back to article Wrap it before you tap it? No, say Linux developers: 'GPL condom' for Nvidia driver is laughed out of the kernel

Linux devs have dismissed a proposed patch to the kernel that would only work with a Nvidia driver, motivating a second patch that will prevent disguised use of proprietary code in GPL modules. The Linux Kernel licensing rules make provision for proprietary third-party modules but state that they must be tagged as such. This …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    This is good. It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind compared to open technology.

    Yes, pretty lame in the short term but if it can "bully" the companies like NVidia into opening up their source code for correct integration with systems, it is better for humanity in the long run.

    Nvidia sells hardware, not their driver. There is no reason for it to remain closed source in 2020.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      ( Leaving aside the details of this particular issue )

      There is a reason for a HW maker to keep a driver closed source.

      You make 2 models of a card, model A is $ while B can do more and costs $$

      You could make 2 different chip sets but this would cost more, leaving you with A costing $$ and B $$$$

      By using the same parts, but limiting one in software,,you can make both cards cheaper.

      It's like banning first class on planes/trains - that would make economy much more expensive.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        That is fairly common. Usually done in firmware rather than the driver however.

        think of the driver purely as "getting it to run". All the (slightly seedy) monetisation is done via hardware or firmware.

        For example, have a think how AMD and Intel get round this. Both have decent quality open-source drivers for a while now. It isn't like they have lost business or trade secrets. Nvidia doesn't really provide much more above a "premium" brand name.

        1. rcxb Silver badge

          All the (slightly seedy) monetisation is done via hardware or firmware.

          No, it is not. The driver has a click-thru license that the firmware does not, and it's the perfect place to put other restrictions in-place.

          That's how NVidia specifically:

          A) Cripples the card if it detects it running under a hypervisor, and

          B) Makes it ILLEGAL to use their low-end/consumer cards for GPU compute.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            "B) Makes it ILLEGAL to use their low-end/consumer cards for GPU compute."

            Illegal in the USA maybe, most of the rest of the worlds courts would just tell them to go take a hike if they tried to prosecute.

          2. FeepingCreature

            Okay, and making this harder is bad why?

        2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Pirate

          Back in the day (late 90s IIRC), certain processors could be overclocked by soldering a bridge between pads on their upper-surface. The different speeds being sold were the same chips but simply had different solder bridges from the factory.

          1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

            Ah yes I remember my AMD chip being overclocked with the use of a pencil

        3. Rabbit80

          Reminds me of the Creative debacle when Vista was launched. Creative deliberately crippled sound cards via the drivers to force punters to go out and buy a new card. Things got really messy when some guy (Daniel_K) discovered what they had done and released unbroken drivers. Creative accused people of stealing from them by using these fixed drivers!

          "According to a report by DailyTech, Creative’s Vista drivers for Audigy series sound cards leave off a number of features that were present in the Windows XP drivers. Among those are DVD audio support, a software equalizer, CMSS stereo surround effects, THX options, and Dolby Digital/DTS decoding. Daniel_K’s drivers re-enabled these features, but Creative’s statement suggests the decision to not offer them in Vista was intentional: “If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make.”

          Both Creative’s move and the phrasing of the cease-and-desist note itself angered a considerable number of users in the company’s forums—enough to fill the thread with over 230 pages of replies—and led sites like Slashdot to report on the news. In the note, Creative states bluntly, “By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods.”"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes but that is dishonest. If the card is identical between the different models, the vendor should pick a price and sell the product. That kind of differential pricing demonstrates why proprietary software is wrong.

        It's not llike first class on a train or a plane - if you pay for a first class seat you get more legroom, better food etc. It's more like selling first class tickets and then putting first class and economy into the same seats.

        As others have said, if they really want to differentiate, then put the proprietary stuff into onboard firmware, and publish open source drivers. Other manufacturers seem to be able to do this.

        1. Ryan 7

          "It's more like selling first class tickets and then putting first class and economy into the same seats."

          There is a smallish selection of Britains rail services for which that is true.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "It's more like selling first class tickets and then putting first class and economy into the same seats."

