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The interweb’s aflame with AMD Navi Linux driver rumours… but they’re all wrong


AMD haven’t shown signs of Navi in Linux drivers just yet, I’m afraid. At least not in any meaningful way. It would be nice to see some confirmation of AMD’s 7nm process reaching the stringent testing phase of GPU development, but unfortunately rumours of Linux drivers bringing Navi into the fold – which surfaced online recently and spread like wildfire – are nothing more than demo code.

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We’re no masters of Linux driver code, but Phoronix are, and it turns out we were right to doubt what seemed like fake code. Not only is the code from a demo file, it’s not even for Linux drivers – it’s for AMD’s UMR, or rather, their open-source GPU debugger software.

The code supposedly outlines Navi support due to the gfx10 nomenclature, which is likely to be the codename for Navi in development:

new_chip.gfx10.mmSUPER_SECRET => 0x12345670

This example code lies within a demo file for testing the UMR, not within the UMR itself. The true purpose of this code wasn’t uncovered as a result of some mystic divination or entrail reading, it’s all right there in the code itself. The SUPER_SECRET nomenclature is a little deterring, but the address code of 0x12345670 is far more abhorrent.

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The article also points to the AMD APU Carrizo architecture, which is referred to in the code as ‘Fakerizo’. This is filed under: git a/demo/npi/fakerizo. While the GPU reference was under: git a/demo/npi/new_chip.

Unfortunately, the 7nm process will take some time. It would be surprising to see AMD manage to figure out this new lithography /and/ next-gen memory by the end of 2018 – even if that was GDDR6. I’m not ruling out all hope, only remaining sceptical. Rumours tend to suggest a 2018 launch for the professional chips, after all.

We are sure to see more and more rumours of Navi in the coming year, with some of them, of course, ringing true as AMD engineers undoubtedly work tirelessly on their next GPU tech. However, we likely have many interesting releases awaiting us in 2018, and hopefully AMD are not rushing Navi to launch before the next-gen architecture has reached its potential. We haven’t even seen the full potential of Vega yet, so there’s a way to go.