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Intel Open Sources Graphics Drivers 345

PeterBrett writes "Intel's Keith Packard announced earlier today that Intel was open sourcing graphics drivers for their new 965 Express Chipset family graphics controllers. From the announcement: 'Designed to support advanced rendering features in modern graphics APIs, this chipset family includes support for programmable vertex, geometry, and fragment shaders. By open sourcing the drivers for this new technology, Intel enables the open source community to experiment, develop, and contribute to the continuing advancement of open source 3D graphics.' The new drivers, available from the Linux Graphics Drivers from Intel website, are licensed under the GPL for Linux kernel drivers, and MIT license for XOrg 2D & 3D rendering subsystems."
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Intel Open Sources Graphics Drivers

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  • bravo, intel (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:08PM (#15877015)
    will amd/ati take a hint? if not, it seems like intel is going to own the linux market. they already provide good drivers for their wireless cards (i'm using one right now).
  • Re:Now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ant P. ( 974313 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:10PM (#15877028) Homepage
    If these Intel chips are any faster than my current GF2, mext time I upgrade neither ATi nor nVidia are getting my money.
  • by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:15PM (#15877052)
    The argument against nVidia and ATI opening up their drivers was always that it would give other vendors a headstart in cloning their chipsets. They'd be able to tell how they work (from a hardware API level at least), and have a driver ready to go if they copied that API.

    Now that there's a working Intel 3D driver with source, does this mean that other vendors might start making cheap clones of the Intel graphics chips? Or was the above argument really a red herring.

    And if they did, what's to stop them from making chips that use the same API, but work much better?
  • Nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Morkano ( 786068 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:16PM (#15877056)

    I bet they're trying to preempt AMD doing the same with an integrated ATI chip.

    Well played, Intel. Well played.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DCstewieG ( 824956 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:26PM (#15877107)
    Yeah! Damn those blobs, giving you all that performance!!

    Y'know, I understand members of the Linux community choosing to buy this on principle, but come on. The Intel graphics are so incredibly far behind nV and ATI that it's ridiculous...unless you're not planning to play ANY recent games. I could see going with ATI over nVidia if they open sourced theirs (or the reverse) but going Intel just for that would be nuts.
  • by trb ( 8509 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:30PM (#15877129)
    besides the desire/preference to have open source drivers for license compliance and moral/ethical reasons, there is a more practical reason why source access to drivers is handy. sometimes you need to recompile drivers from source in order to have them play well with operating systems features. for instance, if they need to respect the constraints of real-time systems such as rtlinux, rtai, or xenomai. these systems need to redefine cli/sti (clear/set interrupt) instructions (using macros) so that the real-time micro-kernel handles the interrupts rather than linux. open source drivers let you recompile with #include files that make this possible.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bobintetley ( 643462 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:33PM (#15877136)

    Yeah! Damn those blobs, giving you all that performance!!

    Why would an open source driver be slower than blobs if the manufacturers created it?

    The way I see it, by giving ATI/Nv my money I'm saying "hey, it's ok to pollute my system with code I can't look at" (and yes, I am capable of looking at it, but even if I wasn't *someone* is and that's the point). So Intel will be getting my money when I buy a new motherboard.

    And it's not just about games - Xgl/compiz, xcompmgr, etc. etc.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Abreu ( 173023 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:41PM (#15877172)
    Still, this might have a positive effect on Linux Laptop users, wouldnt it?
  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:43PM (#15877183)
    It's true that the onboard ATI & nVidia solutions aren't much better than Intel's. I suspect, however, that they share significant API with the high-end non-integreated cards from the same companies which are the real cash cows and therefore the technology they are trying to keep secret.
  • by sweetnjguy29 ( 880256 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:49PM (#15877207) Journal
    I know that all of us techies turn our noses up at integrated graphic chipsets, but I think that an enormous number of computers out there, including laptops, that utilize this technology. One of the more common complaints from people switching to linux is that the monitor resolution and graphics are sucky. A BSD and GPL licenced driver solution would be perfect to help more people make the switch!
  • Re:bravo, intel (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jake73 ( 306340 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:54PM (#15877235) Homepage
    All it takes to "own the linux market" is good drivers. Not open-source ones. Most people will gravitate towards that which works. Having the source code available is only important for a small group of people.

