RadeonHD.org contains IRC chat logs for the #radeon and #radeonhd channels at FreeNode. More features are coming soon at RadeonHD.org. This web-site was established on November 19, 2007 and is currently considered beta. The IRC logging mechanism written is considered a work in progress, but expect more features in the near future.
The RadeonHD (xf86-video-radeonhd) driver is designed for the ATI "R500" Radeon X1000 series and newer graphics processors. The driver is open-source and written by Novell with specifications provided to the public by AMD. Currently this support does extend to the "R600" Radeon HD 2000/3800 series. While the driver supports RandR 1.2 and other basic functionality, it is very much a work in progress. The RadeonHD driver was publicly announced in September of 2007.
For more information on the current status of the RadeonHD driver, check out the Phoronix coverage.
The open-source Radeon driver supports earlier ATI graphics processors including the R100, R200, R300, and R400 series. There is also initial work for the R500 and R600 series support.
While AMD's open-source strategy was announced on Phoronix on 7 September 2007, it was on 17 September of the same year that the Novell/SUSE developers did their first public release of their xf86-video-radeonhd driver. This was the X.Org driver created by the Novell Linux engineers in months prior for R500 and R600 GPUs. Here is some special reading -- a letter that was volleyed from Novell to AMD that kicked off this entire process -- to celebrate what would have been the fourth birthday of this open-source Linux driver.
There was a talk last week at LinuxTag in Berlin by Egbert Eich about kernel mode-setting and the DRM (Direct Rendering Manager) graphics stack on Linux. Egbert is, of course, a long-time X developer and openSUSE developer at Novell who was one of the masterminds behind the RadeonHD graphics driver and has worked on various pieces of X over the years. In Egbert's brief KMS talk he briefly covered the history of the Linux graphics stack, the user and kernel-space APIs for DRM mode-setting, and related topics. For those that missed out on his talk, below are his slides.
Since being let go by Novell last year where he worked on the RadeonHD Linux graphics driver and X.Org support within SuSE Linux, Luc Verhaegen has continued work on his VIA Unichrome DDX driver as well as other X.Org code and he has also become involved with the CoreBoot project that aims to create a free software BIOS for most chipsets and motherboards on the market. Luc has worked on support for flashing the BIOS on ATI graphics cards, native VGA text mode support, and other work to help the CoreBoot project. Today at FOSDEM in Brussels, Luc Verhaegen is about to give a talk on reverse engineering a motherboard BIOS.
Yesterday we broke the news that AMD will stop supporting the R300-500 GPUs in the Catalyst driver. There have been well over one hundred posts in the Phoronix Forums from ATI customers upset with this decision, but fortunately, there is first-rate open-source support available. AMD continues to release documentation and code while the X.Org development community has been hard at work on the xf86-video-ati and xf86-video-radeonhd drivers along with Mesa and Gallium3D components. The main problem though is the open-source stack -- at this time -- providing poor gaming performance, but power management can also be a problem. In yesterday's article we provided some R500 comparative 2D and OpenGL benchmarks, but in this article are some power management results comparing the Catalyst 9.2 driver to the xf86-video-ati driver.
Beginning next month with the Catalyst 9.4 release, support for the R300/400/500 generations of graphics processors will be dropped from AMD's mainline ATI driver. In a move they hope will allow them to focus their efforts on newer and upcoming graphics processors, the mainline Catalyst driver on both Linux and Windows will stop supporting cards older than the Radeon HD 2000 series. Linux customers affected will be encouraged to use their open-source driver stack (xf86-video-ati or xf86-video-radeonhd and Mesa) or stay with the Catalyst 9.3 driver.
Just a little more than a week after AMD openly released R600/700 GPU code to begin development of an open-source 3D driver for their ATI Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000 hardware, a disassembler and table dumper for their video BIOS abstraction layer has been released to developers. This tool called AtomDis was used early on in the development of the RadeonHD driver by Novell and is now being released under the GNU GPLv2 license to assist interested open-source developers or act as an instrument to those learning about graphics processor programming.
Last month we had looked at the ATI Radeon HD 4670 under Linux. This graphics card had worked just fine with the Catalyst Linux Suite, but when using either of the two open-source ATI drivers there were problems with the DVI connectors. While using an analog VGA connector works if you are just after mode-setting support, the R600/700 GPUs still lack 2D, 3D, and video acceleration using any non-Catalyst driver. Sapphire Technology though has sent out an ATI Radeon HD 4550 512MB GPU to see whether this sub-$50 USD graphics card plays nicely with the xf86-video-ati or xf86-video-radeonhd drivers.
The last release of the xf86-video-radeonhd driver was version 1.2.1 and that happened back in April. Since then we have seen a plethora of new work go into this open-source ATI driver for the Radeon R500 series and later. We've seen the driver add support for AMD's 780G Chipset and most notably it has adopted AtomBIOS to be used on the Radeon HD 4800 series and newer. There have also been numerous other improvements to this driver that currently competes with the xf86-video-ati driver. With much of this work now being settled, the Novell development team has released the RadeonHD 1.2.2 driver. In addition, they pushed out the RadeonHD 1.2.3 driver just moments later, which introduces their Command Submission infrastructure.
When the Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 were introduced earlier this year, it was wonderful. These latest high-end graphics cards from ATI had same-day Linux support through their Catalyst driver and the open-source ATI drivers had "just worked" with the RV770 series. The mode-setting support with the xf86-video-ati and xf86-video-radeonhd drivers just required adding in the PCI IDs for these new PCI Express graphics cards and then the rest of the magic was provided by AtomBIOS. However, with the introduction of the Radeon HD 4600 series, not everything is working instantly with the open-source drivers.
Last September AMD had provided an open-source AtomBIOS parser for use by the RadeonHD driver in order to communicate with this video BIOS abstraction layer found on the past few generations of ATI graphics cards. While we are still waiting on the R600 sample source-code and 3D register documentation to arrive, AMD has today released a new AtomBIOS parser. This parser is coming out of their KGrids project, which we have previously mentioned in the past, and will allow for a clean AtomBIOS parser to enter the Linux kernel.