Closed vs. open development methods (Was DVI output, ATI or nVidia)

Lonni J Friedman netllama at
Wed Jun 27 15:37:26 UTC 2007

On 6/27/07, Jonathan Dieter <jdieter at> wrote:
> On Wed, 2007-06-27 at 07:34 -0700, Lonni J Friedman wrote:
> > On 6/27/07, Dr. Michael J. Chudobiak <mjc at> wrote:
> <snip>
> > > Is it good that the kernel bugzilla says "NO BINARY MODULES or other
> > > tainted kernels. Do not file bugs here if you have any binary kernel
> > > modules loaded, reproduce without that module first. NVIDIA users - THIS
> > > MEANS YOU!"?
> > >
> > > In what way is the closed nvidia code and process better than being
> > > open? How does that benefit users?
> >
> > I never claimed that it was better.  I just said that its certainly no
> > worse.  No one here has yet to provide any concrete evidence to prove
> > otherwise.
> >
> This is *unreal*!!  Are you actually claiming that the using a
> closed-source development process is as good as an open-source
> development process?  That there is no evidence to the contrary?

No, I'm not claiming that.  I'm referring to support, which I thought
was clear from the start.  Please don't confuse software development
processes with support processes. That are completely different

> Let's look at two very different problems that I had when I got my new
> laptop nine months ago.
> The first problem:  The hard drive was very slow that Fedora
> Core 5 would crash when I tried to install it.  I was also getting an
> "Invalid MAP value" in dmesg.
> The first solution:  I looked into the kernel source to find why I was
> getting the Invalid MAP value.  It turned out that Intel's specs for my
> hard drive controller say that the controller doesn't support 2 PATA + 2
> SATA slots.  The ata_piix driver followed the specs.  I changed the
> ata_piix driver (one or two lines of code) to allow said combination.
> Everything started working perfectly.  Sent fix upstream (my first and
> only kernel bugfix).  It was included in the next kernel update, and
> made it (barely) into Fedora Core 6.  Woohoo!  Problem fixed after a
> couple hours of work, plus an hour or so spent on sending e-mails
> upstream.  And now nobody else will have this problem.

In the grand scheme of things, you're a rarity.  Most people wouldn't
even know where to look in the source for this, much less what to look
for.  You supported yourself in this case.  You got no support from
any other party.  You've just made my point that for the majority of
people, support for open source software is no better than closed

> The second problem:  I couldn't get compiz to work with the NVIDIA card
> that came with the laptop.  Once I enabled compiz, my system would work
> fine for between one and ten minutes, and then the display would start
> flickering and sooner or later the kernel would crash.
> The second solution:  I report a bug using the nvnews forum, and get the
> useful suggestion (from YOU) to "update my BIOS".  Except there isn't a
> BIOS update available for my system.  And it's not a BIOS problem
> anyway.  There's no way for me to track down the offending
> code...because there's no source available.  All I can give you is some
> "Xid" errors which obviously aren't useful to either of us.  Finally,
> after days of searching, a friend from the forum points out a solution
> that, according to you[1], "isn't possible in Linux for mobile GPU's
> right now."  Except it does work...if I pass certain undocumented
> parameters to the nvidia kernel module.

Guess what, you've made my point again.  The 'solution' that you
employed was due to a BIOS bug.  Now for someone who claims that
there's no way to track the source of the problem, you have some
amazing confidence that its not a BIOS problem, even though you've not
seen the BIOS source either.

> So, to sum up, with an open driver, I'm able to find the problem and fix
> it (sending the fix upstream as well).  With a closed driver, I'm left
> helplessly flailing about asking for help from what seems to be one or
> two overworked NVIDIA employees and/or other people who are helplessly
> flailing about.
> Lonni, I don't want to be bashing you at all, because, from what I see,
> you and one or two others are the only ones helping us Linux users on
> nvnews.  But it really sucks that NVIDIA doesn't have a proper
> bug-reporting tool for *all* their users, and that there's no way for us
> to even *try* to fix our own problems.  And it's even worse that the
> code isn't open so that those who do know what they're doing (myself
> most definitely excluded) can improve it.

Its unfortunate the very small minority who are capable of
understanding device driver code cannot fix problems in closed source
drivers, however that small minority is just that, the small minority.
 For the vast majority of people, getting the source wouldn't help
them or anyone else to fix their problems.  As I've stated before in
this thread, the open source software world is littered with thousands
of bugs that no one has fixed for various reasons.  Just because the
source is freely available does not mean that everyone's problems are
going to suddenly disapear.

> Our school is going to be buying 40 new computers this summer, and I've
> specified Intel graphics because I'm tired of dealing with opaque driver
> problems.

I wish you the best of luck.

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