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The Special Intel Broadwell Driver In Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Ubuntu

Published on 31 March 2014 10:07 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Ubuntu
10 Comments

Due to Ubuntu 14.04 shipping with the Linux 3.13 kernel, a specially-crafted "i915_bdw" driver has been introduced for offering Intel Broadwell graphics support in this upcoming Ubuntu Linux release.

For the Intel Broadwell graphics support under Linux, the kernel-side Intel DRM driver only stabilized with the just-released Linux 3.14 kernel and Intel has more Broadwell improvements for Linux 3.15. Given that this Ubuntu Long Term Support release will certainly see much Broadwell action later this year when these new processors are introduced, Ubuntu kernel developers had to hack-up their own custom Broadwell driver for Linux 3.13 to ensure there will be decent "out of the box" graphics support. This shouldn't come too much as a surprise given for months it's looked like Ubuntu 14.04 LTS would have a 3.13 "franken" kernel.

The i915_bdw driver that has been added to Ubuntu's 3.13 kernel is the Intel DRM driver back-ported from the Linux 3.14 kernel plus the extra changes that the Intel open-source developers have lined up from Linux 3.15. Ubuntu's standard i915 driver has then been modified for the Broadwell PCI IDs to instead load this i915_bdw driver that comes down to just being the newest but back-ported open-source Intel DRM driver code. Other Intel Linux users will continue using the Linux 3.13's Intel DRM driver.

The Special Intel Broadwell Driver In Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Canonical's developers have also expressed that they might end up back-porting more Intel DRM code to this i915_bdw driver from an even later kernel release (Linux 3.16+), but that will depend upon how well this current Broadwell hardware support shakes down and if there's any major problems. This Broadwell hacked-up driver landed a few days ago into the Ubuntu Trusty Tahr archive with the Linux 3.13.0-20.42 kernel. This Broadwell support is similar to how the Haswell support was sent down in an earlier Ubuntu release and is nice to see not another Ubuntu Linux update that's timed close to a new Intel CPU launch where the Linux graphics support ends up being botched -- i.e. Intel's troubled Sandy Bridge launch for Linux users.

Other graphics drivers didn't receive any special treatment for pumping in new bleeding edge code given this is an Ubuntu LTS release. Generally though the newer the kernel code the better for open-source Nouveau / Radeon / Intel graphics users, especially on the Radeon side right now with many Linux 3.14 improvements. For those Ubuntu Linux users wishing to run the newest code, try using the Ubuntu mainline kernel archive and Oibaf PPA -- those are the two methods we commonly use for fetching the newest kernel and latest user-space Mesa/X.Org drivers when not feeling like building from source.

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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