The Shifting World X!

As we know, the most developed chipset is the GPU chipset! It evolves from a co-processor into having its own subsystem. They are far more advanced than the x86 chipset development. The x86 chipset have stalled many years ago and only have minor development (multi cores, extra instructions, but no revolution). While for the GPU, it has been evolve amazingly.

Now, the problem with this is the world of X11. X11 is a wonderful project born from MIT. They are fairly stable and have lasted for centuries. It was said that technology from 20 years ago would still run on today's X11 platform. It has a backward compability and amazingly very stable.

It lasted until David R. of former XFree86 developer (now in showed a new ability called compositing in his own version X11 called Xgl which created a new stack for compositing. The idea also considered obsolete since the Xorg team produce a new approach: AIGLX extension. It was cleaner than the first but it brought another problem which is to introduce a new extension to graphic driver. The AIGLX operation have different approach than the normal operation. It uses indirect rendering for its pixmap operation.

The AIGLX makes graphics driver, especially the closed one became incompatible. The most suffered from this was the ATi GPU (Graphics Card) users. Many of them ranting and trolling over the Net and even threatening to move out into another GPU producer. Fortunately, the nVIDIA guys have the better support over the GNU/Linux driver. For a long period, the proprietary driver of nVIDIA was considered an excellent choice. They have a strong adaptation to coop with the everchanging ABI (Application Binary Interface) of Linux kernel. They even move fast after the new kernel breaks the ABI and even the first one of proprietary driver that include AIGLX support.

This domination, however, still can change because of the recent buy of ATi company by AMD. The chipset company have a strong relation towards FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) community. Their recent success of AMD64 Chipset is because of the strong support from Linux kernel and the fast pace of development that made the 64 bit environment available. For their commitment of supporting the FOSS, AMD released a spec about their ATi chips publicly. This makes the ati driver, the open source version of ATi driver, takes a major progress.

Of course, another major chipset company that run closely with FOSS is Intel. Its Centrino product which includes a GPU chipset play nicely with the open source driver. This makes the Compiz (a compositing manager) support runs smoothly on their platform. They were open in the beginning and as the result the driver became easy to maintain by the community. They have survived nicely in the GNU/Linux world.

The evolving world of X11 also leads many ideas. Project like KDrive (a set of experimental X implementations) was setup to address this problem. The Xevie event handling, AIGLX extension, the EXA extension are products of it. Every experimental KDrive that being considered stable will moved into X11 implementation. This result in better X11 implementation.

Now, the addition of shading language and the new comer of OpenGL 2.x specification have brought another implementation problem over the kernel level: the driver infrastructure is not enough anymore! Even, the notorious DRM is being written as DRM2. Further implementation also to separate memory management from other instruction. GEM and TTM have this kind of implementation. The most promising project is Gallium 3D, a new replacement for current Mesa that hopefully to be called Mesa 2.

In these major implementation and the shifting of GPU world which is now evolving to work closely with the CPU to bring great solution to work with the HD technology. The FOSS community would be a nice playground (also could be considered as battle ground). The fast pace of development of FOSS will make the new technology just work.

I intentionally not write any reference, which is why my writing is not deep enough. This is only a reflection of what have the FOSS become in these days. So, just google the name you don't familiar with.

I'd like to write about mobile devices like Taurus, PSP, and even smart phone as an emerging market. I'd like to discuss it. But, with non-reference writing like this, which only came out from my mind, will only lead you, readers, into confusion. But, believe me, the niche world of GNU/Linux is not niche anymore and graphical is not something that it was lacking of.


  1. yea graphics its not a problem anymore.

    the problems now are modem/wireless, sound and 3d accelerator. the wireless hurts most laptop users.

    another common problem is many GNU/linux users spoiled by non free add-ons. things like flash and java. even worse, youtube change their video format :/

    try not to use the linux-ubuntu-module package and see how can you survive :D


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