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Firefox Graphics Open Source X Linux

Why Linux Loses Out On Hardware Acceleration In Firefox 456

devtty writes with some bad news for Linux users, from OSNews: "The release notes for Firefox 4.0 beta 9 noted that it comes with hardware acceleration for Windows 7 and Vista via a combination of Direct2D, DirectX 9 and DirectX 10. Windows XP users will also enjoy hardware acceleration for many operations 'using our new Layers infrastructure along with DX9.' Furthermore, Mac OS X has excellent OpenGL support, they claim, so they've got that covered as well. No mention of Linux, and there's a reason for that. 'We tried enabling OpenGL on Linux, and discovered that most Linux drivers are so disastrously buggy (think "crash the X server at the drop of a hat, and paint incorrectly the rest of the time" buggy) that we had to disable it for now,' explains Zbarsky, 'Heck, we're even disabling WebGL for most Linux drivers, last I checked...'" An update to the story softens this news slightly, saying that "hardware acceleration (OpenGL only) on Linux has been implemented, but due to bugs and issues, only one driver so far has been whitelisted (the proprietary NVIDIA driver)."
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Why Linux Loses Out On Hardware Acceleration In Firefox

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  • by u17 ( 1730558 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @09:57AM (#34896422)

    After that, I'm wondering if it's better to use D3D and Wine instead of native GL!

    Then I guess it will surprise you to know that Wine implements D3D on top of native OpenGL. If Firefox worked better on Wine, it would only mean that the Firefox developers can't write decent OpenGL code, but Wine developers can.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:05AM (#34896454)

    After that, I'm wondering if it's better to use D3D and Wine instead of native GL!

    Wine, which implements D3D by translating it to OpenGL?

    Re your argument that it's not cross platform...
    D3D is available on at most 3 platforms – Windows, WiMo 7 and XBox
    OpenGL is available on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Playstation, Wii, Solaris, various BSDs, .........

    Just the fact that it runs on both windows and mac is enough, and the fact that one of the implementations is poor does not defeat this argument.

  • Re:It's true. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:19AM (#34896522)

    Google never had a problem getting it to work in Chrome.

    In fact the dev builds on Linux were the first to have hardware acceleration.

    Whether or not they're wrong about the drivers being shit (I won't disagree entirely) other browser developers aren't too incompetent to get it to work..

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:23AM (#34896558) Journal
    I take it you only read the first half of the summary. They have an OpenGL version that works fine on Mac, and fine on Linux with the nVidia drivers. The problem is not that OpenGL is a difficult API to use, it's that the Linux drivers suck.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:25AM (#34896568) Journal
    I'm not sure if you're trolling or not. FreeBSD and Solaris have almost identical nVidia drivers to Linux - they have slightly different kernel shims, but they use the same blob. Most DRI drivers are also the same on Linux and FreeBSD, because they mostly run in userspace and are more dependent on X.org than the kernel (this is changing a bit with KMS).
  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:32AM (#34896610) Journal
    AMD's closed source drivers on windows suck too.
  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:35AM (#34896636) Homepage Journal

    Ah, but at least the OS X drivers are likely fairly consistent with the bugs due to the limited amount of different mac hardware out there.

    I think a more accurate statement is that OS X OpenGL bugs typically don't crash the UI, unlike Linux OpenGL bugs. OS X OpenGL bugs mostly involve features not working. Like antialiasing, for example. Apple does a lot of work at the Quartz level to get decent antialiased graphics primitives.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @11:14AM (#34896892)

    nVidia supplies top-flight OpenGL drivers with their cards. They are in every way as stable and as fast as their DirectX drivers, and support the latest standards. ATi's OpenGL drivers are nearly as good. I haven't tested them recently but last time I did they weren't quite as fast as DirectX, but nearly so, and their feature support is current (4.1 with the current drivers). Their main issue is with older games since they can't limit extensions reporting which can cause problems for games that can't handle all the extensions modern cards have.

    The support is true over many generations too. The very latest cards, the 580 and 6970, support OpenGL (version 4.1 in this case), and support had been there for a long time. Go back and get an original GeForce 256, you find that it supports OpenGL (1.4 in its case) and every card in between. Not an extra download either, it is part of the standard drivers they provide on their website (and their OEMs ship with their cards).

