Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AMD : more open-licensed goodies

Wanted to talk a bit about some of the releases from AMD over the past couple of days. The first bit comes from Alex Deucher who is employed by AMD. The X.org ATi driver has been updated to release 6.8.0 which is worth a note for a couple of reasons. The release notes read as follows:
- - mach64, r128, radeon ported to libpciaccess
- - massive restructuring of ati wrapper
- - radeon support for r5xx, rs6xx, and r6xx chips using ATOMBIOS
- - return of zaphod mode support
- - radeon support for centered modes using scalers (selectable via output attributes)
- - PAL tv-out fixed on supported chips
- - initial support for render accel on r3xx/r4xx chips (rotation)
- - fix TV option handling
- - Xv RGB fixes
- - XPRESS Xv fixes
- - improve bios/driver interaction on radeon
- - revert back to previous AGP mode behavior
- - lots of bug fixes
Some of this might as well be greek to some of us, but it's a lot of good changes. I'm most interested in the RadeonHD support which seems to indicate that some of the work from the X.org-RadeonHD driver has been merged into X.org-ATi.

After the release of the X.org-ATi driver on the 18th, AMD followed up with another Open-License release on the 20th. The press release is located here : http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/VirtualPressRoom/0,,51_104_543~123872,00.html

Basically AMD opened up it's former proprietary AMD Performance Library, which is comprised of over 3200 high performance software routines that help developers write multi-threaded applications for x86-class processor platforms. The new project, named Framewave, is intended to help developers wring more performance out of systems with more than one processing core.

Phoronix caught something something about the Framewave release that wasn't obvious in the AMD press announcement. I quote from Phoronix.
[quote]Among the supported operations are H.264 video decoding[/quote]

Interesting that AMD would open source information on how to accelerate processing High Resolution video content.

So, why is this important anyways? What's the big deal?

The big deal is that video and multimedia support on Linux has traditionally been behind Apple Unix and Microsoft windows by several steps. Many technology vendors have deliberately created incompatible software or licencess to prevent Linux users from legally playing or viewing certain types of media. Off the top of my head I can think of MP3 playback and DVD playback as being two quick examples.

On the side of the graphics, Linux today is far ahead of where it was. Mepis Linux was the first to include a setup tool to easily install proprietary video drivers, a design choice now mimicked by many other distributions. However, Linux still falls behind Microsoft Windows in several areas of graphics.

Off the top of my head I can think of Asynchronous -display support. Asynchronous-display is when you have two differently sized monitors with two different resolutions and refresh rates. It is possible to get Asynchronous-display working in Linux now, but the process is far from simple and automatic on most distributions. Under Windows? Well, Windows 2000 never had any problems driving two different displays with two different resolutions, and that was released 8 years ago.

A quick look over the release history of many drivers and multi-media applications reveal people who are doing the work because they won't too. They aren't receiving paychecks for the work. They just do it.

Now? AMD is funding people like Alex Deucher to do the work. To write the drivers, and to talk about the drivers and progress in public forums in a way that the average user can understand. AMD has gotten involved at a community level, and is now funding members who have contributed.

I've stated before that if you want to support Open-Licensed software, you should buy from vendors that support Open-Licensed software. AMD has made some gutsy moves by placing software and technology that used to be considered trade-secret out in the open. To me, that's worth supporting, and worth talking about.


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Corrected Framewave's name. Note to self, always make sure Spallchaq doesn't correct something that does not need to be corrected...
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