January 18th, 2007:

Life for sale

This is bizarre even by normal bizarre ebay auction standards

Vista Driver Issues

winv_2dbutton_2dfinal_small.jpgCame across this article which I found quite interesting in a geeky sort of way.

“We spoke to NVIDIA to understand why there isn’t a 8800 Vista driver currently and why we won’t see one until Vista’s launch. NVIDIA’s GPU drivers these days are made up of approximately 20 million lines of code, which as a reference point is about the size of Windows NT 4.0.

Because G70 and G80 are radically different architectures, they each require a separate driver. Combine that with the fact that Windows Vista has completely changed the driver interface, similar in magnitude to what happened between Windows 3.1 and 95, and you’ve got a “perfect storm” of conditions for driver development. The end result is that for Windows Vista, two 20M line drivers have to be completely re-written (one for G80 and one from all previous architectures). In other words, this isn’t a simple port, it’s a radical departure from the way things were written before.

There are other elements of Vista driver development that apparently require more work than before. DirectX 9, DX9 SLI, DX10 and DX10 SLI support is provided through four separate binaries, which increases the complexity of testing and the overall driver itself, whereas there was only a single driver in the past.

Interfaces for HD-DVD and Blu-ray video acceleration requires a lot more code than before, thanks to the support for a protected path for HD video under Vista. Supporting this protected path for HD content decode means that you can’t re-use the video part of your driver when developing a Vista version.

The last major difference between Windows XP and Vista driver development is that the display engine connecting monitors to the GPUs has been completely redone.

Initial investment in driver development under Vista takes up quite a bit of time, and now we understand a little more of why. While it would be nice to have one today, there’s always a tradeoff that has to be made especially when driver work this intense has to be done. Couple that with the recent launch of NVIDIA’s G80 GPU and the decision was made to focus on DX9 and XP drivers in order to make the G80’s launch as solid as possible, and commit to delivering an 8800 driver by Vista’s launch.

When the driver is eventually available NVIDIA expects performance to be at par, slightly slower or slightly faster than the XP driver. What we’ve seen thus far from other Vista drivers is that performance is slower almost entirely across the board. As stability is currently the primary goal for both ATI and NVIDIA, many compiler optimizations and performance tweaks aren’t being used in order to get a good driver out in time for Vista’s launch.” Full article

What I found interesting was that NVIDIA have no real idea how performance will compare to XP other than it will be similar. Also of note is the sheer size of the driver source code nowadays!

Anyway – my laptop doesn’t have enough Video RAM to run Vista with Aero so I’m not really interested. Still planning on getting a Mac next.