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Imagination Technologies bringing open source PowerVR drivers

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Well well, open source continues to grow, good! Imagination Technologies will be joining up with all the rest involved in Mesa development, with their PowerVR GPUs. Developer Frank Binns put up a Merge Request for Mesa that was announced here on a mailing list.

I'm excited to share that over the last year we've been working on a new Vulkan driver, compiler and Linux kernel DRM driver for our PowerVR GPUs. As it was important for us to do things "right", we got Collabora involved early on in the project. They've been a big help and have guided us with the approach and overall design of the driver.

Nice to see more companies look to the fantastic developers as open source consulting firm Collabora, who have done a huge amount of great work across many areas for Linux.

Their initial focus is on their Rogue architecture, which they said has already been tested using the Acer Chromebook R13. Curiously, they've only started with the Vulkan side and mentioned efforts to run OpenGL over Vulkan like Zink / ANGLE "We therefore felt that a Vulkan driver together with Zink/ANGLE would be a good way to support multiple APIs from the get go" — so maybe this will be one of the first drivers that perhaps won't do a full OpenGL driver and just let it be handled by something like Zink.

Hopefully over time we'll see more vendors go the open source route. This is the way.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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8 comments

MayeulC 7 Mar
That was unexpected. PowerVR until now has been the single worst GPU vendor I can think of. Worse OSS support than nvidia...

Thankfully their IP isn't used a lot these days, it was much more common on the early days of embedded GPUs though (think the first iphones). And the source code leak from some time ago didn't help open source drivers. I wonder if they will release documentation for earlier models? That would help efforts like postmarketos or Android on the earlier iphones and other smartphones.

That change of heart probably has something to do with chromebooks, indeed. Let's hope Google doesn't ship Fuschia too soon.

Edit: current PR is for Series 6XT (iphone6ish, 2014-era), as well as much more recent A and B series. It could be interesting to support as far back as series 4, though I am not sure if it's worth the work (documentation would be appreciated in any case).

(@liam: I had to manually encode the link's closing parenthesis as %29. An issue with the markdown parser?)

Edit2: well, maybe earlier GPUs can't really efficiently support vulkan anyway


Last edited by MayeulC on 7 March 2022 at 10:53 am UTC
CFWhitman 7 Mar
It's difficult to imagine any open source news that could have surprised me more. I think of all those Intel Atom chips with integrated PowerVR GPUs that couldn't be used with Linux because there was no GPU driver. It's a bit late for them now, but PowerVR open sourcing any of their drivers is basically flabbergasting. At least newer ARM SoCs can have open source drivers now.

I remember when PowerVR discrete video cards were worthy of consideration (1990s) before the market boiled down to NVIDIA and AMD.
Julius 7 Mar
Better late then never. Hopefully this will result in some renewed interest in the Postmarket OS port for my x86 Zenfone2 :)
Shmerl 7 Mar
Quoting: MayeulCThat was unexpected. PowerVR until now has been the single worst GPU vendor I can think of. Worse OSS support than nvidia...

Not that surprising. Mesa reached the point where vendors making new drivers can actually save money by not reinventing the wheel. NIR is really the key component for it from what I understand. They mostly focus on NIR to GPU specific machine code compiler, and Mesa does the heavy lifting of SPIR-V to NIR compiler part.

Why it's easier to work with NIR was explained here well:
https://www.jlekstrand.net/jason/blog/2022/01/in-defense-of-nir/

See also this interesting thread with comments from Mesa developers:
https://lists.freedesktop.org/archives/mesa-dev/2022-January/225652.html

I.e. it's not like Imagination suddenly decided they like FOSS, it's just pragmatically actually beneficial for them now that even their bean counters could be persuaded. That said, I didn't know that point of Mesa value has been reached already. This shows that it has.


Last edited by Shmerl on 7 March 2022 at 4:59 pm UTC
whizse 7 Mar
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Nvidia source release on friday?

QuoteSo, NVIDIA, the choice is yours! Either:

–Officially make current and all future drivers for all cards open source, while keeping the Verilog and chipset trade secrets... well, secret

OR

–Not make the drivers open source, making us release the entire silicon chip files so that everyone not only knows your driver's secrets, but also your most closely-guarded trade secrets for graphics and computer chipsets too!

YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY, YOU DECIDE!
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2022/03/cybercriminals-who-breached-nvidia-issue-one-of-the-most-unusual-demands-ever/
ShabbyX 7 Mar
Quoting: whizseNvidia source release on friday?

QuoteSo, NVIDIA, the choice is yours! Either:

–Officially make current and all future drivers for all cards open source, while keeping the Verilog and chipset trade secrets... well, secret

OR

–Not make the drivers open source, making us release the entire silicon chip files so that everyone not only knows your driver's secrets, but also your most closely-guarded trade secrets for graphics and computer chipsets too!

YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY, YOU DECIDE!
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2022/03/cybercriminals-who-breached-nvidia-issue-one-of-the-most-unusual-demands-ever/

It's sad really. As much as "violence" gets things _done_, it's not the right way. I'm sad to see this kind of behavior (threats) from open source advocates (though fanatic is probably the right term).

Way to kill our image.

---

Edit: I see now that they are crypto people rather, not so much open source people. Sad, but less so for us!


Last edited by ShabbyX on 7 March 2022 at 7:57 pm UTC
whizse 7 Mar
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Oh, it's totally despicable behavior alright. Pure scum.

The comments about gaming and open source seems like a very poor attempt to garner some sort of Robin Hood sympathies.
MayeulC 9 Mar
Quoting: whizseNvidia source release on friday?

About that... see how bad the powerVR source leak turned out for PowerVR drivers.

Although, if there was a verilog leak, things might turn interesting.
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