1. Computers
  2. Display Drivers
  3. Graphics Cards
  4. Memory
  5. Motherboards
  6. Processors
  7. Software
  8. Storage
  9. Operating Systems


Facebook RSS Twitter Twitter Google Plus


Phoronix Test Suite

OpenBenchmarking Benchmarking Platform
Phoromatic Test Orchestration

Testing Out ATI Kernel Mode-Setting On Ubuntu

Michael Larabel

Published on 8 June 2009
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 1 - 17 Comments

Kernel mode-setting for Intel graphics hardware can already be found in the mainline Linux kernel and will be included by default in the release of Ubuntu 9.10 later this year. While Intel's kernel mode-setting support has been maturing in a steadfast manner, this support has not been moving along quite as fast for ATI and NVIDIA hardware. It is possible we will see ATI/AMD kernel mode-setting along with the necessary memory management support enter the Linux 2.6.31 kernel and potentially see this feature appear in Ubuntu 9.10 as an end-user option, but currently this support is still deemed under development. For those with ATI Radeon hardware looking to test out kernel mode-setting, there is now a Launchpad PPA and a LiveCD available for testing out these mode-setting capabilities atop Ubuntu.

The Radeon KMS PPA can be found and discussed here. Enabling kernel mode-setting for ATI hardware on Ubuntu currently requires specialized snapshots of the kernel DRM, a Linux 2.6.30 kernel that is built with the memory management and KMS support, a snapshot of Mesa 7.6, and a version of the xf86-video-ati DDX driver that is derived from a v12.2.99 Git snapshot. The Ubuntu xorg-edgers project has also pushed out an Ubuntu LiveCD spin that comes with these packages installed by default to assist in the testing process.

We tested out this xorg-edgers LiveCD with the ATI kernel mode-setting packages on a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 notebook that was using an ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 graphics processor. The kernel mode-setting had worked without issues. The LiveCD was installed to a Corsair Flash Survivor GT USB drive. However, as can be seen from our video above, the boot experience is not exactly pleasant with kernel mode-setting in general nor is it very fast. Canonical was planning to adopt Red Hat's Plymouth to provide a pleasant, flicker-free boot experience in Ubuntu but that decision was recently retracted. Canonical instead will continuing to be use USplash, which does not directly take advantage of kernel mode-setting, and instead will be investing their resources in improving the overall startup time. They hope to reach a ten second boot time by Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, but at this time that is still a far reach.

While the boot experience is not as fashionable as Fedora with Plymouth on KMS and its fancy plug-ins, VT switching is, of course, very clean and prompt when using the kernel mode-setting driver. The virtual terminal also remains at the panel's native resolution and is much faster. Other general benefits of kernel mode-setting include the ability to run the X Server without root privileges (read: better security) and the ability to display graphical panic messages if something goes awry. There are also projects like Wayland that further leverage kernel mode-setting and newer technologies within the X.Org stack.

It is not clear yet whether we will see kernel mode-setting for any ATI Radeon hardware within Ubuntu 9.10 (or whether it will enter the Linux 2.6.31 kernel), but we are certainly hopeful and look forward to more distributions adopting kernel mode-setting. Kernel mode-setting for NVIDIA hardware via the Nouveau project is likely out of the question until at least Ubuntu 10.04 LTS with the Linux 2.6.32/2.6.33 kernels. There is also no kernel mode-setting at this time for the ATI Radeon R600/700 (HD 2000 series and later) hardware.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
Latest Articles & Reviews
  1. Radeon Linux Benchmarks: Catalyst 15.3 Beta vs. Linux 4.0 + Mesa 10.6-devel
  2. Trying Out The Modern Linux Desktops With 4 Monitors + AMD/NVIDIA Graphics
  3. Turning A Basement Into A Big Linux Server Room
  4. NVIDIA's $1000+ GeForce GTX TITAN X Delivers Maximum Linux Performance
  5. OS X 10.10 vs. Ubuntu 15.04 vs. Fedora 21 Tests: Linux Sweeps The Board
  6. The New Place Where Linux Code Is Constantly Being Benchmarked
Latest Linux News
  1. Debian 8.0 Jessie Gets A Release Date
  2. Firefox 37 Coming Today With Heartbeat, HTTPS Bing
  3. OpenIndiana 2015.03 Updates Its Solaris/Illumos Environment
  4. GNOME 3.16 SDK Runtime Now Available
  5. Initial Intel Braxton Support Might Come To Linux 4.1
  6. Why KDE's KWin Doesn't Integrate Weston/QtCompositor For Wayland Support
  7. Clang Now Supports Targeting The NaCl OS
  8. PC-BSD Updates Its Lumina Desktop (v0.8.3)
  9. Fedora 22 Alpha Now Available For AArch64 & PowerPC64
  10. Systemd Developers Did NOT Fork The Linux Kernel
Most Viewed News This Week
  1. Introducing The Library Operating System For Linux
  2. The Big Features Of The Linux 4.0 Kernel
  3. Improved OpenCL Support For Blender's Cycles Renderer
  4. Open-Source Driver Fans Will Love NVIDIA's New OpenGL Demo
  5. Allwinner Continues Jerking Around The Open-Source Community
  6. GNOME 3.16 Released: It's Their Best Release Yet
  7. Ubuntu 15.04 Final Beta Released
  8. Systemd Change Allows For Stateless Systems With Tmpfs