Support for running Linux on new hardware -- whether it be motherboards, wireless adapters, graphics cards, or complete systems -- has largely eased up in the past few years. As can be seen from Phoronix reviews of new hardware at launch, in many cases there is Linux support available (e.g. with AMD's launch today of the FirePro V5900 and FirePro V7900 there is already Catalyst support) that continues to be refined over time whether it be in closed or open-source drivers. Even for vendors committed towards delivering open-source Linux hardware support, the path to new hardware enablement is not easy.
For those that use the Broadcom Crystal HD adapters for video acceleration under Linux, their open-source driver has received a number of improvements just recently.
Landing in the Phoronix e-mail inbox last night was a question by a reader asking how hardware vendors determine the operating systems used by their customers and their respective market-share since there isn't anything to "phone home" and report usage statistics. In other words, this reader had just purchased four desktop processors and he was wondering how to inform AMD that he's a Linux user. This is in hopes of going towards their Linux tally and eventually increasing their Linux level of support.
The major Linux power regression situation seems to only be getting worse at this point. Following the Mobile Users Beware: Linux Has Major Power Regression and The Tests Showing Ubuntu 11.04 On A Power Consumption Binge, a variety of feedback has come in. There's the usual FUD that it's "Moronix" benchmarks and the like, but the fact of the matter is it's a very real problem and it's about to bite Ubuntu 11.04 and other Linux distributions planning to ship with 2.6.38 kernel or later.
On Monday there was the Phoronix news item about Linaro aiming to unify Linux memory management; in particular it's for embedded ARM platforms and making the existing Linux video memory managers more compatible with that of the SoC designs and drivers. They want the memory manager to be able to share memory buffers across different devices and processes, which is something somewhat sought after already by Linux graphics developers for GEM/TTM, but this may end up leading to a new memory management fork.
Back in February the Free Software Foundation deemed creating an open-source PowerVR driver via clean-room reverse-engineering that's complete with a Gallium3D driver to be a high priority action item. More than two months after classifying it as a high-priority item -- and three months after the original proposal -- no work has been accomplished.
Last month I noted some of the problems facing embedded Linux on ARM SoCs in terms of graphics drivers with regard to the variety of memory management APIs available (for graphics there's primarily TTM and GEM within the kernel but also there's other options: HWMEM, UMP, CMA, VCM, CMEM, and PMEM). There's also other graphics driver problems in the ARM world, but the Linaro group has announced they've taken up the issue of embedded Linux memory management for graphics and other areas. They're forming a working group to hopefully work towards resolving this issue for their next six-month development cycle.
As was planned last week, LM_Sensors 3.3.0 has been released over the weekend.
Jean Delvare, the maintainer of the Linux kernel's i2c and hwmon subsystems and the usual release manager of LM_Sensors, has just called for the release of LM_Sensors 3.3.0. Jean plans to release LM_Sensors 3.3.0 so he has put forth a call for testing in the days up to the 26th of March.
For anyone wondering whether the Hydra and other products from LucidLogix yet work under Linux, they do not.
The Southern California Linux Expo is taking place this weekend in Los Angeles. Matthew Tippett and myself will be speaking there tomorrow on Making More Informed Linux Hardware Choices. This is also from which we will be launching Phoronix Test Suite 3.0 and OpenBenchmarking.org.
As many Linux users know, there's a number of motherboard vendors out there who put out very poor/buggy/broken BIOS implementations for their products. For Linux users this can be particularly painful if the changes are catered to workaround issues in Windows but in turn cause a greater mess for non-Microsoft operating systems. As a step to improve the situation, assuming BIOS developers actually will use it, Intel has released a BIOS Implementation Test Suite.
While we haven't talked about Lomoco in a few years nor has there been a new release of this free software project for Logitech Mouse Control under Linux in a while, Lomoco is still being developed. Andreas Schneider is still working on Linux support for the latest Logitech mice via Lomoco.
Canonical has announced this morning they have released the "world's most comprehensive, up-to-date component catalog for Linux." It's effectively a hardware database showing components they have tested. It's interesting, but of course I have more than a few comments on the matter with some constructive criticism.
While Intel is often looked at as being the most Linux and open-source friendly company among the major IHVs, as shown today in Intel's Linux Sandy Bridge Graphics Still Troubling, even in 2011 there are still serious Linux hardware issues to overcome. The Linux hardware support has a much better foundation than where it was at in 2004 when I founded Phoronix, and for hardware that's been in the marketplace for a few months old these problems quickly go away, but for new adopters it's the biggest challenge.
While the free software community was successful in coming up with open-source support for Microsoft's Kinect motion sensing device, there is better support on the way. PrimeSense, the Israeli company that developed this technology, is now putting their hardware into new devices. However, it will not be up to the community to come up with open-source drivers, but the company will be providing the support themselves.
