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Re: [Savannah-hackers] submission of Waves, Clouds, and Sand - savannah.

From: planet10
Subject: Re: [Savannah-hackers] submission of Waves, Clouds, and Sand -
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 08:38:33 -0800 (PST)

> Due to our policy, we can only host your project if it only uses features that
> exist in the few free drivers available, for example the ATI Radeon driver
> distributed by XFree86. ?Are you willing to keep your software in Savannah
> usable with such drivers?

What about features that are part of the OpenGL spec, e.g.
ARB_vertex_program instead of *_NV or ATI_* ?  Mesa now supports
OpenGL 1.4.

> but you should keep those newest features
> away from Savannah because we do not want to encourage Savannah users to start
> using the proprietary drivers of ATI and Nvidia.

I'm concerned that 3D graphics in free software will fall way behind.  At
the moment, it's mainly proprietary games that take advantage of the newer
3D features.  Those projects don't exert much pressure on the hardware
vendors to release free drivers.  Also, most of those games run only on
Windows, which encourages users not only to use a proprietary driver, but
a proprietary program and a proprietary operating system.

An additional point is that using features of newer cards requires the
user to own the hardware; they don't buy it to have it sit there in 2D
mode all day.  Therefore it's unlikely that people with those cards are
using free drivers at all; they are probably using the vendor's drivers
which implement a superset of the free driver functionality.  Thus, making
free software use only a few of these features does not encourage users to
switch to free drivers, nor does it encourage vendors to release free
drivers -- after all, all the features used by the free software already
_ARE_ in the free drivers.  It also makes the free software look rather
obsolete, which does not encourage people to use it at all, and the
outdated feature set makes the free program too far behind to be of any
concern to the 3D vendors as well.

Since the GNU project would like to replace ALL parts of a proprietary
system with free versions, this is an opportunity to replace one of the
proprietary links in the chain.  We can either wait until free drivers are
available, and at that point begin making free games, scientific
visualization programs, and simulators that use them; or we can start on
those projects NOW, so that their release will hopefully coincide with
the release of those free drivers.

Having a large number of free 3D programs available which use modern
hardware capabilities seems to be an improvement over the current
situtation of only the proprietary programs being able to do so; having
more users of the free software turns into more developers, and a larger
installed base means more pressure on 3D vendors to release free specs and
drivers for their hardware.

> I will keep you project registration on hold until next Sunday, waiting to
> hear whether you accept the commitment to stay away from proprietary drivers
> dependencies.

Also note that if the above doesn't change your mind, then to be
consistent you are going to have to police all the 3D projects for banned
feature use.

I would prefer not to remain isolated, ceding the ground to non-free
software; the main reason I keep hearing that users dual-boot is for
games.  We were getting some free functionality for ATI hardware until
they leap-frogged NVidia with the 9700 pro; now that they have the
performance crown they don't have to make "concessions", and it looks like
proprietary driver land from hereon out.  Unless, of course, we can get
enough users to pressure them to release free drivers; and making obsolete
3D games isn't going to get us any users.

One last point: This is also a battle between Direct3D and OpenGL.  Since
most Windows developers use Direct3D, we may lose OpenGL drivers
altogether if we don't have enough OpenGL programs that push the envelope.
From what I can tell, we're currently still able to use OpenGL thanks to
high-visibility projects like Quake/Doom III, and special effects studios
(ILM, Digital Domain, etc.).  I think we need more free software
proponents in there as well.


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