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What's Up With The S3 Graphics Linux Driver?

VIA

Published on 23 December 2011 11:00 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in VIA
3 Comments

Yesterday when writing about VIA Technologies preparing a new graphics open-source push, it made me curious where the S3 Graphics Linux driver is at today.

S3 Graphics, the troubled graphics company that was owned by VIA Technologies through acquisition and then sold to HTC earlier this year, hasn't been doing much lately. The Chrome 500 series, their latest-generation of desktop graphics processors, was introduced in 2008. Since then the company has been basically idle with only a bit of embedded graphics work since then and licensing their patent portfolio (namely their S3TC technology) to third-parties.

It was back in 2008 with the launch of the Chrome 500 series when S3 Graphics told me they were working on a new Linux driver.

They also talked in a press release about a Linux driver that could handle OpenGL 3.0, Blu-ray playback, HD video streaming, and even DirectX 10.1. This "magical" S3 Linux driver was missing for a while while their crazy PR folks kept talking about DirectX in their Linux driver and other comical statements for their Chrome 400/500 series Linux driver.

S3 Graphics ended up releasing a new driver in 2009, which did boast OpenGL 3.0 support and VA-API video acceleration, which was quite interesting. The open-source Mesa drivers are still tackling OpenGL 3.0 compliance and also VA-API video acceleration on the open-source Radeon/Nouveau driver side. Unfortunately this S3 Chrome 400/500 Linux driver was a binary blob. This new Linux driver was also faster than the Windows driver.

In late 2009, a new Linux driver was released and it delivered OpenGL 3.1 compliance, updated Linux distribution support, and other items for these slow and hard-to-find graphics cards.

In 2010 there was one S3 Graphics Linux driver update, which really wasn't interesting. The 2010 driver update brought bug-fixes and Fedora 12 support. This was also the last time the S3 Graphics proprietary driver was talked about on Phoronix.

So what Linux advancements has S3 Graphics accomplished in the past year? Nothing! There hasn't even been a new driver update since August of 2010.

Their latest binary blob for the Chrome series is version 14.03.04 and is the release that supports Fedora 12. There hasn't been any updates to add support for newer Linux kernels or X.Org Server releases, so if you're running a modern Linux distribution and happen to be one of the few with S3 Chrome hardware, you're out of luck on using this GL3/VA-API driver.

While S3 Graphics hasn't introduced any new hardware generations this yuear, their Windows XP and Windows 7 drivers for the Chrome 500 series has been updated several times in 2011. Those Microsoft Windows driver releases offered bug-fixes, etc.

In terms of Linux drivers for their embedded graphics chipsets, they don't even offer them from their web-site any longer but they just say to contact your S3 Graphics representative.

Hopefully you don't have your hands on any S3 Graphics hardware if you're a Linux user since there is no longer any maintained Linux support. Their Linux driver advancements appeared hopeful for a short-time with OpenGL 3.x and VA-API support, but their Linux support and any new hardware has vanished.

In terms of any news about the S3 Graphics Texture Compression (S3TC) patent, there isn't any new public information since the news from November; S3TC support is still not found in Mesa.

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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