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Thread: New developer guy with some questions

  1. #1
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    Default New developer guy with some questions

    Hello everyone!

    First of all, I'd like to thank every helpful member of this community for indirectly helping me with some problems I previously had with some linux distros.

    I'm an experienced C++ developer, and I've been a lurker on these forums for quiet some time now, and as a developer, I'm always wanting to try new stuff. I've always been interested on linux, however I'm a windows guy for now.
    Recently though, I've become a little more intimate with linux as I wanted to try and solve job-related problems without spending lots of cash on windows licences, and I must say I like the way most things (that I've seen so far) work on linux under the hood. This led me to want to research about kernel driver development and so on.

    My research has led me to some questions:

    1) Does every driver communicate with an application using a file "link"?

    2) If so, is it efficient? I mean, imagine I want to output a 1080p@60fps uncompressed video through some kind of device that has enough bandwidth for that; is it done through writting the raw data to the file (and all the other meta-data ofcorse)?


    Since I'm the owner of an AMD gfx card, I'm also interested on AMD's open source initiative, and so I also researched about the xorg and all it's components, but everything's (MESA/DRI/DRM) a bit confusing for me to understand. Which leads me to the next question:

    3) As I understand, the xorg components work as follow:
    Code:
    Application --> OGL API --> Mesa --> Xorg --|
                                 |              |--> DRM (kernel driver?)
                                 |-----> DRI----|
    Is this correct? If not, could someone correct this please?

    4) Where exacly do drivers like radeon/radeonhd/fglrx stand in that chart?

    5) What about Gallium 3D, where does it stand?


    Thanks in advance
    Last edited by mdias; 02-14-2009 at 08:24 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    1) Does every driver communicate with an application using a file "link"?

    2) If so, is it efficient? I mean, imagine I want to output a 1080p@60fps uncompressed video through some kind of device that has enough bandwidth for that; is it done through writting the raw data to the file (and all the other meta-data ofcorse)?
    Most devices get a "device file" that is opened in basically the same way that you would open any other file, but the communication with the device may or may not happen through normal read/write calls. This allows access to devices to be managed with the usual UNIX/POSIX permissions. For operations where the normal read/write interface doesn't make sense, Unix-like systems use the ioctl system call, which allows access to driver-specific functions. Drivers may use read/write alone, ioctl functions alone, or a mix of the two. An example is a serial port - you open the device file for the port and read/write to receive/send data over it. However, if you want to reconfigure the port speed, parity, or number of data/stop bits, you need to use the ioctl interface. See Section 7.1 of the Linux Kernel Module Programming Guide for more on this topic including examples.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    1) Does every driver communicate with an application using a file "link"?

    2) If so, is it efficient? I mean, imagine I want to output a 1080p@60fps uncompressed video through some kind of device that has enough bandwidth for that; is it done through writting the raw data to the file (and all the other meta-data ofcorse)?
    In general graphics drivers are *not* accessed through simulated files, although communication with the X server does use a similar mechanism (lib accumulates requests then squirts a buffer out). That said, the simulated files can provide surprisingly high performance.

    The "direct rendering infrastructure" was developed to allow an application to talk directly to the graphics driver, although that brings some other complications (see below).

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    3) As I understand, the xorg components work as follow:
    Code:
    Application --> OGL API --> Mesa --> Xorg --|
                                 |              |--> DRM (kernel driver?)
                                 |-----> DRI----|
    Is this correct? If not, could someone correct this please?
    First, there are two rendering paths - Direct and Indirect. DRI uses the direct path, AIGLX uses the indirect path.

    Direct is App -> OGL API -> Mesa -> DRM -> hardware, with a couple of dotted lines going to the X server because Mesa needs to stay coordinated with the X server's understanding of window locations and which driver owns the hardware at any given instant. The coordination protocols are collectively called DRI.

    Indirect is App -> OGL API -> X server -> Mesa -> DRM -> hardware, with no need for DRI protocol because all drawing is already going through the server.

