Is An Open-Source Poulsbo Driver Coming?
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 1 November 2009 at 07:06 PM EST. 7 Comments
Intel's Poulsbo Linux driver is a bloody mess. The Poulsbo chipset is known commercially as the GMA 500 that's found in many netbooks as of late, but it isn't actually an Intel design but the graphics processor design was licensed from PowerVR. With that, there is no open-source driver but just an ill-maintained binary blob that is notorious among Poulsbo customers. The Poulsbo DRM, which is open-source but without any open-source client (driver), was previously rejected from entering the mainline kernel as well. The situation for Intel's GMA 500 on Linux is not good, but could this soon be changing?

We were tipped off this weekend that on YouTube are two videos (shown below) courtesy of the German that shows off Quake III Arena running in full HD on a Poulsbo netbook and a full 1080p HD film running off another Moblin-powered netbook. To sum up the video descriptions for those less experienced in German, Martin Mohring of the Linux Foundation was showing off Quake III Arena at 1080p on an Intel Atom Z-series netbook with a GMA500 graphics solution using "special drivers" that will come with Intel's Moorestown platform. This game was running at about 35~40 FPS with this Moblin system. The HD video sample was done on another Poulsbo netbook with a Z-Series Atom under Moblin, again using these "special drivers" for Moorestown. These videos were recorded at MobileDevCamp09.

Unless there was just too much (wonderful) Augustiner being drunk at this development camp in Munich, this would leave us to understand that there is some sort of new driver for the Intel Poulsbo coming out for Linux with Moorestown. For those not up on codenames, Moorestown is the successor to Intel's Menlow platform, which will launch late this year or early next year. New Linux drivers that run fast are one thing, but if the Linux Foundation is showing off this "special driver", we have to wonder if this Poulsbo driver will be open-source. If not, what is the Linux Foundation doing showing off binary blobs on Moblin? Only time will tell.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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