FreeBSD 12 and the graphics stack

Over the Christmas season I rebuilt my workstation — the one I use in my home office, all day every day, writing Calamares or FreeBSD ports or other stuff — to be almost-all-flash (and 3TB of spinning rust for backups). Since the machine was open and on its side on my desk anyway, I decided to try out the available graphics options.

As occurs so often: I’m not writing about something I did. It’s nearly all someone else’s work, and the FreeBSD 12.0 release notes understate it a great deal.

Various improvements to graphics support for current generation hardware.

  • Intel iGPU My machine has an Intel Skylake i7 in it, so it’s got an iGPU. The graphics/drm-kmod port supports this, and so I installed the i915kms kernel module, followed instructions, fiddled around with some settings. Results: Video works, with 2 monitors. Sound over HDMI works, although I needed to configure the Plasma mixer to use pcm instead of vol as the OSS volume knob to turn.
  • nVidia GTX730 The cheapest and most fanless card I could get two years ago. This needs the (proprietary) x11/nvidia-driver as well as an Xorg configuration file, and some other settings for sound. Results: Video works, with 2 monitors. Sound over HDMI works, with the default mixer setup.
  • Radeon R7 360 This is a friend’s old gaming card. While it’s supposed to be supported by graphics/drm-kmod, all I got out of it was screen buffer corruption on loading the driver and no X after that. I didn’t bother debugging this because the choice for a zero-extra-power part (i.e. the iGPU) was easily made.

In any case the new release and graphics improvements make it much easier to run FreeBSD on laptops and systems without a discrete GPU (I should get a Ryzen 2200G or something like that to see how other Radeon graphics do .. or debug the one I’ve got).

2 thoughts on “FreeBSD 12 and the graphics stack

  1. Thanks for the test results. In particular for the note that HDMI audio works with Intel iGPU on FreeBSD 12. Do you know approximately when this support appeared, and what is the status of HDMI audio on other BSDs?

    • I imagine that this support appeared in the drm-kmod-next SVN branch. For a while there was a similarly-named port, I think. But I’m not a student of the history of this feature — just happy that upgrading from 11.2 to 12.0 also made it easy to remove the discrete video card from my machine. (Btw, there’s *also* a drm-fbsd11-kmod port, which might do the trick for the other supported release).

      As for HDMI audio in other BSDs, no idea — my days are full just watching one of them 😐