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Google's Into Intel Gallium3D For Chromium OS?

Intel

Published on 23 June 2011 12:07 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel
14 Comments

The open-source developers working on the drivers for AMD/ATI Radeon and NVIDIA (via the Nouveau project) graphics hardware have tossed all their weight behind the Gallium3D driver architecture. The Gallium3D drivers have surpassed the "classic" Mesa DRI drivers in terms of capabilities, performance, and stability. The only strong holdout to Gallium3D has been Intel since they aren't convinced that it's the appropriate choice and they aren't interested in overhauling their Linux driver stack once more with the large upfront investment that's required in rewriting their user-space 3D driver in moving from classic Mesa to Gallium3D.

While Intel Corp may not be interested in Gallium3D at this point, there is an Intel Gallium3D driver in existence. This Intel Gallium3D driver was largely written by VMware (formerly Tungsten Graphics) and community contributors. This Gallium3D driver works fairly well for being community-maintained, but it doesn't support the full range of hardware as supported by Intel's official DRI driver. The classic driver is also well-optimized by Intel engineers so it's capable of delivering better performance too at this point.

This Intel Gallium3D driver doesn't receive as much work as the Radeon or Nouveau Gallium3D drivers, but it still receives bug-fixes and minor work from time to time. There aren't any major Linux distributions shipping with the Intel Gallium3D driver, but it's more of just a "proof of concept" or alternative choice for those building their own Mesa stack.

Interestingly, there seems to be some interest in this "i915g" driver from Google's Chromium OS / Chrome OS team. St├ęphane Marchesin, who was the original founder of the Nouveau driver and led the NVIDIA reverse-engineering originally, joined Google a while ago to handle the X/graphics side of the Google web-focused operating system. This isn't news to those that follow the mailing lists or Git activity where one can see Stephane's association, but what's interesting is the official work he has going into the i915g driver.

Just yesterday there were three commits (Git web) to Mesa by Marchesin that were to the i915g driver and the work had added support for more texture and render target formats along with drawing point sprites. These commits came from his Chromium.org e-mail address and it's not the first time he's contributed to this unofficial driver but last year were also a number of i915g driver commits to Mesa master.

Further showing that there is at least some interest in Intel Gallium3D for Google's operating system, mistakenly committed to Chromium OS earlier this month was a change that made this Gallium Intel driver work. It was committed here, but then later abandoned when realizing he wasn't supposed to push this change as it belonged to the wrong tree.

Could Google pressure Intel into taking up the Gallium3D route? We shall see what comes out of either company.

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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