Earlier this year VIA announced they wanted to join the open-source bandwagon by establishing an open-source driver development initiative, releasing documentation and source-code, and to better engage with the Linux community at large. They have made a few small steps over the past few months, but today they have made their largest open-source contribution yet by releasing four programming documentation guides that cover the video, 2D, and 3D programming for their Chrome 9 graphics processor. In addition, they are now partnering with the community-spawned OpenChrome developers.
Last year we hosted our first annual Linux Graphics Survey as really the only study that's been done to get a better understanding what the Linux community is using in their computers to fulfill their graphics needs, what their key interests are, and where they are looking for improvements. We're hosting this survey once again so we ask that between now and December 15 you take a few minutes to vote in the 2008 Linux graphics survey.
Earlier today we shared that NVIDIA is bringing PureVideo features to Linux through a major update in their binary display driver. The NVIDIA 180.06 driver adds VDPAU support on Linux, Solaris, and FreeBSD operating systems, with VDPAU being a set of APIs designed by NVIDIA to accelerate video decoding, provide post-processing capabilities, timstamp-based presentation of video frames, and compositing of sub-picture elements. We have now had the time to benchmark the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix and have seen the benefits of PureVideo features finally arriving on alternative platforms.
Over the course of the past few months we have been saying that the NVIDIA 180 Linux driver to be released in the fourth quarter of 2008 would hold in store a few interesting features. Well, today that closed-source driver has been released in beta form. This driver adds a new VDPAU API, which provides PureVideo-like features on Linux, adds in CUDA 2.1 support, new workstation performance optimizations, X Render improvements, and other improvements.
Earlier this week we had published ATI benchmarks of the open-source Mesa stack and X.Org in the Ubuntu releases going back to Ubuntu 7.04. While the open-source graphics drivers have matured a lot over the past eighteen months and many new features have been added, the ATI performance with an R430 GPU really hadn't improved in the newer releases. To see if the open-source Intel situation is any different, we have carried out similar tests with an Intel 945G Chipset across the past four Ubuntu releases.
Late last month we published system benchmarks of Ubuntu 7.04 through 8.10 and had found -- at least with the Intel notebook we were using -- that the performance had degraded with time. This article had then resulted in benchmarks of Fedora 7 through 10 and most recently were Mac OS X 10.5 vs. Ubuntu 8.10 benchmarks. In our original article we hadn't focused much upon the graphics tests and we were just using ATI's binary driver, but per a request from Canonical's Bryce Harrington, we have carried out some open-source graphics tests on Ubuntu 7.04 through 8.10 and we started with the ATI performance.
It's been almost six months since the last issue of the Nouveau Companion, but Pekka Paalanen has rejuvenated these efforts and has put out the 40th issue of this newsletter that updates the open-source community on the status of the Nouveau project, an effort to reverse-engineer NVIDIA's binary driver and provide a fully open-source 2D and 3D implementation. While we have been without the Nouveau Companion for many months, progress on the open-source Nouveau driver has continued. There is now GeForce 8 support with 2D EXA acceleration, work underway in implementing Gallium3D, switching the driver's memory manager from TTM to using a GEM API with TTM internals (similar to the ATI driver), and of course kernel mode-setting.
In early September we shared that UVD2 and XvMC is coming to Linux and that two new library files had begun shipping with the ATI Catalyst driver: AMDXvBA and XvBAW. Earlier this month the Unified Video Decoding 2 (UVD2) support was then enabled by default in the Catalyst 8.10 driver. These video acceleration improvements to the ATI Linux driver aren't exactly end-user friendly yet, but today we have information on how those interested can begin using the X-Video Motion Compensation extension with their ATI hardware along with what the XvBA extension will provide users in regards to advanced video acceleration that is very similar to Microsoft's DirectX Video Acceleration.
The OpenGL 3.0 and GLSL 1.30 specification were released back in August during SIGGRAPH 2008. Just days later NVIDIA had delivered a beta driver for Windows that added OpenGL 3.0 functionality, but Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris users were left in the dark. Two months later though NVIDIA has now published a beta Linux driver that implements most of the latest GL/GLSL specification.
Last month we had looked at the ATI Radeon HD 4670 under Linux. This graphics card had worked just fine with the Catalyst Linux Suite, but when using either of the two open-source ATI drivers there were problems with the DVI connectors. While using an analog VGA connector works if you are just after mode-setting support, the R600/700 GPUs still lack 2D, 3D, and video acceleration using any non-Catalyst driver. Sapphire Technology though has sent out an ATI Radeon HD 4550 512MB GPU to see whether this sub-$50 USD graphics card plays nicely with the xf86-video-ati or xf86-video-radeonhd drivers.
