[NCLUG] Intel open source drivers

Chad Perrin perrin at apotheon.com
Fri Jan 26 22:49:53 MST 2007

On Fri, Jan 26, 2007 at 08:09:02AM -0700, Sean Reifschneider wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 25, 2007 at 04:08:11PM -0700, Chad Perrin wrote:
> >for open source OSes.  I still mostly only see discussions of free unix
> >users discussing Radeon and GeForce graphics adapters, and the
> That's because the Radeon and GeForce users need more help than the Intel
> users.  ;-/
> >Is there anyone out there that actively seeks out Intel chipsets for 3D
> >accelerated graphics adapters and wireless networking adapters, for
> I haven't really purchased hardware since Intel started the talk of having
> good 3D hardware.  I definitely in the past have gone out of my way to seek
> out Intel ethernet cards or motherboards with them, and over the last year
> or two have been recommending the Intel wireless.  While I have also
> recommended the Prism54 cards in the past, I've definitely recommended away
> from Atheros, I've had lots of problems with them.  Though with the recent
> changes in the project, they'll probably be much better supported now.

That's good to know.  I have had an Atheros chipset adapter a grand
total of once, and it worked like a champ with the minor exception that
once in a while it would be flaky for a few minutes, for no reason I
discerned other than perhaps pure gremlin-infested orneriness.

> My main machine now is using a "Intel Corporation Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML",
> and it works well.  However, 3D is not it's strong point.  I can just
> barely run the KDE compositing quickly enough to not be annoying, but Beryl
> isn't even close.

It appears that Intel finally released its newfangled high-end 3D
accelerated graphics adapter, with the 965 Express Chipset, last summer.
Actually, it was early June, if I'm not mistaken.  Despite this, I've
basically heard absolutely nothing about anyone in Linux-land (let alone
BSD-ville) using it at all, let alone seeking it out, liking or
disliking it, avoiding it or painting it blue.  Nothing.  It's almost
creepy.  The launch was accompanied by the celebratory fanfare of a
muted thud.  I imagine that if any Intel adapter could handle Beryl,
this would be the one.

I got an answer on the subject of Intel open source graphics drivers
from someone via another venue, and may relay the information here.  I'm
not entirely sure how much of it to believe, but if true the technical
information in the email he sent me might be of interest to the NCLUG
community at large -- it pertains to the troubles with getting open
source drivers for GeForce and ATI adapters as well.  I'll see if I can
compose some coherent thoughts from the rather scattered presentation of
information and get around to forwarding the interesting bits (and the
bits we don't already all know) in the next couple days.

> My previous laptop was using an ATI chipset and for a long time I was using
> the unaccelerated 3D driver because the ATI binary driver wouldn't suspend
> properly.  On a "mobile" chipset.  What a crock.  More recently, the r300
> driver has come a long way (baby), and is acceptably speedy, but the ATI
> driver is faster by quite a bit and has more features.

Y'know, ATI has been legendary in the crappy quality of its drivers
since the downright hellish days of the Rage, way back when.  Aside from
running into conflicts between a motherboard and the one and only Rage
card I've ever owned, though, the only problem I've ever had with ATI
drivers is sketchy installation -- it fails more often than it works,
and it seems like every successful install for me has involved a wholly
unique Frankenstein's Monster of stitched-together workarounds so dense
it's difficult to find the remaining bits of the "official" isntallation
that survived the jury-rigging.  Once all the duct tape, spit, and
baling wire has been added to the installation, though, I've never had
any problem with ATI proprietary driver operation for any Radeon or
FireGL -- even with suspend to RAM or hard drive.  I think I must just
be lucky.

> I'm hoping for good things from Intel related to 3D, but I expect it to be
> a while.  I'd definitely consider it if I have the choice, even if just to
> try it out, but mostly I have to use what the vendor of the rest of the
> system pushes on me.  Almost none of my systems let me choose the video
> board, and the ones that do I rarely care about.  A recent system I built I
> put a PCI video card in -- it just doesn't matter when it sits in the
> basement being a backup or asterisk server, right?  With laptops, where I
> actually use the display, I have almost no choice except in the wireless.

I'm hoping for good things, as well.  As far as I'm aware, though, no
credible laptop model (and by "credible", I mean self-respecting high
enough quality so it wouldn't be caught dead being sold at Wal-Mart) has
ever used an Intel graphics chipset.  High-end graphics could become
relevant for certain graphics-related server implementations, however,
and as such it's a matter of interest to me, to say nothing of the fact
that I'm currently yoked to my desk because my laptop's monitor crapped
out to the point where it was effectively unusable except as a low-end
fileserver and email collector.

Anyway, since I'm using mostly FreeBSD for everything these days, the
question of open source drivers has become even more immediately
relevant to my life, since support for hardware for which there are no
open source drivers is typically a bit behind Linux support for the same
hardware.  This, coupled with the fact that I've started experimenting
with some graphics-intensive applications (in the general sense of the
term), means I'm suddenly interested in paying more attention to the
state of the hardware side of computing a bit more avidly again.

Bah, I say.  Humbug.  Hardware was never the fun part.

CCD CopyWrite Chad Perrin [ http://ccd.apotheon.org ]
"The measure on a man's real character is what he would do
if he knew he would never be found out." - Thomas McCauley

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