            "There is a smallish selection of Britains rail services for which that is true."

            And practically every short-haul European airline flight uses the same seats for business and economy. Complete rip-off.

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              But you get a free sandwich!

              1. PerlyKing Silver badge
                Windows

                Re: free sandwich

                The one time I was upgraded was on a flight from London to Paris. Yes, the seats were identical, although there was a curtain between first class and the plebs. And I don't remember any sandwiches, but I do remember that you can drink a surprising amount of free champagne in 45 minutes %-}

                1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

                  Re: free sandwich

                  And the middle seat is unoccupied. You don't get more legroom but you get more armroom.

                  1. ElPedro100
                    Coat

                    Re: free sandwich

                    Or arseroom if you put the armrest up.

                2. TeeCee Gold badge
                  Windows

                  Re: free sandwich

                  I remember being on a Virgin Citiflyer Express from BRU to LHR. The boss had a beer and I went for the bubbly. A couple later and he joined in the champers-fest.

                  One more and the bloke in the row behind also partook, this required the opening of another bottle.

                  When we got kicked into a hold over south London (unlike taxis, planes do go south of the river at that time of day) and we went for a refill, the dolly just left the bottle. This was on the grounds that any remaining was going down the plughole on arrival and with three of us at it, we'd probably polish it off and save the wastage.

                  Probably the most champagne I've ever got through on a flight that short.

              2. Beeblebrox

                But you get a free sandwich!

                Nuh.

                Recent BA codeshare MADLHR flight all I got was a cup of water, same as economy; did ask for and get second cup free.

                Increased baggage allowance, "priority boarding", however.

        2. swm Silver badge

          In the early days of time sharing Dartmouth got a time sharing system working on a GE-225/DN-30. The hardware was upgraded to a GE-235/DN-30 system that was 3 times faster. It also had more instructions. So, of course, the person writing the GE-235 exec used these extra instructions.

          Since this was all on an NFS grant, GE took the software and sold it to customers. But the software no longer worked on a GE-225. So they sold the customer a GE-235 with a wait loop in the exec to slow down the machine. This code was clearly marked. The customer was happy - they got what they wanted at the quoted price.

          It was fairly common in the 1960's to ship a computer with many instructions disabled. For a price, wires were cut that disabled certain instructions.

          The IBM 1401 had an instruction "read tape binary" that required extra money. But the diagnostics required this instruction so all 1401's had this instruction - paying extra money to enable this instruction caused no changes to the hardware.

          We had a 407 accounting machine we used to list cards. It ran at 100 cards per minute. I noticed a couple of relays that were disabling every third cycle. removing this relay caused the machine to print at 150 cards per minute. I told this to the customer engineer and he said, "Yes, but you are paying for a 100 card per minute machine." So I left the relay in place.

          1. Steve Todd Silver badge

            Many moons ago

            the Polytechnic which owned the Univac 1110 that my 6th form had time shared access to was struggling with performance, so they bought an upgrade. The engineer turned up expecting to move some jumpers, thus enabling the extra capacity, only to find that someone had already done it. No more performance available.

            IIRC they ended up replacing it with a cluster of Prime mini computers.

          2. ABehrens

            Sid Marshall — is that you?

        3. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Yes but that is dishonest

          It's called market segmentation.

          When the first microVAXes came out they were rather expensive to produce which limited the number of potential customers when the usual margin was added. However, the development had been expensive and there wasn't going to be an immediate successor model. The solution was to take a proportion of assembled PCBs and fill the expansion slots with epoxy resin to prevent them being used. The resulting systems were then sold more cheaply to customers who didn't need the expansion capability - lower margin, but higher volume.

          1. DJV Silver badge

            That's similar to Commodore having holes punched through the motherboard on some models of the PET. The same motherboards were used for the 8K, 16K and 32K models and had 2 rows for where the RAM could be soldered in. The 8K and 16K models only needed to use one row so they punched holes through the second row to prevent people from upgrading them themselves! See here: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/43250/Commodore-PET-4008/

        4. BazNav

          Dishonest or binning?

