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SubjectRe: HARDWARE: Open-Source-Friendly Graphics Cards -- Viable?
Timothy Miller wrote:

> I can produce more detail later, but first, some characteristics and
> advantages of what I'm proposing:
> - x86 BIOS/OpenBoot/OpenFirmware code under BSD and GPL license
> - kernel drivers under BSD and GPL license
> - X11 module under MIT license
> - flashable PROM so that boot code can be added for more platforms
> - usable as the console on any platform that can take a PCI, AGP, or
> PCI-Express card
> - downloadable schematic for the circuit board
> - FPGA-based graphics engine so it's reprogrammable
> - instructions on how to reprogram the FPGA, so it's hackable
> - if we discontinue a product, we may release the Verilog code for the FPGA
> - Since this is designed to be open-source-friendly, we want to play by
> the rules of the open-source community.
> - Tech Source would actively participate in the development and
> maintenance of our own drivers.
> - We will actually pay attention to problems and concerns raised by
> users and developers.
> - We won't be control-freaks.

> I haven't worked out a complete design spec for this product. The
> reason is that what we think people want and what people REALLY want may
> not be congruent. If you have a good idea for a piece of graphics
> hardware which you think would be beneficial to the free software
> community (and worth it for a company to produce), then Tech Source, as
> a graphics company, might be willing to sell it.

You might want to take a look at the onboard video market. Providing an
open-source 2D rendering engine and the PCI glue logic that work on an
FPGA would probably revolutionize embedded PC applicatiuons that rely on
a graphical interface. Providing support to motherboard manufaturers
who might want a low-cost onboard video solution (micro-ITX, etc) is
another possibility.

You also might want to look at PC/104 and CompactPCI form factors - I
think the industrial market will be a great target, and, after all, if
you have to move 80% industrial equipment to justify the 20% AGP sales,
it makes good sense. There might even be a market for ISA, SBus, and
MCA cards, for people stuck supporting seriously old machines (386, 486,
SPARC) where it's almost impossible to find working graphics cards.
Even if it's a DOS machine, hardware is hardware, and a brand-new VL-bus
card for someone's 486 would be pretty cool :)

My $0.02
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