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Mesa 7.11 Brings Much-Needed Linux Graphics Driver Improvements

Michael Larabel

Published on 1 August 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 1 - 4 Comments

After a short delay, Mesa 7.11 has been released. This is the user-space library for providing OpenGL support under Linux for the open-source Intel, ATI/AMD, and NVIDIA drivers, among other hardware and software-based drivers. The Mesa 7.11 release also offers updates to the Gallium3D driver architecture. Here is some of what you can expect to find on Mesa 7.11.

Mesa 7.11 contains six months worth of development work, so there are quite a number of changes. Some of the highlights worth mentioning include:

- Support for many new OpenGL extensions, including: GL_ARB_ES2_compatibility, GL_ARB_color_buffer_float, GL_ARB_draw_buffers_blend, GL_ARB_draw_instanced, GL_ARB_instanced_arrays, GL_ARB_occlusion_query2, GL_ARB_robustness, GL_ARB_sampler_objects, GL_ARB_seamless_cube_map, GL_ARB_shader_texture_lod, GL_ARB_sync, GL_ARB_texture_compression_rgtc, GL_ARB_texture_float, GL_EXT_packed_float, GL_EXT_texture_compression_latc, GL_EXT_texture_compression_rgtc, GL_EXT_texture_filter_anisotropic, GL_EXT_texture_shared_exponent, GL_EXT_texture_sRGB_decode, GL_EXT_texture_snorm, GL_AMD_draw_buffers_blend, GL_AMD_seamless_cubemap_per_texture, GL_AMD_shader_stencil_export, GL_ATI_draw_buffers, GL_ATI_texture_compression_3dc, GL_ATI_texture_float, GL_NV_conditional_render, and GL_NV_texture_barrier. Most of these new extensions are implemented for the Gallium3D drivers, but some of them are brought to the i965 driver (the Intel driver that supports from the 965 series through the latest Sandy Bridge hardware) and also the software rasterizer.

- Of the new OpenGL extensions in Mesa 7.11, some are for supporting OpenGL 3.0, but the overall support requirements are still not met. The OpenGL 3.0 requirements are a whole lot closer to being met with the changes made since Mesa 7.10, but there is still work to be done in bringing up GLSL (GL Shading Language) 1.30 support, depth format cube textures, GLX_ARB_create_context, and various other features. This work could possibly be completed by next January when Mesa 7.12 is due, and if that is the case, it will be released as Mesa 8.0 when GL3 support is complete.

- Mature Intel Sandy Bridge support. The Intel Sandy Bridge (HD 3000) graphics support has been improved a lot since its January launch. Intel SNB graphics are much faster and more stable in Mesa 7.11, as a number of Phoronix articles have shown in recent months.

- There is also initial support for Intel Ivy Bridge within Mesa 7.11. Ivy Bridge is the Sandy Bridge successor that's expected to be released by the end of the calendar year, but initial support for IVB graphics are already in place within Mesa, the xf86-video-intel DDX, and the Linux kernel to ensure a better "out of the box" experience this time around.

- AMD Llano Fusion graphics are now supported by the open-source driver, though there are some kernel problems.

- AMD Radeon HD 6900 "Cayman" graphics card support in the R600 Gallium3D driver.

- The ATI R600 Gallium3D driver is now built by default, which is used on all Radeon ASICs from the HD 2000 through HD 6000 series, including the Fusion APUs. The R600 Gallium3D driver replaces the classic Mesa DRI driver for the same hardware.

- GLSL compiler improvements.

- OpenGL floating-point textures support. This feature, however, must be configured to be enabled (it's disabled by default) at build-time since this implements patented IP.

- Intel Gallium3D driver improvements. Google contributed a number of improvements to the i915 Gallium3D driver, which is not officially supported by Intel, but is used by Google on their Chromebooks.

- Better Nouveau driver support, including some performance optimizations and better support for NVIDIA GeForce 400/500 "Fermi" graphics cards via the Nouveau "NVC0" driver.

- Many bug-fixes.

These are just the changes of Mesa 7.11 that come to mind from the Phoronix coverage over the past six months. The official Mesa 7.11 documentation included with the source-code just lists the new OpenGL extensions. The mailing list announcement is also not exciting. Anyhow, if you are into using open-source graphics drivers on Linux, Mesa 7.11 is well worth using. Better yet though would be to use Mesa 7.12-devel Git. While Mesa 7.11 has made a number of improvements, the open-source graphics drivers are still playing catch-up to the proprietary AMD / NVIDIA drivers and to Windows graphics drivers.

Six months is a long time to be waiting when new code is committed to Mesa on a near daily basis. Some of the work already queued up for Mesa 7.12 in January is the VMware's XA Gallium3D State Tracker, Gallium3D video decoding support, the GLSL-to-TGSI translator, floating-point depth buffers, and various other driver improvements. This work was all just committed to Mesa Git master within the past month.

Mesa 7.11 is what will be shipping in Ubuntu 11.10 and many other Linux distribution updates being released this autumn, aside from Fedora 16 that will likely be on Mesa 7.12-devel.

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