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 Post subject: Driver Question
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:51 am 
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Can someone try to explain something to me?

I’ve been thinking about installing Unbuntu on my computer once 9.04 comes out, but I remembered why I uninstalled 8.04 in the first place, driver support. Or more specifically, lack of driver support. My video card was a 8800GT and the proprietary drivers sucked balls. I’ve since upgraded to a 4870 and ATI is a little more Linux friendly than Nvidia. There was no support for Creative X-Fi cards, but now there seems there is a beta driver out there somewhere.

So this is my question, as far as devices go, can drivers be written for any device in any OS as long as the driver developer has access to how the card was built?

Are some devices built to be run under windows only or do the developing companies only want to support windows cuz that’s where the money is at?


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 Post subject: Re: Driver Question
PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 7:37 am 
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spacedogg wrote:
Are some devices built to be run under windows only or do the developing companies only want to support windows cuz that’s where the money is at?


I Linux drivers are (for the most part) made by the linux community, not companies, and they need the full hardware specs in order to make drivers. a bunch of companies (creative being one of them) wont let their hardware specs out. So there aren't any drivers. I'm a Windows fan myself, but thats what i hear from talking to my Linux friends.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:28 am 
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Denis explains the problem fairly well. Some companies (Creative Labs, Broadcom) refuse to open their drivers for work by the community.

In some cases, linux devs created workarounds. For instance, ndiswrapper is a device driver wrapper that wraps around a windows driver and 'translates' its input and output from 'windows' to 'linux'. This is relatively easy to do for a NIC because of the limited number of things that a network card can do. It is much more difficult for a sound card because the device is much much more mutable.

Oh, and in my experience, nvidia's linux drivers are MUCH better than ATI's drivers. Nvidia has been releasing its own drivers for linux for years and ATI is late to the game. However, each driver release and hardware release should be judged on its own merits ... a company can easily turn around their driver support and become the best in their space just by hiring and encouraging the right dev team.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:48 am 
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Ok, that’s about what I thought. Since a lot of the coolness from Linux comes from the fact that it’s open source, and developed by individuals, there’s really no money to be had by opening up devices for the Linux world. From a business stand point I can understand that. The device belongs to that company and they can control it however they want.

@Jip: I think Nvidia had a lot of help with their linux drivers through Envy though. It used to be a nVidia driver only program. Installing and getting the proprietary driver installed and working properly was one of the biggest pains for me with Ubuntu 7.04, which is why I decided to uninstall after about 3 days of playing with it.

That was a long time ago though and 8.10 installs the proprietary driver for you without to much fuss.

Thanks for the responses guys.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:08 am 
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There is money in linux, and in opening up your hardware to the Linux community, thats a bigger market for your stuff, right? Then, there are more people who can buy your stuff, not just the windows folks. Something that very few linux people buy are x-fi sound cards, people have to go to other companies for their hardware. (has creative opened those yet? i may be wrong here, but i know i was right a while back...)

-Denis


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:20 am 
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spacedogg wrote:
Ok, that’s about what I thought. Since a lot of the coolness from Linux comes from the fact that it’s open source, and developed by individuals, there’s really no money to be had by opening up devices for the Linux world. From a business stand point I can understand that. The device belongs to that company and they can control it however they want.


There's not a lot of expense other then documenting your hardware. Writing drivers for windows or a mac is just a by-product. What's ironic here they would not need to maintain anything. ATI as an example released on their stuff about a year/year and a half ago, and behold, a lot of the recent cards (well ok, at least my 2600HD) are supported in xorg without loading any of their binaries.

What creative's problem is, is that they think they have some sort of propiatory technology that they don't want anyone else to know about and IMO, are seeminly afraid that someone might beat them at their own game.

Speaks volumes for their R&D. I guess to their point, this is where they'd spend at, but if you're a technology company, why would you not spend here? Can you imagine Intel doing the same thing?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:30 am 
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There is some money.

For instance, wireless NICs are notoriously difficult to configure and run in linux. Those cards whose companies make native 'nix drivers will sell more hardware to those people running linux than those companies who do not.

There are also enterprise linux systems ... running Apache, for instance ... whose hardware must be supported by linux. Again, those hardware vendors that supply native drivers own this market.

Despite this, many companies don't develop linux drivers. Why? Because the cost of developing those drivers outweighs the profits from the sale of hardware. Driver development isn't hugely difficult, but if you are developing for a given OS, you need to have a test environment for it and (most importantly) developers who are experts in the OS.

So, pretend for a moment that you are Alpha Corp., you have a successful NIC and want to expand into the linux market. To date, you've only developed for MS.

Your hardware doesn't need to change. *phew*

But you do need to hire at least one developer to write the code ... someone who is a linux expert as opposed to all the MS experts you have in-house. Depending on the complexity of your hardware, you may need to bring in a whole team. This is particularly true if you offer software with your hardware.

So, the cost of 'nix drivers is going to be AT LEAST the cost of one senior dev., a QC team, and a 'nix environment.

We can't even use virtual machines for the environment because we are testing physical hardware.

Put the MINIMUM cost of ongoing driver development at $150,000 / year and you are probably pretty close. You need to sell a LOT of NICs to make that back.


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