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SubjectRe: Why is Nvidia given GPL'd code to use in closed source drivers?

On Fri, 3 Jan 2003 09:13:52 -0700, Erik Andersen wrote:

>On Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 02:48:40PM +0000, Andrew Walrond wrote:

>>Oh. But I don't give you the source code to my game. Crikey - How are
>>going to debug it if it breaks??? Am I bad again ?

>You are comparing apples and oranges. Software and hardware are
>fundamentally different. Nobody can download a graphics card and
>email copies to 50 of their friends.

Not today, but perhaps in a few dozen years. What can be done with FPGAs
today is already pretty amazing.

>Your game (a piece of software) is the product. For Nvidia,
>their card (a piece of hardware) is the product. Nobody is
>suggesting Nvidia should give away all their hardware and chip
>designs and GPL them. That would of course be ludicrous.

The video card is not nVidia's entire product. The software that comes with
it and the support they provide is also part of that product.

The performance you get from the video card is the product. Just a new
driver version can sometimes provide markedly improved performance. So nVidia
is probably doing things in their driver that could also speed up other
people's graphics cards.

>The only thing that is hoped for is that Nvidia might choose to
>release specs on their cards so folks can talk to their hardware.

That's a more reasonable argument. I accept the possibility that nVidia's
drivers may contain huge amounts of investment that they don't want to let
out to help their competition. Fine, keep the drivers closed source. Just
tell us what the interfaces are and we'll make our own drivers. Maybe they're
afraid ours will be better. ;)

I guess they could possibly argue that the interfaces themselves are the
result of large amounts of work that would significantly benefit their
competitors. I don't know if that's really the case though.

>Sort of like how Intel and AMD and many other hardware companies
>releases specs on their chips so people can do whatever they want
>with them. Where would Linux be if Intel had never released the
>specs for their i386 chip? Has releasing the specs for their
>CPUs hit Intel? Nope. Because they have a boatload of patents
>and a boatload of lawyers. Similarly, Nvidia also has a boatload
>of patents and a boatload of lawyers... But thus far, they have
>not chosen to release specs. Thats their choice. But as a
>result of their choice, I choose to buy other hardware.

By the way, I haven't given up on open source hardware. I think it can be
done with today's technology and is only becoming more and more possible as
technology improves.

DS



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