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Graphics GUI Software X Linux

VIA Releases FOSS Graphics Driver 153

Posted by kdawson
from the following-through dept.
billybob2 writes "VIA has released a 113,800 line open source graphics driver with full mode-setting support for CRT, LCD, and DVI devices along with 2D, X-Video, and cursor acceleration. Harald Welte, VIA's open source representative, states that the next step is to add 3D (see preview), TV-out, and hardware codec support while integrating this work with existing open source projects. VIA has pre-installed Linux on a significant portion of the company's latest products, including the EVEREX gPC2, 15.4" gBook, and CloudBook. It has also helped port the open source CoreBoot BIOS (previously LinuxBIOS) to several of its motherboards." VIA seems to be making good on the promise of its open source initiative announced last April.
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VIA Releases FOSS Graphics Driver

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  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @09:55PM (#24825769) Journal
    Yes, but does it support -- World of Warcraft?
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @10:02PM (#24825797) Journal
    I hope that this goes better than VIA's prior activities in this area. VIA has some very, very cute hardware for linux project purposes(loads of small form factor boards, without the restrictions that intel has been putting on atom), some decently interesting netbooks, etc.

    If I can trust that VIA video will actually work properly under linux, their boards become considerably more attractive for my purposes. The prospect of coreboot support for such boards would be gravy. I'd love to be able to put together some little linux widgets with linux burned right into the motherboard.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 31, 2008 @11:12PM (#24826353)

      Via really has no choice.

      The intel 945G chipset for Atom is fully documented and has quite good open source 3d drivers.

      Atom kills VIA in Price/Performance/Power ratio across the board.

      Once Intel fixes the problem of their north bridge requiring 6x the power Atom does then via is in really big trouble

      It's interesting to see via go from ruling the mini-ITX market to now desparately having to play catchup in such a short time.

      • by Jorophose (1062218) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @11:43PM (#24826563)

        Via really has no choice.

        Agreed, everyone except for nVidia and maybe Matrox (side note: what a shitty company) is opening their specs.

        The intel 945G chipset for Atom is fully documented and has quite good open source 3d drivers.

        It sucks up 22W+ by itself though, and is very old. It's nothing compared to the VX800 or CN896.

        Atom kills VIA in Price/Performance/Power ratio across the board.

        -Price: Maybe. If you just want entry-level options (ie bare to the bone) and don't care about power usage, it's definately cheaper. Normal VIA parts are sold like boutique items. Except, strangely, their mATX boards go for 50$.
        -Performance: Definately not, now that Nano has been released (but damnit sell 'em at retail!).
        -Power ration: What? Nano desktop parts are what people have been measuring. Typical ULV C7s are like 4W-7W. Considering you get a chipset that ranges in that wattage too, and this is honest counting unlike Intel, VIA certainely has the upper hand.

        Not to mention they don't need a P4 connector...

        Once Intel fixes the problem of their north bridge requiring 6x the power Atom does then via is in really big trouble

        Unlikely. Intel does not want to lose Celeron sales for the Atom. So their miniITX boards remain crap so they can sell whatever 945G boards they have left over that failed their low-voltage tests.

        It's interesting to see via go from ruling the mini-ITX market to now desparately having to play catchup in such a short time.

        I wouldn't call it catch up, but it's nice to see Intel and VIA compete. The only thing is I hope it drives down the price of VIA parts, at least within the 90$-150$ range, otherwise it's been a waste of time.

        • by Idaho (12907)

          I am surprised that VIA still actually exists. Probably it'll be a case of "too little, too late", but who knows.

          Agreed, everyone except for nVidia and maybe Matrox (side note: what a shitty company) is opening their specs.

          And NVidia is not completely free of trouble now that ATI/AMD got the performance lead once more, and NVidia allegedly has serious problems (low yields) on several recent GPU chips (9600 GT, among others). As for Matrox, wow, they're still in business?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:10AM (#24827907)
          Matrox used to have wonderfully open hardware with the specs downloadable directly from their own website and a dedicated developer relations team to help with any queries. They were the perfect model of how to do it.

          Then something happened. I don't know what: brain-slugs, possibly. They yanked everything, even the specs for older hardware, and stopped communicating. What a bunch of dicks.
          • Re: Matrox (Score:5, Informative)

            by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:04AM (#24828939)

            On top of that, they fell behind badly in terms of performance, and the great signal quality from their cards is mostly meaningless in the age of DVI.

            Looks almost like a case of corporate suicide, as in "nobody can be THAT stupid, so it must be intentional" ;-).

