Purpose: The primary purpose of this blog post is to introduce Linux graphics driver state for Intel’s Poulsbo (a.k.a US 15W) chipset, specifically for the GMA 500 graphics chip. In this blog post, we will see lot of resources where you can go and look for information regarding the driver status for your distribution (like Debian, Fedora) .

Intel Atom processor

Source: Intel's website

Background – Driver Status

Unfortunately Linux support for the GMA 500 (graphics) component of this chipset has not been so great so far. There are no official upstream sources maintained by Intel so far unlike their xserver-xorg-video-intel package for their other chipsets. It seems that Intel has contracted the development of driver for this chipset to Tungsten Graphics.

At this time of writing Dell is the only major supplier which supplies a netbook called Dell Mini 12 with this particular chipset and they official support Ubuntu on this netbook. So naturally Ubuntu Mobile, Ubuntu distribution for Mobile Internet Devices (MID), does have support this chipset. So basically between Dell, Intel, Tungsten and Ubuntu, the driver has been developed – sort of in a close loop so far and the source packages for this driver sits at some obscure repositories on Ubuntu Mobile’s Jaunty repository at multiple locations and the drivers is still known to be quite buggy.

Following are some of the go-to places to get the Poulsbo driver support information based for the Linux distribution that you are using:

Ubuntu

Congratulations!!! If you are using Ubuntu then you don’t need to worry about compiling driver packages for this chipset as Ubuntu Mobile comes with support packages since Dell officially also claims to support Ubuntu Mobile on their Dell Mini 12.

Fedora

Good news!!! For people using Fedora, they can simply go to AdamW‘s website which has all the information to get your Poulsbo graphics driver working on Fedora. See the comments section of that website to discover value information specially if you are having trouble to get the graphics driver working. From time-to-time updates on Poulsbo driver has been posted, so check them out.

Gentoo

There is this one guy who posted in his comments on AdamW’s blog post that he was able to get the sources packages to compile on Gentoo also.

Debian

Here is the bad and good news. The bad news is that nobody from Debian team has taken any ownership of this task – to get the Poulsbo source packages to compile cleanly on Debian system. Also, some of the other main reasons for people not willing to take on this packages is that the package is very buggy as mentioned before and also the 3D component of this driver contains some proprietary (black magic) code.

The good news is that you can too compile and install these packages (with 3D working) successfully (although not in a cleanly manner) on your Debian systems. After posting a message on debian-devel mailing list, I was advised to file an ITP (Intent To Package) request for this package. After posting the ITP for xserver-xorg-video-psb, there were couple of people who successfully compiled and installed these packages (with 3D working) from Ubuntu Mobile’s sources on their Debian systems after making some modifications. I took the pointers provided by these people and was able to compile and install the Poulsbo’s XOrg driver (psb.ko) and framebuffer driver (psbfb) on my Debian Stable (Lenny system). Since then I have got couple of emails requesting to highlight the steps, which are not very different from Adam’s on that ITP, that I followed to get the graphics driver working.

In one of my next post, we will see step-by-step instructions on how to compile and install the Poulsbo (GMA 500) graphics chipset driver packages on Debian Stable (Lenny) and Debian Testing/Unstable (Sid) with 3D working at least in Debian Unstable (Sid).

Hope this post provided with all sorts of information that you need to get acquainted with Poulsbo Linux driver support on Linux distributions. Hopefully, Intel will take the initiative to create an upstream source (the right way to do it) for this package and maintain it.

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