The Year is off to a Good Start for Free Software

Everywhere I look lately, I’m seeing good news about 3D graphics acceleration support for free software users.

Since I started collecting numbers last year, the highest glxgears results we’d seen for any free software driver was a little over 3,000 FPS. Now we’re begining to see number for the R300 code that has been added to the X.Org radeon driver and we have two reports in the 5,000 – 6,000 FPS range on ATI X800/X850 hardware. These may be the highest glxgears number attained on free software to date (if there are higher ones, hopefully somebody will send us a report). With numbers like that, I think the Ubuntu folks won’t be able to use performance as a reason for switching to proprietary drivers (at least for ATI).

A growing number of reports are showing improvments in the performance of the X.Org Intel graphics driver too.

Meanwhile, the nouveau project, which is busy reverse engineering nVidia’s proprietary hardware, has hit a milestone. They posted a screen shot of their driver successfully running glxgears in late December.

Nouveau also came up in a recent debate on the linux kernel mailing list over proprietary binary drivers. Alan Cox suggested getting nouveau’s DRM module (that’s Direct Rendering Manager, not Digital Restrictions Management) into the kernel ASAP. The DRM module is the kernel side of the X.Org DRI driver. The nouveau folks don’t think the code is quite ready but it’s good to know nVidia 3D acceleration is getting closer.

Not enough good news? The Open Graphics Project took delivery of their first OGD1 development boards and are now in a testing cycle. The development board, which includes two FPGA chips, will have a GPU clock rate of 150MHz. Performance is expected to clock in faster than an ATI Radeon 7000 and a little below the nVidia Ge Force2 GTS. The hardware design is completely open and licensed under the GNU GPL. When the development is completed the design will be moved to custom ASICs, allowing a cheaper (and possibly faster) final board for end users.

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