AMD dropping binary blobs

Everybody knows that AMD can't really fully open source their display driver without having to tackle Microsoft and some other companies, as Catalyst - like any other Windows driver - is tainted with a bunch of proprietary code, either to work on Windows, or to provide video acceleration, or to provide game optimisations, etc...

So what AMD is doing right now, is that they are going to make the Catalyst so that it doesn't depend on proprietary kernel modules any more. Catalyst will thereby not taint the kernel any more, but just use the open source radeon modules that already are in the kernel.

This is a pretty big thing, because it means that the Catalyst driver, which is still needed to get every bit of performance out of the cards in games, will just work every time on every kernel, without the need for kernel module patches for every kernel. On top of that, one of the biggest problems of proprietary kernel modules is solved by that, and that is the fact that the coding on these binary blobs is very bad quality, basically Windows-standard, and contains a lot of overflows and other bugs, that make it necessary for the user to disable RBAC and MAC monitoring functionality to even make these kernel modules work. This decision by AMD solves both the problem of the lower performance of tainted kernels versus fully open source kernels, and the huge security problem that goes with using binary blobs in the kernel.

I applaud this decision by AMD. Thoughts?

I don't have any experience with Radeon cards and Linux but most people say something always breaks when they update Catalyst. I can see this happening less if Catalyst is going to use already build in modules. And I'm sure the few people who only use "free" software will appreciate this.

I only only free software, and I'm extremely excited about this. This is very good news, the less proprietary code, the better.

According to phoronix (I know, terrible source, bear with me):

"Also, I'm told these Linux changes will not affect the Windows Catalyst driver. "The kernel models are very different between Linux and Windows and we currently don’t really share any code there."" (I suppose the quotes represent a reply from an AMD official)

If the kernel models are separate between Windows and Linux, and since the open source driver is already about 80% the performance of Catalyst in 3D, I wonder why doesn't AMD simply stop developing Catalyst for linux and start investing in the open source driver? And by investing I mean donating real money and offering real incentive, not the mockery that NVIDIA calls "supporting open source" by donating two Maxwell GPUs to the team that develops the Nouveau driver.

The fact that the open source driver is catching up to the Catalyst driver surely shows what the team behind ati-dri can do, with I am sure is less money than AMD has invested in the development of the linux driver, why not offer an incentive for more people to work on it?

Actually, Catalyst hardly ever breaks when there is a kernel upgrade. nVidia always breaks, to the point where right now, you can only get the latest nVidia driver to work on a particular old kernel. The problem is corporate lies: RedHat had a deal with nVidia, and they told their "community editions" to orphan Catalyst drivers, supposedly because it was impossible to keep up with kernel module patches. The reality is the other way around. Catalyst just works on almost all kernels without repatching the modules. I have catalyst running on kernel 3.13.6, it was completely smooth, no problems whatsoever, but at the same time I still have to continue using nVidia's 331.49 LTS driver because the newer drivers just simply don't work because the kernel modules do not compile.

My guess is that this decision of AMD to discard proprietary kernel modules, is a reaction to that corporate misinformation. It's going to be very interesting to see what nVidia comes up with next to prevent AMD Catalyst from being in the Fedora repos. This decision makes corporate sabotage against AMD a whole lot more difficult.

AMD should move towards open source only drivers like Intel, but the odd thing is, that Intel itself is blocking that, next to Microsoft (but AMD could get around that, it would just cost more), gaming engines (but those are evolving also), and codec owners (but that is changing also). In the end, AMD will be able to avoid restrictive licenses and offer all open source drivers, but for now, there's still too much legal blockade, because AMD also has to provide Windows drivers, and it would cost them much more to make separate linux and Windows drivers. But as soon as linux becomes the primary gaming platform, that is likely to change.

Does Catalyst work on non-x86 systems?

Are you going to post that question now in every thread? lolz, dumb...

rabz, you so krraazy

I was under the impression that, while they are making an effort to get the binary blobs out of the kernel, they won't be going away completely. Instead, they'll just be moving to the userspace portion of the drivers. So they aren't exactly dropping the blobs, more like picking them up and organizing them logically.

I really applaud AMD for this. The radeon driver has been making considerable progress lately. The open source driver on Linux actually works better than the proprietary driver on Windows for a few of my machines! This I'm sure has a great deal to do with the documentation and source AMD has been gradually releasing. It's finally getting to the point where the radeon kms driver is catching up with fglrx, and they're preparing to jump ship. Exciting times!

Well if it is supported in your OS that runs on your architecture, it should do. May not be stable but it should run okay.