Tag Archives: mesa

Advanced DRM Mode-Setting API

I recently wrote a short How-To that introduces the linux DRM Mode-Setting API. It didn’t use any advanced techniques but I got several responses that it is a great introduction if you want to get started with linux DRM Mode-Setting. So I decided to go further and extend the examples to use double-buffering and vsync’ed page-flips.

The first extension that I wrote can be found here:


It extends the old example to use two buffers so we no longer render into the front-buffer. It reduces a lot of tearing that you get when using the single-buffered example. However, it is still not perfect as you might swap the front and back buffer during a scanout-period and the display-controller will use the new buffer in the middle of the screen. So I extended this further to do the page-flip during a vertical-blank period using drmModePageFlip(). You can find this example here:


This example also shows how to wait for page-flip events and integrate it into any select(), poll() or epoll based event-loop. Everything regarding page-flip-timing beyond that point depends on the use-cases and can get very hard to get right. I recommend reading Owen Taylor’s posts #1 and #2 on frame-timing for compositors.

There are still many more things like “DRM hardware-accelerated rendering”, “DRM planes/overlays/sprites”, “DRM flink/dmabuf buffer-passing” that I want to write How-Tos for. But time is short around Christmas so that’ll have to wait until next year.

Feedback is always welcome and you can find my email address in all the examples. Happy reading!


Linux DRM Mode-Setting API

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.

DRM-Modesetting HowTo

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 https://dvdhrm.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/advanced-drm-mode-setting-api/