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Legacy Mesa Drivers Receive Their Death Sentence

| Sunday, August 28, 2011
Last year at XDS 2010 Toulouse there was a discussion about killing old X.Org / Mesa drivers with fire. In particular, dropping all the old drivers that go un-maintained and have little in the way of users and modern functionality. Last year they decided to not really do much about it since these drivers cause little maintenance burden, but the topic has been brought up again and it sounds like these crusty old Linux drivers will finally receive their death sentence.

Intel's Ian Romanick has reignited the discussion about causing death to old drivers -- in fact, that's the title of his mailing list thread.

Ian has proposed stripping away drivers for hardware that is too old and doesn't support modern features (i.e. hardware that hasn't been common for 12+ years), drivers that are un-maintained and that "even hacking in new featureswith dummy implementations is painful", and for "drivers [that] are so buggy that many piglit tests hang the GPU."

Ian wants to kill these old drivers as he's been working up to clean up code within the heart of Mesa, but when refactoring core Mesa code, these old drivers are just getting in the way. Ian also notes that Fedora has begun to stop shipping non-DRI2 Mesa drivers.

The drivers that Ian mentions he wants to drop from the Mesa tree are all DRI1 drivers, which include: i810, Mach64, MGA, R128, Savage, SiS, and Tdfx. The only one of these DRI1 hardware drivers that still might be missed by a small portion of users would be the i810 driver, which provides the Intel Mesa support for pre-i915 IGPs. This though shouldn't be a terrible shock. Intel engineers haven't given a damn about the i810/855 series for years since some of this old hardware was already fairly problematic just when it came to mode-setting and there was already a host of DDX issues when migrating to the GEM-enabled KMS-only stack.

For these old Intel IGPs and the other DRI1 drivers, there is likely little users of them these days -- and if they are they are likely not being updated with new software releases as modern Linux distributions would run on this vintage hardware at a snail's pace.

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