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June 29th, 2012

Google’s Nexus Tablet; Maddog’s Blog; Patent News & More

In another patent case, this one between Apple and Samsung, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh made a ruling on Tuesday in San Francisco granting an injunction to halt sales of Samsung’s Galaxy 10.1 tablet. The ruling came in a case in which Apple is claiming Samsung copied their design from the iPad. The Associated Press reports Judge Koh had previously denied the same injunction:

“Koh had earlier said the two products are “virtually indistinguishable,” but she declined in December to take the dramatic step of prohibiting sales of the Galaxy 10.1. She changed her mind after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit told Koh to take another look at Apple’s request for an injunction, ruling June 19 that it appeared the Cupertino-based company had a strong case. The Washington, D.C., court handles most patent appeals.”

The ruling requires Apple to post a $2.6 million bond, which will be used to compensate Samsung should Apple lose this case. The two companies are scheduled to go to court in San Jose in another patent battle.

Stay tuned…

Google Shows Off Cool Nexus Tablet

Microsoft didn’t get to bask in the sun long after their announcement last week of their Redmond branded Surface tablet, due to be available in about three months. This Wednesday Google took some of the wind out of their sails with the unveiling of the new Nexus 7 tablet, which will carry both the Asus and Google brands. Bloomberg Businessweek seemed to be impressed with the demo:

“The device has a 7-inch screen similar to the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire, but it exploits all the deep technological assets of the search giant. YouTube runs fluidly on the device; owners can buy books, music, movies, and games from the Google Play app store; and such services as maps and Google’s language-translation tools are easily accessible.”

The device is due to be available in mid-July, long before Microsoft’s Surface. Good news – its price, reportedly $199, will be in a range that people like me can afford. Natch, it’ll run Android.

Already it’s being touted as a competition killing machine, with Dean Howell saying it will finish Barnes & Noble’s tablet offering, Nook, in at article on ThePowerBase.

Nvidia and Open Source

It looks like Nvidia recently lost an order for at least ten million graphics cards, all because of the closed source nature of their GeForce/Quadro driver. The way I understand it, Chinese buyers with deep pockets had a need for graphics cards and went to Nvidia ready to write a check. The problem was, the GeForce/Quadro drivers only work on x86 machines and they were needed for an implementation on MIPS or ARM. Even this was no problem, evidently, until Nvidia balked at including the source code with the deal. The Chinese balked back; took their business to AMD.

Do you have any idea how much money an order this size is worth? Neither did I. According to Michael Larabel at Phoronix, Nvidia turned their back on more money than I’ll see for the next many lifetimes:

“The order was at least for ten million GPUs, which given the current low-end parts, would value the order at least 250 to 350 million dollars (USD). However, I’ve heard from a separate source that it was closer to the half billion dollar mark. This money will now be handed over to AMD since they have the officially-based open-source driver for their products.”

It was only two weeks ago that Nvidia was publicly shamed in the FOSS world by none other than Linus Torvalds, speaking at the Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship in Otaniemi, Finland. When asked about driver support in Linux, Torvalds singled Nvidia out as exceptionally bad players, calling them “the single worst company we have ever dealt with.” At that point, he shot the bird in the direction of a camera recording the event while proclaiming, “Nvidia, fuck you!”

Although Torvalds later backed down a bit and reckoned that Nvidia did offer some help with open source development, his public outburst evidently hit a nerve with one of their employees. On Saturday, Saurav Modak on Muktware reported that Nvidia employee Stepen Warren asked in the Kernel Summit mailing list what the Nvidia team could be doing to improve Linux support:

“As quoted from the original message, ‘In a Google+ comment, Linus noted that we have mainly been contributing patches for Tegra SoC infra-structure details. I’m curious what other areas people might expect me/NVIDIA to contribute to. I assume the issue is mainly the lack of open support for the graphics-related parts of our HW, but perhaps there’s some expectation that we’d also start helping out some core area of the kernel too? Would that kind of thing help our image even if we didn’t open up our HW?'”

I’ve got my own theory why so many hardware firms refuse to open source their drivers. If I’m right, they do so with good reason. One day I’ll share my thoughts on this subject here.

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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