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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 Endimiao ( 471532 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @09:41AM (#34896352)

    There are plenty of games that would be a bother to play via wine were it not for the Nvidia drivers. Thats why for more than 8 years I've installed nothing but Geforce video boards on most desktops, sad as it may be.

  • OpenGL no rosy story (Score:1, Interesting)

    by pyalot ( 1197273 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @09:51AM (#34896398)
    Even the nvidia drivers aren't the cream of on the top, they're buggy in their own right. And as for the OSX OpenGL drivers, well, let's summarize:

    - OSX OpenGL drivers are horribly outdated and wrought with funny bugs
    - Windows OpenGL drivers are practically non existent
    - Linux OpenGL drivers depend on Nvidia proprietary blobs and a user who's gone some lengths to get the latest driver

    That being said, I'm the author of Lithosphere [], which runs just fine on windows, osx and linux. Sure, the driver situation's horrible, but it is not your problem really. Failing to write a stable OpenGL app with a working driver has nothing to do with crappy drivers. It has to do with being crappy at OpenGL programming.
  • by crafoo ( 591629 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @09:52AM (#34896402)
    How can you lay this at the feet of the graphics card manufacturers? The closed source binary drivers (NVidia) work just fine. The open source ATI stuff is mostly junk. It's a bit unfair to say OpenGL is bad just because the open source guys can't implement it correctly in the Linux drivers.
  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:02AM (#34896444)

    OpenSource guys know how to implement graphics drivers, but they're horribly understaffed.

    There are probably 50 times more closed source driver developers than OpenSource developers. The fact that they are able to do even what they do is amazing in its own right.

  • by Narishma ( 822073 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:28AM (#34896596)

    Isn't it funny then that the vendor who, according to you, doesn't take Linux seriously, is the only one with working drivers?

  • by jadrian ( 1150317 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @11:19AM (#34896910)

    Just fine? KDE 4.5 and 4.6 (upcoming) crash on log in with nvidias drivers ver 260.xx.xx [] (on openSUSE 11.3 32bit []?). Many other applications and applets also crash, particularly on 4.6 where krunner, amarok and search and launch activity are amongst the affected ones. This is one of the currently most reported bugs at the moment with a current dup count of 58 []! As if all this wasn't enough in 4.6 the window manager also almost immediately freezes until desktop effects are automatically disabled.

    So basically when you try KDE 4.6 on openSUSE 11.3 with updated nvidia drivers what happens is. You can't login due to desktop crash. If you fix that by removing the offending applets from the config files. On login Krunner crashes and keeps re-spawning and crashing. If you manage to kill it then desktop freezes and if all goes well effects are disabled. And if you get past then you can use it... without krunner, effects, and some of its best applications.

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @11:24AM (#34896946) Homepage Journal

    Heh. NVidia obviously does take Linux serious, because they continue to put out good, working drivers with each subsequent release, and are obviously the only cards to get for Linux users that needs working, stable 3D, such as those doing 3D CAD.

    I've been using NVidia cards for more than 10 years and I've never had a single X server crash related to NVidia's drivers. The two times I tried AMD/ATI cards, I threw my hands up after numerous X server crashes.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @11:30AM (#34896998)

    Can't speak on Linux as I haven't used it on the desktop but for Windows, their drivers are fine. I still wouldn't rank them as highly as nVidia's, but it is mostly advanced features. Stability wise they are great, and they support all the current technologies (DX11, DirectCompute, OpenGL 4.1, etc).

    I've had a 5870 for about a year now and it has worked real well, I don't find myself saying "Man I wish I'd stuck with nVidia." Now I still like nVidia better, and I'll be getting an nVidia card next round if they have a competitive offering (they didn't when I bought the 5870, they currently do) but it is for little things. For example nVidia handles per application settings much more gracefully than ATi. I have no reservations at all about using and recommending ATi, if they are the better value.

    That was certainly not always true. There was a time when I wouldn't touch ATi with a 10-foot pole. However these days, for Windows at least, they are fine to use. Graphics are fast and the system doesn't crash, which is really what matters.

  • Re:Wait a minute (Score:4, Interesting)

    by visualight ( 468005 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @12:33PM (#34897368) Homepage

    The thing that grinds on my nerves most of all is the rampant use of scripts from external domains. I mean jquery and the like. There are too many websites that require my browser to download scripts from several sites in order to render at all. Too many sites where I have to spend 5 minutes tweaking noscript to view a page...maybe that's the intent, to get me to stop using noscript. I'm certain that some sites deliberately make it hard to load a page without temporarily disabling noscript.

  • by Olivier Galibert ( 774 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @12:42PM (#34897426)

    Graphics drivers are all over the place. For instance, the intel stack, to be complete, requires:
    - the xserver tree
    - the protocols tree
    - the libdrm tree
    - the intel 2d video driver (includes separated DDX driver and XvMC driver)
    - the kernel (drm tree)
    - mesa with its integrated drivers
    - libva (for vaapi)

    That's 5 hardware-accessing drivers (internal kernel, DDX, XvMC, internal Mesa, libva) in 4 trees linked together with libraries and applications coming from 3 more trees. And they call each other through layers and layers of function arrays with no real documentation at any level. It's always fun when trying to understand a function to see it calling another one through a function pointer which after two more indirections finally ends up in another function a paragraph after the original one. And you have to trace everything, because the just as innocuous call after that one is in fact going to send a message through a drm connection and the X server to the DDX driver. And will be as documented as the previous one. Add to that a (failed, but present) tentative in the code to support almost any combination of versions in this dreadful house of cards, and you end up with an astounding amount of added complexity that does not make debugging easy.

    And fixing that is probably not going to ever happen until X/Mesa is dead under its own weight. The bitching when the n protocol trees became the one protocols tree was incredible, I don't see the poor soul who managed that one doing it ever again.


  • by The End Of Days ( 1243248 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @02:16PM (#34898070)

    It's misdirection, masked in "clever" wordplay. The "free as in speech" leads directly to "free as in beer" because in general people don't pay for things they can just take. RMS just knows he'd have a harder time selling his ideals if he were totally honest. See also his misdirection re:the term intellectual property, which his believers actually see as him exposing misdirection! It's sort of amusing from the outside perspective.

  • Re:It's true. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@[ ] ['bea' in gap]> on Sunday January 16, 2011 @03:19PM (#34898448)

    Google cares about having their browser run well on Linux because they intend it to run on Chrome OS. Mozilla doesn't really care about Linux support going all the way back to when they were Netscape. Linux/UNIX has never been a 1st class target, only a port with a 'couple guys' working on it.

    Seriously, I bought Netscape 1.0 and the Linux binary wasn't even on the CD. Back then buying was the only way to get export prohibited crypto. When I asked them about it I got blown off. Some years they care a little more than that, others about that little. At all time they make it clear a hold up on a port won't slow down feature development on their primary platform. IE is getting hardware assist so Firefox WILL ship it before IE9 leaves bets. And that probably makes sense from their pov.

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