XFree86 gives boost to Linux graphics

The XFree86 Project issues an update to let its software, a key part of Linux, work better with more-modern graphics chips and operating systems.

An open-source project to develop XFree86, a key part of Linux, has issued an update to let the software work with more-modern graphics chips and operating systems.

The low-profile XFree86 Project introduced version 4.3.0 of the software, a critical foundation for Linux and several other operating systems, later than expected. Release engineer David Dawes said on a mailing list in November he hoped it would emerge in mid-January.

XFree86, which handles many graphics display tasks for Linux, is a key part of the overall operating system. A version of the X11 windowing system for Unix, XFree86 is the mechanism that higher-level software such as games use to talk to specific video cards and to take advantage of features such as hardware acceleration.

XFree86 also is the foundation for graphical interface software such as Gnome and KDE, used by Linux.

Version 4.3.0 includes support for the 2D graphics acceleration features of ATI Technologies' Radeon 9000 series of graphics chips, as well as for the 3D graphics acceleration in some other ATI processors. It also works with Nvidia's GeForce4, GeForce FX and nForce 2 graphics chips and with several Intel chipsets that include graphics features.

In addition, the revamped 4.3.0 code has been written to work better with Apple computers running Mac OS X, according to the XFree86 project's Web site. The software should run faster and require less memory on Mac OS X systems and be able to use Mac OS X's own fonts. Despite this, Apple is releasing its own version of XFree86.

Support also has been added for chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices' as-yet-unreleased x86-64 processors--Athlon 64 and Opteron. The project says there is "experimental" support for Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system with UltraSparc processors.

Furthermore, XFree86 4.3.0 moves toward better font displays through the use of FreeType 2, a system for improved font display. FreeType 2 can draw several types of fonts, including TrueType, PostScript Type 1 and OpenType. The new system is better at anti-aliasing, the process of blurring curved or diagonal letter edges to make them appear less jagged on computer screens.