Luc Verhaegen (libv) wrote,
Luc Verhaegen
libv

The value of writing code and instigating change.

You probably saw this phoronix article which references the log of the #dri-devel channel on freenode. This was an attempt to trash my work on lima and tamil, using my inability to get much in the way of code done, and my unwillingness to throw hackish tamil code over the hedge, against me. Let me take some time to explain some of that from my point of view.

Yes, I have lost traction.

Yes, i am not too motivated to work on cleaning up code at this time. I haven't been too motivated for anything much since FOSDEM 2014. I still have my sunxi kms code to fix up/clean up, and the same is true for the lima driver for mesa. It is also pretty telling that i started to write this blog entry more than two months ago and only now managed to post it.

Under the circumstances, though, everyone else would've given up about 2 to 3 years ago.

Due to my usual combination of stubbornness and actually sitting down and doing the work, I have personally kickstarted the whole open ARM GPU movement. This is the third enormous paradigm shift in Linux graphics that i have caused these past almost 12 years (after modesetting, and pushing ATI to a point of no return with an open source driver). All open ARM GPU projects were at least inspired by this, some actually use some lima code, others would simply not have happened if I hadn't done Lima and/or had kept my mouth shut at important junctions. This was not without sacrifices. Quite the opposite.

From March 2011 on, I have spent an insane amount of time on this. Codethink paid, all-in-all, 6 weeks of my time when i was between customer projects. Some of the very early work was done on Nokia time, as, thanks to our good friend Stephen Elop, operations were winding down severely in late 2011 to the point where mostly constant availability was needed. However, I could've used that extra free time in many other useful ways. When I got a job offer at SuSE in november 2011 (basically getting my old job back due to Matthias Hopf taking up a professorship), I turned it down so I could work on the highly important Lima work instead.

When Codethink ran into a cashflow issue in Oktober 2012 (which apparently was resolved quite successfully, as codethink has grown a lot more since then), I was shown the door. This wasn't too unreasonable a decision given my increasing disappointment with how lima was being treated, the customer projects i was being sent on, and the assumption that a high profile developer like me would have an easy time getting another employer. During the phonecall announcing my dismissal, I did however get told that ARM had already been informed about my dismissal, so that business relations between ARM and codethink could be resumed. I rather doubt that that is standard procedure for dismissing people.

The time after this has been pretty meagre. If you expected at least one of linaro, canonical, mozilla or jolla to support lima, you'd be pretty wrong. Similarly, i have not seen any credible attempt to support lima driver development on a consulting basis. Then there is that fact that applying to companies which use mali and which have no interest in using an open source driver for mali is completely out, as that would mean working on the ARM binary driver, which in turn would mean that i would no longer be allowed to work on lima. All other companies have not gotten with the times with respect to hiring policies, this ranges from demanding that people relocate to interviewing solely about OpenGL spec corners for supposed driver development positions. There was one case in this whole time which had a proper first level interview, and where everything seemed to be working out, only to go dead without a proper explanation after a while. I have since learned from two independent sources that my hiring was stopped due to politics involving ARM. Lima has done wonders making me totally unhirable.

In May 2013 i wrote another proposal to ARM for an open source strategy for Mali (the first was done in Q2 2011 as part of codethink), hoping that in the meantime sentiments had shifted enough and that the absence of an in-between company would make the difference this time round. It got the unofficial backing of some people inside ARM, but they just ended up getting their heads chewed off, and I hope that they didn't suffer too much for trying to do the right thing. The speed with which this proposal was rejected by Jem Davies (ARM MPD VP of Technology), and the undertone of the email reply he sent me, suggests that his mind was made up beforehand and that he wasn't too happy about my actions this time either. This is quite amazing, as one would expect anyone at the VP level of a major company to at least keep his options open. Between the way in which this proposal was rejected and the political pressure ARM seems to apply against Lima, Mr Davies his claims that ARM simply has no customer demand and no budget, and nothing more, are very hard to believe.

