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SubjectRe: HARDWARE: Open-Source-Friendly Graphics Cards -- Viable?
Timothy Miller wrote:
> AGP and PCI are very similar in terms of the state machine, although the
> signal drivers are different. I expect we'll come out with PCI and AGP
> versions first and then PCIE soon after. Any "early access" developer
> boards would be PCI-only.

That's certainly quite reasonable.



> 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).


> 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.


> 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.

Regards,

Jeff


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