March 10, 2009 -- This year NVIDIA has been following the "release early, release often" mantra with it seeming like two weeks can't even go by without seeing a new Linux driver -- whether it's a beta driver, an official driver update, or one of their legacy drivers picking up a few fixes (at times they have even released four drivers at once). On the opposite spectrum, AMD continues with monthly Catalyst driver updates on both Linux and windows. Rather than a continual stream of new public driver releases, AMD maintains a private beta program for their Catalyst Linux driver. This private program is made up of AMD developers, hardware vendors, users of different Linux distributions, other Linux vendors, and end-users. Phoronix has been apart of this program for years, but those testing this driver are under a strict Non-Disclosure Agreement with AMD regarding pre-releases of their Linux software. Today, however, AMD has decided to declassify some information pertaining to its Linux Graphics Driver Beta Program.
March 06, 2009 -- Yesterday we broke the news that AMD will stop supporting the R300-500 GPUs in the Catalyst driver. There have been well over one hundred posts in the Phoronix Forums from ATI customers upset with this decision, but fortunately, there is first-rate open-source support available. AMD continues to release documentation and code while the X.Org development community has been hard at work on the xf86-video-ati and xf86-video-radeonhd drivers along with Mesa and Gallium3D components. The main problem though is the open-source stack -- at this time -- providing poor gaming performance, but power management can also be a problem. In yesterday's article we provided some R500 comparative 2D and OpenGL benchmarks, but in this article are some power management results comparing the Catalyst 9.2 driver to the xf86-video-ati driver.
March 04, 2009 -- Beginning next month with the Catalyst 9.4 release, support for the R300/400/500 generations of graphics processors will be dropped from AMD's mainline ATI driver. In a move they hope will allow them to focus their efforts on newer and upcoming graphics processors, the mainline Catalyst driver on both Linux and Windows will stop supporting cards older than the Radeon HD 2000 series. Linux customers affected will be encouraged to use their open-source driver stack (xf86-video-ati or xf86-video-radeonhd and Mesa) or stay with the Catalyst 9.3 driver.
February 27, 2009 -- For months we have seen S3 Graphics advertise a magical Linux driver in their press releases that promised to offer OpenGL 3.0 support and advanced video functionality. They had reported to us the driver would be released in December, but that deadline had passed and they continued to announce Linux support when launching the Chrome 540 GTX, but still there was nothing. However, S3 Graphics has now actually delivered such a driver! They have delivered a Chrome 500 series Linux driver that not only provides OpenGL 3.0 support but also H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2 hardware decoding on the GPU. While it may appear to be good, this driver is still far from perfect.
February 14, 2009 -- During the X.Org meetings at FOSDEM, Stephane Marchesin had discussed what he and other open-source developers are doing by using a code compiler (LLVM) and interweaving it with the Gallium3D driver architecture. By strapping the Low-Level Virtual Machine to Gallium3D, developers are hoping they can use the power of this relatively new compiler infrastructure to provide advanced GPU shader optimizations. This is not exactly an easy task, but it is believed it can be accomplished with beneficial results and they are making progress.
February 09, 2009 -- At FOSDEM 2009 in Keith Packard's talk on the rebuilt Linux desktop, he shared the progress made in composited 3D, monitor auto-plugging, 2D/3D/media shared objects, kernel mode-setting, and kernel-based 2D drawing. Allowing these problems to be addressed was the Graphics Execution Manager for kernel memory management. The Graphics Execution Manager was used instead of TTM (which we talked about several times before at Phoron
February 08, 2009 -- The first X.Org talk at FOSDEM 2009 was on version 1.3 of the Resize and Rotate extension. Matthias Hopf talked about RandR 1.3 and then Keith Packard demonstrated the transformations and panning operations using this soon-to-be-released version of RandR. Among the features for RandR 1.3 are querying state without output probing, multi-monitor panning, display transformations (translation, scaling, rotation, projection), and support for standard outputs.
February 03, 2009 -- Just over a month ago we shared that patches had emerged to support Intel's VA-API in MPlayer and FFmpeg. VA-API supports popular video formats such as MPEG-4 and VC-1 and is able to accelerate IDCT, Motion Compensation, LVC, bit-stream processing, and other functions, but this video API has not picked up much speed yet. The only display driver to have implemented support for VA-API in the hardware is Intel's closed-source driver (the one that's a bloody mess) for the Poulsbo chipset, which is found in a few select netbooks/nettops. However, it is now possible to use Intel's VA-API with NVIDIA hardware (the GeForce 8 series and later) and soon will be possible to use this video API on ATI/AMD hardware too.
January 29, 2009 -- AMD has just released its first official Catalyst driver update for the new year. AMD had delivered several key improvements to their proprietary Linux driver stack last year as we shared in our AMD Linux 2008 Year in Review, but what's there to get excited about in Catalyst 9.1? Well, first and foremost there is improved Composite support during video playback, Hybrid CrossFire support, and a number of fixes. Oh, and there's also OpenGL 3.0 support!
January 27, 2009 -- The NVIDIA 180.22 Linux driver was released less than three weeks ago, but today NVIDIA has released a new 180.xx display driver update. In addition, NVIDIA has updated all three of their legacy display drivers.