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Free Software driver for AMD (ATI) RadeonHD released [Sep. 18th, 2007|01:53 pm]
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Free Software driver for RadeonHD released

Last night we have pushed out the initial developers release of the RadeonHD driver for ATI's RADEON R5xx and R6xx chipsets. After a long dark period of no specifications AMD has decided to not only make code but also specifications available to the free software community.

So far we have seen specifications to do mode setting and possibly a little bit of video overlay. The specs cover most of what is needed to enable different outputs (VGA DAC, TMDA for DVI and LVDS for panels) TV out is not yet on the plate.
Also they allow to implement video overlays (classical color key overlays).

People are wondering if AMD's move was a one time PR blitz to muffle their biggest critics in the free software community.
My personal take on this is: I don't think so.
AMD has a long history of successful cooperation with the free software community. This cooperation was crucial for the success of their x86-64 project (we are only beginning to see versions of MS Windows appear which are 64bit capable).

In the past 4 month our X Developer Team at SUSE has worked extensively with AMD to make these things happen. We have only been dealing with people form AMD with technical background  - no marketing people were involved.
Everyone involved has shown a great willingness and worked hard during long hours to do whatever it takes to open up the
specs and provide whatever it takes to get a free driver going.

Yes, we did encounter delays. Most of them were due to fact that what has happened here is a novelty in the graphics chipset
industry. Tools had to be implemented, processes had to be created, legal issues had to be resolved.

How did it all start?

Around mid of April (4 1/2 month ago) I have been contacted by AMD and asked to put together a proposal how an open source driver for the latest generation of ATI hardware could become reality. Our team wrote a proposal which included as two major goals:
  • involving the free software community in the development process early on  
  • make chipset documentation available to the community with no strings (read NDA) attached.
Following this AMD and SUSE started talks about developing an initial driver to get the community process going. After the details were agreed upon we received the first set of documentation (then still under NDA) in late July and and have been hacking on this driver since then.

Linux Vendors

To most Linux OS vendors like us at SUSE the unavailability of  a free driver has created a huge burden. At SUSE we have made the conscious decision to not ship any non free software with out base product (even without this policy  in place the GPL violation issue in the kernel would have prevented us as an OS vendor to ship the proprietary driver with our base product).

This however meant we were not able to ship a proper driver for a widely used range of hardware with our product.

We at Novell as a company we worked extensively with ATI and later on with our partner AMD to explain the dilemma and find ways to change this situation. Most of these discussions have not taken place in the public eye. After all it be bad style if business partners gave each other advice in public on how to do business.

Why did it happen right now?

Changes in paradigms like what we have seen here don't happen over night. As for any commercial entity there needs to be some business justification as such steps require effort and thus cost money.
Business justifications evolve either when the business model of a company or the business environment changes.
Here both things have happened:
  •  ATI has been purchased by AMD. AMD had a different business model in the Linux and free software market than ATI had.
  • The business environment has changed: the b2b market (and this has been the market where conclusive data existed in terms of how much it is paying the bills) requires a free driver more than before.
The opportunity

To me AMD's move looks like a great opportunity. For the first time in many years graphics chipset documentation is made available to a broad public without the requirement of any NDA.

In fact I have a hard time to remember when I was able to download graphics chipset specs from a manufacturers web site without having to go through a pile of paper work.

AMD puts itself somewhat ahead of other graphics chipset vendors: In contrast to other free drivers for which only code but no documentation exists this approach allows a broad development community to poke bits and registers in crazy new ways to try out crazy things things that are not on the plate of those who are paying for the driver development.
Even if we won't see all results from these hacks appear immediately in the next release of the driver I expect it to kick off a lot of new development.
For a long time our community was somewhat cut off from the the information what state-of-the-art hardware was capable of. New features were limited to what hardware manufacturers - even those who developed free software drivers - considered to be a must-have for their drivers. This all is going to change now.
LinkReply

Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-18 08:03 pm (UTC)

Great great great

(Link)

I think I'll wait a a few months for the driver to work better, and then AMD will have won my €€ for my next system.
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-18 08:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Great great great

(Link)

... and (stupid me), of course I forgot: big thanks to everyone involved.
[User Picture]From: egbert_e
2007-09-19 09:41 am (UTC)

Re: Great great great

(Link)

Thanks, will pass it on :)
[User Picture]From: hexapod
2007-09-19 11:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Great great great

(Link)

Absolutely! Big thanks!

I was describing this to a researcher at Duke University where (apparently) next week there's a talk by an NVIDIA architect on GPGPU stuff--to see how likely we'll see a similar move by them.
[User Picture]From: egbert_e
2007-09-19 09:43 am (UTC)

Re: Great great great

(Link)

If you've got R5xx or R6xx hardware already you can help us make it work :)
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-24 12:15 am (UTC)

Woohooo

(Link)

*FINALLY* Gosh!
[User Picture]From: info_link
2008-01-11 10:45 am (UTC)

Re: Great great great

(Link)

interesting thing..
[User Picture]From: ghd_flat_iron
2010-06-26 02:07 am (UTC)

Re: Great great great

(Link)

could you write more about it?
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-18 09:16 pm (UTC)

Great Great Great!

