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AMD opens Radeon GPUs to open source development

Sep 7, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

A year after acquiring ATI, AMD has pledged to open up ATI's flagship Radeon GPUs (graphics processing units) to open source developers. The company plans to release “information and development packages” next week for two ATI GPU families, including one targeting embedded applications such as thin clients and single-board computers.

AMD said it will work with the community “to enable 2D, 3D and video playback acceleration,” and “to provide the best possible experience on the Linux desktop.” To bootstrap the process, it has commissioned an initial driver from Novell's SUSE Linux engineering team.

The announcement encompasses ATI Radeon HD 2000 series GPUs, as well as ATI Radeon X1000 series GPUs. The latter are used as integrated graphics processors (IGPs) in AMD's 690G and 690V chipsets, which target thin clients and POS (point-of-sales) devices, gaming devices, and single-board computers, as well as low-end PCs.

AMD said its initial open source information and development package for the two GPU families will include source code and hardware specifications “to engage the Open Source community for collaboration on 2D graphics drivers.” It is not clear whether the packages will also include the initial driver developed by Novell.

For the time being at least, AMD plans to maintain its own closed Catalyst Radeon driver as a parallel strategy for supporting Linux users, it said, while also fielding an in-house development team devoted to the open source Radeon driver project. Phil Hester, CTO at AMD, stated, “We're demonstrating our commitment to the Open Source community.”

Nat Friedman, chief technology and strategy officer for open source at Novell, stated, “Novell is pleased to deliver the initial drivers, and we look forward to contributing this initial code to X.Org.”

Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO, stated, “AMD's decision [shows] that Linux clients represent a significant market opportunity.”

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, stated, “AMD's timing is excellent, given the surge in Linux desktop adoption and the focus now in the Open Source community on next generation visualization and desktop interaction models.”

AMD competitor Intel has enjoyed decent support for its IGPs under Linux for roughly the last six or eight years. Via, another x86-compatible chip vendor, uses proprietary IGPs that enjoy basic support with open source drivers, but require binary drivers to support 3D acceleration and MPEG-2 acceleration.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has repeatedly defended binary kernel modules, but most developers dislike them because of the extra work they pose when upgrading kernel versions or attempting to track down bugs.

Henry Kingman

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