X Server 1.5 was officially released last month with X.Org 7.4, but there had been server pre-releases going back to earlier this year. Fedora 9 had even shipped with an early version version of X Server 1.5. For those using the open-source X.Org drivers, running the latest server is not a big deal, but those with ATI or NVIDIA binary drivers they sometimes can be slow in supporting the latest version. NVIDIA has supported X Server 1.5 for a number of weeks now, but ATI has yet to update their Catalyst Linux driver with such support. With Ubuntu 8.10 being released in two weeks and it's using this newest X Server, how will ATI graphics cards be supported? Well, an interesting event has occurred and we will tell you what has happened in this article.
The last release of the xf86-video-radeonhd driver was version 1.2.1 and that happened back in April. Since then we have seen a plethora of new work go into this open-source ATI driver for the Radeon R500 series and later. We've seen the driver add support for AMD's 780G Chipset and most notably it has adopted AtomBIOS to be used on the Radeon HD 4800 series and newer. There have also been numerous other improvements to this driver that currently competes with the xf86-video-ati driver. With much of this work now being settled, the Novell development team has released the RadeonHD 1.2.2 driver. In addition, they pushed out the RadeonHD 1.2.3 driver just moments later, which introduces their Command Submission infrastructure.
Introduced in the Catalyst 8.8 Linux driver and further stabilized within Catalyst 8.9 was AMD's MultiView technology. MultiView makes it possible to use multiple GPUs on the same system not for Linux CrossFire but for driving multiple display heads. Using MultiView on Linux you can easily drive four, six, or even eight screens. In fact, up to 32 displays are theoretically supported on a single system (permitting you have enough graphics cards and PCI Express slots). MultiView also allows for OpenGL acceleration across all displays and does not rely upon Xinerama. In this article we are taking a brief look at this multi-GPU multi-monitor feature catered towards AMD's workstation customers.
Over the course of the past few months we have seen several NVIDIA Linux drivers that have all been marked as beta with the last official release appearing in April. Today though NVIDIA has released the 177.80 Linux driver, which is an official update and christens the changes made with the 177.67, 177.68, 170.70, 177.76, and 177.78 beta drivers. Among the changes are RENDER extension improvements, finally officially supporting the GeForce GTX series, text rendering fixes, and there are 25 official changes in total.
Earlier this year Fedora 9 was the first distribution providing kernel-based mode-setting (or KMS for short). At the time there was only a kernel mode-setting driver for Intel hardware and it ended up being disabled by default. We had provided a preview of kernel-based mode-setting that showed how the system display looked when it came to the flicker-free boot experience, fast and clean VT switching, and the technical advantages this method provides over the graphics mode-setting within an X.Org DDX driver. With months having passed since our first article and Red Hat engineers working aggressively on KMS improvements for Fedora 10, we are providing another look at this technology and some of the recent advancements.
Last month we saw the release of the NVIDIA 177.67 Linux driver along with the 177.67 beta driver, and a 177.70 driver. In the fourth NVIDIA Linux driver release in under a month's time, the 177.76 display driver has been released. This too looks like another beta driver with more fixes in store for those with GeForce or Quadro hardware owners.
Last month with the Catalyst 8.8 Linux driver we finally experienced CrossFire support on Linux as well as OverDrive support. This was one of the most significant driver releases of the year, but it's now time to move on as Catalyst 8.9 has just been released. This new driver update does bring a few exciting changes: the long-awaited WINE fixes, what appears to be RandR 1.2 with accelerated rotation support, and a horde of bug-fixes.
When the Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 were introduced earlier this year, it was wonderful. These latest high-end graphics cards from ATI had same-day Linux support through their Catalyst driver and the open-source ATI drivers had "just worked" with the RV770 series. The mode-setting support with the xf86-video-ati and xf86-video-radeonhd drivers just required adding in the PCI IDs for these new PCI Express graphics cards and then the rest of the magic was provided by AtomBIOS. However, with the introduction of the Radeon HD 4600 series, not everything is working instantly with the open-source drivers.
With Mesa 7.1 having been released this week and the open-source R600/770 3D support just around the corner, we've taken this opportunity to see how the open-source Mesa 3D stack compares to AMD's monthly-refined Catalyst Linux Suite with the fglrx driver performs for the Radeon X1000 (R500) series. In this article are Mesa 7.1 and Catalyst 8.8 benchmarks for the Radeon X1300PRO and X1800XL graphics cards.
