As some non-OpenBenchmarking.org news this weekend, committed to the mainline Mesa Git repository for Mesa 7.11 is support for OpenGL instanced drawing within the ATI R600 Gallium3D driver.
Back in 2008 we were the first to thoroughly talk about AMD's X-Video Bitstream Acceleration (XvBA) API found in their Catalyst Linux driver to expose their UVD2 video engine now under non-Windows operating systems. However, when the XvBA library was made available, it was next to useless since they hadn't published the documentation or any header files describing this video playback acceleration interface. A year later, in November of 2009, AMD and Splitted Desktop Systems released a VA-API front-end to XvBA so that VA-API multi-media applications could seamlessly use XvBA with the Catalyst driver.
AMD has just issued their Catalyst 11.2 Linux driver update. It's now available from AMD.com but their release notes as usual are of little use, so here's the Phoronix scoop on this month's update.
While there is not integrated support for S3 Texture Compression (S3TC) support fully integrated into the Mesa / Gallium3D code-base over patents covering the algorithm, there are Mesa drivers that support hooking into an external S3TC library. This external S3TC support requires setting a special variable in the build process and building the S3TC library (named libtxc_dxtn.so) after obtaining the code from an independent source. This move shifts the legal burden from the Mesa developers and onto the user.
A few days ago when publishing the results of benchmarking a lot of graphics cards on their Gallium3D drivers (about a dozen graphics cards) this left a number of people surprised. A number of these results from the open-source Gallium3D drivers illustrated the older graphics processors as being much faster than the newer hardware, even though the newer hardware is far superior to the vintage products. This shouldn't have been a surprise if you stay up-to-date with the Linux graphics news on Phoronix, but it comes down to features found in the older Gallium3D drivers not yet implemented in the newer open-source drivers.
AMD has put out their first public documentation concerning their Radeon HD 6900 "Cayman" series graphics processors. This 492 page document describes the Cayman instruction set architecture. We have also received an update at Phoronix from AMD concerning the Radeon HD 6900 series open-source support under Linux.
If you use the open-source ATI Linux graphics driver, there's a major stable update available. At long last, xf86-video-ati 6.14.0 has been released. This open-source X.Org driver brings official support for the Radeon HD 5000 series, Radeon HD 6000 series, and AMD Fusion Ontario hardware. This release also has a plethora of bug-fixes and flips on the KMS page-flipping support.
While NVIDIA puts out beta Linux graphics drivers quite often as a means of soliciting testing prior to declaring a new stable GPU driver update, AMD does not but rather they rely upon their NDA-covered select beta testers to put each Catalyst release through its paces before declaring a stable update in their timed monthly manner. Today though it seems AMD has put out a Catalyst Beta driver that's targeting their workstation customers (those with the FirePro / FireGL / FireMV hardware) but as in their usual unified manner, it will work with any supported Radeon (R600+ GPU) as well.
For the past few years there's been a tradition where AMD supplies Canonical with an early snapshot of their very latest Catalyst driver prior to the next Ubuntu release. This hasn't been done to ensure Ubuntu ships with any magical graphics driver features (in some cases though it can provide a glimpse of what's to come), but rather is provided so that there is actually a Catalyst driver that works on the given Ubuntu Linux release. There's an unfortunate tradition where by the time the next Ubuntu release rolls out that the latest publicly available Catalyst driver does not support either the latest Linux kernel and/or the X.Org Server used by that release. The Catalyst snapshot provides that belated support.
With the Linux 2.6.38 kernel DRM update having been pulled into the mainline tree last night by Linus Torvalds, AMD's Alex Deucher pushed the page-flipping support from the DDX X.Org driver side into the mainline xf86-video-ati tree.
Yesterday afternoon AMD released the Radeon HD 6000 series open-source support for all non-Cayman GPUs. We covered the initial information regarding this kernel DRM / Mesa / DDX code drop well, but there's a few more tid-bits of information to pass along now that we have received additional feedback from AMD's John Bridgman and Alex Deucher and have also had time to look at the code patches ourself.
I've now been in Las Vegas for less than 48 hours in preparations for the Consumer Electronics Show this week. Interestingly though something has come up twice already when talking with various AMD stakeholders in recent days: they are evidently working on improvements to their Linux video acceleration playback. Right now Catalyst Linux users are basically left using this closed-source library written by a third-party (Splitted Desktop Systems) by applications that utilize the VA-API interface that is then translated to AMD's internal XvBA (X-Video Bitstream Acceleraton) interface used by the Catalyst driver, but this may soon change.
AMD has allowed their Radeon GPUs to be overclocked on Linux since 2008 when using their Catalyst driver with OverDrive support. Previous to that there was Rovclock for overclocking select ATI Radeon ASICs using an open-source program along with support for tuning the video memory timings and other options, which was a program written via reverse engineering. The Catalyst Linux driver supports OverDrive manipulation of the core and memory clocks, which is enough for most enthusiasts, but if you've been looking for more extensive features there is a new option.
AMD's Toronto developers working on the ATI Catalyst Linux driver have just released their last public update of the year. The Catalyst 10.12 Linux driver (along with the Windows version) is now available for those interested in this high-performance, but proprietary, driver.
Yesterday we reported that AMD's Catalyst Linux driver team lost another key developer with Piranavan Selvanandan, a senior engineer at ATI since 2003 when Matthew Tippett built-up the original ATI Linux driver team, leaving the company. While it's unfortunate to see AMD lose another long-time Linux engineer, it appears they are hiring for both their open and closed-source Linux driver teams.
