Tag Archives: ubuntu

Intel’s New OpenGL Driver Is Looking Really Great With The Upcoming Mesa 19.2

Intel’s new open-source OpenGL Linux driver “Iris” Gallium3D that has been in development for the past two years or so is getting ready to enter the limelight. Months ago they talked of plans to have it ready to become their default OpenGL driver by the end of the calendar year and with the state of Mesa 19.2 it’s looking like that goal can be realized in time. With our new tests of this driver, in most games and other graphics applications the performance of this Gallium3D driver is now beyond that of their “classic” i965 Mesa driver.

Over the past year we’ve been looking a lot at the Intel Gallium3D performance and it’s been a remarkable journey from the performance starting out well below their decade old OpenGL driver to now mostly exceeding that classic Mesa driver and often times by wide margins. The Intel Gallium3D driver is also largely now to feature parity in terms of OpenGL extensions and other capabilities. With all of their bases covered, this summer for the upcoming Mesa 19.2 release we’ve been seeing a lot of performance optimizations land. Back in April is when they indicated they hope to have it become the default by end of year 2019 and viable by Mesa 19.2.

Given Mesa 19.2 is now branched and first release candidate issued, I decided to try out this new Intel OpenGL driver with its latest code as of yesterday for seeing just how viable it is in Mesa 19.2. Long story short, it’s very viable and I didn’t encounter any hangs or other problems and the performance is great with only a few regressions to note at this point.

Using an Intel Core i9 9900K with its Gen9 UHD Graphics 630, I ran benchmarks of the Mesa 19.2-devel code as of 20 August for both the classic i965 Mesa driver and this modern “Iris” Gallium3D driver. Linux 5.3 was used for the kernel version and Ubuntu 19.04 made up the rest of the software stack. Various OpenGL games and applications were tested for looking at the current performance difference between these drivers using the Phoronix Test Suite.

Slackel Linux Works Well Inside Its Openbox | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Aug 16, 2019 10:46 AM PT

Slackel Linux Works Well Inside Its Openbox

The latest release of Slackel Linux renews and improves the mashup of
Slackware and
Salix built around an Openbox pseudo desktop environment.

Slackel 7.2 hit the download servers on July 20, eight months after the release of Slackel 7.1 Openbox edition. Slackel also is available in two much older versions running the KDE and Fluxbox environments. All releases are available in 64-bit and 32-bit builds.

Slackel, based in Greece, is a Linux distro a step away from the typical mainstream Debian-based Linux OS line. Based on Slackware and Salix, the distro is fully compatible with both Slackware and Salix software repositories.

That combination gives Slackel Linux a better range of software. Slackware-based distros typically have far smaller software repositories than do Debian-based distros and others. Think in terms of a few thousand packages compared to 35,000.

Slackel 7.2 Openbox desktop

The Slackel 7.2 release has an energized Openbox desktop display that provides a simple yet functional user interface.

– click image to enlarge –

Finding Linux packages that will run in Slackel is less of a challenge, but you will still experience slimmer pickings.

Bigger, Better Build

The two-base combo comes with useful advantages for Slackel users. One is the inclusion of Slackware system tools.

Another is the built-in access to all the Salix Linux system tools known for their efficiency in making system administration easy and straightforward. For instance, the Salix codecs installer application quickly and easily installs patent-encumbered codecs.

A third user benefit comes directly from a key improvement to this latest Slackel Linux release. Linux kernel 4.19.59 powers the distro. It also has the latest updates from Slackware’s current software tree.

Previous releases came with two downloadable ISO files. One was the live session version. The other was the installation disc. This latest release combines the two.
The new ISO image is an isohybrid that can be used as installation media.

Installation tools are another big improvement. Slackware and Salix installations — as well as previous Slackel Linux text-based installers — have made the process less than user-friendly. Four tools improve installation routines.

  1. Instonusb is a GUI tool to install Slackel 32-bit and 64-bit live ISO images to a USB stick. It also can create an encrypted persistent file for live session use.
  2. Multibootusb is a GUI tool to create a live USB image including 32-bit and 64-bit live editions of Slackel and Salix, and to choose the one to boot into a live environment at boot time.
  3. SLI is a complete GUI installer.
  4. Live ISO image creates persistent file encryption after installation on USB devices.

Taking Up the Slack

Slackel Linux has a lot to offer. It has a long line of prominence with growth from two influencers. Slackware and Salix are two well-oiled Linux families from which Slackel Linux evolved.

