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SubjectGeneric VESA framebuffer driver and Video card BOOT?
Hello All,

I am writing this email to guage the interest in having code contributed
to the main stream Linux kernel that would support the user of a generic,
full featured VESA framebuffer driver that works on any CPU architecture
along with a generic Video card BOOT or POST mechanism.

We have been working on a project under contract to ATI that involves
porting a version of our SNAPBoot BIOS emulator solution to the PowerPC
Linux kernel. The SNAPBoot code supports initialising a graphics card
using an x86 BIOS image on any platform (currently tesed on x86, x86-64
and PowerPC). Initially SNAPBoot was developed to work across multiple
operating systems and CPU architectures from user space, but the desire
to use it to initialise the graphics card on embedded PowerPC kernels
prompted us to port a version of it for use within the Linux kernel. The
version we have ported for use in the kernel can be used to initialise
the graphics card for use with any accelerated framebuffer console
driver, such as the radeonfb driver which we are currently using it with.

Note that the SNAPBoot code uses the x86emu BIOS emulator project as the
core CPU emulation technology, and project we have been actively involved
with for many years since the licensing on the project was changed to
MIT/BSD style licensing and incorporated into the XFree86 project. We
have built code on top of x86emu to provide generic support for
initialising graphics cards on multiple platforms as well as supporting
initialisation of modern NonVGA graphics cards (like the ATI Radeon
family) without needing access to real VGA resources such as VGA I/O
ports and physical memory at 0xA0000-0xBFFFF.

More importantly we have used SNAPBoot to port our generic VESA SNAP
display driver to work on multiple operating systems and platforms,
including both x86-64 and PowerPC platforms. Using this driver you can
use any graphics card in the machine and it will support all the features
provided by the graphics cards VESA BIOS, including support for refresh
rate control on cards that support VBE 3.0 services. We have been
actively testing both the SNAPBoot capability and the BIOS emulator on
many platforms and graphics cards, and the latest version work flawlessly
on just about every graphics card we have tested.

What this means is that it should be possible to build a new version of
the VESA framebuffer console driver for the Linux kernel that will have
these important features:

1. Be able to switch display modes on the fly, supporting all modes
enumerated by the Video BIOS.

2. Be able to support refresh rate control on graphics cards that support
the VBE 3.0 services.

3. Be able to support 8-bit and 32-bit display modes on any graphics card
on big endian machines (16-bit is not possible unless software rendering
code is written to enable endian swapping in software, which may be

So what we would like to find out is how much interest there might be in
both an updated VESA framebuffer console driver as well as the code for
the Video card BOOT process being contributed to the maintstream kernel.
If there is interest, we would start out by first contributing the core
emulator and Video BOOT code, and then work on building a better VESA
framebuffer console driver.

So what do you guys think?


Kendall Bennett
Chief Executive Officer
SciTech Software, Inc.
Phone: (530) 894 8400

~ SciTech SNAP - The future of device driver technology! ~

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