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SubjectRe: HARDWARE: Open-Source-Friendly Graphics Cards -- Viable?

Jeff Garzik wrote:
> Timothy Miller wrote:

>> At this moment, I'm taking a cue from the Linux driver ABI and
>> thinking that standardizing the interface would be more limiting than
>> helpful.
> No offense, but I strongly disagree :)
> Standardizing the hardware interface lowers the cost of doing an OS
> driver for every chip maker that implements the interface. The more
> chip makers that implement the interface, the greater the cost savings.
> Concrete examples:
> * IDE BMDMA interface on PCI. Practically every ATA chipset in
> production supports this interface. As a consequence, each individual
> ATA driver mainly involves setting chip-specific timings, and not much
> else.
> * tulip (ethernet MAC). Its ring and register designs were widely
> imitated across ethernet NICs; as a result, each ethernet driver is
> mainly a "paint by numbers" affair.
> * the new AHCI SATA interface, which Intel has on all its new
> motherboards, and SiS soon will as well (as will others, I hope).

Sure, but those standards had time to evolve to where they are. I don't
have that luxury in many respects.

>> While it might be a pain to have to carry around multiple driver
>> versions, the fact that it's all open source kinda makes it easy to
>> make drastic changes without hurting anything.
> Ever-changing hardware and firmware interfaces are a huge pain. I've
> been writing and maintaining drivers for years... I feel this pain every
> day :)
> You want to design a hardware interface that allows you to upgrade and
> enhance your hardware over time, while keeping the changes to the
> hardware<->OS interface itself to a _bare minimum_. That's why I
> suggested the microcontroller+GPU approach. The microcontroller's
> firmware can be used to mask the transition between GPU revisions.
> Drivers live for many years, even decades, and long after the hardware
> they support has been EOL'd. It's in everybody's best interests to keep
> the changes to the drivers to a minimum.

Ok, let me say this: I will not change something I don't have to
change, but I'm not going to be held back (and hold everyone else back)
by some mistake I made in the past.

>> Plus, I don't expect to get it perfect the first time. The first design
> Part of open source is open development. If you develop the hardware
> interface in public, actively soliciting feedback during development,
> you'll wind up with a much better interface.

Fair enough, although the problem of a competitor getting the jump on us
that way is yet to be addressed.

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