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AMD Graphics Open Source Linux

AMD Overhauls Open-Source Linux Driver 126

An anonymous reader writes "AMD's open-source developer has posted an incredible set of 165 patches against the Linux kernel that provide support for a few major features to their Linux graphics driver. Namely, the open-source Radeon Linux driver now supports dynamic power management on hardware going back to the Radeon HD 2000 (R600) generation. The inability to re-clock the GPU frequencies and voltages dynamically based upon load has been a major limiting factor for open-source AMD users where laptops have been warm and there is diminished battery power. The patches also provide basic support for the AMD Radeon HD 8000 'Sea Islands' graphics processors on their open-source Linux driver."
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AMD Overhauls Open-Source Linux Driver

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  • by snarfies ( 115214 ) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @02:26PM (#44115531) Homepage

    Per []:

    "Regarding graphics accelerators for PCs, ATI mostly cooperates with the free software movement, while nVidia is totally hostile. ATI has released free drivers.

    However, the ATI drivers use nonfree microcode blobs, whereas most of nVidia's products (excepting the most recent ones) work ok with Nouveau, which is entirely free and has no blobs.

    Thus, paradoxically, if you want to be free you need to get a not-very-recent nVidia accelerator.

    I wish ATI would free this microcode, or put it in ROM, so that we could endorse its products and stop preferring the products of a company that is no friend of ours."

    This sort of thing gets discussed quite a bit on 4chan's technolo/g/y board. Also, installing Gentoo.

  • Re:Kernel Version? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @02:51PM (#44115753)

    I know it's difficult to click, but it says in the first sentence in the document linked first. Come on!


    These are the radeon patches for 3.11. Some of these patches
    are huge so, it might be easier to review things here:

    I'll send a formal pull in request in the next day or two.

    Highlights of this series:
    - DPM support (Dynamic Power Management) for r6xx-SI
    - Support for CIK (Sea Islands): modesetting, 3D, compute, UVD
    - ASPM support for R6xx-SI

    Since this is the initial public DPM code, it's still disabled by default
    until we get more community testing. Pass dpm=1 to the radeon module to
    enable it.

  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @03:03PM (#44115867) Journal

    I don't understand why simply putting the closed source firmware on the card suddenly makes it ok for free software.

    Licensing and distribution.

    Anything that's in hardware has already dealt with the issues of licensing and distribution.
    Closed source software represents and entirely different beast for free software distribution.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @04:03PM (#44116453)

    The entire point of firmware being upgradable is that it is... well... upgradable. Not only that, but different versions of firmware may be required for different versions of software. This way it is much easier to ensure compatibility, because the driver has the firmware baked into it.

    If it were firmware, I would be in agreement.

    The objection to binary blobs, that are simply loaded into the device as firmware is sort of short sighted,
    in that it punishes vendors that actually plan in a method of upgrading their products with new firmware.

    But by and large, that isn't the issue here.
    Far to many of these blobs are loaded loaded into main memory and run as a process under the operating system,
    free to do just about anything.

    If blobs were ONLY firmware, they could run ONLY on the device, and could be loaded once at installation time.
    Very few fall into this category. (Some wifi chips do load this way upon every boot).

    Far too many remain running in main memory.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @04:17PM (#44116585)

    $2B in debt, $1B cash, lost $600M last year, sales dropped 30% last year. They have no assets (spun off their manufacturing facilities). If the next gen consoles do not sell well because of casual / tablet gaming and potential Apple TV games, AMD will be bankrupt in one year and shuttering in two. Spending money on open source drivers is a long term investment - it's not going to get them an additional $600M in revenue next year (>2M additional graphics cards or >5M systemic wins) when PC sales are on the decline.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @04:22PM (#44116635)

    You don't really know what a development kit is, do you?