      • by antime (739998) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:27AM (#24828707)
        But in the Atom SoCs Intel are using PowerVR, which is definitely not opensource-friendly. Until someone buys ImgTec the most you'll ever get is a binary blob driver.
      • by Patrick Georgi (1355115) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:33AM (#24828739)

        The intel 945G chipset for Atom is fully documented and has quite good open source 3d drivers.

        Our company works with almost a dozen hardware vendors, and none of them are so hard to work with and so open source hostile as intel. Try getting the documentation for the RAM controller of the chipset you mentioned.

      • Atom kills VIA in Price/Performance/Power ratio across the board.

        Once Intel fixes the problem of their north bridge requiring 6x the power Atom does then via is in really big trouble

        ?? Didn't someone just do a watt/performance comparison of the atom _platform_ against an amd64, and it lost in both wattage and performance?!

        I doubt if Intel would improve their northbridge much as they don't want this to be a viable platform against their celerons.

    • TFA says VIA has already released a 2D driver. If that works well, it should do for routers/firewalls/servers. And that is where I can see a small VIA based PC being used.

      For gaming, I'd still prefer a full size PC with AMD or Intel dual core CPU and a separate ATI graphics card (NVidia binary drivers are acceptable, but now ATI is more attractive thanks to its Open Source program).

  • Almost unbelievable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skinkie (815924) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @10:06PM (#24825825) Homepage
    I really find it hard to accept that a company that around 5 years ago copied GPL code in many of their stuff made such a 180 turn and is now with full commitment in actually supporting the stuff that they have been copying for so long. The motives behind it and better: who was able to make this shift possible from inside the company, hiring an OpenSource devver is one, but the process before that is much more interesting.
    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      Not saying they did such GPL crime but, if you look at https://www.helixcommunity.org/ [helixcommunity.org] , don't you feel it is a bit surreal?

      Such things happen. I call it "nerd coup" ;)

    • by digidave (259925) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @11:12PM (#24826349)

      Obviously their motive is profit. They went the route of stealing code (although that might not have been management, just some rogue coder taking the easy way out) and it didn't work. VIA understands that there is a large and growing Linux community and that there is money to be made from being Linux-friendly.

      Just because their motive isn't selfless doesn't mean Linux supporters shouldn't welcome VIA with open arms. This is the sort of support we've wanted for many years.

    • by rossz (67331) <ogre&geekbiker,net> on Sunday August 31, 2008 @11:18PM (#24826385) Homepage Journal

      Maybe they wronged the open source community in the past, maybe they didn't (I personally don't know). Let's show them that we are forgiving of past mistakes and fully welcome them and their donated code into the FOSS world. They made things right, let's not dwell on the past.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cerberusss (660701)

        They made things right, let's not dwell on the past.

        I'm trapped in the past, you insensitive clod!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          They made things right, let's not dwell on the past.

          I'm trapped in the past, you insensitive clod!

          Then for you it's the present, stop complaining.

        • by rossz (67331)

          Still running Windows 95?

      • When they get things up to speed. At the moment, as much as I want to support burgeoning FOSS movements, their Linux drivers are still pretty weak. I'm working on a project now which will require a mini-ITX board, so my first natural choice to consider was VIA. While I don't need super-beefy hardware, TV-out and 3D (and Linux) needs to be supported for what I'm doing. I'm right now looking at mini-ITX boards with Intel chipsets, or I'll even consider closed-source nVidia drivers - but sadly VIA is still

      • Maybe they wronged the open source community in the past, maybe they didn't (I personally don't know). Let's show them that we are forgiving of past mistakes and fully welcome them and their donated code into the FOSS world. They made things right, let's not dwell on the past.

        I'm not familiar with VIA, but one also needs to consider the strong possibility that the people involved with copying GPL code years ago probably aren't the ones making the current decision. Companies usually evolve through attriti

    • by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @11:59PM (#24826697) Homepage

      It is likely they went through a process of discovery. The discovered that keeping the software open source has very little impact upon maintaining competitive advantage on the hardware or making innovative leaps in hardware design and keeping those proprietary. For hardware producers, software is just another overhead and working to minimise that cost makes sense.

      There is a real push to achieve low cost ubiquitous computing, UMPC's, smartphone/PDA etc. and every cost saving makes it far more achievable and obviously maintains reasonable profit margins for the hardware manufacturers.

      At the moment hardware manufacturers find their profit margins squeezed while their products are carrying closed source proprietary software with 10 times the profit margin, it makes absolutely no business sense as a hard ware manufacturer to put up with this. I am sure most hardware manufacturers thought that M$'s idea of free hardware and 'renting' the software was a load of B$.

