Mesa Developers Discussing Again Whether To Fork Or Drop Non-Gallium3D Drivers
Written by Michael Larabel in Mesa on 30 March 2020 at 03:53 AM EDT. 55 Comments
MESA --
Back in December was a developer discussion over dropping or forking non-Gallium3D drivers. Since then the Intel "Iris" Gallium3D driver has successfully become the default OpenGL driver for Broadwell/Gen8 and newer while the non-Gallium3D drivers continue to just face bit rot. The discussion over dropping/forking non-Gallium3D Mesa drivers has been reignited.

This mailing list thread is active again with discussions over getting rid of the Mesa "classic" drivers to allow better focusing on the modern Gallium3D drivers and Mesa's Vulkan drivers. Eliminating the classic drivers avoids the associated maintenance burden and also allows simplifying/improving the modern drivers without risking breakage/regressions and other headaches with the old drivers.


Of the classic Mesa drivers, still in-tree is the vintage Intel i915 driver, the Intel i965 driver used now by just pre-Broadwell/Gen8 hardware, the old NV01 through NV10 Nouveau driver, the ATI Radeon R200 driver, and SWRAST. Of those, the only semi-notable driver still of relevance is the Intel i965 driver for running pre-Broadwell HD Graphics on Linux.

The newest discussion over what to do about the classic drivers hasn't resulted in any definitive active. One proposal by an Intel developer is to wait another year and at that point to "fork" the old Mesa code into an "LTS" (Long Term Support) series while letting Mesa Git then progress with just these modern drivers. With some GLVND magic the possibility is being discussed of being able to load the old and new drivers from the same system/OS installation.

We'll see what happens from this new discussion on the matter but sooner or later the Mesa developers are looking to drop those vintage drivers so they can better support/optimize the modern hardware drivers.
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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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