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Escape the walled garden: Freeing the Apple GPU

In 2020, we had free graphics drivers for all major hardware. Enter "Apple Silicon", stage left. The new Macs shipped an in-house GPU with proprietary drivers, no public specs, and no native support for free operating systems. Even worse, the vendor's drivers are not conformant to any industry standard, forcing free software developers to waste time porting their graphics code to run inside the walled garden. What do we do? Reverse-engineer the hardware, of course. Once we dissect the architecture, we can build our own graphics stack, protect software freedom, and beat the big guy with our conformant OpenGL® 4.6 support. In this talk, we'll zoom in on this peculiar GPU and what it means for the fight for free software.

Presented by: Alyssa Rosenzweig

Alyssa Rosenzweig is the graphics witch behind the reverse-engineered drivers for the Apple GPU. She previously led Panfrost, the free drivers for Arm Mali GPUs powering devices like the Pinebook Pro. She graduated in 2023 with a Computer Science degree from the University of Toronto and now writes free software full-time.


2 weeks, 2 days ago

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LibrePlanet 2024 keynote · libreplanet-conference · lp2024 · LibrePlanet · LibrePlanet 2024 · FSF · LibrePlanet 2024 video · video


CC BY-SA 4.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.