Taiwanese chip makers step up Linux support

Two Taiwanese makers of graphics chips stepped up their support for Linux-based PCs this week by releasing the source code for some of their drivers to the open source community.

Via Technologies Inc. and XGI Technology Inc. both released source code for some of their products, mainly graphics chip and display drivers. The idea is that developers will use the code to create drivers for versions of the Linux operating system not supported directly by the companies.

Releasing the source code could make it easier for Linux users to find drivers for hardware they buy, which can be difficult. Most drivers are designed to work with Windows or the Mac operating system. The added Linux support is a further sign that it continues to gain momentum.

The initiative takes the companies’ support for Linux a step beyond that of some other chip makers. Although vendors such as Intel Corp. and ATI Technologies Inc. offer graphics drivers for some of the more popular Linux distributions such as Red Hat and Suse, the move by the Taiwanese companies allows developers to create versions of their drivers for any Linux system.

“The Linux community is growing strongly in today’s technology market. To incorporate the newest Linux developments (with) XGI’s graphics innovations, we have decided to open our source code for Linux,” said Derek Lin, vice president of software at XGI.

XGI released the driver source code for its graphics chips on Monday to the Linux community Web sites X.org, XFree86.org and Kernel.org. A day later, Via released the source code for its S3 Graphics UniChrome family of drivers.

Representatives from both companies said they decided to release the code in part due to requests from Linux users.

Intel has created its own Linux-based drivers for major Linux operating systems such as Red Hat or Suse. “Limited support is provided for Linux from Intel. Typically, Intel provides drivers, as applicable, to the major Linux distributions,” the company says on its Web site.

ATi, one of the world’s largest graphics chip makers, develops proprietary Linux drivers for Red Hat and Suse, according to its Web site.

“The Linux market is growing, not so fast, but it’s growing,” said Alan Tsao, software and services analyst for market research IDC in Taiwan.