Tuesday the NVIDIA 177.67 Display Driver was released and then yesterday the ATI Catalyst 8.8 Driver came out with OverDrive and CrossFire support. Today though we are back with another NVIDIA Linux driver release. Due to fallout from the 177.67 driver, NVIDIA has replaced it just two days later with the 177.68 Beta.
When it comes to ATI hardware, one of the features we have been after for the longest time on Linux has been any overclocking support. Windows users have ATI's OverDrive at their disposal along with an arsenal of third-party utilities such as ATI Tool. NVIDIA also has various utilities for overclocking their graphics cards on Windows, but they also provide support for overclocking on Linux. Today though with the release of the Catalyst 8.8 Linux driver there is finally ATI OverDrive 5 support on Linux.
AMD had delivered same-day Linux support when launching the Radeon HD 4800 series this summer. This was a first for AMD when launching a major product revision that there was same-day support considering for the R500 and R600 (and earlier) generations it had taken months for any level of support on Linux. This was great to see and the Radeon HD 4850/4870 performance was terrific thanks to their new OpenGL driver introduced last September. Today AMD has announced another Catalyst driver release for Linux and this is arguably the most significant driver update since last October's release when AIGLX support was added. Catalyst 8.8 delivers CrossFire support on Linux, OverDrive overclocking support, adaptive anti-aliasing support, and other improvements.
It has been a few weeks since NVIDIA last pushed out a Linux display driver update, but this morning already they have pushed out a new update. The just-released NVIDIA 177.67 display driver doesn't introduce OpenGL 3.0 support or any other major features, but it does look to resolve a number of bugs, provide improvements to the Render extension, add official support to the GeForce GTX 260/280 graphics cards, and a number of other improvements.
For months we have been telling you that AMD has been preparing to release their R600 series documentation as well as opening up the source-code to two of their internal software projects used for testing new graphics processor designs prior to the availability of the actual hardware. Advanced Micro Devices has yet to release their 3D programming documentation covering the R600 series (or the brand-new RV770) nor the source-code to their two internal projects (TCore and KGrids), but following several postings in our forums over the past couple of weeks and many emails inquiring about the status, today we have a brief update to share.
From SIGGRAPH 2008, one of the premiere computers graphics conferences, the Khronos Group has announced the release of the OpenGL 3.0 API specification and the GLSL 1.30 shading language specification. This is the first major update to this cross-platform 3D programming API since the OpenGL 2.1 release two years ago. In this article we have a bit of information on these OpenGL and GLSL updates and when we can expect to see the Linux graphics scene moving to this new standard.
Yesterday KDE 4.1 was released and there are widely known 2D performance problems with the GeForce 8 and 9 series, which are especially exhibited when using the K Desktop Environment. So you think NVIDIA would address this issue in their next driver update? Guess again. Early this morning NVIDIA had released a new driver as version 173.14.12. This is the first NVIDIA Linux driver release in a month and a half, but its change-log is quite slim.
Last September AMD had provided an open-source AtomBIOS parser for use by the RadeonHD driver in order to communicate with this video BIOS abstraction layer found on the past few generations of ATI graphics cards. While we are still waiting on the R600 sample source-code and 3D register documentation to arrive, AMD has today released a new AtomBIOS parser. This parser is coming out of their KGrids project, which we have previously mentioned in the past, and will allow for a clean AtomBIOS parser to enter the Linux kernel.
In recent times, the xorg.conf file once used for configuring all static X-related server options has been shrinking in size. Thanks to more reliable EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) on LCD panels, it's generally no longer needed to manually specify mode-lines within this X.Org configuration file. With improvements for auto-detection, in many circumstances it's no longer even needed to manually specify your graphics driver and other options. However, the X Server currently lacks an infrastructure for supporting persistent device properties.
Since last night's release of Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 2 we have been trying out this latest work from the Canonical camp. While many Linux desktop users would just shrug off X.Org 7.4 as not being too relevant to them -- considering there aren't that many new blatant features -- if you're a faithful Phoronix reader you should already know about much of the recent driver work (especially on the ATI side) and Mesa advancements along with X Server fixes.
The Novell developers behind the xf86-video-radeonhd driver have yet to receive their hardware samples from AMD for the Radeon HD 4850 or Radeon HD 4870, but there is already AtomBIOS-based support for these next-generation graphics processors. This open-source driver now has basic mode-setting support, but the 2D and 3D work is still to come.
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