia 5800' gives the lowest price at $268.00. Not too bad for a decent video card; worth it if you need it. Then I check for Nvidia 5900, which has only recently been released.

    The price suddenly shoots up to $401.99. I can almost guarantee that in a month or two, it'll be nearly the same price as the 5800. You're getting only a marginal performance increase for nearly twice the price. If you opt for the 5800, you're getting sub-par performance when you could've waited a couple months for the 5900, spent the same as the 5800 would've cost, and gotten better performance. In another year, or less, they'll release *yet another* product.

    So here's my question..no, my challenge.

    Knock this shit off. Instead of releasing 2 or 3 or 4 products of the same type in a year or two, why not release one or two? Focus on ultra-quality performance and product, don't compromise on parts and manufacturing, and let the market ride the wave for awhile. These guys are surprised that sales are down when they've helped instill a stigma of "save your cash. our current product will be obsolete in a week!" They're going for maximum price, crossing their fingers that they'll sell a bunch before they move onto the next release on their roadmap.

    The other issue is where these guys are focusing their efforts. You can clock shit up as much as you like, but shitty build quality coupled with a lack of genuine innovation is getting us nowhere. 3D animators/compositors/etc, digital video editors, gamers, etc. all *want* high performance, no doubt. So does the home user, if only to avoid the dreaded click-and-lag demon. But how long can they keep cranking speeds before they realize that there are more important things to consider?

    For instance, we've got DDR-II slowly trickling in, mostly on video cards. Why frickin' bother?
    Where's the goddamned MRAM? Where's our truly solid state hard drives? Why aren't we developing cooling solutions that don't involve water or noisy fans
    • Which of the following is inconsistent?

      A. Complaining that consumer technology is advancing too slowly:
      For instance, we've got DDR-II slowly trickling in, mostly on video cards. Why frickin' bother?
      Where's the goddamned MRAM? Where's our truly solid state hard drives?

      B. Complaining that consumer technology is advancing too quickly:
      It really sucks to spend $100 on a great CD-R or something, only to see that same company put out something nearly twice as fast less than a year later.

      C. Doing both at
      • You missed my point.

        It's that technology is advancing incorrectly. We're being given products that do little beyond bridging a gap between the first and the last, so to speak. I'm talking about taking longer to release products, but releasing more innovative and necessary products when you *do* release something.

        Maybe i'm not thinking realistically, but i'm fond of the idea of products that last, and products that truly deliver. Monitors with ghosting images and cd-r drives that fail after less than 2
    • Games are what drives hardware. Games force people to build that ultimate "gaming system" and to tweak every little bit of performance. Games are the reason people study every little aspect of two different cards to choose the one with the .002% performance increase.

      Playing games, and making games, are the two things that really drive that stuff. I don't know how Open Source is supposed to affect much in that department (we're still trying to write drivers!). Unless you make Open Source games or someth
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:50PM (#6372871)
    Any hardware vendor feels the heavy hand of microsoft in the form of non-disclosure pricing agreements where they will only get the "good" (way below retail) price on Windows if they guarantee X, Y and Z capabilities of the hardware that they ship. (boot time, graphics capabilty, etc).

    The other heavy hand of microsoft is the little windows logo sticker. MS doesn't just give those out. They make vendors pay dearly for that by bowing down to MSs every demand. why? because normal idiot consumers apparently don't buy things without the sticker.
  • by r ( 13067 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @01:53PM (#6372878)
    Now, if the Open Source movement sees its installed base of desktop users reach a critical mass, it can enable a new generation of game designers, who will be shut out of the existing game industry because there is nothing else for them there.

    noble sentiment but, sadly, naive. open source will not help game designers. (to say nothing about leading the next hardware revolution!)

    games are extraordinarily expensive to make, but the cost isn't driven up by software. modern games require a team of specialists to build or adapt the basic engine, a very talented team of artists to produce the graphic and sound assets, perhaps a team of level designers and scripters, and of course people responsible for high-level gameplay design - to say nothing of production, marketing, and other people on the business side of the fence. all these people bring their expertise into play, and that ends up being really expensive.

    can open source help with this? no, not really.

    suppose we live in the best possible world, where all of the software used in game production is open-sourced - all game engines, all physics and AI engines, all modeling tools, all graphics software, everything. even in that world, games would retain high production costs - because the cost of making games is not in the tools, but in using the tools to produce content. what's worse, our world isn't too far from that ideal world - many tools are already open-sourced or otherwise available (quake engine is free, torque is available for minimal costs, some modeling tools are free, etc). you could create a game today using only free tools. but revolutionary new games by garage designers are still nowhere to be found. again, this is not surprising. the cost of making new games is not in the tools, it's in the many man-years it takes to produce a polished game using those tools.

    the days of shareware garage games aren't over - people will always enjoy simple games, as the success of snood and cell phone games demonstrates - but they have been permanently demoted to a secondary role in the industry. gamers want well-designed, highly-polished games, and are willing to pay for them. this is not a domain that open-source can assist or compete in.
  • The author first bemoans the lack of exciting reasons to buy powerful new hardware. Then he argues that open source software must step up and provide these killer apps.

    Let's take his first statement first. Do you think that the PC is as fast as you'd like it? Is it as reliable? Are you really content to stay with the current generation of GUIs? Are you not interested in voice or gesture recognition, not interested in virtual reality, not interested in intelligent agents, not interested in vastly more intel
  • ... pines for the next "killer app" that will bring a segment of the computing industry back to previous glory days of rapid growth.

    You'd think after about 10 years of Macintosh enthusiast columnists pining for Apple's sucessor to "desktop publishing" this sort of uninspired writing would end..... but saddly this drivel is too easy to write, especially when 4th-of-july barbeque is what's really on his mind and something/anything needs to get knockout out quickly to meet a publish deadline.

  • What is it about a personal computer that requires roughly an order of magnitude more power than a supercomputer of 7 years ago that we need to 'save'?
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday July 05, 2003 @03:27PM (#6373250) Homepage Journal
    I don't know what that writer was thinking.

    He seems to pining for the days when you HAD to pay top dollar to play a game. Quite frankly, I'm glad those days are gone. Sure they where fun, but I perfer to be able to use my hardare for longer then 3 months.
    I thinkits a grewat thing when you can go years between ungardes. I used my 400 Mgz chip For about 4 years with no problems running the latests games. the on exception is one memory upgrade.

    To me, having a OS that uses a system more efficiantly is far more beneficial because you can play the latest stuff on cheaper hardware.

    I do not know why he thinks paying 5000 dllars for a computer is a good thing.

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