Open source graphics drivers for the Raspberry Pi on the way

The Raspberry Pi is a dirt cheap mini-computer with a Broadcom BCM2835 700 MHz ARM11 with Broadcom VideoCore graphics. A basic model with 2 USB ports, HDMI and Ethernet sells for about $35, and the developers plan to offer an even cheaper $25 model without Ethernet soon.

While the processor isn’t very powerful, the Broadcom graphics chip can handle 1080p HD video playback. That means that in addition to using the Raspberry Pi as a basic computer for running a desktop Linux operating system, a controller for an automated system or other simple tasks, the Pi also makes a halfway decent media center or video game console (as long as you’re cool with playing older games).

But there are limits to what you can do with the Broadcom graphics card right now, because while the Raspberry Pi runs open source software, the graphics drivers are based on proprietary, closed source code.

That could be about to change.

Update: It’s official. Open source graphics code is now available

Raspberry Pi

Independent developers have been working on creating their own open source drivers for the Raspberry Pi for a while, with limited success. Now the folks at Phoronix are suggesting that a major announcement is coming soon.

It’s not clear at the moment whether this announcement will come from the independent developer community or from Broadcom. I have a source suggesting it’s the latter. But either way, if open source drivers that can take advantage of the Rasperry Pi’s graphics core are released, it could spur all sorts of new development.

For instance, it opens the door to a hardware-accelerated X server which could significantly boost overall performance and responsiveness of desktop Linux operating systems such as Debian and Fedora. Right now you can run them on the Raspberry Pi, but they’re kind of sluggish. Once Linux developers have access to the full source code for the Broadcom chip drivers, that could change.

  • asdf

    The accelerated X server discussed in that thread would be built atop and still depend on Broadcom’s closed drivers. It’d be nice if Broadcom abandoned their nonsensical position regarding hardware documentation, but I’m not holding my breath. Moronix do empty hype and pointless benchmarks.

  • tom

    The announcement is specifically for the Broadcom graphics in the Raspberry Pi or something that some how applies to all ARM based graphics? The Phoronix article doesn’t say.

    • DB9

      I hope it’s not just for the Raspberry Pi. While a nice piece of hardware, I’m not interested in using it. However, I am interested in using pre-built ARM based boards with higher performance and, of course, cost in mind.

  • Guest

    This article is total link bait.

    The RPi isn’t mentioned anywhere ins the article from Phoronix.

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Look at the photo caption and read the comments at Phoronix.

      • drjayphd

        I, for one, wholeheartedly support making announcements via beer.

  • Mark T.

    Kind of sucks it’s just for the Raspberry Pi. Would have preferred something for PowerVR or some other more widely used and higher performing graphics. Oh well, I guess it’s nice for those tinkering with one.