    You might have already read these, but I left a couple of sticky threads around with some info :

    http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7032

    http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7221

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    4) Where exacly do drivers like radeon/radeonhd/fglrx stand in that chart?
    Your example only mentions drawing through OpenGL, so radeon and radeonhd are not directly involved (although you need them to set up the 3d paths).

    If you are doing 2D drawing or video playback then the path is :

    App -> 2D/video API -> X server -> DDX -> DRM -> hardware

    or, in the simplest case (older GPUs, no 3D) :

    App -> 2D/video API -> X server -> DDX -> hardware

    radeonhd and radeon (aka -ati) are Device Dependent X (DDX) drivers. They handle modesetting, 2D and video acceleration, and they also set up communication between X server and drm.

    There is discussion about writing both video and 2D acceleration code which bypasses the server and operates through DRI in the same way that Mesa does.

    The fglrx driver is our proprietary implementation which includes DDX, DRM and 3D driver components. You either use fglrx *or* you use radeon/radeonhd + drm + mesa.

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    5) What about Gallium 3D, where does it stand?
    Mesa was originally developed as a software GL implementation. Hardware acceleration was added, using a driver API designed around the fixed-function GPUs of the time. Support for newer, shader based GPUs has been added but the driver API is due for a complete redesign.

    Gallium3D is that redesign; a new, simple driver API created to expose the hardware functionality of modern shader-based GPUs. The functionality exposed by Gallium3D is also useful for supporting other APIs as well, including things like DirectX, video acceleration, and possibly 2D acceleration.
    Last edited by bridgman; 02-14-2009 at 10:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    3) As I understand, the xorg components work as follow:
    Code:
    Application --> OGL API --> Mesa --> Xorg --|
                                 |              |--> DRM (kernel driver?)
                                 |-----> DRI----|
    Is this correct? If not, could someone correct this please?
    AFAIK, it is more like
    Code:
               Modsetting --> Xorg --|
       2D Drawing / Video --> Xorg --|--> DRM
    OGL APP --> libGL/Mesa --> DRI --|
    In this chart, Xorg mostly refers to the DDX driver, DRI to the dri driver, and DRM to the drm driver

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    4) Where exacly do drivers like radeon/radeonhd/fglrx stand in that chart?
    Radeon/Radeonhd are simply different DDX drivers
    Fglrx has it's own DRM, DDX, DRI, and libgl replacements

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    5) What about Gallium 3D, where does it stand?
    Gallium3D is a replacement for the mesa driver model and (afaik) adds a library between libGL and the DRI drivers
    Modsetting is now moving into the kernel(Intel has it merged in already), so DDX will only handle Video and 2D acceleration(both of which should be able to be moved into the Gallium driver, though that's not part of any plan)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ex-Cyber View Post
    Most devices get a "device file" that is opened in basically the same way that you would open any other file, but the communication with the device may or may not happen through normal read/write calls. This allows access to devices to be managed with the usual UNIX/POSIX permissions. For operations where the normal read/write interface doesn't make sense, Unix-like systems use the ioctl system call, which allows access to driver-specific functions. Drivers may use read/write alone, ioctl functions alone, or a mix of the two. An example is a serial port - you open the device file for the port and read/write to receive/send data over it. However, if you want to reconfigure the port speed, parity, or number of data/stop bits, you need to use the ioctl interface. See Section 7.1 of the Linux Kernel Module Programming Guide for more on this topic including examples.
    I see, it makes sense. I suppose depending on the device we could also use DMA.


    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman View Post
    In general graphics drivers are *not* accessed through simulated files, although communication with the X server does use a similar mechanism (lib accumulates requests then squirts a buffer out). That said, the simulated files can provide surprisingly high performance.
    Why does X communicate through a simulated file? Doesn't it introduce lag issues?
    I've always noticed some kind of lag clicking and highlighting the menus on X compared to windows, even though this problem has been less and less of an issue to me (maybe due to faster computers), could this be the reason?

