MIPS vs. patents (was Re: Farewell)

Werner Almesberger werner at almesberger.net
Wed Jun 15 18:11:59 EDT 2011

Jose E. Marchesi wrote:
> That is not because of the MIPS architecture.  RMS can't play videos
> properly because the driver for the graphics card shipped by the Lemote
> des not support xv.

Which brings us the dark underbelly of SoCs: the graphics accelerator.

In terms of openness for software developers, the cores of ARM, Intel,
MIPS, PowerPC, Sparc, etc., are all quite similar. Where the big
differences lie are the peripherals. And usually the worst of them
are the graphics accelerators, particularly the bits linked to 3D.

So when evaluating a SoC, it's not enough to just have a "friendly"
core, but also the 3D accelerator must either be open (still not
very common) or you must be prepared to just ignore it.

Ignoring it means that your performance will suffer compared to
designs that either have an unencumbered accelerator (even if
technically inferior) or that have chosen to make that pact with the
dark side and added a closed sources driver. And what's especially
galling is that you'll still pay all the royalties that go into this
piece of silicon that's so inaccessible to you.

- Werner

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