          They might be using the same chips in different cards but it doesn't mean that all the chips are equal. Chip binning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_binning) is a common practice to get some use out of non-perfect high end chips by using them on lower end products which shouldn't be used for the really high stuff, so you won't notice that they aren't perfect.

      3. DS999

        They can fuse off the more expensive functionality

        Intel does that even on its low end CPUs. If they can do it on CPUs selling for under $100, surely NVidia can do it for its far more pricey GPUs.

      4. big_D Silver badge

        It isn't necessarily "limiting" one in software. For example the workstation cards use certified OpenGL and OpenCL drivers. They are expensive to create and certify and therefore justifies some of the extra price of workstation cards.

      5. Schultz Silver badge
        WTF?

        I never understood this idea...

        "make 2 [identical] models of a card, model A is $ while B can do more and costs $$"

        If I assume that this company competes with others, shouldn't it try to sell the most capable model for a competitive price, thereby gaining market share? The idea of crippling your own product may look like a good one in the short term, assuming that you have a captive audience. Then you could consider the extra money from model B as Free Money (TM'd by your marketing department). But your competition competes with crippled product A and every knowledgeable customer will become a disgruntled customer when he recognizes that the product could do so much more.

        The only argument I can see for Model A / Model B pricing is if the software development represents the dominant cost, differentiating A and B. In that case, sell the software.

        And no, it's not like first class / second class seats, because in first class you get extra space (most of the time), service, and re-booking rights.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind"

      It will be exactly the opposite. There's a reason why Linux is extremely behind on the desktop where drivers for many different devices matter most.

      "but if it can "bully""

      So you're admitting GPL is a way to bully people. It was time.

      "There is no reason for it to remain closed source in 2020."

      There is, because drivers are extremely tied to the hardware and its inner workings. Sorry after all these years some people still don't understand it.

      Look of companies making "open" hardware. O sorry, the investment is so big nobody really does with cutting edge hardware....

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: "It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind"

        @LDS

        Exactly, my upvote.

        I agree with the kernel developers: if you can get nVidia to agree, with lawyered-up documentation, then go for it.

        But to other people, I'm sorry that you think that a manufacturer has the fundamental requirement to open their proprietary hardware, and any associated software drivers, to the FOSS system.

        As LDS so logically notes, and real life conditions absolutely proves, the only thing the Linux community attitude of "It'll be open source or nothing!" is... nothing. Linux will continue to stagnant on the desktop because too many Linuxheads only want social purity rather than practical solutions.

        Companies make products to sell at profits, but they are then supposed to grant free and open access to anyone and everyone, just because? It's called "proprietary" for a reason: because it was created by one company for their own profitable benefit. If something is "proprietary" as well as "successful" then their plan worked! Asking them to open up any part of their proprietary system after spending monies on development therefore makes it... not proprietary, because now they no longer have hold on future developments and usage. So you're asking them to give away the baby with the bath water, just because it's you asking.

        Year of the Linux Desktop will only happen *when* you realize that the desktop is the land of decades-old literat proprietary solutions and it's up to YOU, as the minority interest trying to push into the center of it, to work with THEM, not the other way around. You'll think otherwise, downvote me, but users have voted by the billions yet you'll live in denial.

        (Edit: oh look, a downvote already! Living in denial, that everyone will want FOSS *even the for-profit companies*, still lives in Linux lover's heads.

        1. Adair Silver badge

          Re: "It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind"

          Yeah, but nah. FLOSS is what it is. Take away the bleating and crowing from the immature fannys on both sides and what we're left with is a functional tool kit that ANYONE can pick up, use and modify to suit themselves.

          It really matters not one jot if the fabled 'Year of the Linux Desktop' never happens. For those who want/need what it provides Linux already offers fully functional desktop experiences. And then there is everything else Linux offers.

          Linux's year is every year, for those who find it meets their needs, and offers potential that proprietary systems, by their closed nature, never can do.

          We should learn not to compare apples with oranges as though they are the same fruit.