So after the polite applause at the end of my FOSDEM2014 talks, it hit me. That applause was the only support i was going to ever get for my work, and i was just going to continue to hit walls everywhere, both with lima and in life. And it would take another year until the next applause, if at all. To be absolutely honest, given the way the modesetting and ATI stories worked out, i should be used to that by now, however hard it still is. But this time round i had been (and of course still am) living with my fantastic and amazingly understanding girlfriend for several years, and she ended up supporting me through Q4 2013 and most of 2014 when my unemployment benefit ran out. This time round, my trailblazing wasn't backfiring on me alone, i was dragging someone else down with me, someone who deserves much better.

I ended up being barely able to write code throughout most of 2014, and focused entirely on linux-sunxi. The best way to block things out was rewriting the linux-sunxi wiki, and that wiki is now lightyears ahead of everything else out there, and an example for everyone else (like linux-exynos and linux-rockchip) for years to come. The few code changes i did make were always tiny and trivial. In august Siarhei Siamashka convinced me that a small display driver for sunxi for u-boot would be a good quick project, and i hoped that it would wet my appetite for proper code again. Sadly though, the fact that sunxi doesn't hide all chip details like the Raspberry Pi does (this was the target device for simplefb) meant that simplefb had to be (generically) extended, and this proved once and for all that simplefb is a total misnomer and that people had been kidding themselves all along (i seem to always run into things like this). The resulting showdown had about 1.5 times the number of emails as simplefb has lines of C code. Needless to say, this did not help my mood either.

In June 2014, a very good friend of mine, who has been a Qt consultant for ages, convinced me to try consulting again. It took until October before something suited came along. This project was pretty hopeless from the start, but it reinstated my faith in my problem solving skills and how valuable those really could be, both for a project, and, for a change, for myself. While i wasn't able to afford traveling to Bordeaux for XDC2014, i was able to afford FOSDEM2015 and I am paying for my own upkeep for the first time in a few years. Finally replacing my incredibly worn and battered probook is still out of the question though.

When i was putting together the FOSDEM Graphics DevRoom schedule around christmas, I noticed that there was a inexcuseably low amount of talks, and my fingers became itchy again. The consulting job had boosted morale sufficiently to do some code again and showing off some initial renders on Mali T series seemed doable within the 5 or so weeks left. It gave the FOSDEM graphics devroom another nice scoop, and filled in one of the many many gaps in the schedule. This time round i didn't kid myself that it would change the world or help boost my profile or anything. This time round, i was just going to prove to myself that i have learned a lot since doing Lima, and that i can do these sort of things still, with ease, while having fun doing so and not exerting myself too much. And that's exactly what I did, nothing more and nothing less.

The vultures are circling.

When Egbert Eich and I were brainstorming about freeing ATI back in April and May of 2007, I stated that I feared that certain "community" members would not accept me doing something this big, and I named 3 individuals by name. While I was initially alone with that view, we did decide that, in light of the shitthrowing contest around XGL and compiz, doing everything right for RadeonHD was absolutely paramount. This is why we did everything in the open, at least from the moment AMD allowed us to do so. Open docs, irc channel, public ml, as short a turn-around on patches as possible given our quality standards and the fact that ATI was not helping at all. I did have a really tough uphill battle convincing everyone that doing native C code was the only way, as, even with all the technical arguments for native code, I knew that my own reputation was at stake. I knew that if I had accepted AtomBIOS for basic modesetting, after only just having convinced the world that BIOS free modesetting was the only way forward, I would've personally been nailed to the cross by those same people.

From the start we knew that ATI was not going to go down without a fight on this one, and I feared that those "community" members would do many things to try to damage this project, but we did not anticipate AMD losing political control over ATI internally, nor did we anticipate the lack of scruples of those individuals. AMD needed this open source driver to be good, as the world hated fglrx to the extent that the ATI reputation was dragging AMDs chips and server market down, and AMD was initially very happy with our work on RadeonHD. Yet to our amazement, some ATI employees sided with those same "community" members, and together they worked on a fork of RadeonHD, but this time doing everything the ATI way, like fglrx.

