Raspbian Now Ships With Experimental Support For The New VC4 OpenGL Driver

Written by Michael Larabel in Debian on 9 February 2016 at 08:31 AM EST. 9 Comments
A new release of the Raspberry Pi's Debian-based "Raspbian" Linux distribution is now available. This release based off Debian Jessie adds in experimental support for the Pi's new open-source, OpenGL Linux graphics driver stack!

This Raspbian update now available has a number of application updates, a number of bugs have been fixed, and other small improvements made.

Exciting me the most out of this though is there is now the new OpenGL driver in experimental form! The experimental OpenGL driver can be enabled from the CLI version of raspi-config under advanced options. This OpenGL driver will only work with the Raspberry Pi 2 and not the Pi or Pi Zero (at least for now) due to memory requirements. This is the VC4 driver stack we've been talking about for quite a while.

VC4 is predominantly the work of Eric Anholt, the former open-source developer at Intel who joined Broadcom back in 2014 to start work on the driver. VC4 is completely open-source and consists of the DRM kernel driver and a proper Gallium3D driver living within Mesa. With the upcoming Linux 4.5 kernel, there are the needed kernel side bits for 3D while for Raspbian they backported the code to their kernel. Prior to Linux 4.5, the VC4 DRM driver just has kernel mode-setting support. Within Mesa, all of the code is being developed upstream in the VC4 Gallium3D driver.

While this open-source 3D driver is finally there for the Raspberry Pi, there still are other features to tackle and ensure the performance is as good as Broadcom's binary blob. Nevertheless, it's a big step forward and it's great to see Raspbian offering this OpenGL driver as an experimental option while all of the code still is landing upstream. Just last night I was writing about runtime power management and GPU reset being pushed for the VC4 driver.

I'll have some Raspberry Pi 2 OpenGL benchmarks on Phoronix shortly. You can read more about the Raspbian update via the Raspberry Pi blog.
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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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