          1. julian.smith
            Linux

            The Year of Linux on the desktop

            Here, about 5 years ago was "The Year" for our small network.

            We've never looked back

            The sysadmin workload here is minescule

            1. MCMLXV
              Headmaster

              Re: The Year of Linux on the desktop

              The sysadmin workload here is minescule

              The spellchecker's workload, however, is slightly greater.

              1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: The Year of Linux on the desktop

                > The spellchecker's workload, however, is slightly greater.

                Yeah, he meant to write "a minefield"

        2. rcxb Silver badge

          Re: "It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind"

          people, I'm sorry that you think that a manufacturer has the fundamental requirement to open their proprietary hardware, and any associated software drivers, to the FOSS system.

          No they don't... UNLESS they want it to be usable and integrated with FOSS systems, such as Linux. What was this article about again?

          Nvidia is desperate to exploit and monetize FOSS (code written by other people) while at the same time keeping their own code proprietary, so they are assured the ability to maximize the money they can squeeze out of their customers. Which is a thing that they do.

          1. Snake Silver badge

            Re: The thing that they do

            Which, being a FOR-PROFIT company designing, manufacturing and selling their products for said profits, is to be *fully* expected.

            I just don't get it. Everyone wants THEIR work compensated accordingly but Microsoft? nVidia? Those evil empires?

            If you deny these companies the rights to design and implement proprietary solutions that THEY like, then don't complain when they get out of the business and now you have NOTHING to buy.

            1. First Light Bronze badge

              Re: The thing that they do

              The problem is not that MS will go out of business, but that it will buy/eat up/push aside/strangle/destroy all competition. MS was found guilty of monopoly practices in the case brought by the US Dept of Justice. So I'm not making that up. You can make profit, but it should be done legally. MS broke the law and in consequence is the behemoth that it has become today. Ditto most of the other tech companies and the Congressional hearings last week showed it.

            2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: The thing that they do

              And if they want to use Linux and sell to HPC uses that rely on Linux they have to abide by the GPL, etc.

              Or tell the HPC crowd to use Windows, and see how well that sells.

            3. Natasha Live

              Re: The thing that they do

              You do realise that is a weird argument don't you. Take it outside the rather overly protected realms of software design and it sound stupid.

              Starbucks uses "open source" ingredients, is a FOR-PROFIT, and gets compensated for THIER work (using your caps system).

              McDonalds is the same.....

              In fact most industries is the same. Fabrication, house building, food.... all "open source" and still somehow make money. As was pointed out earlier, the other GPU vendors seem to be managing it to some degree. I think this is more of a "We Special, No Share" approach

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: The thing that they do

                Not quite. Most of these businesses establish distribution contracts with suppliers and so on so as to ensure a steady supply of their necessary ingredients. These contracts costs money, and they pay for the materials themselves and the logistics necessary to get the stuff to them in a timely manner (I have firsthand experience in retail AND the supply shocks associated with COVID, so I know about these things). Plus the materials wouldn't be "open source" by the definition we know it because it isn't like Starbucks or MacDonald's can just drive up to the fields and so on and just take some of them (besides, unlike software, raw materials are finite by physics).

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @Charles 9 - Re: The thing that they do

                  Yes, but farmers don't prevent in any way Starbucks or MacDonald from cultivating potatoes/coffee if they would find it appropriate, in the same way, nothing stops NVidia from writing their own OS kernel.

                  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                    Re: @Charles 9 - The thing that they do

                    Sure they do. You need LAND to farm, and most of the good land's already taken...by farmers. Going back to writing their own OS then, who's going to run it? They need the existing userbase, which IS limited by physics (think head count).

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      @Charles 9 - Re: @Charles 9 - The thing that they do

                      If I'm not mistaking, land can still be sold/bought. It is not forbidden. A farmer will not sue you for owning and cultivating a piece of land without you being a farmer.

                      Speaking about NVidia OS, people who love their hardware will become their userbase and run their software, it is as simple as that. The same thing goes for Microsoft, they built an OS and lots of people make use of it. Google did it, Apple did it.