The amount of misinformation and sometimes even downright slander in this whole story was amazing. Those individuals were actively working on remarketing RadeonHD as an evil Microsoft/Novell conspiracy and while the internet previously was shouting "death to fglrx", it ended up shouting "death to radeonhd". Everyone only seemed to want to join into the shouting, and nobody took a step back to analyze what was really going on. This was ATI & red hat vs AMD & SuSE, and it had absolutely nothing to do with creating the best possible open source driver for ATI hardware.

During all of this I was being internally reminded that SuSE is the good guy and that it doesn't stoop down to the level of the shitthrowers. Being who I am, I didn't always manage to restrain myself, but even today I feel that if I had been more vocal, i could've warded off some of the most inane nonsense that was spewed. When Novell clipped SuSEs wings even further after FOSDEM2009, i was up for the chop too, and I was relieved as i finally could get some distance between myself and this clusterfuck (that once was a free software dream). I also knew that my reputation was in tatters, and that if i had been more at liberty to debunk things, the damage there could've been limited.

The vultures had won, and no-one had called them out for their insidious and shameless behaviour. In fact, they felt empowered, free to use whatever nasty and underhand tactics against anything that doesn't suit them for political or egotistical reasons. This is why the hacking of the RadeonHD repository occured, and why the reaction of the X.org community was aimed against the messenger and victim, and not against the evil-doers (I was pretty certain before I sent that emial that it was either one or the other, i hadn't forseen that it would be both though).

So when the idea of Lima formed in March 2011, I no longer just feared that these people would react. I knew for a fact that they would be there, ready to pounce on the first misstep made. This fed my frustration with how Lima was being treated by Codethink, as I knew that, in the end, I would be the one paying the price again. Similarly, if my code was not good enough, these individuals would think nothing of it to step in, rewrite history, and then trash me for not having done corner X or Y, as that was part of their modus operandi when they destroyed RadeonHD.

So these last few years, i have been caught in a catch-22 situation. ARM GPUs are becoming free, and I have clearly achieved what i set out to achieve. The fact that I so badly misjudged both ARM and the level of support i would get should not take away from the fundamental changes that came from my labour. Logically and pragmatically, it should be pretty hard to fault me in this whole story, but this is not how this game works. No matter what fundamental difference I could've made with lima, no matter how large and clear my contributions and sacrifices would be, these people would still try to distort history and try their utmost best to defame me. And now that moment has come.

But there are a few fundamental differences this time round: I am able to respond as i see fit as there is no corporate structure to shut me up, and I truly have nothing left to lose.

What started this?

To put it short:
12:59 #dri-devel: < Jasper> the alternative is fund an open-source replacement, but touching
                  lima is not an option
Jasper St. Pierre is very vocal on #dri-devel, constantly coming up with questions and asking for help or guidance. But he and his employer Endless Mobile seem to have their mind set on using the ARM Mali DDK, ARMs binary driver. He is working on integrating the Mali DDK with things like wayland, and he is very active in getting help on doing so. He has been doing so for several months now.

The above irc quote is not what i initially responded to though, the following is however:
13:01 #dri-devel: < Jasper> lima is tainted
13:01 #dri-devel: < Jasper> there's still code somewhere on a certain person's hard disk he
                  won't release because he's mad about things and the other project contributors
                  all quit
13:01 #dri-devel: < Jasper> you know that
13:02 #dri-devel: < Jasper> i'm not touching lima with a ten foot pole.
This is pure unadulterated slander.

Lima is not in any way tainted. It is freshly written MIT code and I was never exposed to original ARM code. This statement is an outrageous lie, and it is amazing that anyone in the open source world would lie like that and expect to get away with it.

Secondly, I am not "mad about things". I am severely de-motivated, which is quite different. But even then, apart from me not producing much code, there had been no real indication to Jasper St Pierre until that point that this were the case. Also, "all" the contributors to Lima did not quit. I am still there, albeit not able to produce much in the way of code atm. Connor is in college now and just spent the summer interning for Intel writing a new IR for mesa (and was involved with Khronos SPIR-V). Ben Brewer only worked on Lima on codethink's time, and that was stopped halfway 2012. Those were the only major contributors to Lima. The second line Jasper said there was another baseless lie.