    That said, having source code available may help improve quality, but it certainly isn't a foregone conclusion.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bhalo05 ( 865352 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @07:02PM (#15877282)
    Not everyone is a hard-gamer. If it is good enough to have decent OpenGL performance and it's valid for XGL, then choosing it because of open source drivers would be a no brainer. And I'm sure many others will agree.
  • Re:Linux Laptops! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @07:04PM (#15877292)
    Here's the other, more important thing. At my company probably 20,000 desktops and servers are on platforms employing the Intel graphics chipset. It's just as likely true of thousands more enterprises. Stronger out-of-the-box support for an industry standard graphics solution is a another step forward for Linux in the workplace. Intel's implied nod in that direction is one more.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @07:12PM (#15877337)
    Still, this might have a positive effect on Linux Laptop users, wouldnt it?

    Excellent point. Have they released drivers for their wifi components yet?
  • Pwn The Market? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KagatoLNX ( 141673 ) <`ten.ajuos' `ta' `otagak'> on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @07:12PM (#15877338) Homepage

    Closed-source Linux drivers can work well enough for a single kernel version in a controlled environment. You still don't get support from most distros that would want to build their own. Sure, if you cooperate you get in Novell and Red Hat's offerings, but not much further. You also get the onus of sinking the money into it to keep it working. Not to mention you pretty much guarantee being a problem to your users--think things like software suspend that never work right with closed drivers because certain problems can't be debugged or fixed (in which case improved quality *IS* a foregone conclusion).

    You either get SLES / RHEL, or you get SLES / RHEL / Debian / Ubuntu / everything else... Not to mention improved operation. Of course, gravitating toward what works is why people are using open source in the first place. Sometimes "what works" is defined in terms of avoiding vendor lock-in and extortionate licensing.
  • by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @07:26PM (#15877413) Homepage Journal
    Also, though not important for this particular driver, you have the advantage of using the same driver source on "unsupported" platforms. For instance, very few vendors support Linux with binary drivers for PPC, or even AMD64. Open drivers usually Just Work.
  • Re:OT: Moderation (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @07:30PM (#15877433)
    Because it was a one-liner lacking any depth... yet had been modded up.

    Thus, overrated.
  • Re:Linux Laptops! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AnyoneEB ( 574727 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @07:59PM (#15877595) Homepage
    I got a Dell Inspiron 6000 a bit over a year ago and I dual boot XP / Gentoo Linux. I choose to go with the ATI Mobile X300 (M300) graphics cards, and I say you made the right choice. In order to get it to play nice with radeonfb, I have to disable hardware acceleration. Before I had hibernate working, but it is not working with the currently installed version of fglrx (not the latest anymore, I think). I am definitely never buying an ATI graphics card again, and after this announcement, I may seriously consider Intel's offerings.
  • Re:Now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @08:06PM (#15877624)
    True but this move is about capturing mindshare and placing additional pressure on AMD. Open sourcing the drivers will improve Intel graphic chipset performance as a factor of better Linux integration and support but it wont turn an Intel graphics chip into an high end Ati or an nVidia.

    It does however re-stake a claim on the enthusiast market so coveted by AMD and may force AMD to open source their ATI drivers. That could be problematic for AMD thus serving Intels purpose just fine. To lesser degree this move also puts some heat on nVidia and their n-Force chipset solution by the same token.

    One point of it all is that Intel can afford and are in good position to open source their video drivers. They are not a market force in the performance arena but Intel does have very high volume numbers. It is unknown if AMD can likewise afford to open source newly aquired ATI drivers and certainly nVidia has been resistant historically.

    This move is literally no skin off Intels nose but could well peel some hide from AMD/ATI most notably and nVidia as a bonus.
  • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @08:39PM (#15877766)
    Open source is great and all but one still needs full specifications in order to make a high performance driver. Just look at the open source ATI drivers, they lack the features and performance of the binary drivers.

    So my question is this - does Intel also fully disclose the full specifications and internal workings of their chipset? My guess is no. Most likely, the drivers will be developed by Intel employees with access to internal documents. Those drivers could then be debugged and possibly optimized by the community but the community will still be locked out of development.


  • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @08:44PM (#15877789)
    You know, there's a lot more to do with a computer than play games. Especially amongst those of us that run Linux, we tend to do a lot less gameplaying than the average bear.

    Personally, I'm ecstatic over FINALLY being able to purchase a system that will run Google Earth, that I won't have to fuck with every time a kernel update happens, or ATI breaks their latest blob and I have to spend hours googling for a fix, or nvidia hasn't once again broken something because they don't think anyone but 10 users still use this graphics card.

    There's *nothing* but good to be said about open source graphics card drivers that support halfway decent OpenGL. Even if I don't have the privledge of spending $500 upgrading my rig just to play whatever the flavour of the month PC game is out.

    If Intel would do this for add-on cards and not just integrated chipsets (which is what I hear is the deal so far), I'd be as happy as I've been ever since discovering Linux.
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) * on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @08:55PM (#15877830)
    The stuff they're particularly trying to protect is stuff that is specifically not legally protected intellectual property. They've chosen the "secret formula" route. Protected intellectual property (the only kind you need a license to use) is public knowledge.

    And their secrets only need to be protected for a few years, the rate at which it becomes obsolescent, which is faster than reverse engineering time; and much shorter than patent protection time.

    I'm sure they're perfectly capable of reverse engineering the drivers without having to look at the chip under a microscope.

    And that is why Linux has no driver issues.

    I've been known to make some custom hardware. If you give me driver code I can make you a chip that will run it; perfectly. If you give me a chip and a binary driver I can make the chip do something with my own code, but I'll never figure out everything it can do without the specs. Never, ever. No matter how bright I am.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @09:57PM (#15878029)
    This is a good move by Intel especially now that AMD has bought ATI. Now that CPUs have been comoditized, the next thing to do is to comoditize the graphics parts. Granted this is only an integrated solution, but who knows, Intel might want to restart the discrete graphics parts. I mean Intel has the means and the resources to create discrete parts if Intel could make money off it.
  • Re:Now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JimDaGeek ( 983925 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @10:17PM (#15878097)
    I will have to second this. My laptop has an Intel 915GM that dynamically allocates 8MB - 128MB of memory. I threw in 2GB of memory and don't notice the memory use at all. The card works well under Linux and is accelerated and also works well under XP. Under XP I have been able to play Doom 3, Far Cry and Call of Duty without any issues. I have also been able to play Call of duty and Doom 3 under Linux with no issues. I am not a l33t gamer so this list of games may not be impressive to some. However the Intel 915 has worked well for me for some gaming, 2D use and OpenGL use like stellarium.
  • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @11:41PM (#15878391) Homepage
    Intel DOES release full specifications.

    Their silicon is just crippled - there's honestly no way around that when you're effectively producing a $5 graphics solution (which is approximately the cost difference between Intel chipsets without integrated graphics and Intel chipsets with integrated graphics.) Even if a technology is economical to implement in silicon, at that price point it's not feasible to license technologies from other companies unless absolutely necessary, such as S3 Texture Compression, which was the technology that basically started the branch between closed-source and open-source ATI chipset support.

    It does what it's designed to do extremely well (unlike many other "el cheapo" solutions which are designed to do more but just don't do any of it well), it just simply is NOT designed to do very much.
  • Re:Now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @11:46PM (#15878403) Homepage
    Amen brother.. I just went from an X700 Pro to a 7900GT and there is a huge difference in driver performance. I don't mean triangles per second, I mean the thing just works better. No more 10-second mode switches, no more 2 minutes of loading the stupid control center I never use. No more blue screens every time I update my chipset drivers. I don't care if the 1900XTX runs faster than my NVidia, because frankly I don't game _that_ much (yet), and I'm quite content to have reliable, lightweight drivers that do what I need and don't jerk me around. Is it really necessary to have that dinky little race-car demo in the ATI drivers ? No, because anyone who's tweaking AA and Aniso settings already knows what they're doing and doesn't need some inaccurate demo scene to show off the results. And what's with the 3rd party skinning engine that eats up 30-40 mb just for red textured windows ?! Why the hell did they spend money on licensing a skinning engine in the first place ? It's a freaking system driver! Just give me a few tabbed windows and a handful of checkboxes for crying out loud.
  • by Tweekster ( 949766 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @12:01AM (#15878442)
    From what I have been seeing, Integrated grahpics with a proper driver are just great for most things, including XGL.

