Over the past few days I conducted an email interview with Regeneration. He’s the man responsible for modifying the ULI “SLI Driver” (properly known as the PowerExpress utility) to run on chipsets not SLI-certified like VIA K8T890 and Intel 975X. NVIDIA and Regeneration have since reached an amicable resolution, but the interview is still insightful and gives a closer look at the man who drew the (legal) attention of one of the world’s biggest graphics companies.
PCPer: What is your background and what motivated you to write the “SLI Patch”?
I’m dealing with computers for 13 years. I must say that I didn’t write the SLI Patch myself. ULi/Asrock wrote it, I just added modifications in order to enable it for other chipsets. However, it’s not easy because to make perfect because of equipment issues. For that patch I tried to obtain an Asrock motherboard but I couldn’t find it in the shops here. So without many choices, I had to use beta testers in order to make the patch work well. It was very hard to the find right beta testers. I used Google to search for users with an Asrock motherboard with an ULi chipset and tried to convince them to beta test for that project and I must say that the success rate was very low. That’s the main reason why the SLI Patch is far from being perfect. With the right equipment, I will be able to increase the success rate up to 100%.
My motivation is the crazy street price. In my country (Israel) hardware is over-priced. For example, 7900GTX is around to 1000$ and 6800 is still around 800$. The target audience for both NVIDIA and ATi are gamers and I think that most of the gamers are young. In Israel the average salary is around to 1000$ and it’s hard to afford all these products. They always talk about MSRP but they never speak about the street price, especially outside of the USA.
I’m just trying to help the community and hope that everyone will be capable to enjoy from the latest technology. We all know that Radeon X1600/1300 series are capable to run together with software emulation. I always believed it’s possible for both SLI/Crossfire platforms. However, both NVIDIA and ATI are not providing much information to developers. For example, it is possible to adjust voltages in G70 via software but Nvidia is not providing the information to developers, only to their OEMs. SLI Motherboard in my country is around to 250-300$, we pay extra 100$ for their software. Another example is Intel. The only motherboard I know that support SLI for Intel users is nForce4 Intel Edition and it’s not easy to find it in the shops. After all, the ‘poor’ deserve to play the latest PC games as well.
Just to remind you that if you want to go with SLI, you’ll need a very powerful power supply, SLI motherboard and two 3D cards. Most of the people can’t afford even a single card.
PCPer: Did you have any contact with ULI or NVIDIA prior to writing the software?
We had relations with ULi but few months before they were bought by NVIDIA we stopped receiving emails from them.
PCPer: Did you expect NVIDIA to send you a cease and desist letter? What did you expect from them?
No I didn’t expect it. I expected they will contact us nicely and in respected way. We’re giving them a lot of media exposure and the minimum we ask is just a small amount of the respect.
PCPer: Assuming you can continue writing the software, would you even consider it? Has this turned you off from it?
I will continue with my projects and I must say that yesterday I really wanted to drop all GeForce-based projects. I’m not asking for people to thank me but all I want is a small amount of respect. After all, we serve NVIDIA’s customers and we do it for free.
PCPer: Regardless of how this incident with NVIDIA turns out, what are your plans for the future? Any other projects you care to mention?
I’m not a person for plans or schedules. I just live the moment and every day/hour/minute/second I might start a new project. I usually think about it when I try to sleep. However, I’m very busy recently because I’m trying to run NGOHQ and you probably know what it’s like to run a website. A lot of reviews, news, articles and downloads are taking most of my free time – especially, when you do most of it on your own. My plans for the future is to make NGOHQ into a famous website and when I will have enough free time (and equipment) then I could start some new projects (without the need to beg people to beta test for me). Until then, I will keep working on my modified drivers and keep supporting the community with everything I can, in my available time. Oh and speaking about NVIDIA, today they called me and we solved everything. [ See update after this interview. – Ed. ]
PCPer: From your responses I get a sense that a major motivation is to allow people with limited money access to better performing technology. It is a noble cause, but software like yours can be easily abused by others. Do you think it’s possible to balance/regulate this? Is it a concern for you?
You can see people abusing stuff everywhere. But when you receive positive emails and you see posts in forums that your work helped people and you see letters like: “You saved my LAN party” then you don’t care about the “abusers”. It’s my only motivation. There is a negative side in everything, but you just learn to look at the positive side and appreciate it.
Look at overclocking software for example. It’s very useful but on the other side bad people (virus writers) can use it to cause huge damage. I’m sure your hardware won’t like too much voltage, but it’s not preventing us from using it right? Same thing goes for P2P and everything in life.
Do you draw any similarities between yourself to other contemporary code modders/hackers like Angel Trinidad (author of Omega drivers), or Jon Lech Johansen (aka. “DVD Jon” – the one responsible for breaking CSS encryption on DVDs)?
I don’t know DVD Jon and I’m not dealing with cracking. Angel ‘Omegadrive’ Trinidad is a good friend of mine and yes I agree we have some similarities between us. But he’s currently very busy (even more than me). There are many skilled people in the community and it’s too bad not everyone is using their skills fully.
Both of us are dealing with modified drivers, some people think we are just taking registry entries and stuff like this but they don’t know that somehow we have to find out about these entries and to research it on our own. No one is providing that information and we have to do it all. Most of our users are gamers and Anti-Cheat applications don’t like when you make ‘cold’ modifications. One time I made few modifications to the OpenGL driver and everyone who tried to use it got blocked by some anti-cheat application. Since then I’m trying to play it safe.
PCPer: What is the most positive / rewarding experience you gained during the whole process of creating the patch? Did you learn anything interesting? Do you have any regrets? How has this experience changed you as a person?
I don’t have any regrets, but sometimes I do feel it because I’m trying to help and many people refuse to beta test or support me. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting sick of it until I see the happy faces as a result of all my projects. And yes I learned that with some knowledge, desire and some free time you can make everything. And I mean EVERYTHING!
This case we have seen here is just one of many such stories we read about on a regular basis whether it be HomeBrew for the PSP, or modchips for the latest console system. As we have more enterprising consumers do more with their goods than was originally intended, you will have companies that will see it as a violation and pursue different avenues to secure their brand or intellectual property.
Occasionally a company will nurture grassroots innovation and even integrate it into their offerings. In those rare cases everyone wins.
I know it’s been a frantic few days for him, so I thank Regeration for his time to answer our questions.