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Untangling The Linux Graphics Stack

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Software

As I tried to explain this a few times in the past to others and had trouble myself, when I started using Linux, I thought I take some time today and write down what parts comprise the Linux graphics stack and how they interact.

Let us start our little journey in the kernel. There, in a directory named gpu you'll find the drm directory, which contains all DRM drivers. In this post, we'll focus on those. The drivers in that directory are the kernel side of the Direct Rendering Infrastructure (DRI) and are responsible for managing concurrent access to the graphics hardware. They also provide interfaces to pass commands and data to the GPU. The DRI wiki explains the three main purposes of the DRM modules.

The DRM module is also the part that decides whether KMS or UMS is used. Other acronyms you might hear with regard to graphics acceleration on Linux and are referring to the Kernel part are:

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