The Open-Source / Linux Letdowns Of 2016

Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software on 1 January 2017 at 09:00 AM EST. 11 Comments
Last year I had written about the The Open-Source Linux Letdowns of 2015 and then Other Letdowns For Linux / Open-Source Users From 2015, which ended up being among the most viewed articles of 2016. So I figured I'd once again share a list of what personally was disappointing not to see happen in 2016 within the Linux/open-source space.

Among what I'd classify as big letdowns for 2016 include:

Ubuntu Convergence - This was on my 2015 letdown list and sadly it's back up for 2016... The whole Ubuntu convergence story has yet to be fully realized with Unity 8 + Mir still needing a lot of work and their goal now pushed back to Ubuntu 18.04 LTS but for that would really need to have it worthy by Ubuntu 17.10. There's also been the matter of no new/recent device announcements concerning Ubuntu on phones or tablets. Many are concerned by the lack of clear communication and announcements over the future of the convergence strategy and market viability of Ubuntu phones.

AMD's Open-Source Vulkan Driver - While RADV sprouted up as an unofficial Radeon Vulkan driver that's open-source and surprisingly working out well, we still haven't seen any of the open-source official AMD Vulkan driver code that was talked about happening since even before the Vulkan 1.0 launch. We've heard AMD is working on getting the code cleaned up to release, they may try first working to open-source code that would help fill in the missing pieces for RADV, etc, but long story short Vulkan 1.0 is almost one year old and we still haven't seen the code expected from AMD... Hopefully it won't be too much longer to avoid overlap or fragmentation with the RADV efforts.

AMDGPU DAL / DC Not Ready - The other big disappointment is the DAL/DC display code for the AMDGPU DRM driver not yet being ready for the mainline Linux kernel... This is holding back HDMI/DP audio from working out-of-the-box with newer AMD graphics cards on Linux, FreeSync support isn't yet part of the open driver until DAL/DC is merged, and it's blocking other features like HDMI 2.0, atomic mode-setting, DP MST, and more. AMD developers are working on currently cleaning up the code to get it acceptable to upstream developers, but it looks like it could still be a few months.

The Steam Linux Marketshare Remains Around ~1% - As a letdown to optimistic Linux enthusiasts/gamers and to game studios weighing the viability of porting their games to Linux, the marketshare remains quite small. You can argue about the accuracy of the Steam Survey, but as of November it still pegged it at 0.88%. Even if doubling that over concerns over the accuracy of the survey or SteamOS Big Picture users not being counted, that's still less than 2%. macOS meanwhile is still maintaining 3.5~4%. Related to this, there has been barely anything to talk about with Linux-powered Steam Machines in 2016.

NVIDIA Firmware & Nouveau Re-Clocking - This is another item that was on my 2015 list and while it's shifted a bit, it still is a big problem. In 2016 we finally saw NVIDIA provide their signed firmware blobs for Maxwell GPUs, but now we are in a similar waiting game for Pascal firmware for the GTX 1000 series consumer GPUs. No word when that Pascal GTX 1050/1060/1070/1080 firmware might be cleared for release. The lack of PMU firmware on the GTX 900 series still is also causing complications for re-clocking on this generation-old hardware. But in 2016 Nouveau developers did make some improvements by merging the "boost" patches for Linux 4.10 among other re-clocking advancements.

Open-Source OpenCL - Another one from the 2015 list... The state of the open-source OpenCL driver support is still rather sad. Just this week was a positive milestone of Intel's Beignet being able to expose OpenCL 2.0 for Skylake+ but in 2016 there's been no real activity in the Nouveau space, the AMD Clover-based OpenCL driver is basically dead, and no other real open-source hardware driver efforts. AMD is working on a new Linux OpenCL stack via ROCm, but that isn't fully open yet but does make us optimistic for better adopted and supported AMD open-source OpenCL for later in 2017.

Where Are The Vulkan Games? - While Vulkan was only released in February and it takes a while to adapt a new game engine to a new graphics API and longer for the renderer to make full-use of new APIs like DX12/Vulkan, it was a bit of a letdown only seeing two commercial games this year using Vulkan on Linux: Dota 2 and The Talos Principle. Plus there's the vkQuake open-source game if wanting to count that as well as if running the Windows-only DOOM game on Wine with Vulkan wine-staging patches. But hopefully in 2017 we'll see many more game studios release Vulkan titles. We already know that Feral Interactive will begin with some game ports using Vulkan. May 2017 be a bright year for Vulkan gaming!

xf86-video-intel 3.0 - The 3.0 Intel DDX driver has been "in development" for several years now while there hasn't even been a new development snapshot in two years. Intel appears to not even really be maintaining this driver anymore but what's sad has been the lack of official communication concerning the future of this xf86-video-intel driver... Meanwhile, distributions like Ubuntu/Debian are switching to using xf86-video-modesetting by default in place of xf86-video-intel.

These were the items that came to my mind this New Year's morning off the top of my head. At least there was a lot to be thankful for in the Linux/open-source space for 2016, as covered in the past few weeks in various recaps and "most viewed" articles on Phoronix. Within our forums you can share what you viewed as your personal letdowns related to Linux / open-source in 2016.
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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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