Intel Prepares Its Major Q4'09 Driver Update
There's just a month left until the end of the year, which gives Intel just a few weeks to deliver its Q4'2009 driver update for the Linux platform. The key component that Intel is expected to release in December will be the xf86-video-intel 2.10.0 driver, while they will likely recommend Mesa, libdrm, and Linux kernel updates too as part of their fourth quarter package (Linux 2.6.32 and Mesa 7.7). While no groundbreaking features are introduced in this X.Org driver update, there is important work taking place.
In preparations for the xf86-video-intel 2.10 DDX driver, Intel's Carl Worth has just tagged the 184.108.40.2061 driver in their mainline code-base, which is the first 2.10 test release. This will be Intel's first major X.Org update since the xf86-video-intel 2.9 release back in September, but like the Q3'09 driver, the 2.10 release largely targets bug-fixes and other fundamental improvements as opposed to bringing any major end-user features (like kernel mode-setting, a new acceleration architecture, DRI2, and other past improvements).
Over 100 code commits have been made to the xf86-video-intel 2.10 driver. Among the changes are cleaning to the XvMC and X-Video code that should enable Intel XvMC to work in a KMS environment, overlay support in KMS, the enabling of XvMC by default for Intel GMA 4-Series hardware (e.g. the G43 and G45), UXA improvements, and the dropping of user-space mode-setting (UMS) support.
With xf86-video-intel 2.10 and future releases, using kernel mode-setting is the only option as the UMS code has been ripped out entirely. With the Intel driver stack now at a feature parity between the UMS and KMS code paths, the old user-space code was ripped out, which trimmed up the driver by nearly 20,000 lines of code. To most users though only having KMS should not be much of a problem considering the feature parity and that most of the performance regressions and stability problems encountered earlier this year (for Ubuntu 9.04, Intel Linux driver killed the netbook experience) have been resolved.
While using Intel kernel mode-setting shouldn't be a problem for Linux users, for now this hard KMS dependency makes the xf86-video-intel 2.10 driver out of the reach of Solaris and *BSD users. These other operating systems that use X.Org first need to support the KMS interfaces as well as the Graphics Execution Manager for GPU memory management within the kernel. Sun Microsystems has been working on KMS for OpenSolaris, but it's not here yet. OpenBSD has expressed interest in KMS for the ability to run a root-less X Server, but again the code is not functional or in place yet. The same goes for FreeBSD, which is also hampered by limited development manpower.
The xf86-video-intel 220.127.116.111 driver release announcement has yet to be issued, but this covers most of the changes to be found in this release. The code is available from Git, as always.
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