Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Embedded GPU, EULA & DRM Issues

At work this week, I've had an embedded Linux single board computer come across my desk, I've had to evaluate it.  My brief appraisal came down to "great CPU & memory performance, crippled GPU performance".

Which was strange, as it was touted to be a pretty decent GPU, and indeed it is, and I could use it to perform OpenCL processing, and even got the new boost compute stuff working on it in C++.

But, it would not display anything in hardware, all the rendering of OpenGLES went through the software mesa driver, removing the mesa driver got me a blank screen.  I therefore set about understanding this issue, because the vendor of the board supplied the image I was using, and another of their demo images had all sorts of fancy graphics, spinning tea-pots galore!

So, what was the difference?  A graphics driver!  The locked down image with all the demo's appeared to have a graphics driver, whilst the released end-user images had none.  Annoyingly the vendor also had no working build recipes for their system; they had recipes, they just would not build.

I therefore approached the GPU side directly, looking at other boards with the same chip set and support packages, I found one, and it became obvious why these end-user images had no driver, you had to sign up to an agreement, as to how you were going to employ the GPU.  If you were going to use the board in a product which could access or use DRM controlled material, it was up to the persons/entity accepting the GPU driver agreement to ensure everything was above board.

The vendor of the linux board supplied no driver, not signed, so they would never be liable if your use of their product ripped someone else of.  Clever of them.

However, it left me with the issue of "shall I accept this EULA on behalf of my employer".  After asking around the general consensus of responses fell into two firm camps.  Either "I don't know" or "Just accept it anyway".

This latter attitude is, well frankly it's dangerous, if you don't know what you're signing up for, don't sign up for it!

Happily, I now know what the EULA is asking me to sign up for, I know the product is not going to be using any DRM signed content, and therefore I can continue, but in my opinion it's worth always checking the small print!

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