FreeBSD Is Slowly But Surely Trying To Catch Up With Linux Graphics Drivers

Written by Michael Larabel in BSD on 10 October 2014 at 08:41 AM EDT. 29 Comments
Jean-Sébastien Pédron of the FreeBSD project gave an update at this week's XDC2014 conference about the state of the graphics stack on FreeBSD.

As most Phoronix readers know, the graphics drivers found in FreeBSD badly lag behind the Linux graphics drivers -- it wasn't until FreeBSD 9.1 that Intel KMS support came and with FreeBSD 10.0 is when Radeon support landed just a number of months ago. However, the code snapshots used are already sharply out-of-date. During Jean-Sébastien's talk today in Bordeaux, he covered their challenges and the progress their making in porting these graphics drivers to FreeBSD from Linux.

Some takeaways from the presentation include:

- The Intel i915 code is soon to be updated and the DRM device-independent code from Linux 3.8 is ready -- yes, about ten releases behind upstream.

- With the upcoming FreeBSD 10.1 there is hardware context support for the Intel DRM driver.

- The FreeBSD 10.1 graphics stack in FreeBSD Ports include X.Org Server 1.12, xf86-video-intel 2.21, and xf86-video-ati 7.x. With their new Xorg stack they're now using Mesa 9.1 rather than Mesa 7.6.

- FreeBSD has just two developers in the kernel and two developers in Ports relating to their graphics code. Of these developers there is a lack of X11 expertise and understanding the graphics hardware, including low confidence in some of their changes.

- Future work includes finishing to sync DRM/drivers from Linux 3.8, sync from the Linux 3.10 kernel changes when time allows, implement DMA-BUF and PRIME support, and to import Nouveau when time permits.

- FreeBSD also wants to land libgbm and Clover support for GPGPU.

- Additionally, to potentially allow a root-less X Server by coming up with a workable alternative to systemd's logind that's needed for the root-less server.

- Wayland packaging is still planned for FreeBSD.

Find out more about the FreeBSD graphics stack via the PDF slides from XDC2014 Bordeaux.
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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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