Asahi Linux May Have OpenGL 2.1 For Apple M1/M2 By Year's End

Written by Michael Larabel in Mesa on 22 August 2022 at 10:30 AM EDT. 59 Comments
MESA --
Alyssa Rosenzweig who is known for her work on the Panfrost open-source, reverse-engineered Arm Mali driver and has been spending nearly two years now involved with the Asahi Linux crew working on reverse-engineered Apple M1/M2 graphics support has shared a new status update.

Alyssa has now gotten the open-source game Neverball to render with the open-source Mesa "Asahi" driver. Neverball being a simple OpenGL game and at the moment that OpenGL driver is running on macOS while using the standard, proprietary macOS kernel graphics driver. Even then the Neverball operation on macOS ls limited by Mesa lacking support for Apple's own Cocoa windowing system and thus Neverball was built for macOS with the X11 version of SDL2.

The hope is once the Apple Silicon kernel graphics driver for Linux begins taking shape, that this Mesa OpenGL driver will with little work begin functioning under Linux rather than right now only being useful on macOS. That Apple kernel graphics driver for Linux is still in the early stages and may even end up being written in Rust.


Alyssa Rosenzweig shows off the basic OpenGL game Neverball running on macOS with the proprietary kernel driver but open-source Mesa code. Now to get it working on Linux once there is a kernel graphics driver...


The lengthy write-up today by Alyssa Rosenzweig is mostly focused on the clip control crusade for getting the functionality working with the work-in-progress Mesa code on the Apple Silicon graphics. In that post is an important remark:
That said, thanks to the tremendous shared code in Mesa, a basic OpenGL driver is doable by a single person. I’m optimistic that we’ll have native OpenGL 2.1 in Asahi Linux by the end of the year. That’s enough to accelerate your desktop environment and browser. It’s also enough to play older games (like Neverball). Even without fancy features, GPU acceleration means smooth animations and better battery life.

There is hope that by year's end OpenGL 2.1 could be doable on Asahi Linux. Granted, that's likely with the out-of-tree DRM kernel module to be written as will likely take a longer period of time before the DRM driver is ready for upstreaming, especially if it goes the Rust route. At least it will be nice to have some level of OpenGL acceleration possible with Asahi Linux on Apple Macs.

As I've been saying in other articles, it will likely be quite some time before any Linux gamers would want to consider Apple Silicon hardware. By year's end for OpenGL 2.1 and obviously much longer before seeing OpenGL 4.x or a Vulkan driver. Alyssa commented today:
Please temper your expectations: even with hardware documentation, an optimized Vulkan driver stack (with enough features to layer OpenGL 4.6 with Zink) requires over many years of full time work. At least for now, nobody is working on this driver full time. Reverse-engineering slows the process considerably. We won’t be playing AAA games any time soon.

More details on this Apple M1/M2 OpenGL driver effort via Rosenzweig.io.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com 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 OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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