NVIDIA Starts Publishing GPU Hardware Documentation To Help Open-Source Drivers

drhowarddrfine

Son of Beastie

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From Phoronix I'm surprised no one has posted it here.
Freely-available hardware interface documentation to assist in the development of the open-source NVIDIA Linux driver (Nouveau).
While that says "Linux", I would think it would help someone with FreeBSD from ... the future!
 

malavon

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Incredibly interesting! The future may be more open than expected.
 

CraigHB

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It seems more and more hardware makers are becoming amenable to open source. Even the long standing bastions of closed and proprietary hardware are opening their doors. The future is looking bright for FreeBSD (others as well, but FreeBSD is the one I really care about).

Regardless of what I think about Linux I believe its popularity has pushed makers into a situation where they better jump on the bandwagon or cut themselves out of an increasing portion of market share.
 

getopt

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I'd call this first steps in the right direction. But ... hardware manufacturers might just try to outsource driver development for cost cutting reasons.

Those wanting to sell hardware should also deliver tested Open-Source-drivers for the BSD-world. They make enough profits from what they could and should pay for creating drivers for their products.
 

CraigHB

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I'm just a user so I don't know the details of how hardware makers actually make money, but I think open source would reduce overhead for makers since driver development can become more of a community endeavor.

I think it's sort of a balancing act for them, on the one hand they don't want to give up the details of their designs, but on the other hand they need to support open source which requires they give up the details of their designs. At some point they will all have to realize the scales are tilting the way of open source.
 

shkhln

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But ... hardware manufacturers might just try to outsource driver development for cost cutting reasons.
but I think open source would reduce overhead for makers since driver development can become more of a community endeavor.
That's crazy talk. Graphics drivers are far too complex to be developed by volunteers.
 

CraigHB

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I wouldn't know, never looked at the source for a graphics driver and it would not mean much to me anyway. But if you say only a paid NVIDIA engineer has the ability to work on their graphics drivers I'm not one to argue.
 

Alain De Vos

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First nvidia makes something supercomplex then gives some documentation.
So now you have documentation on something supercomplex.
It's not really helpfull ...
Why is soo much done one the host and not on the card ?
 

ralphbsz

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But ... hardware manufacturers might just try to outsource driver development for cost cutting reasons.
Well, I'm sure they are using the cheapest engineers that they can find, given the required need for performance, quality, timely availability, and so on. Given the complexity and the requirements, they are probably spending a fortune on very good software engineers. Why: Like all manufacturers, NVidia sells a system, not a piece of hardware. Part of the system is firmware and drivers. They have to make sure that the drivers and firmware are very good, or else their stuff won't sell. That's best done by throwing money at the problem.

Those wanting to sell hardware should also deliver tested Open-Source-drivers for the BSD-world.
Not sure that it makes financial sense. For desktop usage, Windows has a market share of ~80-90%, Mac OS (which is irrelevant to aftermarket graphics cards) has about 10%, and all others are in the single digits. Of that, Linux is the lion's share, easily 10x more than the BSDs. Then you also have to remember that the BSDs are fragmented into three branches, each with smaller market share. It might just not be worth it for NVidia (or any other graphics card vendor). Unless they can find a way to work mostly from the same source code, with a software architecture that isolates platform dependencies (which can be hard).

Another thing to remember: A significant fraction of NVidia's revenue and profits don't come from desktop usage of graphics cards, but from server usage (where they are called GPUs). That is a market in which Linux dominates, with Windows second, and the BSDs once again very far behind.

I'm just a user so I don't know the details of how hardware makers actually make money,
NVidia makes a TON of money. Just look at their beautiful and gigantic new buildings on San Tomas Expressway. I see both the finished building and the construction site roughly once a week (when I do some shopping on the way home), and it's BIG and beautiful

... but I think open source would reduce overhead for makers since driver development can become more of a community endeavor.
As shkhln already said, that is an area where volunteers and amateurs are unlikely to make much headway. The amount of work needed for a full-function high-performance GPU driver is probably dozens or hundreds of man-years; not something a college student will put together in the evening in his dorm room.

Remember, a significant fraction of Linux today is written by paid professionals, who get their paychecks from companies like RedHat, SUSE, the various Linux foundations (which are funded by industry giants), Google, Facebook, Amazon, and IBM / HP / Oracle.
 

CraigHB

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So Linux gets a lot of paid development, explains a lot on my mind. I guess it would be good if FreeBSD could get in on more of that, but maybe not.
 
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drhowarddrfine

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I've never quite understood why these companies, when they have a Linux driver, don't spend a few days making it work on FreeBSD, too. Certainly it can't be that difficult and the benefits certainly would outweigh the cost. And I'm sincere when I say it would only take a few days to do--if that long--and I am positive they have many engineers who have working knowledge of FreeBSD.
 

shepper

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AMD publishes driver specs as soon as the product hits the market. Their efficient, high performance 7nm chips were released on schedule last month. nVidia may be feeling some heat.
 
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hukadan

Guest


Someone on Mastodon pointed to the fact this hardware documentation was already available here : http://download.nvidia.com/open-gpu-doc/. They just put it on GitHub.
From the Readme.txt :
This location is OBSOLETE as of May, 2019. We will leave it here for a
Long Time, but it will not receive any updates.

The new location for this documentation is:

https://github.com/NVIDIA/open-gpu-doc

See you over there!

--NVIDIA Open Documentation Team
The Phoronix headline is misleading to say the least.
 
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