October 20, 2009 -- In late August we started asking our readers for any questions they had for NVIDIA about Linux and this graphics company's support of open-source operating systems. Twelve pages worth of questions were accumulated and we finally have the answers to a majority of them. NVIDIA's Andy Ritger, who leads the user-space side of the NVIDIA UNIX Graphics Driver team for workstation, desktop, and notebook GPUs, answered these questions. With that said, there are some great, in-depth technical answers and not the usual marketing speak found in many interviews. While Linux is our focus, Andy's team and his answers for the most part apply equally to NVIDIA drivers on Solaris and FreeBSD platforms too. There are many questions that range from the status of new features in their proprietary graphics driver to why it is unlikely there will be any official open-source support from NVIDIA to download percentages of their Linux driver.
October 07, 2009 -- Ubuntu 9.10 had its beta release last week and the final release is coming in just three weeks, but this late in the release cycle, it has been decided to pull in the final Mesa 7.6 version. Pulling in this newer code that provides OpenGL acceleration on Linux provides numerous bug-fixes along with support for a greater number of OpenGL extensions on different hardware and other improvements.
September 30, 2009 -- While the ATI Radeon HD 5800 graphics cards were introduced last week, the open-source support for the Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000 series is finally maturing. The Linux 2.6.32 kernel will feature kernel mode-setting support for these ATI R600/700 graphics processors as well as the DRM support for allowing 3D acceleration. The classic Mesa support for the Radeon HD 2000 through Radeon HD 4000 series is maturing and is now able to run basic OpenGL games and applications, while the Gallium3D support is still a ways out. However, now that there is finally the Catalyst 9.10 driver within Ubuntu Karmic Koala that supports the latest kernel, we are finally able to directly compare the performance of AMD's Catalyst driver and that of the latest open-source code. In this article we have benchmarks showing the 2D performance between these two driver options with both an R600 and R700 graphics card.
July 31, 2009 -- Back in May we shared that the Ubuntu Intel graphics performance was still in bad shape after testing out very early Ubuntu 9.10 packages. The netbook experience was killed in Ubuntu 9.04 after a buggy Intel Linux graphics stack led to slow performance, stability issues, screen corruption, and other problems. Months have passed since we last exhaustively looked at the Intel Linux graphics stack, but we have just carried out some new tests using Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3. This new development release of Ubuntu carries the latest kernel, Mesa, and Intel driver packages as we see how the graphics performance is with an Intel 945 and G43 chipsets.
July 22, 2009 -- Yesterday NVIDIA released their first 190.xx Linux beta driver for their GeForce and Quadro graphics cards. The NVIDIA 190.16 Beta driver brought a number of VDPAU fixes, PowerMizer control features, a number of new official and unofficial OpenGL extensions receiving GLX protocol support, and there were a number of other fixes and enhancements too. However, now that we have had a chance to analyze this driver, there is more in store than what the change-log shares regarding this driver. There is in fact support for the unreleased OpenGL 3.2 specification.
July 17, 2009 -- 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.
June 12, 2009 -- To those running ATI Radeon graphics cards on Linux, this week has been very important with several key announcements having been made. The TTM memory manager is getting ready for inclusion into the Linux kernel, which finally will allow the open-source ATI driver (and soon the Nouveau driver too for NVIDIA hardware) to have kernel-based GPU memory management. With the memory management work set in the ATI driver via a mix of TTM and GEM, the ATI kernel mode-setting is also getting ready to be released as a staging driver within the Linux 2.6.31 kernel. The announcements this week have not been only about the GPU and Linux kernel, but the Radeon driver rewrite has also been merged to master. As we discussed in yesterday's news post, this Radeon Mesa re-write brings several key improvements immediately and there are still more features to come.
June 08, 2009 -- 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.
May 13, 2009 -- For as long as I can recall, ATI/AMD video cards have typically had decent support in Linux. It's not hard to pick out points in time where drivers were slow to come (R300 sticks out in my mind), but that was not due to the lack of effort by the open-source community as it was the difficulty reverse engineering a chip with no documentation. Intel seems to be the one getting most of the press these days regarding their open-source graphics support, but AMD is putting forth its own notable effort as well. They have multiple full time employees working on open-source support and have released specifications and programming documentation for their entire range of chips. The past few months have seen a flurry of activity in graphics related development, and a fair amount of this is centered around AMD hardware.
May 07, 2009 -- AMD ended out last year by releasing basic R600/700 3D code that allowed the rendering of open-source triangles, but not much in the way of usable OpenGL acceleration for end-users. Just last month AMD had then pushed out new R600/700 code that plugged into the Mesa stack and is being used as the groundwork for the providing open-source OpenGL acceleration on the Linux desktop with newer ATI graphics processors. In between December and April, AMD had also released extensive documentation covering the 3D engines on the R600 and R700 graphics processors along with the R700 instruction set architecture. While the open-source 3D support is still emerging for the Radeon HD 2000, 3000, and 4000 series, AMD has released some more documentation. This time around they have a programming guide for those developers interested in understanding the latest ATI GPUs.