1. Computers
  2. Display Drivers
  3. Graphics Cards
  4. Memory
  5. Motherboards
  6. Processors
  7. Software
  8. Storage
  9. Operating Systems


Facebook RSS Twitter Twitter Google Plus


Phoronix Test Suite

OpenBenchmarking.org

An Open-Source Intel GMA 500 Driver Appears

Linux Kernel

Published on 27 February 2011 11:50 PM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel
27 Comments

If you're an owner of a netbook or other hardware containing an Intel Poulsbo / GMA 500, the Linux 2.6.39 kernel should be rather exciting. Entering the Linux kernel's staging tree is an initial open-source driver for this notorious Intel graphics processor derived from Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX graphics core.

Intel's Alan Cox has pushed forward an Intel GMA 500 DRM driver for mainline kernel inclusion that already has been pushed into the staging-next tree. It's been a few days since the actual patch/driver was proposed, but for some reason it slipped under my radar until now when it was mentioned in the forums.

Before getting too excited, however, there are two unfortunate downsides as this open-source staging DRM driver stands right now:

- There's no acceleration support. If you're hoping to use your Poulsbo hardware with VA-API video or OpenGL/3D acceleration, you're still stuck playing with the proprietary bits. This staging DRM driver doesn't support the necessary interfaces for hardware acceleration.

- While the GMA 500 is derived from the PowerVR SGX core, as do many netbook/embedded graphics processors, especially ARM-based mobile devices, this driver is only specific to the GMA 500. The driver in its current form is mostly about mode-setting and bringing up the display, and not about acceleration which is the area common to the PowerVR cores, so it's mostly Intel-specific code within this driver. In fact, much of this driver's mode-setting code is similar to that of Intel's i915 open-source driver. Much of the code could be shared between this new staging driver and Intel's popular open-source driver, but based upon comments by Alan Cox, this has been rejected by Keith Packard's team.

So what we basically have with this new staging driver is a basic mode-setting driver without acceleration. It's a step forward comparing to using an Intel Poulsbo system with the VESA driver, but still it's open-source hardware acceleration that is really needed to please end-users. Alan Cox will also be pushing out new user-space bits based upon xf86-video-psb to support this kernel driver code.

The discussion surrounding this work can be found in the GMA500 staging driver thread. "This is an initial staging driver for the GMA500. It's been stripped out of the PVR drivers and crunched together from various bits of code and different kernels."

This code living in the staging driver is in need of some more TTM love and other work before it will leave the staging area of the kernel. David Airlie also mentions hooking it up to a dumb ioctl for trivial front-buffer allocation so that a dumb KMS driver and KMS library can work atop this code, to basically fake kernel mode-setting.

This is a step forward, but there's still much work left before Poulsbo could possibly lose its reputation of being a bloody mess under Linux. At the same time, the Free Software Foundation has deemed creating a reverse-engineered PowerVR driver with a Gallium3D driver as being a high priority, which could potentially provide the acceleration needs for this new GMA 500 driver. Imagination might also provide an open-source PowerVR driver in Q3'2011.

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 .
Latest Linux Hardware Reviews
  1. Even With Re-Clocking, Nouveau Remains Behind NVIDIA's Proprietary Linux Driver
  2. The Power Consumption & Efficiency Of Open-Source GPU Drivers
  3. AMD R600g/RadeonSI Performance On Linux 3.16 With Mesa 10.3-devel
  4. Intel Pentium G3258 On Linux
Latest Linux Articles
  1. Nouveau vs. Radeon vs. Intel Tests On Linux 3.16, Mesa 10.3-devel
  2. KVM Benchmarks On Ubuntu 14.10
  3. X.Org Server 1.16 Officially Released With Terrific Features
  4. Ubuntu With Linux 3.16 Smashes OS X 10.9.4 On The MacBook Air
Latest Linux News
  1. GCC As A Just-In Time Compiler Is An Interesting Project
  2. Age Of Wonders III Is Still Being Ported To Linux
  3. Git 2.1 To Further Mainline Windows Support Patches
  4. Debian 8.0 Jessie Is Settling For Linux 3.16
  5. Meson: A Next-Gen Build System Showing Promise
  6. Linux 3.16-rc7 Calms Things Down For The Linux 3.16 Kernel
  7. Open-Source AMD Users Report Hawaii GPU Acceleration Is Working
  8. Linus Torvalds On GCC 4.9: Pure & Utter Crap
  9. Cauldron 2014: GCC & LLVM Will Look To Collaborate More
  10. GCC Receives ACM Programming Languages Software Award
Latest Forum Discussions
  1. Linus Torvalds On GCC 4.9: Pure & Utter Crap
  2. Updated and Optimized Ubuntu Free Graphics Drivers
  3. Porting Mesa to the Playstation 2
  4. ASRock AM1H-ITX: One Of The Best AM1 Mini-ITX Motherboards
  5. Debian + radeonsi
  6. Open-source drivers on ATI R7 260X
  7. Table test
  8. How To Setup Radeon DPM On Ubuntu Linux