Linux and Mesa 3D support for AMD's video accelerator
Mesa 3D can now use the Unified Video Decoder (UVD) of modern Radeon graphics chips; this decoder is more efficient with common video formats than software that decodes using the main processor or the graphics processor's shaders. The UVD support arrived with extensions that were created by AMD developer Christian König and have recently been added to Mesa 3D (1, 2). Therefore, it should become part of the next Mesa 3D generation that will probably be versioned as 9.2 or 10.0; once released, this generation is expected to be integrated into the Linux distributions' development branches quickly, because Mesa 3D is an important component for these distributions' 3D support for current graphics chips.
Taking advantage of the UVD support in the Mesa 3D development branch will require changes to be made to the Linux kernel; these modifications will most likely be integrated into Linux 3.10. If the kernel developers keep to their usual rhythm, this version should arrive in early July.
However, it remains to be seen whether the UVD support will be enabled by default in Linux distributions that include the new versions of Mesa 3D and the Linux kernel. Together with the UVD support, a readme file has been added to Mesa 3D that points out that the code implements third-party technologies such as H.264, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVC and VC-1, but doesn't include a user licence for these technologies. The document also states that the MPEG-2 encoding feature is exclusively available for "Personal Use". As a consequence, various distributions might omit the code for fear of potential licence disputes or patent lawsuits; this is also the reason why the video acceleration driver for recent Intel graphics cores has been omitted in some distributions.