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Worthless Hardware Latency Qualification

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  • User profile image
    androidi

    I haven't updated drivers at all in past 6 months. Well except the other day when I decided to get that latest NVIDIA WHQL driver from May 2011 from WU. I hadn't updated drivers in a while as they were sort of working except for the random desktop rendering frame rate drop (which sticks to 15-30 fps until Theme service is restarted).

    So I wanted to play some software synths and didn't take long until horrible glitching started. Look at DPC latency checker shows a bump from 200 microsec to 900 when it glitches.

    So I rollback the driver and problem gone.

    This whole issue took 1 minute to discover. What is WHQL doing, isn't this their job?

    PS. It's also annoying that Nvidia drivers have bloated from 1 MB to ~140 MB. I have a RIVA TNT driver for win 2000 here in my archive that's under 1 MB download. PHYSX doesn't take 130 MB so surely there's some bloat here somewhere.

  • User profile image
    Blue Ink

    @androidi: no, it's the job of Nvidia to write a driver that performs as it should. What WHQL is all about is making sure that a bad driver doesn't cause a blue screen. Performance is none of their concerns.

    And even if it were, they may not get their job done: hardware manufacturer will go to extreme lengths to beat the competition while passing WHQL with flying colors... there's an old post by Raymond Chen on the subject. Recommended read.

  • User profile image
    ryanb

    I've had pretty much the same experience with nVidia updates from WU.  Last time I installed one of those updates, it only took a minute or two for the problems to start showing up.  I rolled back that driver and won't install any more updates.  The driver I have is working OK.  Unless I have some specific reason to upgrade, nVidia drivers aren't getting upgraded.

    Credit to the Win7 team for making the driver rollback work seamlessly though.  At least that part works the way it should.

  • User profile image
    kettch

    Once you get rid of the custom control panels and other crapplets that they ship with drivers, there's still a lot of bulk to those packages. I think that a lot of it is probably the custom shims, optimizations, and profiles that they ship for each individual game.

    There's not a lot you can do about crappy drivers. Most of the time you can find a specific build that works for your particular setup and just stick to it. In the end, you'll probably have problems with any vendor. You either vote for Kang or Kodos.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    ,androidi wrote

    PS. It's also annoying that Nvidia drivers have bloated from 1 MB to ~140 MB. I have a RIVA TNT driver for win 2000 here in my archive that's under 1 MB download. PHYSX doesn't take 130 MB so surely there's some bloat here somewhere.

    11 years ago we only had fixed-function 3D processors that did glorified matrix transforms and not much else.

    I just had a look inside my current 275.33 drivers (for my GTX580) which total 173MB when extracted (107MB when downloaded). Here's the breakdown:

    • Setup Metadata = 7MB
    • Display drivers 63MB
      • Actual "driver" binaries and OpenGL: 20MB (x86 and x64 binaries combined)
      • CUDA, OpenCL, Stereoscopy and supporting files: 43MB
    • Driver Auto-Update Programs = 10MB
    • NVidia Control Panel = 60MB
    • HD Audio driver for HDMI via GeForce = 3MB
    • NView = 5MB
    • PhysX = 26MB

    So yeah, seems more reasonable now.

    Y'know, driver size hasn't changed much over time, actually. I've kept copies of all my NVidia drivers since 2002.

    • 2002 = Detonator, 13MB
    • 2003 = Detonator, 19MB
    • 2005 = ForceWare, 20MB
    • 2008 = GeForce Driver, 95MB
    • 2011 = GeForce Driver, 107MB

    So it seems the explosion happened in the three years between 2005 and 2008, when GPUs got all fancy (CUDA, PhysX, etc) and we needed separate files for x64, but in the next three years (2008-2011) there hasn't been much of an increase in driver size.

  • User profile image
    exoteric

    @Blue Ink: It sounds to me like a valid concern is being raised here. On the other hand, maybe a driver should we vetted "in the wild" before receiving a final stamp of approval, meaning some brave souls try out the driver first and then Windows telemetry quantifies impact on system performance, audio glitching, etc.

  • User profile image
    kettch

    @exoteric: This is a good idea. IHVs should be held accountable if telemetry indicates that their drivers suck.

  • User profile image
    ScanIAm

    @kettch: The big push for identity federation can result in people having reputations.  Perhaps we could come up with a way for software and driver versions to have reputations as well.  The stuff gets installed, then 'liked' or 'hated' and later adopters can make a choice based on that...

  • User profile image
    cbae

    @ScanIAm: The concept of a centralized "app store" is already a step in that direction for general software distribution. Perhaps even device drivers will be distributed this way in the future.

  • User profile image
    exoteric

    @cbae:I don't want to have to rate drivers. That should happen transparently rather than through human judgment and bias. Grandma is certainly not going to participate in this workforce. She'd probably be happy to have her machine contribute to the common good, however. Let every machine be an anonymous whistleblower on malware - as well as poor software and drivers.

  • User profile image
    kettch

    @exoteric: Exactly. Windows already has good data on software crashes and blue screens. That telemetry should be used to penalize crappy drivers.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    ,kettch wrote

    @exoteric: Exactly. Windows already has good data on software crashes and blue screens. That telemetry should be used to penalize crappy drivers.

    And how, exactly does Microsoft penalize NVidia or any other driver company?

    • They can't charge them more money for WHQL approval because it might be illegal anti-competitive behaviour, and big companies like NVidia can afford it anyway.
    • They can name-and-shame the companies, but given there's only two choices if you care about your GPU (AMD vs. NVidia) and I understand both have a poor track record in these things.
    • They can't raise standards or subject subsequent drivers to drastically increased scrutiny because they would complain it would add precious time which cannot be afforded when a critical driver update needs to be released (e.g. security or hardware damage).
    • Has Microsoft ever rejected a driver after failing WHQL? Can any hardware devs and driver developers comment?

    I miss the turn of the milenium, because that's when there were a number of different and rival GPU makers who all had reasonably-powered offerings: 3dfx's Voodoo, ATI's Rage (and subsequent Radeon), NVidia's Riva; Matrox and S3 also had semi-decent offerings.

    Now it's a choice between red (AMD) and green (NVidia). Intel's GPUs continue to be the laughing stock of graphics (although their CPU-integrated3000 chip has performance comparable to entry-level mobile GPUs from 2 years ago, which is a huge step-up for them), everyone else (like Matrox) is specialist.

  • User profile image
    Blue Ink

    @exoteric: It's a minefield. WHQL may be imperfect, but there are two things that keep everybody reasonably happy: it's perceived as a level field and failures are not publicly disclosed. Neither condition would ever be possible with a public beta and things would get ugly real quick.

  • User profile image
    kettch

    @W3bbo: Currently both AMD and NVidia spend a huge amount of effort to cater to enthusiasts and high end gamers. Those two are a relatively small segment, but have the ability to influence others. Microsoft could probably create enough of a stir in that community that red and green would notice. All they would have to do is throw up a dialog that says something like "This [AMD|NVidia] driver version [version] is known to cause stability and performance problems. [Link to a KB article with the WHQL findings]"

    So, no monetary penalty, but rather just a friendly warning. The red/green loyalists would ignore it and keep going, but if either company continually earned that warning, then it might effect the opinions of the folks who tend to go back and forth depending on who looks good at the time they want to buy.

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