    That isn't non-existent, that is heavily supported. More or less if you have a dedicated graphics accelerator on Windows, you have OpenGL support. The only major graphics provider I don't know about in Intel. I know their graphics chips have OpenGL support, though it lags a bit, but I've no idea how good it is.

    Regardless, I'd say Windows drivers being "practically non existent" is very incorrect. If you want 3D acceleration for your system, you purchase an nVidia or ATi card. They are the only guys in the business anymore. They both supply current OpenGL drivers with their current products. Means OpenGL drivers are readily available, and in fact installed on most systems that have discreet 3D.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, 2011 @11:42AM (#34897060)

    Hell, it's not like the proprietary video driver developers are making a killing selling their software.

    RMS's view is that you should get paid for your labor but not get paid for taking away someone elses freedom. Sometimes the model works effortlessly, sometimes it runs into complications.

  • by TheRealGrogan ( 1660825 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @03:17PM (#34898436)

    I too like the Linux Nvidia driver (ignoring the ideology) and they sure do a good job supporting different kernel versions and X. Nobody does a proprietary driver better than Nvidia. Get a new -rc kernel? If the current version doesn't build and link in, and there's no beta that covers it, there's probably someone already in the forums who has a patch or code snippet that will make you happy again.

    However, the proprietary ATI driver is no longer the length of turd that it used to be. They haven't quite got it together like Nvidia does in terms of supporting diverse Linux systems, but I haven't suffered too much at their hands in the year or so that I've had a Radeon HD 5870.

    On my current rig I opted for an ATI card, because I hated my last Nvidia card: 9800 GX2 which was buggy in a lot of my Windows games and died 17 months after purchase. (It was an "OCX" model from BFG though, factory overclocked. It ran very, very hot, even with the fan at 100% during gaming and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to suspect that it got damaged. I burned for the lifetime BFG warranty too because they went out of business. That was a $600 video card. Even that is partly my fault for procrastinating though.)

    I wasn't sorry, I have been very happy with the ATI 5870 in Windows 7, and I've managed to do OK with the proprietary ATI driver. It always needs patching though... three ATI driver versions have gone by and it STILL doesn't build for Linux 2.6.36.x or 2.6.37. (I use --buildpkg Slackware/All to make slackware packages) Fortunately the kernel parts haven't changed that much and the patches can be easily adjusted. That's still pretty piss poor maintenance on their part, but at least it's not an untenable situation for me.

    The end result has been great though. In fact, for what I do with 3D acceleration in Linux, older games like UT2004, Quake 4, Doom 3 and friends as well as things like Sauerbraten, it's as good as or better than Nvidia (e.g. No glitches in UT2004). I think that 2D acceleration has been better than Nvidia as well.

    For a browser, 2D is more important anyway at this time. I know that since I switched to Firefox 4 in Linux (I'm using sources I got using Mercurial a few days ago, it says 4.0b10pre) that long Slashdot threads load up a lot faster, and no longer make the browser unresponsive while they are rendering. They also scroll effortlessly.

    So I'm assuming that I have better 2D acceleration with Firefox 4 than Firefox 3.6.

  • by jabjoe ( 1042100 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @04:28PM (#34898956)
    I think there is a a lot of negativity going on here, but I don't think there needs to be. Gallium3D/KMS/DRM is moving along nicely, as are the drivers that use it. It's all new, but it is moving well, and at the end, the drivers will be easier to maintain with much more code sharing between them. This process also removes the drivers from X. This will make X development easier too, hopefully reinvigorating X development. It also makes X alterantives realistic possible, which is why all the excitement about Wayland. It's all a lot of big changes, and it's not finished. It's not surprising it's not perfect yet. Personally I can't wait for Nouveau to be able to take over from NVidia's closed drivers. People here are raving about them, but they crash about once a month for me, which is worse then any other driver on the system (non of which crash). You also get left behind with all the X development as NVidia don't take part. As the drivers start getting feature complete, optimization will be increasingly the new goal (stablity will always be a goal). This is happening! Nouveau has replaced nv, the open ATI and getting better all the time, and I expect Nouveau 3D to start becoming enabled as standard quite soon.
  • Re:It's true. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, 2011 @06:07PM (#34899582)

    Sorry to bring it to you, but since Firefox 3, Linux has been a 2nd priority platform [mozilla.org] for Firefox.

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