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01.02.09

AMD and Novell: Kisses Then Tears

Posted in Astrum, Hardware, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 6:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Graphics card
Friction in the boards

According to this message from Wednesday, Compiz suffers from a developers vacuum. People move on to forks of this Novell project, notably Compiz-Fusion. This new comment from LinuxToday is about “Novell’s role” and it asks, “Could devs be moving to a different home because of the Microsoft factor?”

It’s worth remembering that Compiz predates Novell’s patent deal with Microsoft. If there is any substance to the argument above, this would not be the first example where developers are leaving Novell because of the Novell/Microsoft patent deal. This actually leads to a different and older story; Novell betrayed partners like Astrum [1, 2, 3] and they got sued for it too, but what about the relationship with AMD?

There are those who insist that hardware acceleration is an area where Novell contributes a lot, but had it not been Novell, it probably would have been more of Red Hat.

“AMD was close to going through with the canning its Novell contract, which would have effectively spelled the death of RadeonHD.”One known example of contribution is the AMD-Novell relationship. But Novell angered AMD in a major way some time ago , despite the fact that AMD and Novell had enjoyed a good relation, as demonstrated publicly in LinuxWorld 2007. It was quite an affair and several press releases came out at the time (this did not recur in LinuxWorld 2008). AMD and Novell were a good match; both were abused by convicted monopolists.

What few people know is that AMD almost cut Novell off on their RadeonHD contract. AMD was getting especially steamed over RadeonHD avoiding AtomBIOS. The RadeonHD developers were not entirely aware of this at the time, and maybe they still don’t know.

A senior AMD official wrote: “And to think I spent the last four months of my life trying to save their sorry asses. What a fool I was. [...] it was scheduled to be finished 5 weeks ago. [...] I escalated high and hard within Novell’s senior management.” It was the Novell developers who were causing the issues, whereas Novell’s management was not the one trying to knock AMD over AtomBIOS. AMD was paying Novell to write a driver to use AtomBIOS, but Novell continued going forward bashing AtomBIOS and avoiding it. The real reason, simply put, was that AtomBIOS is written horribly, or that’s how Novell viewed it anyway. The developers said it was their intention all along to hard-code it with no AtomBIOS.

AMD was close to going through with the canning its Novell contract, which would have effectively spelled the death of RadeonHD.

Were the specs sufficient for anyone else to take over? Hypothetically speaking, for some parts, yes. But for every document that’s publicly available, there are at least three times as many NDA documents than Novell had. However, if they had canned RadeonHD, it’s reasonable to suspect that they would have steered their resources towards Red Hat as they already do for the -ati driver.

NDAs are used all the time when they release documentation that has yet to be sanitised and for documentation and hardware on unreleased products. The danger with Novell is one that revolves around control. It seems like AMD clings on to control. They don’t want the community to leapfrog its own development.

Those NDAs were part of this arrangement and are in some sense akin to what Microsoft arranged with Novell. Microsoft makes source code visible, but only Novell can use it. This leads to a liability path and there’s also the issue of Linux (or broadly speaking, the Free Desktop) depending on Novell’s existence. In a sense, NDAs, just like RAND and software patents, are inherently incompatible with the spirit and goals of the GNU project.

Another related example of control would be Maemo versus the iPhone. In the former case, Nokia lost control of its direction and its equipment, at least in some sense. DRM and all that antifeature fluff wouldn’t be properly enforced; On the contrary — looking at the latter — Apple uses “security” as a codeword for control. It’s prepared to brick iPhones that leap out of its hands (jail-breaking).

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41 Comments

  1. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Gravatar

    http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=radeonhd_atombios&num=1

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:23 am

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    Yes, it was resolved eventually. But it could have ended badly.

  3. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:38 am

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    I don’t buy that developers are moving away from Compiz because of the deal. You might recall a previous fork of Compiz, called Beryl, that merged back with Compiz after the deal was made.

  4. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:39 am

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    LOL, big surprise that the “comment on LinuxToday” that suggested developers were moving away from Compiz was due to the deal was none other than your henchman, Jose_X. It all becomes clear, now…

  5. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:41 am

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    If you read the actual email, here’s why developers are frustrated with Compiz development:

    The reality is that there has been the equivalent of no progress since the merge. We’ve basically only been in maintenance mode. The reason for this, from my point of view, is a complete lack of direction and leadership.

    Did he mention anything about a Microsoft-Novell deal? I don’t see one.