                      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                        Re: @Charles 9 - @Charles 9 - The thing that they do

                        "If I'm not mistaking, land can still be sold/bought. It is not forbidden."

                        It is if the landowners aren't SELLING. If none are being offered at any price because the owners know what they have and are hoarding, the market's cornered, so to speak.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind"

          Completely agree. But there again I have been making my living in the for-profit, non dot com universe , since the early days of the Apple II. The only good argument for open source is to avoid proprietary lock in. Cannot think of any other. The code quality is about the same or worse than shipping commercial code bases. And I've seen many dozens. That shipped multi 100K's/M's SKU's.

          All the "open source" products I actually use on a daily basic are either former "for profit" applications that were Open Sourced by a big company for business reasons. Or else big applications that were Open Sourced from the get go, again, for business reasons. Libraries and utilities with no viable commercial model were always freely available. I'm talking since the late '70's here long before Stallman got his own office in MIT.

          If you want quality and support for pay for it. All the open source code follow the usual normal distribution curve of quality. Some real gems, the rest very average and a lot mediocre.

          As for "desktop Linux" we have had it for the last 15 years. It is a very commercial and very proprietary product. MacOS X. About 90% plus of the developers I've run into who use MacOS X laptops for dev in mixed shops turn out to be Linux people . No surprise there. I say this as someone who has had at least one duel boot Win32/Ubantu dev laptop for the last decade. For dev work.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @AC - Re: "It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind"

            Ah, MacOS! Ripping off BSD community for decades without even sending a Thank You card in return. Open source until it enters Apple's realm.

            The fact you say you are a developer explains everything. You love free and open source software when you use it in your products but you find it unfair when you have to give it to others under the same terms.

            This is why GPL is nothing but a BSD license with big fangs.

            I have nothing against proprietary software. Those guys from Microsoft build entirely their software and deserve to be compensated for their hard work. The FOSS crowd doesn't necessarily ask for compensation but they don't like their work to be ripped-off either.

          2. jilocasin
            Linux

            Re: "It will ensure proprietary stuff will slowly become more and more behind"

            Nope. The current MacOS is based on BSD not Linux. What the current MacOS shares with Linux is good dev tools. Other than VisualStudio/Microsoft Code, there isn't anything on the Windows side to compare. If you are developing for MacOS or Linux, a Mac makes a good choice. If you are developing for Windows or Linux then a Windows box is an O.K. choice, (better with MSYS2 or the Linux subsystem). If you are developing for Linux, stick with Linux.

            MacOS gives you a standardized set of hardware and software, for a price. Both monetarily and via their locked in model. For a smaller price point, you can get an AMD or Intel box that'll run Linux than what Apple is willing to offer. For the same price, you can get much more powerful machines than Apple offers. Apple boxes are pretty, easy to set up, and all look the same (system wise).

            Linux on the other hand, requires a little more systems knowledge and can be configured in an almost infinite manner. Not always the best selling point to a corp that like to keep things locked down (at least on the desktop side).

            Ask yourself, why has Apple stopped selling servers? Why are all the largest, most powerful machines on the planet running Linux (or some other unix variant)?

            Linux doesn't need Nvidia, but if they want to sell their high end cards to folks that would buy them by the dozens (or hundreds even) than they need to get them working well in Linux.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      A lot of the intellectual property is also in those drivers. As long as that IP has to be protected, there isn't a way to open source it.

      It is one of the catch-22 situations that causes Linux users so much pain at times. At the end of the day, I just want my system to work stably and optimally, I don't give a flying fig, whether it is 100% open source or 100% closed source or a mixture, as long as it runs and does what I need.

      I like the openness of Linux, but at times it is enough to drive one to drink, because of the Kernel devs lack of flexibility and making it harder for users to get a system working optimally. I understand it and I applaud it, while also be extremely frustrated at times - one of the reasons why I use Linux on my servers, but my main desktop is still a Windows machine.

