[svlug] Installing NVIDIA Drivers on RH 8.0
gherlein at herlein.com
Wed Oct 23 08:17:48 PDT 2002
> I really would like to know why companies like nVidia are afraid to
> open up their drivers. What kind of knowledge is contained in them
> that would aid their competition?
Having spearheaded a successful effort for opening drivers up
(Quicknet, three years ago) I can answer this in a general
way. These reasons may or may not apply to NVIDIA or others.
1. Driver logic may expose too much information about the custom
logic interface to a particular chipset. If you have source you
avoid the cost of reverse engineering this stuff. It's ALWAYS
possible to reverese engineer anyway, but it takes time and
money to do it. If you have the source, you save that time and
money and the bar to cloning is lowered.
2. Its the cloners, not the "competition" that is the threat.
ATI and others are probably a lot more interested in NVIDIA's
silicon than in the driver interface. Exposing source to the
other major players is probably not that big a deal (and they
likely already have it ia other industrial espionage means anyway
- at the dollars those industry work at, I would not bet against
that). However, the offshore cloners want to make a card for a
fraction of yours and sell it in the grey market - and take
advantage of your marketing and name, and your effort to get
games to work on your card, etc. I've hear it said that a clone
card can be rolling off the line in Malaysia within 45 days of
your board hitting the market. Why make it easier for them? If
they have your source and that helps them, you just made the
cost-benefit equation tip more towards them.
3. The BIGGEST reason: the parts you use in your card are
almost certainly not all your own. You are probably using a
sub-system that is OEM'd from another company... and the
licensing to use that part probably prohibits opening the code to
interface to that part. At Quicknet, we had to strip large hunks
out of the driver that loaded the alternate codecs - because the
code that the DSP maker provided us that showed how to load
codecs into the DSP was protected under license agreement and not
to be revealed. Just doing the research to determine what was
and was not protected was a huge amount of work... one that many
companies just can't make the time for. I know for a fact that
is the reason for one major player now that distributes binary
only drivers for one product- the ONLY linux binary drivers they
ship when all the rest are totally open.
Opening driver code is a big deal. If a company does it, reward
them with your business (if the product is worth a damn). But I
caution you, tread lightly before tossing tomatoes when it comes
to driver code. The issues are very tough. Purists can toss
these issues aside with abandon, but having been there and been
the manager who had to both stand in front of all of you, and
still go sit with the CEO and explain how we could get there from
here... I can say that it's a tough road, fraught with business
issues that are very real and not easy to overcome.
I hope this sheds a bit of light on a subject that does not seem
to get much attention from the "business" side of the house.
More information about the svlug