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Kernel Mode-Setting, GEM, DRI Progresses On FreeBSD

Free Software

Published on 25 February 2011 01:37 PM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software
16 Comments

BSD users can be excited this week not only for the release of FreeBSD 8.2, but their open-source graphics stack is finally beginning to catch-up with Linux too. Kernel mode-setting is finally becoming a reality with the FreeBSD kernel and with that support for the Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) memory management under BSD and updating the Intel DRI graphics driver.

The FreeBSD Foundation has announced that they have awarded a grant to Konstantin Belousov for focusing upon this KMS/GEM/DRI driver work. This announcement comes after we reported in October of last year that FreeBSD would pay for some GEM/KMS love.

With bringing up KMS/GEM support under FreeBSD, they will finally be able to use an updated Intel X.Org (xf86-video-intel) DDX driver with their X Server. Several releases ago Intel had dropped user-space mode-setting (UMS) support from their driver to focus solely upon supporting KMS for Linux. When that happened, BSD and Solaris users were made second-class citizens of this open-source driver. When the GEM/KMS support lands, they will now be able to use the latest user-space driver, thereby providing support for new hardware (Sandy Bridge), new features (the latest VA-API work), and many fixes.

To some dismay, this FreeBSD grant and the focus of this Ukranian developer is solely on the Intel driver at this time. While having the KMS infrastructure and GEM support in the FreeBSD kernel is a step forward for everyone, additional work would still be needed to allow the Radeon and Nouveau kernel drivers to work as well, especially as TTM (Translation Table Maps) support would also need to be ported to BSD. At least NVIDIA hardware owners have the proprietary driver provided by NVIDIA for FreeBSD while AMD provides no Catalyst driver on this operating system.

Read more in the FreeBSD announcement.

For those not using FreeBSD but rather DragonflyBSD, the code as of right now in FreeBSD 9-CURRENT has been ported to this BSD as well. See this page for details, where there is also early Radeon KMS support as well. The DragonflyBSD developers had worked on GEM/DRM/KMS support from Linux as last year's Google Summer of Code project.

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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