(Link)

.. but it's "bad style" to post a story named "Free Software driver for RadeonHD released" without a link to the source code !! :)
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-19 12:00 am (UTC)

Re: Great Great Great!

(Link)

This may make you happier:

http://gitweb.freedesktop.org/?p=xorg/driver/xf86-video-radeonhd;a=tree
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-19 07:32 am (UTC)

Re: Great Great Great!

(Link)

Cool, thank you! ;)
[User Picture]From: egbert_e
2007-09-19 09:40 am (UTC)

Re: Great Great Great!

(Link)

Yes, indeed. Not good style. My bad. mea maxima culpa.
Here are some pointers:
Source code:
git://anongit.freedesktop.org/git/xorg/driver/xf86-video-radeonhd
Web interface to this (as posted in another comment already):
http://gitweb.freedesktop.org/?p=xorg/driver/xf86-video-radeonhd
mailing list: radeonhd@opensuse.org
IRC channel: #radeonhd on freenode.net
bugzilla: http://bugs.freedesktop.org: Product: Xorg Component: radeonhd.
I may add another blog listing all of these ;)
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-19 11:21 pm (UTC)

(Link)

will
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-19 11:24 pm (UTC)

(Link)

i would like to ask you if xf86-driver-radeonhd will support r420 chipset ...
thanks.
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-20 09:51 pm (UTC)

newer cards only

(Link)

AMD announced that they were providing the specs for the R500 and R600 series cards only, so it's very unlikely that xf86-driver-radeonhd will support the R420.

The R420 was released in 2004, so it's about time to get a new card. My computers have the 9250SE (RV280) and 9550SE (RV350) cards, also from 2004, but rather than worrying about support for older cards, I've just ordered an HD 2600 Pro (RV630) card, and will buy more of them once the drivers are more mature.
[User Picture]From: araemo
2007-09-24 03:59 pm (UTC)

Re: newer cards only

(Link)

This isn't exactly an option for laptop users. My laptop has a mobility 9200, so I'm stuck w/out any of this fancy stuff (R250-based, I believe.. I'd love to see AMD release the specs for this old hardware, so that I can get compiz working well. ;) )
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-20 11:01 am (UTC)

EFI

(Link)

Would these specs make it possible to support EFI? I'm pretty sure fglrx and the ati driver doesn't work without bios 'emulation'.
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-21 05:05 am (UTC)

specific cards this driver will work with?

(Link)

Folks:

Not being info ATI cards, I've always bought Nvidia, it would be handy to know which specific cards this driver will work with.

Could somebody provide a list?

I went to Newegg and didn't see any video cards based on a ATI R5xx or R6xx chipset.


Thanks!
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-21 06:54 am (UTC)

Re: specific cards this driver will work with?

(Link)

Everything what has an X1xxx or an HD2xxx in the name should fit, even if they are not yet supported, but that are r5xx and r6xx cards, which will get support sometime.

Also maybe look here:
http://gitweb.freedesktop.org/?p=xorg/driver/xf86-video-radeonhd;a=blob;f=src/rhd_id.c
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-21 06:17 pm (UTC)

Re: specific cards this driver will work with?

(Link)

and what about support of UVD for HD2400/2600 series ? is there any support this h.264 accekeration in new linux-drivers ? imho, no....
From: (Anonymous)
2007-09-23 10:53 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Hope we get to see mpeg4 video acceleration sometime soon. I want to build a HTPC soon.
[User Picture]From: arnebab
2007-09-24 10:59 am (UTC)

wow...

(Link)

When I bought my card I though "ATI has been bought by AMD, so the free driver will get a boost" and that choice, though ofte regretted in the meantime, has shown to be correct.

I don't know the last time I was proven right to trust a company.

It's a great experience!

Thanks a lot!
From: (Anonymous)
2007-12-15 11:54 pm (UTC)

Idetrorce

(Link)

very interesting, but I don't agree with you
Idetrorce
From: (Anonymous)
2007-12-17 03:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Idetrorce

(Link)

cool!! i hope it’ll be integrated to compiz smoothly



Képeslap (http://www.hunport.hu/kepeslap/index.php)
From: (Anonymous)
2008-07-09 12:57 pm (UTC)

thanks

(Link)

awesome, thanks for the info
juzten
Daily Free Software (http://dailyfreesoftware.blogspot.com)
From: productsrirr
2009-03-11 10:03 pm (UTC)

Re: thanks

(Link)

thanks, im downloading it

ink