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Early Adopters Already Hit By Fedora Dropping Old Linux GPU Drivers

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  • #31
    Connor Behan is actively maintaining r128 UMS driver

    Originally posted by tarceri View Post
    You obviously missed the article I pointed to before the site when down. Basically the guy loved his old laptop and was willing to go the extra mile to make sure it was still supported into the future. Its only fedora now but once the ball starts rolling its will be hard to stop.

    I guess the other reason would be purely for interest and learning, people waste their time learning and coding less useful things all the time.
    Connor Behan has been quite active on the XOrg development lists, updating the r128 UMS driver. I believe he normally uses Arch Linux.

    He indicated that he would like to start work on a r128 KMS driver next year (when he likely has more free time).

    I'm interested as this as it would improve support for vintage Macs under Linux.
    Al

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    • #32
      Really old hardware is going to need specialized distros or older distros.

      If mainline distros are required to support older hardware without rolling forward what is "too old," the end result is the distros must support an ever-growing list of hardware with the same programmer base. It also becomes necessary at some point to include both full featured and lightweight versions of things like DE's-and that is a good point to fork between legacy and modern distros. This way, distros aimed at "modern" machines can apply more CPU instruction optimizations at compile time, with distros aimed at older machines either using autodetection or leaving them out.

      FFMPEG, for instance, can be built to autodetect CPU capabilties (I build it this way) or with fixed optimzations.

      OK, let's look at X and Wayland. X has become a fat pig when used on older machines-even on a light DE. This is to the point of harming performance on AGP bus using pre-Prescott Pentium 4 machines, the sort most likely to both use the non-Big Three GPU drivers and have enough CPU power to play H264 video. AMD Thunderbird and Athon XP also come to mind here, with the latter CPU having some real power for its time but usually on a board with no PCI-e slots.

      A distro targetting these machines should probably roll X back all the way to what was used in Ubuntu Jaunty, which was a very good performer on machines as old as Pentium II's, yet being post-Hardy supports autodetection of GPU/monitor configuration. If a modern GPU is found in AGP and installed then X should be switched out for a modern version to use modern GPU drivers. R300 or later in Radeon drivers may prefer the newest drivers, as so much has been backported from R600. None of this that I know of was backported to r128, so this card will be better off with the Jaunty era X and Mesa, on which it was able to run Compiz and play video quite well. Been there, done that.

      Here's how a distro could be forked to support older machines at the expense of supporting newer ones, possibly post-install. Consider Mint with MATE as the baseline for a full desktop comparable to Ubuntu on a Pentium 4 in 2008-2009, but with modern ffmpeg and modern apps for supporting current non-HD video formats, etc. A replacement of X and Mesa with older versions would probably give a substantial improvement in performance. If the kernel has to be rolled back too, however, support for newer peripherals like wifi cards and printers is lost, so some way to build a "hybrid" kernel with the older video drivers but all else current might be needed. Browsers might be a problem as they are becoming fat pigs too, but things like HTML5 and many other features did not exist on older versions. Possibly install two browsers, one light and one with full features, like DSL does but moving both up from that level.

      This sort of work would be best done by either old machine hobbyists or those who use older machines for economic reasons but are skilled in programming. It would be worthless to attempt to test all this without posession of the machines intended to use it.

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      • #33
        I'm all about getting the most out of old hardware, I love using things that I don't have to replace - if it isn't broke, don't try to fix it.

        However, there does come that time to part. Especially when the parts in question are relatively rare, and so cheap to replace.

        Old r200/r300 class cards which would drop into most of the motherboards that many of these users are trying to hold onto, can be had in the 20 dollar range. And would have FANTASTIC driver support.

        That's not a lot to ask. $20. Not if all it requires is a "new" GPU to keep going. Heck, going from an SIS of all things, that would be a performance booster in every day tasks, moving to an r200/r300.

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        • #34
          Not everyone in the world has credit cards or Ebay

          Originally posted by halfmanhalfamazing View Post
          I'm all about getting the most out of old hardware, I love using things that I don't have to replace - if it isn't broke, don't try to fix it.

          However, there does come that time to part. Especially when the parts in question are relatively rare, and so cheap to replace.

          Old r200/r300 class cards which would drop into most of the motherboards that many of these users are trying to hold onto, can be had in the 20 dollar range. And would have FANTASTIC driver support.

