Linux Kernel 4.4 Brings 3D Acceleration to Virtual Desktop

Linus Torvalds released version 4.4 of the Linux kernel Sunday night. The addition of hardware open source 3D support for Linux virtual desktops is one of the most notable changes, along with many improvements for AMD GPUs.

The addition of hardware 3D acceleration in the virtual GPU driver virtio-gpu makes the computer utilize the graphics card efficiently, for example, allowing users to play an opengl game in a virtualized Linux system using the host’s GPU capabilities along with QEMU 2.5. Some form of 3D acceleration for guests has been around for much longer in VirtualBox and VMWare, but those virtualizations are not completely open source. This code works alongside QEMU along with Mesa.

Furthermore, support for AMD Stoney has been added to the kernel. Stoney is a future AMD apu. Several GPU changes have also been made for owners of AMD Carrizo, Tonga or Fiji GPUs. There is no PowerPlay support yet, but that is planned for the open source driver in Linux 4.5.

Raspberry Pi owners get a Pi KMS driver, which improves the graphics capabilities of the Pi’s. Hardware 3D support hasn’t been built into the kernel driver yet, but Broadcom developer Eric Anholt is still working on it, according to Phoronix.

Nvidia owners can expect better stability from the Nouveau drivers and some extra options for different clock settings. For the GeForce GTX 900 series, hardware acceleration is still missing in the open source drivers.

LightNVM also adds support for open-channel SSDs. Open-channel SSDs are SSDs that don’t have their own firmware built into the flash translation layer, but leave the physical solid-state storage to the operating system. Other changes are related to better 64bit ARM support and improvements to memory usage on Intel Skylake processors. There have also been changes within the network device, such as the addition of Very High Throughput support for mesh networks and a new Realtek rtl8xxxu-wifi driver. A comprehensive list of changes can be found at kernelnewbies.org.

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