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English (US)   reflecting on releases  -  Categories: Announcements [A]  -  @ 11:46:00 am

Releases in graphics land

I’ve spent a lot of time recently getting some fairly ancient pieces of work pushed up stream, and it got me to thinking about how quickly we push new code upstream in the DRM, xf86-video-intel, Mesa and X server trees.


My primary interest lately has been the DRM tree, where two of the big features I’ve helped create took way too long (IMO) to land on actual user machines. So how have we done there?

2.6.27..today6346 files changed, 7894 insertions, 2132 deletions
2.6.26..2.6.274994 files changed, 58047 insertions, 0 deletions (tree moved to drivers/gpu)
2.6.25..2.6.263829 files changed, 2937 insertions, 1335 deletions
2.6.24..2.6.254763 files changed, 2721 insertions, 956 deletions
2.6.23..2.6.241765 files changed, 2388 insertions, 3153 deletions
2.6.22..2.6.232777 files changed, 2609 insertions, 2528 deletions

Honestly, I expected to see more quantitative evidence of the qualitative changes we’ve made recently, but maybe that’ll take awhile to show up in the stats. The real issue though is the disparity in commits to the DRM tree vs. what got merged upstream: there were 1165 commits to the DRM tree in the timeframe above, including fairly infrequent libdrm changes, while the kernel only saw 241. At a high level that would seem to indicate that we did a pretty poor job of keeping the upstream kernel up-to-date, at least until recently.


For xf86-video-intel, I think things have been pretty good since we started doing quarterly releases. Our time based schedule means that users get new features and bug fixes in a fairly timely manner, though there occasional exceptions like feature trees that don’t get merged for a long time, if ever. For example the batchbuffer and kernel mode setting branches never got merged (though support for those features ended up in master anyway in different forms). We’ve been doing this for long enough that I don’t think commit stats would mean much (though it would be intresting to plot commit counts over time along with bugs reported and fixed I’m not going to do that today).


Mesa tends to see a lot of churn since it includes both the core 3D engine (and Gallium too these days) and all of the supporting drivers. Its release schedule isn’t as predictable as the kernel’s or xf86-video-intel though, which makes it hard to know when a given fix or feature will end up in the hands of users. AFAICT it operates on the “when it’s ready” release schedule, which is good and bad. Releases tend to be stable and long lived, but new features and fixes sometimes take awhile to get out. This is why for Intel we end up doing branched releases of Mesa every quarter so our latest driver fixes are available to distros and users right away. Any changes to the way Mesa works would probably need more developer time, which is fairly scarce in the open source graphics world, so I don’t expect this to change anytime soon. (I didn’t dig through the Mesa logs to see how things are here, so dear lazyweb etc.).)

X server

What can one say for the X server itself? Let’s see how frequent those releases are:

xorg-server-1_1_0May 22, 2006ajax
xorg-server-1.2.0January 23, 2007ajax
xorg-server- 19, 2007keithp
xorg-server-1.4September 6, 2007anholt
xorg-server-1.5.0September 3, 2008ajax

Releases have been all over the place, from about a year apart to a few months, with correspondingly inconsistent release tags. I think this reflects both a lack of developer power and lack of clear ownership for the X server: no one person or organization “owns” the X server enough to make sure releases happen frequently, and getting people to fix server bugs for a given release is like herding cats, so release managers end up with the herculean task of doing everything themselves. Personally, I think pulling the drivers back into the server module would alleviate this somewhat, since it would give driver developers an interest in making sure the server is in good shape, and probably also induce them to work on server features and bugs so that releases could happen on a regular schedule. Very few people share this opinion though, so I’m not hopeful that people will agree to it anytime soon.

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