Slackware Linux is a throwback to the early days of the Linux OS. It is among the oldest actively maintained Linux distros. It dates back to 1992. By comparison, well-known and well-used distros such as Ubuntu, Fedora and Linux Mint were introduced in the mid-2000s.

Despite Slackware’s longevity, is has not joined more modern Linux offspring in terms of user-friendliness. The Slackware project started as a way to install a Linux system that already included some core packages like the kernel and an X window system.

Slackware Take 2

Slackware may have lost its relevance to anyone but diehard Slackware fans. Over the years, Slackware has updated but not improved much.

Unlike Slackel Linux, Slackware still is not easy to set up and use. Slackel Linux attempts to fix that weakness by being more user-friendly as a better Slackware model.

Similarly, Salix Linux is a GNU/Linux distribution based on Slackware. It is simple, fast and easy to use, with stability being a primary goal.

Slackel Linux gets much of its design philosophy from Salix Linux. Salix also is fully backward-compatible with Slackware. That adds reach to Slackel Linux’s access to software.

Openbox Odyssey

Openbox is the only available graphical user interface, or GUI, in the current release. Its simplicity and flexibility make it a good choice.

What is Openbox? It is a stacking window manager for the X Window System. It is very configurable, allowing it to function as a nearly full desktop environment.

Window managers control the appearance and functionality of windows within an operating system. For instance, they provide basic desktop functions for displaying windows and screen displays. They control actions such as opening, closing, moving, decorating, and other such window management operations.

Slackel's Openbox cascading systems menu

A key feature with the Openbox design is the ability to see a cascading systems menu anywhere on the desktop with a right-click. The standard main menu is always available by clicking on the “O” button on the far left of the bottom panel.

– click image to enlarge –

When a full-fledged desktop such as Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, MATE or GNOME is integrated into the operating system, a window manager takes care of the core functions to provide a graphical interface for navigating the screen display. The desktop shell adds more advanced features to enhance the GUI’s functionality, such as providing animations.

Window managers such as Fluxbox, JWN, Enlightenment and Openbox often are used in conjunction with a full desktop environment, but window managers can serve as a pseudo standalone desktop as well. For instance, Openbox often is paired with GNOME and KDE to enhance those desktop environments.

Serves Slackel

Openbox is a halfway measure between Slackel Linux having a minimal or a full-blown desktop environment. Openbox has a powerful set of options and is easy to use.

Its characteristic visual box style is built around a minimalist appearance. Still, its setting controls and other design options allow a variety of display appearances to suit any taste.

Do not let Slackel’s reliance on Openbox over other so-called more modern desktops diminish your view of GUI appeal. It is the window manager used by the LXDE desktop environment.

Especially when a distro developer wants a lightweight distro that works with lower-powered hardware such as legacy computers, Openbox can be a simple and ideal operating system component. It gives you control to change almost every part of how you interact with your desktop without making you do everything.

Slackel's Openbox Configuration Manager panel

Slackel’s Openbox Configuration Manager panel offers a full range of settings to let you design your own look and feel.

– click image to enlarge –

Openbox Look and Feel

The Openbox desktop design requires almost no learning curve. It is point-and-click simple. Both its appearance and its operation are old school. That is a good thing.

The standard panel bar sits at the bottom of the screen. The left side of the panel has a very easy-to-use, uncluttered menu. A few icons sit on the left.

The expected notifications are on the right end of the panel. Toward right center is a preconfigured workspace switcher with four virtual workspaces ready to use.

The panel bar is devoid of any extra features such as applets. Openbox is very simple and has some user tweaks built in, but power users will be less enchanted with its almost one-size-fits-all design.

Superior Software

I was less impressed with earlier Slackel Linux releases that used the KDE and Fluxbox options. Fluxbox is somewhat similar to Openbox in terms of its menu, but the range of functionality with Fluxbox is more minimal than I prefer. The KDE version was spoiled by having too many K-family software packages for my liking.

The Openbox edition takes a big step up by including the LibreOffice suite version 6.2x. LibreOffice is far superior to Amiword, which came in earlier releases.

A nice touch is the Gslapt Package Manager for access to Slackware, Salix and Slackel package repositories. Another of Slackel’s strong points is the systems tool collection from Salix Linux.

Bottom Line

The current Slackel Linux release can be a good choice for new users. It is easy to stumble through the installation steps, but this distro has some benefits.

Slackel is a reliable operating system that is easy to use. If you like to learn how Linux works, Slackel gets you closer to understanding the pure Linux environment without resorting to the terminal window and the command line.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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Radeon Pro Software for Enterprise 19.Q3 for Linux Released


On Wednesday marked the release of AMD’s Radeon Pro Software for Enterprise driver package for Windows and Linux.

