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25 August 2010, 09:16

Kernel Log: New X Server, 3D drivers for Radeon 5000 and new stable kernels

by Thorsten Leemhuis

While the new kernel versions mainly correct minor bugs,'s next generation X Server offers a range of improvements. Various code segments released by AMD developers allow the open source drivers for Radeon GPUs to utilise the 2D and 3D acceleration features available with Radeon series 5000 graphics cards.

New X Server

Right on schedule and without the delays of sometimes up to several months that were customary up until a year ago, Keith Packard released version 1.9 of's X Server at the end of last week. However, the new version intended for Fedora 13 and Ubuntu 10.10 offers no major new features, but focuses on minor improvements and bug fixes. A new authentication mechanism for the still emerging DRI2 allows X Servers to be compiled, for instance, without the libdrm. The "buffers invalidation" feature for DRI2 and various changes to XInput are to improve performance. The X Server can now also start without output devices, and numerous streamlining measures simplify code maintenance, as well as the adding of future code extensions.

Apple employee Jeremy Huddleston will take over maintaining series 1.9, as XInput expert Peter Hutterer, who works for Red Hat and maintained the X Server series 1.7 and 1.8, didn't want to be saddled with the job this time. Huddleston had expressed an interest because his employer is planning to use the series 1.9 X Server as the basis of the next long-term support version of XQuartz. However, Huddleston has said that he is not as familiar with the DDX drivers and that he will, therefore, need to rely more on the support of others than Hutterer did. Huddlestone has already presented a few plans for the new version; version 1.9.1 is to be released in six weeks, and 1.9.2 in 12 weeks. A series 1.9 X Server is also planned to become part of 7.6, which is scheduled to be released this autumn.

3D for Radeon 5000 series

AMD developers have recently released a large amount of code that allows the previously rudimentary open source drivers for AMD cards with Evergreen GPUs to provide 2D, 3D and Xvideo acceleration – support that is currently only available via AMD's proprietary graphics driver.

However, the driver code is still located in various different development branches. For instance, the extensions for the driver are currently situated in a branch called "evergreen_accel"; as soon as the code is fully matured, it is to be merged with the main development branch of the "radeon" driver, which is part of the "xf86-video-ati" driver package, so that it can be accessed by the distributions. The driver requires the extensions for the r600 driver of Mesa 3D, which have been incorporated in the Mesa development branch for version 7.9 of Mesa 3D. The required kernel support is already provided by the KMS driver in the recently released Linux 2.6.35 kernel.

Next: New stable kernels, 2.6.36-rc2

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