    A devkit is not an SDK. It's the same hardware and software as the retail product, but with additions/modifications that enable debugging (adding debugging ports, using libraries with debug symbols, etc). They also get the ability to run "unlicensed" software, since you can't go to Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo every time you compile in order to have it certified. And, finally, early devkits may not have the final case/board, since launch titles need to start development well before the case or even motherboard are finished (famously, the early Xbox 360 devkits used Power Mac G5 cases and motherboards).

    So if the devkit is running a FreeBSD kernel, the final product will be running a slightly different version of the same kernel.

  • by LourensV ( 856614 ) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @04:55PM (#44116935)

    I don't understand why simply putting the closed source firmware on the card suddenly makes it ok for free software. Same code, just different home.

    Back in the days of the Open Graphics Project [] (since defunct, although Timothy N. Miller [] is still working in this area and the mailing list [] is still active for those interested in the subject), we had several discussions about the borders between Free software, open firmware, and open hardware.

    As I understood the FSF's position at that time, the point is that if the firmware is stored on the host, it can be changed, and frequently is (i.e. firmware updates). Typically, the manufacturer has some sort of assembler/compiler tool to convert firmware written in a slightly higher level language to a binary that is loaded into the hardware, which then contains some simplistic CPU to run it (that's how OGD1 worked anyway). So, the firmware is really just specialised software, and for the whole thing to be Free, you should have access to the complete corresponding source code, plus the tools to compile it, or at least a description of the bitstream format so you can create those. This last part is then an instance of the general rule that for hardware to be Free software-friendly, all its programming interfaces should be completely documented.

    If the code is put into ROM, it cannot be changed without physically changing the hardware (e.g. desoldering the chip and putting in another one). At that point, the FSF considers it immutable, and therefore not having the firmware source code doesn't restrict the user's freedom to change the firmware, since they don't have any anyway. The consequences are a bit funny in practice, as you noted, but it is (as always with the FSF) a very consistent position.

    We (of the OGP-related Open Hardware Foundation, now also defunct; the whole thing was just a bit too ambitious and too far ahead of its time) argued that since hardware can be changed (i.e. you can desolder and replace that ROM), keeping the design a secret restricts the users freedom just as well. So, we should have open hardware, which would be completely (not just programming interfaces, but the whole design) documented and can therefore be changed/extended/repaired/parts-reused by the user. The FSF wasn't hostile to that idea, but considered it beyond their scope. Of course, any open hardware would automatically also be Free software-friendly.

    I tend to agree that in practice, especially if there are no firmware updates forthcoming but it's just a cost-savings measure, loading the code from the host rather than from a ROM is a marginal issue. Strictly speaking though, I do think that the FSF have a point.

  • HUMA (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @05:36PM (#44117311)

    Hybrid Unified Memory Access.

    Basically both your CPUs and GPUs having access to the same memory space without needing to 'swap' via apertures or anything else. It's currently intended for the gpu in APU packages, but I believe they've stated one of the next gen GPU platforms (HD9xxx?) is going to support it as well.

  • Re:HUMA (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @08:55PM (#44118657)

    Minor correction: it's Heterogeneous Uniform Memory Access, in the AMD space, at least.

    Also worth mentioning is that it'll be using very fast GDDR5, which means a huge increase in memory bandwidth for the CPU part of the APU, as well.

    There may be some soldering of that RAM onto motherboards in the first generation of HUMA parts, but 8GB and >1TFLOPS would do wonders for scientific computing even if it was all soldered into a mass-produced media-centre PC.

  • by Boltronics ( 180064 ) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @10:53PM (#44119237) Homepage

    Yes, this is my opinion exactly. I recently blogged about this exact issue, and why I think the FSF, RMS, Trisquel, etc. all treat it differently - and I don't think it's a good enough reason. []

    I'll point out for Slasdot readers that, in the case of the radeon driver, it loads microcode into the card - not a huge firmware blob. The FSF just refers to microcode as firmware, so does not distinguish between them. The microcode is between 2K and 31K, depending on the model of the device. If running Debian GNU/Linux with the firmware-linux-nonfree package installed, these microcode files should be located under /lib/firmware/radeon.

"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel