xf86-video-i740 Version 1.4 released

Here is the announcement post.  I cross posted it over at Intel-gfx mailing list.  I do not mean to bother Intel people, but hey, it is your company’s old chip, hence, the announcement post had to be cross posted there.

For those who do not know what Intel740 is (was), as of now (end of Year 2018), it is the only Intel discrete graphics chip to officially ship ever since Intel got deeply involved in the x86 PC system business with the likes of PCI bus and USB.  And yes, that was almost 21 years ago.  Intel is getting ready to get “back” into the discrete graphics business (again), possibly as a way to fill their expensive fab with silicon wafers.  As an amateur hardware industry watcher, I guess they must have sensed that they are not very good as a corporation at producing low cost and power products (i.e., smartphone SoC produced at TSMC), so they might as well concentrate on high power and margin discrete graphics products.  In general, it is understood in the industry that Intel is good at developing products on their own process technology using very high speed transistor. (although the transistors tend to be leakier compared to TSMC as a trade off)  Hence, its process technology emphasis matches the general direction the GPU industry is headed (i.e., use of GPU as a computation accelerator) where high performance is appreciated and high cost and power can be tolerated as long as the performance is outstanding.  These characteristics match Intel’s business model very well (i.e., x86 processor business), although they will have to be competitive overall against NVIDIA if they wanted to not lose money in it.

When I was an undergraduate student in EE (Electrical Engineering) some years ago, there was one lecturer who mainly taught graduate section of the department at this university.  I got to know this person because I took one graduate class with him. (a digital IC design class)  I was probably one of the five “American” (some “American” students were naturalized citizens who immigrated from another country) students out of 130 or so students who took the class. (Note: The class was had 2 sections with total of about 130 or so students. The second section with 30 people were added due to popular demand.  I was in the 100 or so first section.)  I did get an A- grade for the class, but it really did not help me get a full time job after graduation.  I would imagine all the non-American students got jobs.  Some years ago, it was almost a sure thing for foreign graduate students in EE or CS to get jobs, unlike us American students.  This really is not true anymore, especially since Year 2014 or so.  There are simply too many foreign graduate students in the EE or CS, and there are not enough jobs to go around even for them.  I have seen two new college graduate MSEEs each toiling in a municipality mandated minimum wage (i.e., higher local minimum wage) job at $13.00 / hour with Optional Practical Training (OPT; it essentially acts like a shadow H-1B visa program for up to 3 years for foreign master’s and Ph.D. NCGs.) after graduation.  They were working on a computational accelerator card that contains an Intel Stratix 10 FPGA with the business owner who did not have any hardware industry experience before getting into hardware business . . .  It appeared that they (all of them; the business owner and two inexperienced MSEEs) were struggling due to lack of experience and very low staffing.  On the other hand, a friend of mine who also took this class together and did the class project together is still stuck in an unending “contract” employment loop reserved for some unlucky American citizens in the computer / electronics industry.

Going back to the main story, the funny thing was that this lecturer was far, far more accomplished than pretty much all tenured and tenure track professors combined who taught at the university’s EE department. (Note: I did not go to a name brand top tier university for that matter, hence, strange thing like this happens if you get someone accomplished from the industry willing to work for mere 1/3 of the pay of the tenured professors as a hobby / quasi retirement job.)  This person actually worked on the Intel740 project as a senior manager of the project, and he has told me that C&T (Chips & Technologies) developed VGA compatibility circuitry went into Intel740 and subsequent Intel integrated graphics starting with Intel 810 chipset.  Please note that he was not really involved in the 3D portion, and his specialization was in the VGA / 2D portion. (note the C&T reference)  Anyway, even though PC industry historians (Is there such a thing?) considered Intel740 to be something of a failure (I personally do not agree with this view, but that’s what some people say.), it is the original roots of pretty much all Intel integrated graphics a lot of people use today.

Considering that I personally know someone who worked on Intel740 project, it feels odd for me to get involved in releasing xf86-video-i740 DDX for X.Org X Server.  I did not really write any code for that matter (only one small patch to suppress a compilation warning), but I did test the pre-release version of the code on Shuttle AV40 mainboard.  This mainboard supports Intel Pentium 4 and has a universal AGP slot, (i.e., an AGP slot with 1.5 V and 3.3 V signaling support) and for Intel740, you need an AGP 3.3 V or universal slot.  By the way, Shuttle AV40 has VIA Technologies P4X266 chipset and that’s the reason why I was able to test Intel740 with Intel Pentium 4.  (Note: Intel chipsets since Intel 850 chipset do not support AGP 3.3 V signaling.)

