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24 September 2008, 15:48 7.4 comes complete with new functions, new drivers and new incompatibilities

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A year after the release of 7.3 and six months later than the planned release date,'s developers have announced the release of X Window system version 11 release 7.4] (X11R7.4). New graphics drivers and the X Server 1.5 are the most important improvements to this collection of drivers and software for controlling input and output devices in the graphic user interfaces of just about every Linux distribution, which usually and more simply is called 7.4.

The release notes list the most important improvements and components to 7.4 in detail. According to developers, X Server 1.5, which was already released at the beginning of this month and subsequently updated again for 7.4, will start faster, support EDID 1.4 (extended display identification data), as well as GLX and DRI on the modern alternative to XNest, Xephyr. The developers have also significantly overhauled the code that controls graphic chips via PCI and other related buses such as AGP and PCIe. It now uses the libpciaccess PCI access library, allowing it to work much better with the kernels of Unix derivatives and relatives that support.

But for many users the new drivers are much more important than the new X server – the Intel hardware drivers, for example, now support 4-series chipsets (including G43 and G45). The nv and radeon open-source drivers now support numerous graphics chips that are were not supported by drivers in earlier versions of The radeon driver in the ati driver package now supports the r5xx, r6xx and r7xx AMD/ATI GPUs, which were used in the 1xxx, 2xxx and 3xxx Radeon series. Developers have also improved support for RandR 1.2, resize and rotate, in many of the drivers.

Working in combination with Mesa 7.1 which was released in August, both the radeon driver and the alternative radeonhd driver now support 3-D on AMD/ATI r5xx chips. The release of Mesa 7.1, which is required for 3D support under 7.4, had been expected much earlier in the year and was one of the main reasons why 7.4 was delayed for so long.

Some Linux distributions have already delivered some of the new graphics drivers with older versions of the X server, to improve their hardware support. The Fedora Project, whose X administrator also worked on the 7.4 release, was even more bold and delivered pre-release versions of X server 1.5 and Mesa 7.1 in May with Fedora 9. Since the proprietary AMD and Nvidia graphics drivers, which are unpopular among open source advocates, require some adaptation in order to work with X server 1.5, users were not initially able to use these drivers under Fedora 9.

Nvidia adapted its current graphic card drivers in mid-summer to make them compatible with X server 1.5. The 71.xx.xx and 96.xx.xx Nvidia drivers, maintained for older NVidia GPUs, do not officially work with X Server 1.5. AMD's Linux graphics driver, known as Catalyst or Fglrx, also still does not officially work with the X server in 7.4. If AMD and NVidia do not get their acts together soon, this problem will not only affect Fedora 9 users, but also OpenSuse and Ubuntu users, since new versions of both distributions will include 7.4 and are slated for release in the coming weeks and months.

Meanwhile, 7.5 is already in the works; its developers are currently aiming at a release date of April 1st of next year (1, 2). That version of is expected to include X server 1.7. The soon to be released X Server 1.6 will include some improvements developed over the past few months that did not make it into X server 1.5.


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