      But the way Lemon was trying to sneak this in the backdoor is wrong.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Putting IP into software pretty much releases it to the world anyway. You're not really making it hard for others who already understand the language of machine code and GPUs to find out what your IP is - you are providing every paying windows customer with a complete and easily followed version of it.

        The only real reason to stick to a proprietary driver is if you have some legal agreement with another company not to release one for some reason,

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Putting IP into the world is not the same as licensing it for another to use. Simply having access to IP does not grant you usage of that IP in whatever form it may be in, but within the realm of the GPL, you do have some right to copy, modify, and distribute it.

          From a legal standpoint, it would be nigh impossible to show in court that you're applying equal treatment to the access and distribution of that property considering there would be an extremely popular codebase that's actively distributing it with your implicit permission.

          Is Nvidia's IP so important that it must be kept wholly proprietary? I don't know myself, but Nvidia sure thinks so.

        2. dajames Silver badge

          The only real reason to stick to a proprietary driver is if you have some legal agreement with another company not to release one for some reason,

          nVidia have said, in the past, that they are unable to make their drivers Open Source because they use third-party components that are themselves closed-source.

          This has always struck me as more an excuse than a reason, though -- hell, they're nVidia and not short of a bob or two, surely they could come to some arrangement with the third-party comapany/ies if they really wanted!

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Not if the third parties have big-time trade secrets or patents or are operating in a cutthroat market. Otherwise, why can't a company get the likes of Qualcomm, Mediatek, or whatever, to open up the notorious black boxes on theirs SoCs? And they may be too big or too connected to simply be bought out like the company that made Magnetic Secure Technology (borg'ed by Samsung).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @big_D - I don't quite understand

        Why are you still using Linux on your servers ? You state that Windows is clearly more flexible and easier to optimize. So, who's holding a gun at your forehead forcing you to use Linux ? There are companies 100% Microsoft so, why are you still wasting your time with inferior alternatives ?

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: @big_D - I don't quite understand

          Because most of the problems are in the desktop area - Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, video cards etc.

          I tried to move my Ryzen 7 desktop over to Linux in the Spring, but I had a bunch of show-stoppers. Sleep only worked with the nVidia official drivers, but failed to wake up about 10% of the time (using the open source drivers, it would either not sleep or would crash on waking). Bluetooth was unreliable, the mouse and keyboard would suddenly stop working for no reason, then 10 seconds later carry on. When opening a new window, video playing in another windows would freeze for 4 - 5 seconds, until the new window was open, on a system with an 8 core/16 thread processor, 32GB RAM and multiple SSDs for storage and an nVidia GTX1050ti , with just Firefox and email running, a 4 second pause in video playback when opening a new window is totally unacceptable!

          That was after I wasted an hour trying to get Bluetooth to work on the logon screen, so I could type my username and password, without having to plug in an additional, cabled keyboard.

          The server side is, generally, bomb proof and easier to maintain than Windows, with individual configuration files, removing unwanted components etc. Although Windows Server Core installations have come a long way in the last couple of iterations.

    4. aki009

      Software vs hardware

      I can't agree with the comment that "Nvidia sells hardware, not their driver".

      While the quality of Nvidia drivers leaves a lot to be desired, and would likely improve immensely if they were open, the drivers *are* a major development effort tied tightly to the hardware. Hence except for some of the top-most layers the driver *is* as much part of the hardware as the silicon bits are.

      Also, having been exposed to some of the stuff that companies like Nvidia call "code" (legal disclaimer: notice that I'm not calling out Nvidia specifically), I suspect part of the reason the code isn't open is that it's embarrassingly bad. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's full of nastinesses, such as layer-crossing shims to make features work because nobody figured out what broke things at one of the lower levels. The code is also likely to contain hints as to future products and functionality that has not been released yet.

      All of these things would make a company like Nvidia reticent to release its source. If they were smart about it, they'd make it a goal to segment their code in a manner that makes it possible to release most of it under GPL. But I again suspect (legal disclaimer: I'm not claiming this is the case with Nvidia) that squeezing a few dollars out of the development cost by shifting it to "high quality code" locations on the Indian sub-continent was more important, and they are just happy to have drivers that appear to work at all.