If the PR representative I just spoke with at CES actually knows what she's talking about when it comes to Linux, in the third quarter of this year there may be an open-source PowerVR driver for Linux.
For anyone that happens to be on holiday this week (or just have excess time otherwise), there is another lively and polarized discussion that's been taking place for the past several days on the DRI mailing list. What does it involve if it's not about developer disagreements amongst themselves? Embedded GPU driver support on Linux, of course. This mailing list thread just reaffirms how the situation is a great big mess.
In three weeks I'll be back in Las Vegas for the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) providing Linux coverage of the hardware happenings.
Matthias Bach, a researcher and developer on high-performance computing with the Goethe Universitaet Frankfurt am Main, has written in to inform us of this German university's release of HPL-GPU 1.0. The HPL-GPU software package is a rewritten version of the LINPACK library that is re-engineered to run atop CALDGEMM, which is a DGEMM implementation developed at this university designed to run atop the latest AMD graphics processors.
Rafał Miłecki, the Polish free software developer who previously spearheaded bringing power management to the ATI KMS Linux driver via a number of patches late last year and into this year, has been working on another project. No, it's not with regard to the open-source Linux graphics stack (unfortunately), but it's on the B43 Linux wireless driver. Rafał has brought support for Broadcom's 802.11n hardware to the B43 driver.
When writing this morning about what's going on with Iveland and OpenBenchmarking.org, one of the recent items being worked on in this area completely escaped my mind: the mobile benchmarking improvements. Time and money (new hardware) has been spent in providing greater automated testing and performance benchmarking of the Phoronix Test Suite on ARM-based mobile devices.
Yesterday in the ARM world there was not only a major milestone in that of unveiling the ARM Mali T-604 GPU for embedded devices with much faster graphics and even OpenCL GPGPU capabilities, but it was also marked by the first Linaro release. Linaro was formed less than a year ago but out now is their first engineering release, a.k.a. Linaro 10.11.
For those of you that have been wondering about the state of hybrid graphics support for notebooks running Linux, sadly the situation has yet to improve, which still puts it in shambles.
The Nokia N900 mobile-phone was released nearly one year ago with the Linux-based Maemo 5 operating system, but earlier this year is when Nokia and Intel decided to combine their Linux-based Maemo and Moblin operating systems, respectively, to form MeeGo. The MeeGo Linux distribution is now running well on Intel Atom netbooks and other devices and there is is even MeeGo IVI for your car and a MeeGo handset preview. However, support for the N900 within MeeGo hasn't been up to speed compared to the level of Maemo support or that of other devices playing well with MeeGo. The support though is slowly but surely catching up for the Nokia N900.
It's been quite a while since having anything to report on with the LM_Sensors project, which is the free software project to provide user-space utilities and kernel drivers for various hardware sensors to be supported under Linux. LM_Sensors makes it possible to monitor the CPU/system temperatures, fan speeds, voltages, and other metrics for many systems and motherboards. The last time though we brought up LM_Sensors was in May when it received some better Intel CPU support, but the last major release (LM_Sensors 3.1.0) happened in March of 2009. Today though, LM_Sensors 3.2.0 has been released.
While Razer and Logitech manufacturer some terrific mice for computer gamers along with other gaming peripherals, they unfortunately do not provide any official Linux support. There have been community projects like Lomoco for supporting Logitech's extra mouse features under Linux and RazerTool for supporting some Razer mice, but without any full-featured support from the vendor. The smaller gaming peripheral vendors like Mionix are also no better at providing Linux support, but there is now at least one new vendor supporting such efforts.
Broadcom wireless network adapters have long been notorious with Linux users since this hardware vendor has not provided any open-source Linux drivers or specifications for their chipsets, even though Broadcom ASICs are dominantly used within today's wireless adapters. There's long been community projects like bcm43xx and b43 to create Linux drivers and use extracted Windows firmware and such to make the 802.11 adapters work, but for Broadcom's new 802.11n chipsets they have made a radical turn and are releasing a fully open-source Linux driver!
TrueCrypt, one of the popular open-source programs for on-the-fly encryption, is out now with version 7.0. Most notably, the TrueCrypt 7.0 release provides hardware-accelerated AES support.
Yesterday we reported on the emergence of the 3Dfx Linux DRM/KMS driver that introduces Linux kernel mode-setting support for the decade-old Banshee and Voodoo graphics cards. This work was done by a lone developer, but at this time it doesn't play well with the 3dfx X.Org DDX driver, which diminished hopes of it entering the mainline kernel. However, it appears there is interest in this driver and that the developer is now working on adding TTM memory management support for these 3dfx PCI/AGP graphics cards.
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