So, there has been a lot of noise around Sandybridge and Linux support. Most of the criticism has come from Charlie Demerjian over at semiaccurate.com.Now we at Intel like Charlie, we are fans and he does an important job of keeping the industry on its toes. He has been a big proponent of Linux use and follows our work in this field closely. But he has been somewhat unfair this time. Charlie’s main source of frustration is that his current distro of Linux (Ubuntu 10.10) doesn’t support Sandybridge, and therefore delivered a terrible experience. One would naturally assume, just like Charlie did, that Intel need only plop down some nice fresh drivers and voila: A pleasant Sandybridge experience on Linux. Unfortunately this is where the complex reality somewhat gets in the way, and here is the situation as I understand it: You see, the graphics subsystem in Linux is actually a complex web of interdependencies and all the related components all have to be updated for a new graphics hardware to work. The Linux software components called ‘Mesa’, the kernel, ‘libdrm’, ‘cairo’, ‘libva’ and ‘x86-video-intel’ are all the parts that have to be updated and released into the wild for this all to work. This isn’t unusual, it is just the way it is. Now, some of you may say: ‘But AMD and Nvidia drivers are easily updatable’. Well yes and no. It is true that in certain cases, you can update some parts of those systems, but they rely on closed-sourced code maintained only by those companies and not the Linux community – and updating a single component can affect the rest of the system. This is not wrong, nor it is right; it is a choice. Although it is a far cry from the open source ideal of Linux. Although this blog isn’t meant to be a open vs closed argument. I do have to say that some of these companies are also pursuing open source efforts, and they have the same issues we do in this regard. That said, there have been complaints about the lack for drivers for other hardware vendors too. So the rub is this: You will have to wait for the new distribution of your flavour of Linux, and although Intel has some influence over this (as we do contribute to Linux in a significant way), we can by no means control release dates. But don’t take my word for any of this, there is a conversation about this topic on the Real World Tech Forums right now, and even Linus Torvalds himself is dishing out advice. He describes how to compile the components yourself (as the source code is available). When will the new distro releases be available? We hope it is soon. Linus says: ‘more like “April 2011”. Before that, you’ll have to find things like daily builds or do your own’. So although we want Linux Sandybridge support to be available today, unless you are a hardcore user happy to compile his or her own components, you will have to wait a little while. I can’t give you a date, but you can bet we are doing everything in our power to make that date sooner rather than later. Our engineers have been working hard to make sure that running Linux on Sandybridge will be an absolute joy.
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