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AMD + ATI = good or bad for Free Software

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libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

The exciting news on AMD and ATI merger gives some hopes that, considering AMD has been a bit more supportive towards GNU/Linux and Free Software, there will be better support on GNU/Linux for ATI chips and cards. What I'm hoping for is for official drivers to be released as Free Software.

Any opinions on that and the whole merger in general? I hear this is part of a seeming "convergence" between graphics chip and core chip industries. Intel has been making GPUs for some time and now AMD bought ATI. It does seem like things are changing big time. And Nvidia is actually left alone in this whole picture now having to compete with two giant chipmakers which both do graphics stuff. Or maybe Intel ends up buying Nvidia? Sticking out tongue

Of course, what we're most concered about here is how would it all affect Free Software?

ma_d's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-07
I don't think this matters...

Neither AMD or ATI has been good about drivers for free systems:
ATI's drivers are fairly pathetic even on Windows, and their Linux driver works on about every 8th version, but still never works quite right.

AMD doesn't ship anything much that needs a driver, and so they get paired up with junk ethernet controllers that are often unsupported, instead of being paired with a high quality low cost controller like, say, Intel's.

However, this is probably good news for laptop makers and buyers. There is talk about putting the CPU and GPU on one chip, and using shared memory as if they were just two cores processing the same types of data. This isn't as fast as GDDR3, but it's a lot faster than shared memory, so it would be a big boost for laptops that aren't meant for gaming anyway but have to have 3d because Vista and OS X need it.

It'll also probably push Intel to develop similar technologies, either by talking to AMD or by simply making their own graphics system that good.

I'm more interested in the future of the two companies who've continually supported Linux so well: Intel and Nvidia. As far as I'm concerned ATI can just go out of business, and AMD can continue making excellent chips and push Intel to improve.

a thing's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20
AMD is friendly to GNU/Linux
mad_d wrote:

AMD doesn't ship anything much that needs a driver, and so they get paired up with junk ethernet controllers that are often unsupported, instead of being paired with a high quality low cost controller like, say, Intel's.

http://www.amd.com/us-en/assets/content_type/utilities/linux_frequency_driver-1.60.01.tar.bz2

Plus Intel is a huge supporter of TC. The new Intels coming out Thursday might have TC.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Hmm maybe AMD/ATIs together

Hmm maybe AMD/ATIs together or not aren't all that good regarding GNU/Linux support, but I wouldn't put Intel and Nvidia above them either. As a_thing said, Intel is a supporter of TC (Trusted Computing AKA Trecherous Computing) and Nvidia drivers are also proprietary (as well as ATI's) so, at least from my viewpoint, it doesn't matter.

ma_d's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-07
Hmmm

This is true but: Nvidia's drivers work Eye.

And it's Intel that gets most of the credit for being so good.

free-zombie's picture
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Joined: 2006-03-08
I was talking about Moglen's

I was talking about Moglen's talk on freedom (etc) with someone (called "X" here Eye ) and the conversation swerved off a bit.

<X> no...this video is quite interesting....very good points
<freezombie> I must say it is.
<X> and an excellent explanation of why open source software came to be
<X> my point is, is that as far as rights and freedom are concerned, both should exist....and i dont like when stallman says just because someone produces closed source software/drivers, that they are taking away someones freedom....when they arent....any more than stallman is
<freezombie> I wouldn't say taking away here, more like not providing freedom the user should have.
<X> well...my point is....people should be educated on the difference between open source and closed source software...however...in no way...should anyone be prevented from producing or using either one
<X> and RMS shouldnt be peddling fear
<freezombie> that is a fair point. ("well...")
<X> see, there is one thing about me.....the thing i value the most...is freedom<X> and freedom isnt a choice between open source or closed source....freedom is having both
<X> so...RMS shouldnt be slandering ATI ... RMS should be promoting open source
<X> now...all that said....and the video just finished....that was an excellent presentation.....but....he is the attorney for open source software....and he just spend 30 minutes promoting it
<X> which is no different than bill gates telling everyone that windows is the best
<freezombie> whereas the situation with AMD (was: ATI) and nVidia both not publishing information about controlling the chips is a nasty form of lock-in that is bad for free software advance.
<X> well, yes and no
<X> i think they dont provide open source drivers, because they are afraid of the other
<X> now that amd has swallowed ati...i think amd will open source the drivers
<freezombie> I hope so, but I am not very optimistic about it.
<X> because, ati and nvidia were on somewhat of a level playing field
<X> now amd has swallowed ati....and amd/ati is a giant compared to nvidia
<X> amd can concentrate on making money off ati in ways that ati couldnt alone, and can afford to lower their defenses a minute amount by open sourcing their drivers
<freezombie> if they did free them, that would mean that the free software world shifts to favouring ATI 100%, cutting into nVidia's share in effect
<X> yes, which could essentially force nvidia to open source their drivers as well
<X> because really...its not protecting them from any serious market share attacks anyway
<freezombie> true...
<X> as a well capitalised competitor could use a logic analyzer on the hardware, or slice the chip open and reverse engineer it
<freezombie> and the drivers only show how to control the chip, not how to build it anyway.
<X> right...as a percentage of investment...the drivers are insignificant
<X> i dont know how their relationship with microsoft, however, affects their desire to