Actually, Real 3D (a joint venture between the notorious money wasting defense contractor called Lockheed Martin and Intel) had a graphics card called Starfighter PCI that used a PCI to AGP bridge and one or two SDRAM devices to act as texture storage, but it is a pretty rare graphics card, so I did not test the code on it since I do not own a copy of it.  I did test the code on Real 3D Starfighter AGP and an unknown Taiwanese vendor Intel740 AGP graphics card. (same one pictured)  Both of them worked fine.

Speaking of “an unknown Taiwanese vendor,” the same Intel740 senior project manager told me that around Year 1999, Intel dumped their unsold (i.e., unwanted) inventory of Intel740 in Asia (i.e., Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, but not Japan or South Korea) for something around $5 / chip, hence there were so many variants of Intel740 graphics card coming out of Asia at that time.  Before integrated graphics became the norm of the PC industry, there used to be something called $40 graphics card business (some of them even sold for $30), and Intel740 was eventually relegated to that bargain basement bin of the mom and pop computer dealers along with unpopular models from S3 (ViRGE and Trio3D), SiS (6326 and 305), and Trident Microsystems (3DImáge9750, 3DImáge9850, and Blade3D).  Integrated graphics pretty much killed off this category in the PC component business for all practical purpose. (The category still exists, but the volume is very small today.)

Getting back to my blog post, because one of my focus on my Linux based OS development is getting standby resume to work properly (Perhaps, my only significant contribution to OpenChrome Project.), I did test xf86-video-i740 DDX to see if it can handle resuming from ACPI S3 State.  Interestingly, Shuttle AV40 mainboard supports ACPI S3 State (Suspend to RAM or STR), and when I tested standby resume on NVIDIA GeForce 2 MX (running Nouveau DDX and DRM), it resumed flawlessly, so I was confident that ACPI S3 State resume handling code inside the BIOS will work fine.

The verdict for xf86-video-i740 DDX standby resume handling is that it does not lock up the system, but some registers are not being restored by the DDX mode setting code, hence, the display becomes disrupted.  I have seen something like that with OpenChrome DDX, and I was able to fix the issue eventually.  Perhaps, if I am willing to spend the time on it, I may be able to fix it, however, I do not really have the hardware register documentation for it.  If someone has it, please e-mail it to me.

In practice, xf86-video-i740 DDX is not practically usable even if you wanted to use it.  Honestly, I do not really think anybody still uses it today on Linux / BSD.  This is comment is coming from someone who gets ridiculed regularly for working on old graphics device drivers. (i.e., Phoronix articles written about me over the years and some of its visitor comments)  The device is not practically usable because 2D acceleration has been turned off ever since XAA has been removed from X Server, and without acceleration, the rendering speed is shockingly slow.  You will notice this if you try to move a window on Xfce window manager. (i.e., Xubuntu)

Anyway, I decided to release a new version because I am little by little cleaning up compilation warnings from various old DDXs, and xf86-video-i740 DDX was in better shape than other DDXs, as far as compilation warnings are concerned.

I may work on fixing the standby resume issue eventually, but I do not know when that will be.

2 thoughts on “xf86-video-i740 Version 1.4 released

  1. HUGE thanks for your work!! I would also like to remind all the people i have to argue with when asking them about fixing bugs in older Hardware when they then say “its not efficient to use those. Buy for the nature new ones.”. I live off-grid and produce my own energy based on used/broken solar panels i fix myself. I live out of the garbege of other people. My footprint in the nature is negative! I fix things and sell those so that no new things have to be produced. All the electrical energy i produce for free i can use it for what i want. I use old inefficient light bulbs i got for free. Runnig them out of coal-energy would be terrible. Running those heating devices out of ‘too much free electricity’ i have does not matter at any kind for the nature.

    Thanks to your work i can use my Hardware that have no Intel management inside with just free Software(free as in freedom). Thanks a lot!

    Like

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