      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday September 01, 2008 @01:25AM (#24827221) Homepage Journal

        The discovered that keeping the software open source has very little impact upon maintaining competitive advantage on the hardware or making innovative leaps in hardware design and keeping those proprietary

        I've made it a point to mention the open source driver problem in just about every other e-mail to my Via rep. My guess is a few hundred other developers were doing the same thing. I've also made it a point to express gratitude on each win. Yes, it's good for them, they should have done it anyway, but it's going to make my life a bunch easier too.

    • by TheLink (130905) on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:18AM (#24829023) Journal
      Their business is selling hardware (for now anyway).

      If they open source the drivers, there's a chance that they can cut costs - there's a significant chance someone _else_ (redhat, suse, ubuntu, etc) might end up doing the work of keeping the drivers for the _old_ hardware working with the various Linux kernels out there.

      Then their in-house coders can do the presumably more "interesting" stuff like write drivers for the newer hardware (esp pre-release hardware - in the initial stages you might end up having to change specs, after release you can send it to the open source bunch).
      • Some people find writing drivers interesting (believe it or not...), like writing emulators. Getting open specs or at least open drivers (and best if it's both!!) gives them a chance to tinker with it. It becomes in their hands to maintain it and add features.

        So now VIA no longer has to write drivers. They mail a copy of the specification (a minimum of 2D) to whoever is on their list, and these people can hack the drivers and keep it together for them. And why not? This is a big help for groups like OpenChr

  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3NO@SPAMjustconnected.net> on Sunday August 31, 2008 @10:26PM (#24826011)

    As an act of faith, we should build something cool out of this - not to mention promote them to non-gaming computer users.

    If we can optimize a graphics driver or do new things with it, they can sell more hardware and everybody wins. God knows ATI isn't making any money off of their drivers.

    Hopefully we can use this to drive the point home.

  • Arrghhhh (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @10:37PM (#24826093)
    So when I bought my Dell Ubuntu laptop last year, I thought, "Intel and nVidia are the LEAST evil of the graphics chipset manufaacturers." Wanting a little more oomph, I went with nVidia.

    Now, a year later, nVidia is looking ridiculous by clinging to closed-source binary drivers while the rest of the industry (including ATi, for pete's sake) go open. And the fact that freaking VIA is more open than nVidia really makes me feel...frustrated. Sorry nVidia, but I can't recommend you as long as you lag like this.
    • by tobiasly (524456)

      Now, a year later, nVidia is looking ridiculous by clinging to closed-source binary drivers while the rest of the industry (including ATi, for pete's sake) go open. And the fact that freaking VIA is more open than nVidia really makes me feel...frustrated.

      Don't feel frustrated... if your video card is a year old then it's time to get a new one anyway. :)

      When I first read the summary, I thought it did say nVidia.. I'm sure I would have spit out my milk if I were drinking any. Ah well, not quite as exciting, but still very welcome indeed.

  • It worries me a bit that in the 3D driver video demo that they're displaying it on an old CRT monitor. Maybe we should all chip in a little and get them a flat panel.
  • In a FOSS world, processor instruction set is of relatively minor importance. Change the processor and all one does is recompile the code, possibly, but probably not, with minor tweaks. In an open source world VIA would be free to break away from the x86 instruction set and compete in an unfettered manner with Intel.
    • In a FOSS world, processor instruction set is of relatively minor importance.

      A world of high-performance video is a world of games and high-definition feature films. In such a world, some would say FOSS is of relatively minor importance. Since when has a major retail video game been based on a Free engine?[1] Or since when has a Free film got a nationwide theatrical release?

      [1] I mean Free when the game is first published, not half a decade later like id Tech.

  • by Yfrwlf (998822) on Monday September 01, 2008 @12:01AM (#24826717)
    In the description in the link for it, it actually informs the user about needing to move some windows around due to all the buttons not being visible, something that has been a common problem while running desktops that weren't really made for low resolutions like Gnome. That's really something that should be fixed and I'm surprised it hasn't been by now. Some way for X to detect that there is no way for a window to fit on the screen and add some scrolly bars to it to make everything accessible. Perhaps it's purely the fault of the window manager or library though and not X, or maybe it's both?
    • by Yfrwlf (998822)
      Come to think of it, someone might say it's bad programming on the part of whoever designed the window, but if so I think that's something that should be the default for all windows so that there's always a safety net. You can't always expect programmers to be perfect and foresee everything.
    • by r00t (33219)

      Some way for X to detect that there is no way for a window to fit on the screen and add some scrolly bars to it to make everything accessible. Perhaps it's purely the fault of the window manager or library though and not X, or maybe it's both?