The Radeon Pro Software for Enterprise 19.Q3 on the Windows side added more optimizations for workstation software, wireless VR visualization, and other bits to improve the AMD Radeon Pro support in the workstation software ecosystem. On the Linux side, the changes are a bit more tame.

Per the release notes for the Radeon Pro Software for Enterprise 19.Q3 Linux driver release, the changes come down to just fixes mentioning:

– Fixed display issues that users may encounter with some video settings in Autodesk MotionBuilder.
– Fixed some display issues that may be encountered while performing Smooth Shade mode with rotations in Houdini.
– Audio end points may not show in control panel options with legacy products.
– System issues may be observed with 1024×768 resolution virtual display creation using EDID emulation.

This 19.Q3 Radeon Pro driver package for Linux systems is officially supported for RHEL/CentOS 7.6 and RHEL/CentOS 6.10, Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS, and SUSE SLED/SLES 15. Unfortunately, no official builds yet for RHEL 8.0 or the newly-updated Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS with its revised Linux kernel as part of the HWE stack upgrade.

The new Radeon Pro Software for Enterprise 19.Q3 for Linux driver can be downloaded from AMD.com.

NVIDIA 435.17 Linux Beta Driver Adds Vulkan + OpenGL PRIME Render Offload


NVIDIA this morning introduced their 435 Linux driver series currently in beta form with the release of the 435.17 Linux build. With this new driver comes finally the best PRIME/multi-GPU support they have presented to date.

The NVIDIA 435.17 driver has a new PRIME render offload implementation supported for Vulkan and OpenGL (with GLX). This PRIME offloading is about using one GPU for display but having the actual rendering be done on a secondary GPU, as is common with many of today’s high-end notebooks that have Intel integrated graphics paired with a discrete NVIDIA GPU.

For the NVIDIA PRIME render offload support, they require some recent commits to the X.Org Server that sadly isn’t in any released version but will be there for the eventual xorg-server 1.21 release. In the meantime, NVIDIA is providing an Ubuntu PPA with a patched X.Org Server build.

This offload support also requires some fiddling to the xorg.conf configuration and environment variables for activation, but after that should be much better PRIME support than the previous options.

The NVIDIA 435.17 Linux driver also has experimental support for run-time D3 power management for Turing notebook GPUs, a variety of bug fixes, support for changing the Digital Vibrance on Turing hardware, and drops non-GLVND OpenGL support.

More details on the NVIDIA 435.17 Linux beta driver via the NVIDIA DevTalk.

Intel’s Linux Graphics Driver Developers Discover 3~20% Boost For Current-Gen Hardware


Last week was the Intel Gallium driver one line patch to boost performance by 1%. Today’s code churn within Mesa for Intel’s open-source Linux graphics drivers were larger but also with a more profound performance impact with some workloads now being faster by around 20%. Making this more exciting is that today’s round of driver optimizations apply to the very common and mature “Gen 9” graphics hardware.

Francisco Jerez, a longtime member of the Intel open-source Linux graphics team and former Nouveau contributor, landed patches he’s been working on the past month to optimize slice/sub-slice load balancing behavior for Gen9 graphics. He discovered that the current behavior was sub-optimal and for the top-tier Gen9 GT4 (Iris Pro) graphics the performance problem is in particularly bad shape.

With Skylake GT4 graphics this tweaking of the slice/sub-slice load balancing behavior led up to around a 20% performance boost while in other cases was less severe but still noticeable like Unigine Valley running 3.4% faster, Gfxbench around 4%, some GpuTest scenes around 8%, and the SynMark tests yielding 15~22% boosts in performance.

The behavior change also helps the lower-tier Gen9 parts but to a lesser extent. Francisco is interested in hearing more feedback from performance testing with Intel hardware from Skylake through Whiskey Lake, Comet Lake, Amber Lake, and other Gen9-using generations.

Following that change to the i965 Mesa driver, Francisco also applied it to the Iris Gallium3D driver too, which is Intel’s next-gen open-source OpenGL driver.

Just minutes ago this optimization was also ported to the Intel Vulkan (ANV) driver within Mesa but at least from the testing there is increasing performance by just ~3%.

These Intel Gen9 performance optimizations will be part of the Mesa 19.2 release that should be out by early September and found in the likes of Fedora 31 and Ubuntu 19.10. I’ll be working on some fresh Intel Linux graphics benchmarks shortly.