          That's not a lot to ask. $20. Not if all it requires is a "new" GPU to keep going. Heck, going from an SIS of all things, that would be a performance booster in every day tasks, moving to an r200/r300.
          Folks on cash economies (like many "immigrants" here in the US) and those who do not have ebay accounts may not be able to find old parts no longer sold at retail unless a friend has them. I myself do not have Ebay or any accounts with anyone (Google, Facebook, etc) that attempts to verify identity with SMS messages, etc. An r500 card I dropped into an early P4 to test Cinnamon and GNOME cost me somewhere around $40 in a store that had it about a year ago,
          Last edited by Luke; 09-24-2014, 10:20 PM.

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          • #35
            Don't throw out old machines, use old distros in them

            Originally posted by J?rnS View Post
            Mostly that isn't related to KMS or something special, it's really basic: X.org removed XAA in version 1.13. So that old machines are stuck to, for example, Ubuntu 12.04. Xubuntu 12.04 has very soon no longer support (april next year). So I think, CentOS6 will be the last option. After that, that machines are screwed. Hopefully they break before :-(
            This is a reason to deliberately install old distros in these machines, then selectively update things that actually need updating, possibly by compiling locally after updating things like C libraries. You could compile current versions of things like ffmpeg to get support for modern videos, while keeping the old distro's X, mesa, and kernel to keep XV and XAA. Hell you could probably install Xbuntu 12.04, pin X, mesa, and Linux, then update everything else to 14.04 for a hybrid distro. You could then turn around and install MATE, getting essentially an updated version of Ubuntu Jaunty. Be sure to remove apt-xapian-index, pulseaudio, and other things present in 12.04 that are too heavy for older machines or use up CPU in the background. Strip it down, keep it light like you would for a netbook. On a Pentium 4 2GHZ this will be able to play 720p/25fps video without issues, and some 720p/30fps videos if the exact H264 compression in use isn't too demanding.

            Hell, to play back an interlaced standard resolution DVD in 720 x 525 specified a Pentium III 450 MHZ as the minimum, and I've done that on exactly such a machine, Ubuntu Jaunty giving the best results of all but anything with a working XV driver and pulseaudio removed/not shipped able to do the job. Tht codec was really light, and a lot of Internet video of that era and the early P4 era (when lots of potential viewers had to be presumed to have 3 year old hardware!) was sent out in QVGA resolution, which many still cameras also shot video in until very recently. On the other hand, the MPEG-4 codec really sucked, so it was replaced with H264. H264 is so much heavier that today's videos won't play on a sub 1 GHZ machine, even though something downloaded from Youtube will be smaller than DVD resolution. On the other hand, those tiny "mobile" files should play just fine-so long as you have XV to rescale them.

            Since old distros support old hardware well, new distros can focus on supporting new hardware well so long as package repos for the old distro remain available somewhere. Putting unmodified new distros on really old machines cripples them, even things like Athon XP that could really shine on the distros of their day and quite a while therafter.

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            • #36
              I'm going to second what some people already said - these are way old GPUs. Seriously, machines that have such video cards are likely to have old cpus and, what's more important, small amounts of ram. I recently installed OpenSUSE on a laptop with 0,5GB of ram, using xfce - it was barely usable, leaving only ~150MB of ram free after system boot, had to use Midori for web browsing, cause a single opened page in Firefox killed the system (and even on Midori it wasn't comfortable). Maybe if I used lxde it would be a little bit better, but all in all, this is just getting way too old to be of any desktop use - not when an advert on a simple webpage can fry the cpu with javascript. As a file sever/backup/router machine with text mode or bare lxde or fluxbox on vesa driver, then it's probably ok, but for that one doesn't need specific gpu drivers.

              What would really be of benefit though is if somebody would make the vesa driver handle those old gpus better, adding the xv mentioned, or other common features that modern drivers have.

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              • #37
                Yes, Xfce and Firefox are bloated. Plus who surfs without blocking ads?

                Originally posted by Cyber Killer View Post
                What would really be of benefit though is if somebody would make the vesa driver handle those old gpus better, adding the xv mentioned, or other common features that modern drivers have.
                That one is an oxymoron. The VESA bios specifies modesetting. It does not specify scaling, colorspace conversion, or any kind of 2d acceleration.

