The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) is a subsystem of the linux kernel that manages access to graphics cards (GPUs). It is the main video API used by X.org‘s xserver and the xf86-video-* video drivers. However, it can also be used by independent programs to program video output without using the xserver or wayland. In the past most other projects used the much older fbdev API, however, with more and more drivers being added to the DRM subsystem, there is really no reason to avoid DRM on modern computers, anymore. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any documentation of the DRM API, yet.
I have written a short introduction into the DRM mode-setting API, which can be found on github. It is a full C-file with detailed comments on what is needed to perform simple mode-setting with the DRM-API. I embedded the documentation directly into the source file as this makes reading a lot more convenient:
This document does not describe the whole DRM API. There are parts like the OpenGL-rendering-pipeline, which are driver-dependent and which should almost never be accessed outside of the mesa-3D implementation. Instead, this document describes the API which is needed to write simple applications performing software-rendering similar to fbdev but with the DRM API.
Furthermore, this document is not free of errors. So please contact me if something is wrong, if essential parts are missing or if you intend to extend this documentation.
More tutorials will follow, including “DRM double/triple-buffering”, “DRM vsync’ed pageflips”, “DRM hardware-accelerated rendering”, “DRM planes/overlays/sprites” and more.
I hope you enjoy this short introduction.
Edit: For a new series of How-To’s, see http://dvdhrm.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/advanced-drm-mode-setting-api/