      The original FVWM ("Feeble Virtual Window Manager") did this. FVWM is still a rather nice window manager, assuming you don't mind editing ~/.fvwmrc to adjust it.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Monday September 01, 2008 @12:26AM (#24826917) Homepage Journal

    VIA is actually in the embedded x86 space. Home routers, MIDs, and other appliance-like consumer devices seem to be appropriate uses of VIA's chips. Companies there are mainly using Linux(there are exceptions), so I don't see any other choice for VIA but to start improving their Linux support and releasing open source drivers. VIA's cpus can't really compete with normal consumer desktops. Intel's integrated graphics and low power cpus are much more capable, but not as cheap or quite as low power (yet).

    • Maybe not the C3 or C7 but definately the Nano is more than capable. The C3 has the advantage of being extremely low power, like 5W for its biggest consumption IIRC, and the C7 was a bit lackluster but has Padlock that the nano inherited so you can encrypt the filesystem without slowdown.

      Of course I've been eyeing the Geode NX. From what I hear it's an ultra-low-voltage tiny version of the Athlon XPs. Too bad nobody will sell it with an ATI chipset like the mobile 690V/690G. Or even a 780G. Or better yet fo

    • by True Grit (739797) *

      VIA's cpus can't really compete with normal consumer desktops. Intel's integrated graphics and low power cpus are much more capable

      I'm just speculating here, but I don't think Intel is VIA's only concern. Intel is everyone's concern because they're the 800lb gorilla of the market, but in terms of the low-power/notebook market which is VIA's bread-n-butter, there is I think another threat developing. I would bet VIA is even more worried about what AMD is now up to.

      AMD has bought ATI and is integrating their GPU technology into their own platform. With ATI being part of AMD, AMD's more open-source friendly philosophy is now taking roo

      • The Nano and Atom are not for the "notebook market". They are for the MID/UMPC market. Core 2 and beyond are for the real notebook market. VIA is no longer a real competitor in the notebook market. You can call it a micro-notebook market if you don't like the acronyms.

        AMD is still not a serious threat to anyone in the low power space. They will have to come out with a revolution to really make a difference to VIA. AMD also needs to get their financial house in order before we can take the possibility of new

  • I am using Ubuntu 8.04 fully updated. The run.sh in the xf86-video-via-83.1.0 just gives me a ton of errors. I also tried going in to the X11R7 directory and following the instructions in the README to chmod +x a few files but this barfs on ./configure and complains I don't have packages xorg-server, xvmc adn fontsproto. None of which are in the repos.
    • by LarsG (31008)

      complains I don't have packages xorg-server, xvmc adn fontsproto. None of which are in the repos.

      The driver/configure script are written for building on pretty much any distro that includes x11/xorg, so those are the X11/xorg names for the packages. The package names in your particular distro will be different.

      F.ex. to find fontsproto, search for "x11 dev fonts".

      For Ubuntu8.04:
      "xserver-xorg-dev"
      "libxvmc-dev"
      "x11proto-fonts-dev"

      You might also need some other -dev packages, but the error messages from configure and some searching with synaptic will find them. In fact, installing the "xorg-dev" meta-packa

  • Now 4 drivers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mike McTernan (260224) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:52AM (#24828849) Homepage

    I think this now brings the total drivers for the Chrome chipset to 4. There's already:

    - Via proprietary binary drivers (support some 3D acceleration and TVout, but only available for specific distro/kernel combinations)
    - Unichrome drivers (focus on code quality rather than features, so no 3D accel and TVout)
    - Openchrome drivers (used in most distros, support some of the features, but imperfect and seem not to support Compiz)
    - The new Via FOSS drivers (2D only at present)

    Why couldn't VIA just contribute to one of the existing projects or send them docs and maybe funding? That would have been truely embracing open source.

    I'd be interested to know if Via tried to contact any of the uni/openchrome developers.

  • For whatever reasons, market forces have given open source a chance.

    If Via turns around six months from now, and their driver is much improved by the community, this will encourage them in a big way to do this again in the future.

    Video drivers could be an entrance for the open source community to the hardware market. Everyone needs them; most don't work so great all the time. There's room for exploration and excellence.

  • I've met Harald once. If VIA got him, they are definitively serious about this.

    Not only he is a very intelligent person, with deep knowledge of Linux internals, he is also a very strong OSS advocate.

  • The YouTube preview looks just as smooth as my nVidia card, and is probably much smoother on window resizes (my nVidia cards are rather bad in that respect). I'd be happy to build a computer around the VIA video system once the 3D finalizes.

That does not compute.

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