The ATI/AMD Catalyst Linux driver has improved vastly over the years with the switch to their new architecture back in 2007 and hitting many milestones since that point with reaching a performance and near-feature parity with their Windows Catalyst driver thanks to a largely shared code-base. The Catalyst Linux driver is now largely on-par with the AMD Windows driver (except with areas like XvBA for video acceleration), but today AMD's Linux team is facing a new loss.
As was pointed out in our forums, the AMD Catalyst 10.11 Linux driver has tipped up today. This driver, with its installer package approaching 120MB in size, is now available for download at AMD's web-site.
There's good news for those of you wanting to quickly go out and pickup an AMD Fusion system as soon as it's available: there's already open-source drivers for Fusion.
The first-ever MeeGo conference is going on this week in Dublin, Ireland and from that event that's about furthering this open-source mobile/embedded Linux distribution founded by Intel and Nokia, AMD has announced they want in on this Linux lovechild too. They have officially announced from Dublin they have joined the MeeGo project and will begin contributing to this OS that targets netbooks, smart-phones, in-vehicle computer systems, and other embedded devices.
Being worked on this past summer were improvements to the open-source ATI R300 driver when it comes to GLSL compiler optimizations. This work was done by Tom Stellar as part of Google's Summer of Code for student developers. While we reported on some of the R300 compiler improvements back in June, there hasn't been too much more information to pass along, especially as the summer is now over. However, there is now a new branch by Stellar containing some additional optimizations.
It was just over the weekend that we reported XvMC and VDPAU may come to the ATI R600 Gallium3D driver that would allow those with Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000/5000 series graphics cards (what's supported by R600g) to enjoy accelerated video playback using GPU shaders beyond just the limited X-Video extension. This work was being done by Christian König and today he has one hell of a surprise: it's to the point that today you can try out the code and it should work for XvMC! Yes, that's the case, I just read the email twice and am now scurrying to test out the appropriate ATI DDX and Gallium3D driver.
When looking at our 2010 Linux Graphics Survey results, the second most popular technology sought after by Linux desktop users was video playback acceleration. This isn't surprising considering only with NVIDIA's proprietary driver using VDPAU on modern GeForce hardware can you get a decent experience or with select Intel chipsets supporting VA-API. With everything else, you're pretty much limited to nothing or the not-too-useful X-Video. There's also cases like with the ATI Catalyst driver providing XvBA support, but that's often buggy and rubbish, the same goes with the Intel Poulsbo blobs and their VA-API support.
While users of Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" have had access to an early release of the Catalyst 10.10 Linux driver that AMD had sent over to Canonical in advance in order to provide X.Org Server 1.9 support, the rest of the Linux-using public now finally has access to the official Catalyst 10.10 build. Those that have already used Catalyst 10.10 in the Ubuntu Maverick release have been rather excited for its changes.
In what has become an unfortunate tradition for the past few releases, prior to the release of Ubuntu 10.10, AMD provided Canonical with a pre-release of their latest proprietary Catalyst driver at the time. They have done this to fix some major bugs, but primarily to provide a working ATI/AMD proprietary graphics driver that will run against their latest Ubuntu Linux release as usually their latest public releases at the time do not support Ubuntu's kernel and/or X.Org Server. With Maverick Meerkat, which was released yesterday, there is a pre-release of the Catalyst 10.10 Linux driver, which will not be released to the general public until later in October.
Besides Linux drivers for gaming peripherals (like mice and other things) being an area where Linux tends to struggle compared to the level of support and functionality offered under Windows, enthusiast-oriented programs for being able to overclock your CPU and RAM is another area where Linux really provides no suitable alternatives to the plethora of Windows utilities. There is though a new open-source program for manipulating certain AMD CPUs under Linux.
We've said it a few times already that the R600g driver continues to advance, but this open-source Gallium3D graphics driver that provides hardware acceleration for ATI R600/R700/Evergreen ASICs (the Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000/5000 graphics cards) has now received another huge boost with what has been dubbed as the "new design" and with the latest Mesa Git code these new code paths are used by default.
While most of the exciting action for open-source graphics now occurs within the Linux kernel for the DRM and KMS and there is all the work being poured into the 3D side via classic Mesa and Gallium3D drivers, the DDX drivers continue to play a role for 2D acceleration and other X.Org features. AMD's Alex Deucher today has announced the first xf86-video-ati driver update in quite a while and that bumps it to version 6.13.2.
While most of the open-source Linux graphics drivers are currently in Toulouse for the 2010 X.Org Developers' Summit, David Airlie of Red Hat Australia is not among those in attendance. He, however, is continuing to work on one of his latest efforts in conjunction with AMD: R600g, or the ATI R600/700/Evergreen Gallium3D driver. In the latest batch of Git commits to Mesa there is now a number of new features implemented.
AMD has just released their monthly proprietary Linux driver update, which this month puts it at Catalyst 10.9. The only new "feature" of AMD Catalyst 10.9 for Linux is early support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0 (RHEL6), but there are some bug-fixes.
The Linux community is still in awe from today's announcement that Broadcom has released an open-source WiFi driver for their newest 802.11n chipsets after not backing any Linux support for their wireless hardware in years past. In the Phoronix IRC channel the question was jokingly begged if hell has frozen over, but now we have another announcement to share today, which makes us wonder if hell has really frozen over. No, we aren't sharing more news right now on Valve's Steam/Source Linux client that's still coming, but that there is now Gallium3D support for the ATI Radeon HD 5000 "Evergreen" series!
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