VIA Will Not Provide An Open-Source Chrome 9 3D Driver
Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 17 July 2009. Page 1 of 1. 31 Comments

This morning VIA's Bruce Chang had submitted the DRM code for the Chrome 9 IGP with a request that it be pushed into the mainline Linux kernel. The DRM alone isn't usable to an end-user without a Mesa driver or something else to take advantage of this kernel component. VIA previously expressed interest in a Gallium3D-based Chrome 9 driver, but now today we find out they have no intentions on creating an open-source Chrome 9 3D driver. Instead, they just want this DRM into the mainline Linux kernel so that it can be used by their binary blob and to hopefully have some open-source developers come along and create a free software driver from their incomplete documentation.

In a message sent to David Airlie (the DRM maintainer) on the DRI development list, VIA's open-source advocate, Harald Welte, expressed their plans. VIA's official X.Org driver that is under a proprietary license can provide 3D support, but it will not be released as open-source because of third-party licensing claims.

Harald went on to add in this message that they will be supportive of anybody in the Linux community that creates an open-source 3D driver for the Chrome 9 on their behalf, but so far there is no active work underway. Harald explains that they have published programming documentation for the Chrome 9 and that the only thing missing is the pixel shader documentation, which will be released soon. VIA has indeed published 2D/3D programming documentation, but it's not complete by any means. As Nouveau's Stephane Marchesin was quick to reply, the Chrome 9 public documents don't cover the shader instruction set for this VIA IGP, which makes it impossible for the community to write its own 3D driver.

The reasons for VIA not supplying an open-source Chrome 9 3D driver is that it doesn't have the resources to write a new driver. Harald does note that future VIA IGPs will contain a different, incompatible GPU so they will just focus "getting things 'right' for those future products." VIA previously attempted to push the Chrome 9 DRM into the Linux kernel back in December, but that had failed. This current situation is similar to when the Intel Poulsbo DRM was proposed for mainlining in the Linux kernel, but that ended up being rejected on the basis of the 3D driver being closed-source and the code being undocumented. VIA's code is really not any better.

VIA's current stance is that they want this Chrome 9 DRM pushed into the Linux kernel, but there are no open-source "clients" to take advantage of this DRM right now, just VIA's closed-source X.Org driver that will not be open-sourced. VIA has no intentions of creating a Chrome 9 3D driver but they want the community to be responsible. With incomplete documentation and VIA hardware not being incredibly popular, chances are that will not happen unless Tungsten Graphics / VMware ends up wrangling one together like they did with creating a TTM-based OpenChrome driver and a new DRM/Mesa driver.

Some X.Org developers have called VIA's open-source efforts a bluff and these actions from VIA of providing incomplete documentation and not committing to a Chrome 9 3D driver really don't cull the situation. This mailing list discussion is still on going within the DRI development list, and if anything substantive comes about, we will be sure to provide a news update.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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