    Also, how high performant can they be? Is it much slower than using a DMA mechanism? Is it possible to have some numbers about this?

    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman View Post
    First, there are two rendering paths - Direct and Indirect. DRI uses the direct path, AIGLX uses the indirect path.

    Direct is App -> OGL API -> Mesa -> DRM -> hardware, with a couple of dotted lines going to the X server because Mesa needs to stay coordinated with the X server's understanding of window locations and which driver owns the hardware at any given instant. The coordination protocols are collectively called DRI.

    Indirect is App -> OGL API -> X server -> Mesa -> DRM -> hardware, with no need for DRI protocol because all drawing is already going through the server.


    You might have already read these, but I left a couple of sticky threads around with some info :

    http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7032

    http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7221



    Your example only mentions drawing through OpenGL, so radeon and radeonhd are not directly involved (although you need them to set up the 3d paths).
    They're not? So what feeds instructions to the GPU?
    For what I recently read, I was thinking that somehow Mesa comunicates with DRM, which I was thinking was the actual driver. I'm completely lost here.

    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman View Post
    If you are doing 2D drawing or video playback then the path is :

    App -> 2D/video API -> X server -> DDX -> DRM -> hardware

    or, in the simplest case (older GPUs, no 3D) :

    App -> 2D/video API -> X server -> DDX -> hardware

    radeonhd and radeon (aka -ati) are Device Dependent X (DDX) drivers. They handle modesetting, 2D and video acceleration, and they also set up communication between X server and drm.
    From what I understand here, radeonhd and radeon is a component that appears right before DRM. Shouldn't they be the last components talked to? What will DRM do exacly if it doesn't know how to communicate with the GPU? Or does it?


    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman View Post
    There is discussion about writing both video and 2D acceleration code which bypasses the server and operates through DRI in the same way that Mesa does.

    The fglrx driver is our proprietary implementation which includes DDX, DRM and 3D driver components. You either use fglrx *or* you use radeon/radeonhd + drm + mesa.



    Mesa was originally developed as a software GL implementation. Hardware acceleration was added, using a driver API designed around the fixed-function GPUs of the time. Support for newer, shader based GPUs has been added but the driver API is due for a complete redesign.

    Gallium3D is that redesign; a new, simple driver API created to expose the hardware functionality of modern shader-based GPUs. The functionality exposed by Gallium3D is also useful for supporting other APIs as well, including things like DirectX, video acceleration, and possibly 2D acceleration.
    Understood.
    But if a new kind of hardware features comes out, will Gallium have to be upadted along with Mesa? Or is it all one and the same in the end? If so, I'm guessing Mesa's interfaces will be radically different and incompatible with current applications.

    Thank you all for the explanation and links.
    and yes bridgman, I had read those stickies some time ago
    Last edited by mdias; 02-15-2009 at 09:01 AM.

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    I've always noticed some kind of lag clicking and highlighting the menus on X compared to windows, even though this problem has been less and less of an issue to me (maybe due to faster computers), could this be the reason?
    No, not really. It's either a) heavy window manager (gnome or kde, eww) or b) bad 2d acceleration. If you eliminate the issue a by using a light wm, and then loading the system to ram to not have your HD slowing things, it's only the 2d performance that matters. If this is good, or done entirely in software, you'll have menus opening faster than you can click.
    For a demonstration, get a Puppy, DSL, or Tinycore livecd; Puppy and TC always boot to ram, DSL needs the bootcode "dsl toram" entered. It's blazing fast.

    Also, how high performant can they be? Is it much slower than using a DMA mechanism? Is it possible to have some numbers about this?
    Depending on the device, either your ram or your cpu is the bottleneck. Here are some numbers from dd'ing:
    bash-3.2$ LANG=C dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/null bs=32M count=32
    32+0 records in
    32+0 records out
    1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 0.5946 s, 1.8 GB/s

    bash-3.2$ LANG=C dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/null bs=4K count=3200
    3200+0 records in
    3200+0 records out
    13107200 bytes (13 MB) copied, 0.00156306 s, 8.4 GB/s
    This is pretty much the ideal case, only limited by my cpu.