    5. razorfishsl Silver badge

      Yes there is...

      the contents of the driver give away tech to competitors and other countries.

      That said, there are bigger threats to the Kernel & Linux, al lteh back room dealings wher MS and other scumbag companies are slowly inserting themselves into the boards that work on linux development.

      MS just figured it can set the agenda and get it's development for free.

  2. oiseau Silver badge
    Pint

    Lemon

    "If you only even considered this is something reasonable to do you should not be anywhere near Linux kernel development," he said.

    Hmm ...

    Clear enough, methiks.

    Good for you, Christoph Hellwig.

    Have one or two on me ----->

    O.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NVidia has the money and manpower

    to write and maintain their own proprietary kernel. I strongly encourage them to do just that and stop trying to hijack the Linux kernel.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: NVidia has the money and manpower

      They wouldn't just have to write their own kernel - no mean feat in itself - they would also have do so in a way that has an identical interface for the rest of the system... or write an entire OS and application level. I don't see that happening any time soon

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: NVidia has the money and manpower

        I'm pretty sure that's the point of the original comment.

        NVIDIA wants to sell product into the Linux environment. Great! We'ld love to have you join in! What? You don't want to join in?

        Anyone selling to the Linux market is making use of the labors of the kernel devs, the distribution maintainers, and everyone who is going to the effort of maintaining a Linux box. There is a price to be paid for the use of these efforts. Pay it, or stay away.

        1. Donn Bly

          Re: NVidia has the money and manpower

          Anyone selling to the Linux market is making use of the labors of the kernel devs, the distribution maintainers, and everyone who is going to the effort of maintaining a Linux box. There is a price to be paid for the use of these efforts. Pay it, or stay away.

          No, the END-USER is making use of those labors, not the person selling into that market.

          To compare this to another common industry -- If I develop a new accessory for an automobile I'm not "making use of the labors" of the engineers and companies that made those automobiles as much as I am making something that compliments them. There is no reason why I should be forced to pay a licensing fee to Ford or Chrysler just so that the end-user can plug something into the cigarette lighter.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Donn Bly - Re: NVidia has the money and manpower

            And what if you get automobile parts that Ford would make available for free, assemble them, add your cigarette lighter and sell the whole thing ?

    2. iron Silver badge

      Re: NVidia has the money and manpower

      > Facebook developer Jonathan Lemon

      RTFA

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NVidia keep on trying

    so hats off to them but... they can take a hike.

    They know the rules. They played by them for a while but then... they were gone, gone gone.

    I have to smile when Nvidia is having issues with FOSS as well as the Apple Walled Garden. For once, Apple and Linus are on the same side. Kinda ironic.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: NVidia keep on trying

      It was Facebook, not nVidia. It's Linux that needs nVidia, not viceversa....

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: NVidia keep on trying

        It's Linux that needs nVidia, not vice versa.

        Why would Linux <u>need</u> Nvidia?

        They are holding back wayland adoption.

        When they stop supporting their older cards, Nouveau isn't going to be much help because of signed firmware on recent cards.

        They keep promising to sort it out, but nothing comes of it.

        Nvidia cards are not good value for money for linux users.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: NVidia keep on trying

          Why would Linux need Nvidia?

          Hey, you still have Intel Integrated available, heh?

          AMD is good...for now...but that hasn't been consistent in terms of software utilization, has it?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NVidia keep on trying

        "It's Linux that needs nVidia, not viceversa...."

        A lot of scientific computation is done on Linux because that's what the software is written for (part of the consideration for this is also the OS's handling of hardware - Windows tends to work less well on high-end workstations), and some of it uses compute boards and/or GPUs to do the computation. I have yet to see a Windows box with a compute board in it, but I have seen a fair few LINUX ones ...

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: NVidia keep on trying

      The article stated that a Facebook developer proposed this change, not nVidia. Did the writer miss something??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NVidia keep on trying

        It was a personal account, trying to do it on the sly. It is known that Nvidia were behind this.