                Not much of a "vesa" driver if it suddenly had card-specific video acceleration code. Such a frankendriver wouldn't have many users anyway, given the limited number of VESA resolutions (have fun using that 1280x1024 on your fullhd display).

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by curaga View Post
                  That one is an oxymoron. The VESA bios specifies modesetting. It does not specify scaling, colorspace conversion, or any kind of 2d acceleration.

                  Not much of a "vesa" driver if it suddenly had card-specific video acceleration code. Such a frankendriver wouldn't have many users anyway, given the limited number of VESA resolutions (have fun using that 1280x1024 on your fullhd display).
                  It doesn't have to be specifically the 'vesa' driver, just any generic graphics driver, with support for common modern stuff. Ah well, to hell with this, just buy a newer gpu that still is supported ;-).

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                  • #39
                    Originally posted by Cyber Killer View Post
                    It doesn't have to be specifically the 'vesa' driver, just any generic graphics driver, with support for common modern stuff.
                    That's still an oxymoron, because support for the "common modern stuff" requires GPU-specific knowledge, be it modesetting (beyond the VESA resolutions in the VBIOS), Xv, or any kind of 2d accel, so it can't possibly be implemented in a generic driver.

                    Originally posted by Cyber Killer View Post
                    Ah well, to hell with this, just buy a newer gpu that still is supported ;-).
                    Works for desktops, doesn't work for laptops, where you're stuck with what's in there. For example, I have an old Shuttle box with an AMD Athlon XP 3000+. It has a PCI and an AGP slot, so I could easily buy a graphic card that has VDPAU support, making it possible to play even HD video on the thing. But on the laptop I mentioned in a previous post, I'm stuck with its SiS GPU, and rely on xf86-video-sis to be able to play at least non-HD video.

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                    • #40
                      No way in hell I'd throw away a laptop because it could not handle ads

                      Originally posted by Cyber Killer View Post
                      I'm going to second what some people already said - these are way old GPUs. Seriously, machines that have such video cards are likely to have old cpus and, what's more important, small amounts of ram. I recently installed OpenSUSE on a laptop with 0,5GB of ram, using xfce - it was barely usable, leaving only ~150MB of ram free after system boot, had to use Midori for web browsing, cause a single opened page in Firefox killed the system (and even on Midori it wasn't comfortable). Maybe if I used lxde it would be a little bit better, but all in all, this is just getting way too old to be of any desktop use - not when an advert on a simple webpage can fry the cpu with javascript. As a file sever/backup/router machine with text mode or bare lxde or fluxbox on vesa driver, then it's probably ok, but for that one doesn't need specific gpu drivers.

                      What would really be of benefit though is if somebody would make the vesa driver handle those old gpus better, adding the xv mentioned, or other common features that modern drivers have.
                      Asking people to pay for new hardware just so they can permit ads to run on a website is really over the line. Users of old hardware would be better off blocking ads and ignoring any website that counterblocks content as a result. There are a lot of web uses that do not involve video, for this work even a Pentium II will work if javascript (which is code that has to be executed) is kept down by using NoScript. Adblock would not be enough, as advertisers are not the only source of heavy, CPU hogging autostart video or poorly written JS. The worst possible offense isn't ads at all, it's multiple embedded videos all set to autostart on page load, all with sound. You can't watch one w/o first finding and shutting off all the others-if you have enough CPU and bandwidth to get to them and do so at all.

                      This brings up the fact that "pages's law" also seems to apply to websites, but at least in that case it can be reversed at the client end. Keep in mind, people surfing the web in 1996 when it first became common to have it did not complain that their brand-new, $1,000+ Pentium II could not handle it, and the only thing that seemed slow was that Netscape took forever to start, having to show a splash screen because of this. Websites have grown hugely since then, but literally all of that is blockable-even autoloading images in extreme cases.

                      As for advertising networks, they each need to put their code on a test site set up to be as heavy as an average customer site would be. Test load with and without ads enabled, using one CPU core only throttled to its lowest speed to simulate old laptops. Use this to write their code to be as light as possible, their customers will thank them for it when fewer users of old machines are forced to block ads they would otherwise permit to run. Might require industry-wide certification as users won't know who is the CPU hog out of multiple adservers, however. Ad video faces the usual tradeoff of bandwidth vs CPU usage, both of which cost the end user of a site money. Best compromise might be low resolution scaled up.

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