    Maybe you and Jose_X should spend some time reading the articles you link to instead of trying to put words into people’s mouths.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Gravatar

    I don’t buy that developers are moving away from Compiz because of the deal. You might recall a previous fork of Compiz, called Beryl, that merged back with Compiz after the deal was made.

    This was suggested only as a possibility (that they left because of the deal).

    LOL, big surprise that the “comment on LinuxToday” that suggested developers were moving away from Compiz was due to the deal was none other than your henchman, Jose_X. It all becomes clear, now…

    “Henchman”? Because the guy left comments this Web he’s now a “henchman”? I had nothing to do with comments that he left there. I just found that one because I read LinuxToday and it was the sole comment on one particular article.

  7. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

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    @Roy: you’ve also published articles he’s written, so he’s a contributor. I think Dan is on to something – that comment should have at least been flagged as coming from someone you converse with.

    I was going to comment on your berating Novell for contributing, but Dan has done a good enough job on that front.

  8. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

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    Considering that both you and Jose_X clearly have an anti-Novell bias, is it really a surprise that he tries to play the Microsoft/Novell-deal card? Not at all. He plays that card no matter what was said. Same as you.

    This was suggested only as a possibility (that they left because of the deal).

    And what evidence is there to support this “possibility”? Considering the Compiz developers have said nothing about the deal, it’s not even a remote possibility. It’s just all in your head. Spin, spin, spin.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Gravatar

    AlexH,

    You know very well that I asked him if he waned his comments to be published as a post. You saw that. I did it out in the open.

  10. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Gravatar

    That doesn’t make him any less of a contributor to this website. He’s not just a reader, Roy. But there you go again, trying desperately to spin it like he’s not involved with this site.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:57 am

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    Dan O’Brian,

    And what evidence is there to support this “possibility”? Considering the Compiz developers have said nothing about the deal, it’s not even a remote possibility. It’s just all in your head. Spin, spin, spin.

    Do you know why the fork was created in the first place?

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Gravatar

    Dan O’Brian,

    That doesn’t make him any less of a contributor to this website. He’s not just a reader, Roy. But there you go again, trying desperately to spin it like he’s not involved with this site.

    By that definition, you and Alex too are contributors.

  13. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:58 am

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    @Roy: that just explains further how he contributes. What’s not to debate is his links.

  14. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:59 am

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    @Roy: er, no. We don’t contribute articles, we just help fact check them.

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:00 am

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    I converse with people in IRC and in the comments and borrow ideas quite routinely, with attribution. There is nothing new under the sun.

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:01 am

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    @Roy: er, no. We don’t contribute articles, we just help fact check them.

    Jose did not contribute an article either. I publicly asked him if I could borrow his explanation.

  17. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Gravatar

    Do you know why the fork was created in the first place?

    Yes, I do. The question is, do you?

    From the wikipedia site:

    Beryl was the project name for the Quinnstorm branch of Compiz, announced on 19 September 2006 after Quinnstorm and the development team decided that the fork had come too far from the original Compiz started by Novell (compiz-vanilla). After the Novell XGL/Compiz team (mostly David Reveman) refused the proposition to merge the Quinnstorm changes with compiz-vanilla, the decision was made to make a real differentiation.[2][3] In 2007, they remerged into Compiz-Fusion.

    Once again, nothing to do with the deal.

  18. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:01 am

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    You published it as a story on this site. How and why is irrelevant.

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:02 am

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    Dan,

    True, it’s to do with control.

  20. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Gravatar

    You published it as a story on this site. How and why is irrelevant.

    Yet he does not control what is posted. If I propose something for Groklaw, does that make me a contributor/editor? Of course not. Some things will be rejected, some will be accepted based on the editorship.

  21. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:09 am

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    @Roy: Contributors rarely have any control outside their own articles. Contributor is not the same as “editor”, either.

  22. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Gravatar

    Roy said,

    True, it’s to do with control.

    Or…

    the development team decided that the fork had come too far from the original Compiz

    Maybe it has to do with the fact that the changes were significant and maybe the original Compiz developers took the conservative approach and decided that they didn’t want to risk the merge? Maybe they felt it was too risky.

    Seeing as how they re-merged later, it seems to me it couldn’t have been about control.

  23. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:14 am

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    There was a degree of hostility in the forking as I recall it.

  24. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:15 am

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    AlexH,

    @Roy: Contributors rarely have any control outside their own articles. Contributor is not the same as “editor”, either.

    For me to collect a couple of comments and repost them has you consider Jose a contributor of this site. I’m fine with that.

  25. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:17 am

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    @Roy: it just seems to be a statement of the bleeding obvious to me.

