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Thread: The Sad State Of GPU Drivers For BSD, Solaris

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    Default The Sad State Of GPU Drivers For BSD, Solaris

    Phoronix: The Sad State Of GPU Drivers For BSD, Solaris

    Yesterday a discussion arose on the mailing list about killing off all the old Mesa drivers. These old drivers aren't actively maintained, support vintage graphics processors, and aren't updated to support new Mesa functionality. They're now also getting in the way as Intel and other developers work to clean up the core of Mesa as they bolster this open-source graphics library for the future. There's also some implications for BSD and Solaris users by this move to clean-up Mesa...

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=OTgzNA

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    drivers are far from perfect in linux, so i assume is even worse on less popular OSs

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    It might be more accurately said that GPU drivers are practically non-existant on *BSD at this point. And FreeBSD is a heck of a lot better off than my favorite, NetBSD.

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    On desktops these OSes are to Linux what desktop Linux is to window$, so on desktops they don't count, and those who actually use them should use the proprietary drivers.
    Workstations use OpenGL/OpenCL/CUDA so the devs are using proprietary graphics drivers obviously.

    So of course they should trim the fat from Mesa, cause the reasons to keep compatibility with FreeBSD/Solaris are more theoretical then practical.
    Besides this will stimulate them to (finally!) push a lot harder to update their deprecated desktop crap.. sorry, don't mean to be rude, but as far as the desktop
    side is concerned - they are dinosaurs. Either get modern or die and stop complaining. Had there been big players using them on the desktop/wherever
    they _would_ have invested into making the graphics stack modern and there wouldn't be such a problem in the first place.

    The fact that they still struggle to bring up KMS on these OSes just shows how sparsely they're used, often planning to dump their OSes for Linux during the next hw upgrade.
    Last edited by cl333r; 08-25-2011 at 11:25 AM. Reason: Cthulhu told me

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    Does anyone know what the difference between these *BSDs are? Are they actually different kernels (all BSD derived but with their own kernel devs), or more like distros based off of the same kernel? I'm assuming it is more like the former since there is variance in the *BSDs graphics stacks but that seems very odd that there would be so much kernel fragmentation.
    What am I missing?

    Thanks/Liam

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    Does anyone know what the difference between these *BSDs are?
    Yup, they are different kernels. They do share code when possible, but they tend to have different design goals (e.g. FreeBSD focuses on performance while NetBSD focuses on compatibility and easily maintainable code). Some share more code than others (e.g. DragonFlyBSD is a fork of FreeBSD, so there are some significant similarities).

    There is fragmentation in this space for the precise reason there is fragmentation everywhere else in the Linux world... people have different ideas and preferences, and go different directions with them.

    As for the desktop stuff, the primary issue that I've seen is that there are few people with the necessary graphics expertise developing on these kernels to do something like KMS easily. Pair that with the fact that basically no companies are funding graphics driver development for these systems, and you end up with maybe 1 or 2 devs working part time on the graphics stack. That doesn't lead to much advancement, even though many BSDs want stuff like KMS (allows the X server to run as non-root, which is very good for security).

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    Solaris doesn't have much of an excuse for its crap hardware support, considering that it's developed (now more than ever) with the "Cathedral" model of development. If Oracle really cared one lick about their desktop support, they'd throw a couple million bucks at a 50-man-strong device drivers team and tell them to implement modern audio and video drivers, and sign a multi-million service contract with each of NVIDIA, Intel and ATI to get specifications, patent licenses, DRM licenses, etc. to provide the foundation for the work. In 2 years they might have something comparable to the OpenGL and 2D accel support on Linux today. The fact that they aren't attempting this just tells me that Oracle doesn't think they could win in a bid for the traditional desktop space, and that they wouldn't end up making any money back on those millions invested. What are they going to do -- charge money for a proprietary OS that only aspires to be as good as Windows, but can't run any Windows programs? Or, do they give it away for free, and not make any money back even if they get user adoption? Either way, they can't make back their investment.

    The BSDs are developed as bazaarly (or bizarrely, if you prefer) as could be, so their only excuse is the same excuse Linux uses for our (relatively) shoddy graphics support: manpower. Not enough interested and capable developers out there in "the BSD community" willing to work on this stuff. And you can't expect people from the Linux desktop to care, because BSD doesn't necessarily serve their needs or interest them (they might even dislike BSD because of its licensing philosophy compared to Linux).

    On the desktop, it is truly a battle to migrate to Linux from Windows or Mac these days. I can't imagine how much of a struggle it'd be on top of that to migrate from, say, Windows to BSD. My gut feeling is that you just couldn't. With Linux at least there are a lot of equivalent programs or possible ways to emulate, and you have (some of) the hardware drivers needed to back it up.

    The main reason why the Linux desktop has any hardware support is that our market share is becoming a force to be reckoned with. It's just enough of a market share to convince Intel to hire some people, and AMD some other people, and VMware still others, to help work on the graphics stack. It's certainly nice to be able to say that the Linux market share is doing something, and looking at the BSDs and Solaris helps give us a little perspective here: we aren't as disadvantaged as we think. We have certainly turned some heads with the quantity and loudness of Linux users. BSD users haven't made the same type of dent, not even close.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TechMage89 View Post
    Yup, they are different kernels. They do share code when possible, but they tend to have different design goals (e.g. FreeBSD focuses on performance while NetBSD focuses on compatibility and easily maintainable code). Some share more code than others (e.g. DragonFlyBSD is a fork of FreeBSD, so there are some significant similarities).

    There is fragmentation in this space for the precise reason there is fragmentation everywhere else in the Linux world... people have different ideas and preferences, and go different directions with them.

    As for the desktop stuff, the primary issue that I've seen is that there are few people with the necessary graphics expertise developing on these kernels to do something like KMS easily. Pair that with the fact that basically no companies are funding graphics driver development for these systems, and you end up with maybe 1 or 2 devs working part time on the graphics stack. That doesn't lead to much advancement, even though many BSDs want stuff like KMS (allows the X server to run as non-root, which is very good for security).
    Thanks for the explanation.
    I wonder, if graphics is important to the *BSD kernel developers at all then they should try to standardize the parts of the kernel that interface with graphics with one another so that what few developers graphics stack has can make better progress. I have to imagine this has already been considered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by allquixotic View Post
    If Oracle really cared one lick about their desktop support....
    Yes, but they don't. Sun only *barely* cared about desktop by the time Oracle bought them, and that mostly in the context of thin-client platforms. And Oracle really don't care at all - their business is all about servers, and software that runs on servers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TechMage89 View Post
    Yup, they are different kernels.
    AFAIK, they are also different userspaces. In contrast to Linux, where it's just the kernel that's "Linux" and you usually use GNU software to make an OS out of it, the BSDs are actual operating systems. Kernel and userspace are developed together and offered as one.

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