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XBMC's Thoughts On XvBA: AMD Catalyst Has Problems

Peter Frühberger

Published on 21 June 2012
Written by Peter Frühberger
Page 1 of 2 - 28 Comments

It's not only NVIDIA with Linux problems that cause upstream developers to publicly bash companies (i.e. Linus Torvalds calling NVIDIA the worst company ever), but AMD has come under scrutiny too. The developers of the popular cross-platform XBMC multimedia project shared a little story about enthusiasm, hope, and disappointment. In this guest posting by Peter Frühberger on Phoronix, XvBA is what is principally talked about, which is AMD's lead choice for video acceleration when using their proprietary Catalyst driver. Unfortunately the XBMC developers aren't too happy about the state of video acceleration using AMD's Catalyst driver for Radeon graphics hardware, hence why they have reached out to Phoronix with this rather lengthy public message. Whether AMD even cares about Linux users and when XvBA will support missing functionality are among their open questions for AMD.

AMD Graphics for HTPC Appliances with Linux
A little story about enthusiasm, hope, and dissappointment

As AMD made XvBA public a long time ago there was hope in the community. The xvba-video driver of Splitted-Desktop made XvBA available through VAAPI. Although this was a big step forward, there were plenty of problems left to solve. In order to fix those issues a small team of enthusiasts formed around XBMC and implemented direct support for XvBA. A first testing branch was made available mid December but essential features like mpeg2 decoding or H.264 Level 5 are still missing in the XvBA API. The questions the meanwhile large community asks are:

1.) How much does AMD care about Linux users?
2.) When will XvBA support the missing features?
3.) Is it worth waiting?

Behind the scenes:
(This is not an official XBMC statement)

Let's start with the good news. Since our first public announcement in the mid of December a lot has changed in our implementation. During the last months a lot of improvements within the xvba architecture were achieved. With a focus on stabilty, stutter free 24p playback and reliable channel switching support for PVR (vdr or tvheadend) backends to only name some of them.

The more we progress the more questions we get about the most important missing features: mpeg2 support, H.264 Level > 4.1. Without those AMD owners using Linux can't enjoy the full HTPC experience their counterparts on Windows get. AMD users running Microsoft Windows can already enjoy the full multimedia potential of their hardware, because all this is already implemented within the Windows driver for a long time now.

It is really easy to test the Xvba improvements we made. We build xbmc-xvba packages for all current versions of Ubuntu, with a complete install howto available in the XBMC forums. There also is an active IRC channel to support our users: irc.freenode.net #xbmc-xvba.

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