  26. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:24 am

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    Which statement?

  27. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 2:07 pm

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    There are followups now.

    http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2009-01-02-002-35-OS-SW-0001
    http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2009-01-02-002-35-OS-SW-0002

  28. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Gravatar

    Guys, I left more comments there (Dan, make sure to read my reply since it applies to some of what you are saying here). There are many possibilities (those I mentioned being hypothetical).

    I’m glad I commented there again before coming to this thread since I was relaxed and in a polite mode (this thread may not have affected me, but this is a high intensity forum so you never know).

    Roy, I do suggest Novell-MS angles whenever these come to mind as Dan and/or others noted above (defensive thinking). I also post here (though not nearly as much as some others). It’s fair to call me a henchmen then. I’m not insulted because the comments speak for themselves.

  29. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Gravatar

    They just love making it seem like there is some coordination, as though I ask people to link to this site or leave particular comments in some other Web sites.

    I find that amusing that they — those who accuse the site of being a “conspiracy theory” — are themselves those with crazy theories.

    Communication in this site is done openly (public IRC, comments, etc.), so they can see for themselves all the cogwheels. They can even get involved.

  30. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Gravatar

    I am much less of a contributor to this site than the 3 other posters above me.. and I don’t intend to have that change.

    If I didn’t appreciate the content that is so frequently posted here (yes, it has flaws, blah blah), I would not waste so much time on this time sink. Linux Today is a greater time sink. I truly do try to stay away from posting, but some days it’s not worthwhile to even try.

    I think Novell and Microsoft have other forums where they can lead the discussion in pro-Novell ways. These corps don’t offer fair and balanced. This blog serves as a counter to that. Roy *might* help his cause to be more balanced, but that would definitely affect the number of ideas being put out. This site is alpha development. The quality varies. Some of the more widely useful material gets linked to from other more conservative/balanced sites. A lot of the information is very useful nonetheless. Many blog pieces have no or mostly supporting comments. Some with dissenting views don’t even focus on anything substantial. Take the case with this thread. A suggestion was made (and past examples exist as pointed out) that the MS deal may have something to do in some way with some developers leaving compiz. Wow! Sit back and watch the January 2nd carryover fireworks.

    FWIW, from the best I am aware, this case is one of a few instances where I was quoted at the top of an entry on this site. Also, I believe Roy did me a favor in this one case [ http://boycottnovell.com/2008/11/25/jose-on-mono/ ] and in another one (can’t remember the topic this second) based on a request I made in the threads (or in email). I agree with Roy in substance (if not in every detail) in many cases, and I guess he thought that particular message was important enough even though he doesn’t completely agree with all aspects of it (those following along can probably tell).

    I think this compiz situation is interesting and not surprising. If you read my other reply there, you’ll see I am not necessarily assuming ill-will by Novell in saying this issue of losing developers isn’t surprising. There is some sort of pattern of late, and you don’t even have to be against the MS deal to recognize it. [There may be many other patterns, but this one is something that is brought to attention by places like this site. It's the "task" of those in favor of Novell to research and bring up other patterns. I'm sure Novell and Microsoft have plenty of resources to dedicate to that matter and do.. perhaps on their websites.]

    Hmm, Dan, let me be specific on one thing (in case you don’t read my other reply). What we have is one developer making some comments. There is no other reason unless we want to research more to believe the accuracy of that comment. However, taking it at face value, iirc, the reason for the loss of devs was never stated. I obviously go into the article with the Novell-MS deal card at least in the back of my mind. I don’t remember reading anything to suggest that the deal would be ruled out as a reason for developer losses. If I had been a compiz developer, I would have left ship (forked/etc) for just this reason of the MS deal.

    However, as suggested in my second reply on LT, some of those devs missing in action might even be working for Microsoft now. Maybe not.

    Does someone want to shed light instead of just pointing out the obvious (and unlikely case) that another possibility is that none of the devs lost were lost because of the MS deal (or the much more possible case that *some* didn’t leave because of the deal)?

  31. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Gravatar

    >> Communication in this site is done openly (public IRC, comments, etc.), so they can see for themselves all the cogwheels. They can even get involved.

    You periodically make references to some amount of communication happening in private (duh). Judging by my experiences with you and this site, I would say that forms the minority of communication.

    In any case, IRC logs and comments on articles are public and open for comments. As others have pointed out, you usually leverage newsfeeds and stories that most people also access or learn about quickly enough.