    If you play games, well then they are not fine. But gamers are such a minority I dont their attitude should destroy a sensible purchase.
  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @12:07AM (#15878455)
    Also, that document is a complete lie. I don't care that it's in the kernel tree. There's lots of wrong stuff in there.

    A driver does not have to be in the tree to be stable, running driver, and the driver being in the kernel tree doesn't mean that it is either stable or running.

    And I should know, as I have written multiple closed-source Linux device drivers, two of which have open-source versions in the kernel that have at various times either not worked, or worked poorly, and both of which perform signifigantly worse than the closed version.

    Go actually read that document. The argument it makes is that a stable kernel/driver API is a bad idea because the kernel/driver API is unstable. It's a circular argument. The real issue is three-fold. One, there isn't enough agreement amongst the diversity of kernel developers to ever come up with a stable API, two, there is no dicipline amongst the people in charge to maintain that stability even if a consensus was reached, and three, there are some who would like to keep the interface unstable merely to keep this argument for open source drivers valid.

    Dispite all that, the only real roadblock between ease of binary driver development and what we have today is that there is heavy backporting amongst distribution vendors without incrementing the kernel version number. In other words, vendors lie about their versions in order to maintain the illusion of version stability for their customers... But even that is a minor issue, as it only makes the people who run on the bleeding edge suffer, and nobody runs on the bleeding edge in production.
  • Re:Now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmv ( 93421 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @12:34AM (#15878536) Homepage
    See, the interesting thing is that I wouldn't be surprised if *on Linux" the Intel cards end up beating ATI and NVidia just because of the drivers. I've got ATI cards in both my laptops and I'm not impressed by the speed with the open-source drivers (and I'm unwilling to live with all the trouble involved in the closed-source ones). I'm sure a machine with an Intel chipset and open-source drivers could easily beat both ATI and NVidia on Linux.
  • Re:Now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @05:10AM (#15879128) Journal
    Video drivers, I suspect, contain quite a bit of GPU-specific code. Now try and reverse engineer an unknown, undocumented proprietary instruction set and disassemble the GPU-specific code. If you don't, you'll have to just copy the bits which contain the code to run on the GPU, and that would land you in court for violating copyright. Video drivers aren't just something you can disassemble and reverse engineer because half of what you're looking at will be in an undocumented, proprietary ISA.
  • Possibly.

    Another reason why they are unwilling to release the information might be because it would prove that they have been bullshitting us for a long time.

    Chances are that the difference between a £50 card and a £300 card is in the software: by changing just one bit in one byte in the huge, bloated blob of a driver, you could extract £300 performance from a £50 graphics card. It can't be economically viable for them to fabricate different GPUs to use on "cheap" and "expensive" cards. Instead, they have an I/O pin {maybe several pins?} on the GPU which they tie to 0V {so it reads as a 0} on the cheap cards, or leave unconnected {so it looks like a 1} on the expensive cards. The driver software reads the state of the pin and determines whether or not to run the card in "expensive" mode.

    {Then, of course, there are the various "cheats" built into games to make them run faster or better with certain graphics cards -- or, to put it more accurately, to make them run slower or worse with other graphics cards. Games companies are certainly not above accepting bakshish.}

    The RAW formats used by digital cameras are similarly undocumented for pretty much the same reason: the JPEG files are interpolated up to much higher resolutions than the sensor actually generates. Revealing the format of the RAW file would also reveal the real number of pixels on the image sensor, and likely open up camera manufacturers to prosecution under consumer protection law.
  • Re:Now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmv ( 93421 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:32AM (#15881321) Homepage
    Read my post carefully. I'm talking about the open-source drivers because I'm not willing to have my system be unstable because of crappy proprietary drivers (or run into problems anytime I upgrade my kernel). And yes, the open-source ATI/NVidia drivers have at best slow 3D acceleration and at worse no 3D acceleration at all (I'm already lucky to have the former). Considering that, I'm sure an Intel chip could effectively beat the hell out of an ATI/NVidia chip with the existing open-source drivers.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford