Closed-spec hardware vendors (was: Re: Gnash - GNU Flash Player / John Gilmore)

Alex Hudson home at
Wed Jan 4 10:10:06 UTC 2006

On Wed, 2006-01-04 at 10:02 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> How can "the GNU project, the FSF and FSFE" do more in the "not
> supporting [proprietary 3D hardware companies]" regard? AFAIK, none of
> them "support" those companies already. Is there something else
> "lacking"? If so, you haven't stated it.

Well... here's a thought about the state of the 3D market currently.

Thinking about the problem more deeply, there are some other troubling
issues. Consider the following facts:

      * current 3D hardware providers are generally the people writing
        the drivers for their cards;
      * on Windows, there are two APIs for drawing 3D - Direct3D, and
      * on GNU/BSD/MacOS, there is only one API, OpenGl;
      * driver writers can conveniently make Gl drivers for free systems
        because they're already writing them for Windows;
      * Microsoft Vista plugs the OpenGl 1.4 layer above Direct3D,
        killing performance and requiring drivers to only speak Direct3D

Microsoft has wanted to kill OpenGL for a while now, and it's only
really because ID software use GL that it's still current (Doom, Quake,
etc., are all GL games).

If they (Microsoft) manage to carry this off, we'll end up with a spate
of Direct3D-only cards which will have drivers which will not carry over
to Free operating systems in any way, non-free or otherwise. Now,
interestingly, I did find this:

... which has some of the major players in an interview on the subject,
and PlayStation 3 appears to be an OpenGL device (see the second post in
the forum for the meat), although of course XBox 360 is Direct3D.

So... the free software world seems to like and want OpenGL, even though
we have problems with drivers and it seems like the rest of the world
could move away from GL leaving us stranded.

It would be nice to think that we could team up with the OpenGL ARB and
others and try to persuade people to make free drivers available so that
there is another platform which will continue to support the OpenGL
specification. I wonder, though, how much effort manufacturers would be
willing to go to.



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