Graphics Cards

Graphics on Linux has always been a bit of a challenge. Even today, there are inadequate drivers for most high-end video cards (or the drivers are not open source and cannot be distributed as a part of Linux directly) and the separation between what happens in user-space and what happens in the kernel has been ambiguous at best. Each iteration of Linux has improved on this somewhat, but there is still far to go to support hardware in a uniform and feature-complete way.

Linux 3.0 has included a new graphics-brokering subsystem. With compatible video drivers for the windowing system of choice, Linux is now able to securely delegate resources on the various devices between the GUI and the console as well as other applications which are competing for resources. Linux is also now aware of GPUs and issues related to GPU memory management and can assist applications and drivers to use those without contention. For users with a recent version of the X Window System, Linux 3.0 supports the Direct Rendering Infrastructure (“DRI”) to allow the use of 3D accelerated graphics. This functionality is another piece in the Linux video puzzle.

Not everyone can take advantage of today's whiz-bang graphics. Linux, the operating system, already supports accessibility options for the visually impaired. These functions are generally implemented as part of the distributions and are not necessary to be included in the kernel. This does lead to a gap between when a Linux system starts booting and when these accessibility options are activated, and prevents a visually-impaired person from using the system console. One improvement in Linux 3.0 is the inclusion of braille console support. This allows visually impaired Linux users and administrators to access text-mode Linux even prior to the launching of any other applications.

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