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    Cool, I was thinking they were much slower, it's nice to see it's not the case.
    I've heard nice stuff about DSL and Puppy, I will try them as soon as I can.

    Thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    Why does X communicate through a simulated file? Doesn't it introduce lag issues? I've always noticed some kind of lag clicking and highlighting the menus on X compared to windows, even though this problem has been less and less of an issue to me (maybe due to faster computers), could this be the reason?
    X was designed to communicate over a LAN or WAN, where the computer running your application might be 3,000 miles away from your computer. Normally the extra processing is irrelevent; it might introduce a 1000-instruction delay on a CPU executing a few billion instructions per second.

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    Also, how high performant can they be? Is it much slower than using a DMA mechanism? Is it possible to have some numbers about this?
    Since we're talking about a high level API here (higher than what the GPU understands) DMA isn't really an option. You have to go through some driver code anyways to generate something a GPU can understand.

    We did some tests forcing 3D apps to run through indirect rendering rather than the normal direct rendering and found a 5-10% slowdown.

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    They're not? So what feeds instructions to the GPU? For what I recently read, I was thinking that somehow Mesa comunicates with DRM, which I was thinking was the actual driver. I'm completely lost here.
    The important thing to remember is that ddx, drm and mesa are all drivers, in the sense that they convert from hardware independent API to hardware dependent instructions. The ddx and drm components don't contain much device independent code, while mesa is mostly device-independent code with a subtree (src/mesa/drivers/dri) for device-dependent code.

    One of the big arguments for kernel modesetting is that it moves all hardware accesses into a single component (the drm). Right now both ddx and drm directly access hardware registers. Once modesetting has moved into drm, then only the drm driver will directly access the hardware; mesa and ddx will just pass GPU command and data buffers down to drm. Both ddx and mesa will still need device-dependent code (since they translate high level API commands into low level GPU commands) but only drm will actually touch the hardware.

    Note that even this is a big confusing because both ddx and mesa need to set registers on the GPU (setting up state information before drawing) but this is done by passing "set register X to Y" command buffers down to drm.

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    From what I understand here, radeonhd and radeon is a component that appears right before DRM. Shouldn't they be the last components talked to? What will DRM do exacly if it doesn't know how to communicate with the GPU? Or does it?
    The drm driver knows about the GPU details as well. It's the most like a typical kernel driver (which is good 'cause it goes into the Linux kernel ). The ddx and mesa/gallium3d drivers are the userland components of the driver stack.

    2D acceleration is radeon/radeonhd -> drm

    3D acceleration is mesa -> drm

    Modesetting goes around drm today, but kms moves modesetting into drm.

    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    But if a new kind of hardware features comes out, will Gallium have to be upadted along with Mesa? Or is it all one and the same in the end? If so, I'm guessing Mesa's interfaces will be radically different and incompatible with current applications.
    Remember I mentioned that there is a "drivers" section within mesa ? When new hardware comes out, only that HW driver subtree needs to be modified today (and for any given GPU that's maybe 50K out of 1M lines of code). The rest of mesa is unchanged.

    Under Gallium3D, rather than changing mesa/drivers you would change the Gallium3D drivers instead. The gallium3d hw drivers are at src/gallium/drivers (rather than src/mesa/drivers/dri).

    Since the Gallium3D "driver API" is very different from the current Mesa HW driver, the code above the HW driver layer needs to be restructured as well, into what Gallium3D calls "state trackers". In the mesa source tree "gallium" appears alongside the entire classic "mesa" tree. The difference is that rather than supporting only the GL API, the new structure can support a variety of different acceleration APIs, each with their own state tracker.

    The difference, btw, is that the old Mesa hw driver API was based around GL functions (which made sense, old GPUs were designed around GL as well) while the new hw driver API (Gallium3D) is based around the common shader functions exposed by modern GPUs.