  32. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Gravatar

    If the developers are leaving over the Microsoft-Novell deal:

    1. they’d have said so (the anti Microsoft-Novell crowd are a very vocal group)
    2. they’d have left back in early 2007 (instead, in early 2007 the Beryl project merged back with Compiz). If those devs were against the Microsoft-Novell deal, why would they merge?

    I know you guys like to live in a world where companies are guilty of your accusations until proven innocent, but the reality is that they are innocent until proven guilty. Since you guys have no supporting evidence to show that any of the developers leaving the project are leaving due to the deal, you guys lose – especially since your theory doesn’t even make sense based on the history.

  33. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Gravatar

    A modest proposal was all it was.

  34. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Gravatar

    Shouldn’t proposals be based on, oh I don’t know, supporting evidence?

  35. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Gravatar

    That was hardly the point of the post, just a single paragraph which makes it clear that it’s a speculation.

    Got any comment on the actual post rather than the single point you nitpick, and quite illegitimately so, IMHO?

  36. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Gravatar

    [Dan] >> And what evidence is there to support this “possibility”? Considering the Compiz developers have said nothing about the deal, it’s not even a remote possibility. It’s just all in your head. Spin, spin, spin.

    I agree with your other comment that I do look for the Novell angle. I’ll say that my reason for looking for a link to them in this case (and maybe in most other cases) is because if I were in the shoes of the affected party, there is a high prob that I would have eventually left (forked/etc) for just that reason. I am not the only developer that feels this way as has been pointed out by a number of other developers.

    Novell is not the only one making deals with Microsoft, but they appear to me to be the most dependent on Microsoft and working on the most significant contract for Microsoft.. at least of the players that were recognized at some point to be strong community members and who today are publicly and actively still developing.

    I am very much against Monopolysoft’s business agenda; hence, I am very much against this role Novell has taken on. Pro-FOSS developers aren’t *all* just going to quit their jobs over this deal, and there is only so much they could have done or can do today to undo the impact of this deal.

    I rest knowing affected Novell employees probably have fair recourse, and enough of those staying on ship or recently hired probably like the overall goals of the deal. They may even be hanging on waiting for a takeover or employment offer from Microsoft. They may have other offers lined up, but will wait it out some more. ETC.

    This site aims to help protect “community assets” and is not primarily focused on protecting Novell’s hide by any means. Roy, correct me if you disagree.

  37. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Gravatar

    Other angles are covered as well, but just as Groklaw does not waste time presenting the pro-SCO views, I usually just link to pro-Novell material on Saturdays when I have more free time.

  38. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Gravatar

    Dan, of course there is history to support the suggestion I made. Developers have claimed specifically to have left Novell just for reasons related to the MS partnerships. They don’t have to write up a blog and say so. Some people are private. To others, that might just be one minor (or even major) reason among various (it may have played a discouraging effect).

    It also wasn’t stated that a bunch of developers left all at once. The email said developer count has gone down (lately?). To ignore the beryl situation is what is foolish. Clearly, you can’t expect everyone that went over to contribute to beryl instead of to compiz to put out a press release if a reason for such a move was their new degraded/distrusting opinion of Novell’s business, do you?

    I do think this deal was significant. In their shoes I think I would want to change course as soon as I could. It is a sad thing because other relationships/ties and opinions don’t all change at once, and no one wants to abandon a serious investment if you are still interested in it. People also oftentimes don’t like to jeopardize their jobs if they aren’t in the mood to move, don’t have something else lined up, etc.

    And I also suggested in a later reply that some of these developers might even have gone to work for Microsoft or be working for Novell or for anyone else in private but perhaps also on similar technology.

    Why would people be so sensitive to what happens to Novell the company? Fork and change direction and be at peace and doing what you love.. or not I suppose.

    A site like this is not going to be good for the blood pressure of anyone that is very attached to Novell.

  39. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Gravatar

    It can’t be good for the blood pressure of those knowing it’s not ignored or vandalised, either. That’s why they come here.

  40. Sean Tilley said,

    January 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Gravatar

    Wow, BoycottNovell actually had something that perked my interest this time.

    Not to sound like I’m bashing. I think it’s definitely frustrating for the devs at AMD, and especially the ATI branch. However, I’m ecstatic that the Radeon and RadeonHD drivers can at least be under an open license for all. That means theoretically, free distros such as gNewSense will be able to have 3D support!

    At least there’s a bit of silver lining in that.

  41. Paul Gaskin said,

    January 9, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Gravatar

    Roy doesn’t have any “henchmen”.

    I have seen Novell’s henchmen go after Roy, however.

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