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Santa Raids VIA Tech For Open-Source Presents

VIA

Published on 22 December 2011 11:14 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in VIA
5 Comments

Here's a very unexpected but welcoming surprise for the holidays: there's some source code that's about to be released by VIA Technologies.

Earlier this month there was an email from VIA's Patrick Chen where he provided an update on a register upgrade for the VX900 graphics to handle high-resolution displays over 2048. He detailed the few horizontal/blanking address bits for the two CRTCs. That was done in this public message.

Patrick Chen this morning responded on the OpenChrome list again, this time about opening up some code. Patrick's message today was: "Before HDMI/DP source code opened, the only choice is DVI monitor with dual link. And we have one. We are also preparing the open source to extend HDMI and DP support through KMS. I suggest waiting for it."

So it looks like VIA Technologies is planning on open-sourcing some code concerning HDMI and DisplayPort handling so that the kernel mode-setting (KMS) support can be extended to handle these display interfaces besides just DVI and VGA.

This is quite interesting seeing as VIA basically killed their open-source Linux graphics driver strategy after it had been basically idling since 2008. VIA had contributed some source-code and documentation in the past, but the VIA Linux community is far from vibrant and this open-source strategy really didn't achieve much.

Even VIA's conservative TODO list wasn't even achieved -- we still don't have mainline kernel mode-setting support nor any proper Mesa/Gallium3D VIA driver. They also still haven't published all of the documentation for 3D support and still were playing games with their kernel DRM.

There was a VIA China engineer asking about Gallium3D back during Oktoberfest, but nothing came out at that time since. The only real ongoing VIA open-source driver work that's taking place is the independent work of James Simmons who has been working on VIA kernel mode-setting support. The VIA KMS support is coming together along with basic kernel memory management, but it's not mainline yet nor does it look like it will land for the next release (the Linux 3.3 kernel) either.

Now VIA says they will provide some HDMI and DisplayPort support code for Linux KMS. Worth noting is that this mentions of source-code comes from Patrick Chen, a name not previously associated with VIA's open-source / Linux activities. Patrick is a technical marketing PM from VIA Technologies' sales and marketing department. Previously it was Bruce Chang of VIA that did most of the Linux engagement, after they originally hired Harald Welte as their open-source cheerleader.

When this open-source HDMI/DP code drop will occur, whether it will be followed by any further VIA open-source or documentation drops, and when the VIA KMS support will finally be merged into the mainline Linux kernel all remain open questions.

On a related note, last week VIA Technologies announced Google Android support for their embedded x86 boards (the press release). This may be part of the reason why they're trying again at Linux graphics.

Their first x86 board that VIA Technologies is supporting with Android is the VIA EITX-3002, which hasa 1.2GHz Nano X2 E-Series or 1.0GHz VIA Eden X2 CPU option with a VIA VX900 MSP. (The VX900 is the same hardware where Patrick Chen shared the new registers for earlier this month.) The VX900 media system processor (MSP) has an IGP based on the "Chrome 9" with DirectX 9.0 / OpenGL 2.1 compliance, but is not like their newer VN1000 that has DirectX 10.1 / OpenGL 3.0 support along with OpenCL 1.0 for its 32 stream processors. The VX900 does have "hardware acceleration for the latest HD video formats including MPEG-2, H.264, VC-1 and WMV9," but whether we'll ever see that under Linux (via open or closed-source drivers) is another question.

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 .
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