Here is another highly questionable statement from Mr. St Pierre:
13:05 #dri-devel: < Jasper> robclark, i think it's too late tbh -- any money we throw at lima
                  would be tainted i think
What Jasper probably meant is that HE is the one who is tainted by having worked with the ARM Mali DDK directly. But his quick fire statements at 13:01 definitely could've fooled anyone into something entirely different. Anyone who reads that sees "Lima is tainted because libv is a total asshole". This is how things worked during RadeonHD as well. Throw some halftruths out together, and let the internet noise machine do the rest.

Here is an example of what happens then:
13:11 #dri-devel: < EdB> Jasper: what about the open source driver that try to support the next
                  generation (I don't remember the name). Is it also tainted ?
13:19 #dri-devel: < EdB> I never heard of that lima tainted things before and I was surprised
Notice that Jasper made absolutely no effort to properly clarify his statements afterwards. This is where i came in to at least try to defuse this baseless shitthrowing.

When Jasper was confronted, his statements became even more, let's call it, varied. Suddenly, the reason for not using lima is stated here:
13:53 #dri-devel: < Jasper> Lima wasn't good enough in a performance evaluation and since it
                  showed no activity for a few years, we decided to pay for a DDK in order to 
                  ship a product instead of working on Lima instead.
To me, that sounds like a pretty complete reason as to why Endless Mobile chose not to use Lima at the time. It does however not exclude trying to help further Lima at the same time, or later on, like now. But then the following statements came out of Jasper...
13:56 #dri-devel: < Jasper> libv, if we want to contribute to Lima, how can we do so?
13:57 #dri-devel: < Jasper> We'd obviously love an active open-source driver for Mali.
...
13:58 #dri-devel: < Jasper> I didn't see any way to contribute money through http://limadriver.org/
13:58 #dri-devel: < Jasper> Or have consulting done
Good to know... But then...
13:58 #dri-devel: < libv> Jasper: you or your company could've asked.
13:59 #dri-devel: < Jasper> My understanding was that we did.
13:59 #dri-devel: < Jasper> But that happened before I arrived.
13:59 #dri-devel: < libv> definitely not true.
13:59 #dri-devel: < Jasper> I was told we tried to reach out to the Lima project with no response.
                  I don't know how or what happened.
14:00 #dri-devel: < libv> i would remember such an extremely rare event
The supposed reaching out from EndlessM to lima seems pretty weird when taking the earlier statements into account, like at 13:53 and especially at 13:01. Why would anyone make those statements and then turn around and offer to help. What is Jasper hiding?

After that I couldn't keep my mouth shut and voiced my own frustration with how demotivated i am on doing the cleanup and release, and whined about some possible reasons as to why that is so. And then, suddenly...
14:52 #dri-devel: < Jasper> libv, so the reason we didn't contribute to Lima was because we didn't
                  imagine anything would come of it.
14:53 #dri-devel: < Jasper> It seems we were correct.
It seems that now Jasper his memory was refreshed, again, and that EndlessM never did reach out for another reason altogether...

A bit further down, Jasper lets the following slip:
14:57 #dri-devel: < Jasper> libv, I know about the radeonhd story. jrb has told me quite a lot.
14:58 #dri-devel: < Jasper> Jonathan Blandford. My boss at Endless, and my former boss at Red Hat.
And suddenly the whole thing becomes clear. In the private conversation that ensued Jasper explained that he is good friends with exactly the 3 persons named before, and that those 3 persons told him all he wanted to know about the RadeonHD project. It also seems that Jonathan Blandford was, in some way, involved with Red Hats decision to sign a pact with the ATI devil to produce a fork of a proper open source driver for AMD. These people simply never will go near anything I do, and would rather spend their time slandering yours truly than to actually contribute or provide support, and this is exactly what has been happening here too.

