Feral Joins The Bandwagon Of Wanting Newer Mesa On Ubuntu
Written by Michael Larabel in Mesa on 18 November 2016 at 08:49 AM EST. 59 Comments
With Mesa drivers this year really improving a lot and reaching OpenGL ~4.5 compatibility for most drivers as well as the Intel and RADV Vulkan drivers getting into shape, they are becoming usable for day-to-day Linux gamers. While not all new Feral Linux game releases work with the Mesa drivers, a growing number of their games work well on Mesa 13.0+, and as such they are hoping Ubuntu will adopt a policy of making it easier to switch to newer Mesa releases.

Edwin Smith of Feral Interactive wrote a proposal on the ubuntu-desktop list today of wanting to see Mesa stable releases added to the graphics-driver PPA.

The graphics-driver PPA launched a year ago as a way for easily getting newer proprietary AMD/NVIDIA drivers on Ubuntu in a semi-official manner. But now the hope is that Mesa stable releases could be added here too for making it easier to get the new releases rather than waiting for new Ubuntu releases or LTS point releases for providing these big driver updates.

The Feral representative wrote, "We have been working with the Mesa community to help improve the Mesa drivers so more games can run on AMD and Intel hardware, and in the last year this has started to hit the tipping point and support has become more and more viable when using the very latest drivers. The biggest issue we have is there is no way for a user to officially download and install the latest stable versions of Mesa. For example because the official Mesa 13.0.1 release isn’t available to install on Ubuntu, you need to compile it yourself...Almost every Feral title would benefit from running on the latest version of the Mesa drivers as they bring performance, stability and much needed features. Many titles simply cannot run without the latest drivers. This is also true for most other games from other developers as well. This should really help adoption of the newer graphics drivers on Mesa which should help improve the experience AMD and Intel users have when using Ubuntu as they will have much easier access to the latest drivers."

Feral also commented they can't officially endorse the Oibaf or Padoka PPAs for Mesa Git drivers since "they often contain serious bugs that are still being fixed." This Feral proposal is not about pushing down Mesa updates down to Ubuntu users as stable release updates via the main archive.

Frankly what I would rather see in an ideal world is where they package up a known good Mesa commit on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Currently major Mesa releases only come every three months, but it often ends up being around four months between releases due to delays. In those releases are big improvements and while it's been just one month since Mesa 13.0, in Mesa 13.1-dev is already OpenGL 4.5 being officially exposed for RadeonSI, many RADV and ANV Vulkan driver improvements, and a ton of other work. But that Mesa 13.1 release probably isn't coming until January.

If there was a PPA of Mesa every few weeks from a good state and some basic QA passes, this would likely be much better for Linux gamers. But even if just the new Mesa stable releases get added to the graphics-drivers PPA, it still would be better for those wanting a stable experience but cautious about building Mesa themselves and not wanting to ride the Git train with Padoka or Oibaf. This would also be better for new Feral game releases where Mesa developers tend to land improvements shortly after a game's release, but could still be months before it is found in a stable release, unless it's a candidate for backporting.

It will be interesting to see where this discussion leads. Stay tuned for updates.
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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 or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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