    If you want a quick tour through the source :

    - start at the top of the mesa project :

    http://cgit.freedesktop.org/mesa/mesa/tree/

    - click on "src" - you'll notice that there is one folder called "mesa" (the "classic mesa" tree) and one folder called "gallium" (the same tree restructured to work around gallium3d)

    - click on "gallium" - you'll see three folders called "state trackers" (the hw and system independent stuff), "winsys" mostly OS dependent stuff with a bit of hw dependent code) and "drivers" (GPU dependent stuff). The "r300" folder covers r3xx through r5xx.

    - go back one page anc click on "mesa", then click on "drivers" -- you'll see a bunch of different environments like d3d, glide, and dri. All the hw acceleration we talk about here is under the "dri" tree

    - click on "dri" - there are your device-specific trees; one for each supported family of GPUs. The "r300" tree covers r3xx through r5xx plus rx690; we're in the process of adding an "r600" tree to support r6xx and r7xx GPUs.

    Is this becoming any clearer ?
    Last edited by bridgman; 02-15-2009 at 10:29 AM.

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    Ahh yes! I understand it now!
    Thank you very much for your very informative posts!

    I still think there should be only one component with device-dependent code though.
    Why not have something like Gallium3D as the last component before the kernel driver for both 2D and 3D acceleration? I believe that would be better. But I could be wrong as I'm not a driver developer...
    Last edited by mdias; 02-15-2009 at 11:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdias View Post
    I still think there should be only one component with device-dependent code though. Why not make Gallium3D the last component before the kernel driver for both 2D and 3D acceleration? Is this what it will become?
    The problem is that there really are completely different functions being performed by the different components. A typical GPU needs driver support for at least five different classes of functions :

    - modesetting
    - 2d acceleration
    - video acceleration
    - 3d acceleration
    - command and buffer handling

    Each of these functions hits a completely different set of hardware in the GPU, and historically the functions have been partitioned into different drivers. They could be combined into a big super-mega-honkin' driver but there wouldn't be much to gain from that.

    There will be some simplification over time :

    - right now drm handles command and buffer management, modesetting will move there as well so all higher levels just have to pass command buffers

    - on chips without dedicated 2D hardware (latest ATI and NVidia GPUs, not sure about Intel) it should be possible to layer 2D acceleration over Gallium3D, although you wouldn't necessarily be able to take advantage of chip-specific hardware intended to make 2D-over-3D easier or more efficient.

    - for the subset of video acceleration handled by ddx today (Xv, XvMC) video acceleration can probably be layered over Gallium3D as well

    What Gallium3D can't handle is video acceleration using dedicated VLD-level hardware or 2D acceleration using dedicated 2D blitter hardware. Shaders are pretty versatile but dedicated hardware still has advantages in some areas. It is also probably not practical to support older GPUs through Gallium3D since they don't have the general-purpose shader hardware.

    What is happening already is an ongoing cleanup of the driver stack - modesetting moving into drm and swallowing up all of the other kernel graphics drivers, and more things being layered over Gallium3D as working drivers for Gallium3D start to appear. The cleanup could not have happened sooner because the pre-requisites -- Gallium3D and a broadly accepted memory manager -- have only just started to show up in production code recently.

    If you only look at newer GPUs without 2D hardware, and ignore things like UVD, then it probably will be feasible to run all the acceleration through Gallium3D-over-drm -- and modesetting will already be in the drm. There has been talk of extending Gallium3D to handle non-3D hardware blocks (VLD video hardware, 2D blitters etc..) so that at least the winsys code can be re-used even if the pipe drivers are not, but then it wouldn't really be Gallium3D any more

    The bigger design issue for the X/DRI community is whether we are going to move to a model where the compositor becomes a standard part of the stack. We are rapidly approaching the point where most of the remaining complaints about graphics on Linux will be a consequence of the "mix and match" graphics stack making everything more difficult, and that will be where we lose relative to current MacOS and Windows graphics.
    Last edited by bridgman; 02-15-2009 at 11:45 AM.

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