Point of debate--> was Re: [svlug] Installing NVIDIA Drivers on RH 8.0

James Leone linuxcpa at netscape.net
Wed Oct 23 10:02:54 PDT 2002

Why not just sign a not disclosure agreement and precompile the drivers 
for i386?

James Leone

Greg Herlein wrote:

>>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.
>svlug mailing list
>svlug at lists.svlug.org

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