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SubjectRE: HARDWARE: Open-Source-Friendly Graphics Cards -- Viable?
> From: Timothy Miller []
> Sent: 21 October 2004 19:26
> To: John Ripley
> Cc: 'Greg Buchholz';
> Subject: Re: HARDWARE: Open-Source-Friendly Graphics Cards -- Viable?
> John Ripley wrote:
> > It would also really reduce the cost and effort involved in
> > producing the
> > card. It wouldn't take much (heh) to get it up and running
> > as a simple frame
> > buffer + blitter, but it could be scaled to do fancy
> > multi-texture ops over
> > time - all just by reprogramming the FPGA. All the
> > manufacturer needs to
> > provide is a "getting started" FPGA file and output to a
> > video DAC. The
> > community would do the rest over time.
> >
> > I think "Open" hardware is one thing, but open *and* completely
> > reprogrammable is a far greater hook, at least for me. I'd
> > be prepared to
> > shell out a few $100 for something as hackable as that.
> > Hey, it's an FPGA on
> > a PCI Express card at the end of the day, what can't you do with it!
> Ok, I'll bite. What you're suggesting is that instead of developing
> just a graphics card, I should develop a card populated with
> a bunch of
> FPGA's that's reprogrammable. Putting aside the logic design
> tool issue
> (which may be difficult), what you'd get is a very expensive
> reprogrammable card with some RAM and some video output hardware.
> How much would you pay for THIS card? $2000?

Considering you can get a Spartan 2 300,000 gate chip on a board with SDRAM
etc for about $100... I'd say that's a very high estimate. Greg's pricing up
of about $300 sounds about right, and that's with 8 Spartan 3 chips on a

> Now, the thing is, this card is SO generic that Tech Source
> would have
> very little value-add. Say we populate it with a bunch of Spartan 3
> 400's... well, you'd download Xilinx's WebPack, code up your
> design in
> Verilog (Do you want to learn chip design??? It's not like
> programming
> in C!!!), and then use our open source utility to upload your code.

I'm well aware that C programming doesn't translate to chip design skills.
I've been playing with Verilog on simulators for a while now and I'd love to
actually put it on some real FPGA hardware. There's plenty of people with
good chip design knowledge willing to provide Free source - just look at I'm doing ALL of my Verilog toying with Free (properly)
software, and I think there's even a Free tool to interface to Xilinx FPGAs.

> GREAT... until some other company comes along and clones it,
> which would
> be WAY too easy to do. Now, for the users of this sort of
> product, it's
> a fine thing. But it becomes a pointless investment for Tech Source,
> which is where I work and who pays me to work on this stuff,
> which they wouldn't do if it's not worth it.

And what would stop them cloning a graphics card with completely Open specs?
That's always an issue no matter what you do.

- John Ripley
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