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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2019-12
End: 2022-10
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Port of AMDVLK/RADV 3D Driver to the Libre-SOC

Adapt Vulkan Drivers to the Libre-SoC

The Libre SoC is being developed to provide a privacy-respecting modern processor, developed transparently and as libre to the bedrock as possible. As a hybrid processor, it is intended to be both a CPU and a GPU. GPUs are typically proprietary (and thus not fully transparent), as is the 3D driver software. The SoC design requires a Vulkan compliant hybrid hardware-software API. The development of the Kazan 3D Driver (developed from scratch inside the Libre SoC) that aims to provide such an API is therefore on the critical path to final release. Given the complex nature of 3D driver development, and because Kazan is a novel approach (written in rust, for security reasons) that dependency is considered a liability. This project develops a second, more traditional Mesa3D driver in c++. This reduces the pressure on the Kazan development, and allows for benchmarking and increased transparency and collaboration on this ambitious project.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

When you go to a store to buy a laptop or mobile phone, you may see different brands on the outside but choice in terms of what is inside the box (in particular the most expensive component, the processor technology) is pretty much limited to the same core technologies and large vendors that have been in the market for decades. This has a much bigger effect on the users than just the hefty price tag of the hardware, because the technologies at that level impact all other technologies and insecurity at that level break security across the board.

In the field of software, open source has already become the default option in the market for any new setup. In hardware, the situation is different. Users - even very big users such as governments - have very little control over the actual hardware security of the technology they critically depend on every day. Security experts continue to uncover major security issues, and users are rightly concerned about the security of their private data as well as the continuity of their operations. But in a locked-down market there is little anyone can do, because the lack of alternatives. European companies are locked out of the possibility to contribute solutions and start new businesses that can change the status quo.

This ambitious project wants to deliver the first completely open computer processor in history - one you don' t have to merely trust, because you can verify and modify everything about it. All of the technology included, from top to bottom, will become available for inspection, and can be tuned by anyone technically capable enough. This will significantly contribute to the creation a new generation of computer technologies, as well as more energy efficient and cheaper devices. NGI Zero funds several important building blocks of this project, like this effort to develop completely transparent 3D driver software. Ultimately these building blocks will come together in a transparent computer processor that can make our computing devices more trustworthy.

Run by The Libre RISC-V SoC

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.