This brings us straight back to what was stated before anything else i quoted so far:
12:57 #dri-devel: < EdB> Jasper: I guess lima is to be avoided
...
12:58 #dri-devel: < Jasper> EdB, yeah, but that's not for legal reasons
Not for legal reasons indeed.

But the lies didn't end there. Next to coming up with more reasons to not contribute to lima, in that same private conversation Jasper "kindly" suggested that he'd continue Lima if only i throw my code over the wall. Didn't he state previously that Lima was tainted, with which i think he meant that he was tainted and couldn't work on lima?

Why?

At the time, i knew i was being played and bullshitted, but I couldn't make it stick on a single statement alone in the maelstrom that is IRC. It is only after rereading the irc log and putting Jaspers statements next to eachother that the real story becomes clear. You might feel that i am reading too much into this, and that i have deliberately taken Jaspers statements out of context to make him look bad. But I implore you to verify the above with the irc log, and you will see that i have left very little necessary context out. The above is Jaspers statements, with my commentary, put closely together, removing the noise (which is a really bad description for the rest of the irc discussion that went on at that time) and boosting the signal. Jasper statements are highly erratic, they make no sense when they are considered collectively as truths, and some are plain lies when considered individually.

Jasper has been spending a lot of time asking for help for supporting a binary driver. Nobody in the business does that. I guess that (former) red hat people are special. I still have not understood why it is that Red Hat is able to get away with so much while companies like canonical and SuSE get trashed so easily. But that is besides the point here; no-one questioned why Jasper is wasting so much time of open source developers on a binary driver. Jasper was indirectly asked why he was not using Lima, nothing more.

If Jasper had just stated that Endless Mobile decided to not use Lima because Endless Mobile thought Lima was not far enough along yet, and that Endless Mobile did not have the resources to do or fund all the necessary work still, then i think that that would've been an acceptable answer for EdB. It's not something i like hearing, but i am quite used to this by now. Crucially though, i would not have been in a position to complain.

Jasper instead went straight to trashing me and my work, with statements that can only be described as slander. When questioned, he then gave a series of mutually exclusive statements, which can only be explained as "making things up as he goes along", working very hard to mask the original reasons for not supporting Lima at all.

This is more than just "Lima is not ready", otherwise Jasper would have been comfortable sticking to that story. Jasper, his boss and Endless Mobile did not decide against Lima on any technical or logistical basis. This whole story never was about code at all. These people simply would do anything but support something that involves me, no matter how groundbreaking, necessary or worthy my work is. They would much rather trash and re-invent, and then trash some more...

It of course did not take long for the other vultures to join the frenzy... When the discussion on irc was long over, Daniel Stone made one attempt to revive it, to no avail. Then, a day later, someone anonymously informed phoronix, and Dave Airlie could then clearly be seen to try to stoke the fire, again, with limited success. I guess the fact that most of the phoronix users still only care about desktop hardware played to my advantage here (for once). It does very clearly show how these people work though, and I know that they will continue to try to play this card, trying hard to trigger another misstep from me or a cause a proper shitstorm on the web.

So what now.

Now I have a choice. I can wait until i am in the mood to clean up this code and produce something useful for public consumption, and in the meantime see my name and my work slandered. Or... If i throw my (nasty) code over the wall, someone will rename/rewrite it, mess up a lot of things, and trash me for not having done corner X or Y, so essentially slander me and my work and probably even erase my achievements from history, by using more of my work against me... And in the latter case i give people like Jasper and companies like Endless Mobile what they want, in spite of their contemptible actions and statements. Logically, there is only one conclusion possible in that constellation.

At the end of the day, i am still the author of this code and it was my time that I burned on it, my life that i wasted on it. I have no obligations to anyone, and am free to do with my code what i want. I cannot be forced into anything. I will therefor release my work, under my own terms, when i want to and when i feel ok doing so.

This whole incident did not exactly motivate me to spend time on cleaning code up and releasing it. At best, it confirmed my views on open source software and certain parts of the X.org community.

This game never was about code or about doing The Right Thing, and never will be.
Tags: arm, endless mobile, lima, mali, opengl, opengles, radeonhd, red hat, tamil, xorg
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