Open-graphics -- Open Graphics Project List


About Open-graphics
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The Open Graphics Project


This mailing list is dedicated to discussions and ideas pertaining to Tech Source's free-software-friendly graphics products. There is a great need in the Free Software and Open Source communities for graphics cards which have open specifications, and my employer, Tech Source, would like to meet those needs in a technically and economically feasible way.

We identify the community needs to include the following:
  • Software drivers must be maintainable by the community during and after the lifetime of the product.
  • The manufacturer must provide full documentation for all chip features so that free software developers can take full advantage of the hardware without necessarily having to rely on the manufacturer.
  • The manufacturer must be responsive to immediate technical needs of the community by answering technical questions posed by free software developers.
  • The manufacturer must be responsive to future technical needs of the community by listening to feature requests and including those which are needed while omitting those which are not.
  • Users must have the freedom to modify the software associated with the product they have purchased.

In order to meet those needs most effectively, we need experts in 3D graphics to participate in this forum, offering suggestions and debating the merits of one feature or another. For the short term, we need to condense these ideas into a product specification that meets most needs, not necessarily all needs. (Those will come later.)

The primary goal of this project is to develop products which provide graphics capabilities in a way that, firstly, meet users' ideological needs (freedom) and secondly meet their technical needs (features, performance). However, Tech Source needs to do this in a way which is economically viable. We hope that the free software community will see this project as an opportunity to get what they want, get what they need, and directly influence product development.

How this project started

I began this project by posting to the Linux Kernel Mailing list. You can see my original post at:
This was picked up by Jeremy Andrews at
And finally, it appeared on
After some time spent deciding on features, we were picked up again on a news site, this time OSNews:
And that was picked up again on slashdot:
As a result of the huge volumes of feedback we have received, the original proposed design has evolved considerably. We are now working on a fully floating-point OpenGL-compliant 3D GPU.

The design up to this point

A fair majority of responders have pointed out that 3D, at least partial support, is absolutely necessary for modern desktop systems. MacOS has already gone fully 3D with their desktop, and various experimental desktops in the free software community are going that direction as well. In addition, the Composite, Damage, and Render extensions of require some 3D functionality. The number of 3D features necessary is enough that I have decided that a fully 3D engine with 2D emulation would be the best approach.

The design so far is a 3D rasterizer and fixed-function fragment processor that conforms to most of OpenGL 1.3 plus some later features. (We are working from the 2.0 spec but leaving out features deemed "not important for most uses.") See the our feature spec for details.

We now have a working version of a software (C++) model of the 3D rasterizer. It's currently available for download so that members of the community can examine it for errors and develop tests.

The economics

One significant point of discussion on this list must involve finding a technical solution which makes the appropriate tradeoffs so that we can produce a viable product at a reasonable price. The parts costs has to be minimized, and the logic design must fit into the parts. This will be a challenge.

I'm sure many hardware vendors see the Free Software a community as a minority that asks for special attention. Although that attitude may be misguided, the result is that they see Linux users as costlier, at least indirectly. Tech Source doesn't see it that way. As the user community, we need to be clever, fair, and realistic about the requirements we place on the hardware that is being designed here. This is an opportunity for the Free Software community to prove that their ideals are right and that capitalism and free society would be enhanced by them. You, the user, will participate in the design of this product, and you will also get to see exactly how the costs break down.

We have a Wiki with more information.

One of our list members was kind enough to put up a petition online so that you can express an opinion about pricing for this card.

Copies of the current feature spec can be found here.

Bart's Soapbox now has a topic section dedicated to this project which can be found here.

The software model of the 3D rasterizer part of the GPU can be found here, along with some images and documentation.

Two companies have been very kind in hosting some of our content. Please visit them at and

To see the collection of prior postings to the list, visit the Open-graphics Archives.

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