Linked by David Adams on Thu 18th Aug 2011 19:09 UTC, submitted by Michael
Graphics, User Interfaces While the BFS scheduler is getting ready to celebrate its second birthday, in just three weeks AMD's open-source Radeon graphics driver strategy for Linux will be turning four years old . . . which has ended up being a game-changer in the Linux world. AMD continues to support open-source hardware enablement on their latest graphics processors and recently even hired more developers to work on the code and documentation. How far have they come though in four years?
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Err, what?? This is the point I was discussing, first: "In a few months time it is likely that the radeon open source Gallium3D drivers will overtake the closed source driver fglrx for performance.
Then just now:
In terms of pure raw performance, it is probable that open source drivers will only ever catch up to closed source drivers.

Yes, that was definitely confused, I have to admit.

Obviously the hardware is the same for both open source drivers and closed source drivers. In some areas the closed source drivers are already optimal or nearly so, and there can be no worthwhile gains achieved beyond that no matter how hard one tries. Clearly in this sense the open source drivers will never surpass the closed source ones, it isn't possible.

Howver, having said that, there are obviously some areas for each driver where performance is not optimal (i.e. is not absolutely constrained by the common hardware). In some situations the closed source drivers are better, and in other areas the open source drivers are better. Right now the former occurs more frequently than the latter, and as an overall average the closed source drivers are better.

Howver, for some older cards, the closed source drivers are never going to get any better. AMD/ATI no longer support them.

The open source drivers have two distinct advantages. Firstly they are designed for Linux so any "impedance mismatches" between the drivers and the rest of the graphics stack can be tuned out. For closed source drivers, the drivers are tuned for Windows, and one gets what one gets on Linux.

Secondly, being open source, both the open source drivers drivers and the rest of the graphics stack can "evolve". Whatever already works better than the closed source drivers can be left strictly alone, and whatever doesn't work as well as the closed source drivers can be tuned for performance. The open source Linux graphics stack is not constrained by what works best for Windows.

Eventually, the open source Linux graphics stack will out-perform the closed source drivers, simply by exploiting areas where the closed source drivers are not optimal on Linux.

Edited 2011-08-19 07:06 UTC

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