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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hope I placed this in the right forum...I'm not looking for how to specifics at this point, just looking at the bigger issue. Simple question to start with...is it legal to flash a PC graphics card?

If so, can I flash a Elsa Gladiac 920 Geforce 3Ti 200 for my Sawtooth G4? Can get the card cheaply enough but can it be done and if so would I expect it to function nornally?

Any help is appreciated.
 

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No it isn't illegal.

And, GeForce 3 Ti (200, 500) cards cannot be flashed to work on a Mac, since they have no support for Big Endian bit codes. I tried 2 yrs ago to get a Ti200 Asus card to work on a QuickSilver G4 to no avail. Regular GeForce3s work however.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks so far all, Neil what do you mean by regular Geforce3? Does that mean any Geforce without the ti?
 

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Well, as far as I've heard, it is illegal. You're basically stealing the ROM code from a real mac card in order to flash a pc card. It's like pirating software in a way.
 

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No, that's bull. It's not illegal. You just invalidate your warranty on the card. The chipset is manufactured by nvidia or ati, and the firmware is originally written and coded by the aforementionned firms. You bought the hardware, and not a license to use the eeprom on the card.
 

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Over at macnn, any thread on flashing non-Mac video cards is instantly locked by the mods. There was a long thread a while back that discussed the success of flashing ATI 8500 LE cards and ATI asked that discussions/instructions for this procedure be ended. ATI insists that the ROM code is theirs alone. I don't about all the legal issues surrounding this issue but that site took the request quite seriously.

I'm sure that if you read through the postings there, one of the mods must have posted an explanation.
 

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I would really have to disagree that there are legal issues surrounding firmware flashing cards. If anything, it's frowned-upon, since ATI sells Mac-specific upgrade solutions, for far more than the PC equivalent. I don't recall ever having to agree to an end-user license agreement (EULA) when purchasing a video card; the drivers yes, but the vid card hardware - no. Adaptec offers mac and pc drivers for their x9160 SCSI cards on their site; and i've freely firmware flashed between the two. They don't seem to have an issue with this, since even I talked to their support directly about a Mac-flashed PC SCSI card and OSX (then 10.1.1 driver support), and I was given assistance. I think what we have here is that mac sites are quick to lock legitimate threads, with fear of legal repercussion, without getting the real facts first. If I bought a $500 9800 Pro for my PC, then sold the PC, I would want to use it on the Mac if at all possible. Sure, i'd likley void its warranty to tamper with it, but nowhere do i recall seeing a slip of paper in the box, or an electronic EULA that forced me to only keep the hardware as the original target OS of its manufacture. What we have here is an 'exploit scenario' - due to a lack of identified and enforced practices by the manufacturer, people are firmware-converting their cards to work on a Mac. In the long run, ATi or NVIDIA still sell-through on their chipsets in any given quarter. I just don't think that these firms give a damn about the end-user exploiting the firmware; they sell cards, and that's that. What is the problem is that web-site Editors are scared into a Panic at the possibility of legal action on them; and pull plugs on these 'questionable' threads and topics. Unless they start including in-box EULA about firmware code, I really don't see how this could be illegal, and stand up in court. It's like servicing a Maytag washer and installing a Inqlis refurbished motor that's quieter and more energy efficient. Sure, the Maytag washer now has a voided warranty, but nowhere along the way have I commited a crime.
 

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Another thing I wanted to bring to the table is that ATI or NVIDIA may get pissed at people firmware-flashing their PC cards to Mac not because of 'licensing issues' on the firmware code (which is crap anyways, unless they include a EULA in the firmware upgrader application/installer), but because this opens-up a can of worms for a post-sale customer support standpoint. Essentially, PC cards usually have S-Video out and sometimes Input ports, TV functions, All-in-wonder supplementary hardware and the like - which plain don't work on the Mac, and even less supported by an OS. Most people who firmwarwe-flash their PC card to Mac, you'd think they wouldn't seek tech support on the card, but i'm certain that ATI or NVIDIA logs calls that are exotic and/or unresolved, and they've probably had a wealth of support calls and e-mails about PC cards not working 100% correctly on a Mac.

Ultimately, it comes down to the reluctance by the OEM to provide sufficient upgrade paths to the end-user, at fair and equitable values. I'm appalled at the $499 US Apple GeForce3 cards on eBay, when this is a vid card that's relatively ancient, technology-wise. Even thought the Mac now shares a wealth of common interface connection standards with PCs, OEMs are not macifiying their hardware nor providing these upgrade parts with a sticker price that's not insidious. As such, wittier consumers turn to the PC market for their parts, and use them on their macs. Thankfully, some vendors are kind enough to include full mac-support on PCI cards such as Serial-ATA RAID cards and USB 2.0 cards; you'd think vendors would include an auto-sensing trigger on their cards to detect the OS and hardware platform, and allow for any computer to use their cards. However, we live in a capitalistic world, and you have to pay a premium for Mac hardware, even it is only a 128K firmware upgrade.
 

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Like I said before the legalities of this are beyond my level of expertise but I am curious so any clarification would be appreciated.

I'm coming back to original question about the legality of flashing a PC video card from ATI's point of view. I have a copy of the ROM updater for my Radeon 7000 - Mac edition. Prior to flashing the ROM, an end-user agreement appears in a window. I have copied part of the EULA

-- begin quote ---
End User Software License Agreements

PLEASE READ THIS LICENSE CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THE SOFTWARE. BY USING THE SOFTWARE, YOU ARE AGREEING TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS OF THIS LICENSE.

1. License. The software accompanying this License (hereinafter "Software"), regardless of the media on which it is distributed, are licensed to you by ATI Technologies, Inc. ("ATI") for use solely in conjunction with ATI hardware products purchased with the Software ("ATI Hardware"). You own the medium on which the Software is recorded, but ATI and ATI's Licensors (referred to collectively as "ATI") retain title to the Software and related documentation. You may:
a) use the Software solely in conjunction with the ATI Hardware on a single computer;
b) make one copy of the Software in machine-readable form for backup purposes only. You must reproduce on such copy ATI's copyright notice and any other proprietary legends that were on the original copy of the Software;
c) transfer all your license rights in the Software provided you must also transfer a copy of this License, the backup copy of the Software, the ATI Hardware and the related documentation and provided the other party reads and agrees to accept the terms and conditions of this License. Upon such transfer your license is then terminated.

2. Restrictions. The Software contains copyrighted and patented material, trade secrets and other proprietary material. In order to protect them, and except as permitted by applicable legislation, you may not:
a) decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble or otherwise reduce the Software to a human-perceivable form;
b) modify, network, rent, lend, loan, distribute or create derivative works based upon the Software in whole or in part; or
c) electronically transmit the Software from one computer to another or over a network or otherwise transfer the Software except as permitted by this License.

-- end quote --

Is there anything in this part of the document that makes it clearly illegal to flash a PC video card with a Mac ROM?
 

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Some ATI people have privately complained about flashing, however a very senior nvidia person told me personally that they have no issue with it.

I have flashed Radeon 7000, Geforce 2mx's and original GeForce 3's.
 

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When marketing a graphics card there are manufacture costs, R&D costs and distribution costs. I for one think it a large waste of money - i.e. unneeded distribution costs - to have two separate products which differ only in the packaging, ROM code and distribution. I am quite comfortable with the idea of a manufacturer selling just a card that works in a PC and then (later) posting flash ROMs and flash software for the Mac user.
Maybe in the later distribution runs they could include software for $M, Linux and OS X on the CD with the package.

- Terry
 
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