        This is blatant Copyright violation. They were submitting patches that attempted to change the license on someone else's code.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: NVidia keep on trying

          "It is known that Nvidia were behind this."

          You appear to have pressed the submit button before including evidence to support this assertion. Could you include this in a separate comment?

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: NVidia keep on trying

      > Facebook developer Jonathan Lemon

      RTFA

  5. druck Silver badge

    Not 'ARMless

    It's nVidia's obsession with keeping their drivers closed source, that makes me worried what will happen if they buy ARM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not 'ARMless

      It is currently normal for most ARM computer grade chips to have closed drivers already Qualcomm, Marvel, Mediatek, RPi etc. So what exactly would be changing?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not 'ARMless

        Those drivers are based on a standard base library that has an OpenSource version. RPi is now mostly Open Source (and the RPi guys fund the development a bit).

        1. Joe Burmeister

          Re: Not 'ARMless

          > RPi is now mostly Open Source

          I'd like the boot loader to be. It's booting is still a closed black box. I'd want it's first stage booting to be little more than try a few addresses for the second stage. Currently it has libpng and FAT32 and all sorts. God knows how big that surface is. It shouldn't have any more than the bare min to load uboot, like almost every other SoC. Plus, by not selling the chip alone, it's a bit limiting of what the SoC can be used for.

      2. druck Silver badge

        Re: Not 'ARMless

        Its normal for some SOC makers to have closed source drivers for the proprietary parts of their chip. It would be a lot different if the you couldn't get hold of the documentation or reference code for the ARM core in the SOC, unless you were device manufacturer paying large sums to nVidia.

  6. earl grey Silver badge
    Trollface

    TAINT_PROPRIETARY_MODULE

    i'm sorry. every time i see Taint all i can think is "don't touch that!"

    1. Steve Foster
      Happy

      Re: TAINT_PROPRIETARY_MODULE

      Isn't that the point?

    2. Jim Mitchell
      Holmes

      Re: TAINT_PROPRIETARY_MODULE

      People have very proprietary feelings about their own taint, and sometimes those of other people, as well.

      1. Quetzalcoatlus

        Re: TAINT_PROPRIETARY_MODULE

        You never know where those things have been...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: TAINT_PROPRIETARY_MODULE

          Sometimes worse--you do know where they've been.

    3. petef

      Re: TAINT_PROPRIETARY_MODULE

      TAINT_NECESSARILY_SO

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opening the driver source may reveal IP infractions

    One reason for not opening driver source is that it shows how your hardware works, which may turn out to infringe someone else's patents.

    Or at least, in-house lawyers may not be able to convince themselves that it doesn't.

    1. Quetzalcoatlus

      Re: Opening the driver source may reveal IP infractions

      #define EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL EXPORT_SYMBOL

  8. slimshady76
    Mushroom

    This is why we need to burn Facebook to the ground

    Their whole culture of "get things done, no matter what" is the driver behind these stupid modifications. They don't care about the GPL, Nvidia or anybody else. Just about getting their crap imposed over anybody else.

  9. FatGerman

    I just don't get it

    What is the big deal with the GPL? The kernel devs seem to have this religious devotion to it and arguments like this just cause pain for end users. The Nouveau driver is pants, utter pants. NVidia's driver works really well. That's literally all I care about, all the arguing is just legal wank and has nothing whatseover to do with getting things to work.

    I appreciate I've almost certainly missed something because the kernel devs aren't crazy religious whackos and therefore must have some kind of point here, I've just no idea what it is or why I should give a fuck?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I just don't get it

      You ever heard of the three E's (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish): aka the Microsoft Strategy?

      That's what the GPL is designed to prevent. It explicitly states two things. One, any user of the software must be able to obtain the source code for that software without hindrance. Two, any modification of the software submitted to the public must carry that same license. The main goal is to ensure free and clear access to the software at all times: both in a use sense and in a modify sense. A corollary is that if you think the software sucks, you're free to try tinkering with it yourself; you're legally entitled to do so, provided any changes you publish keep the same "free to tinker with it" conditions that let you make the changes in the first place.

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