Last summer after a year of graduate school, I was looking for an interesting project to work on. After asking around, Chris Ball found me in the
#xorg-devel IRC channel and set me up working with One Laptop per Child. I started working with Chris and Jon Nettleton on improving the graphics performance of the ARM-based XO 1.75 laptop. The graphics drivers were in a state of flux, and in a number of cases the Sugar interface felt noticeably slower than on the VIA-powered XO 1.5. We wanted to know why it was slower and how to quantitatively measure graphics performance of real-world applications.
The Lemote Yeeloong is a small notebook that is often the computer of choice for Free Software advocates, including Richard Stallman. It's powered by an 800 MHz STMicroelectronics Loongson 2F processor and has an antiquated Silicon Motion 712 graphics chip. The SM712's acceleration features are pretty subpar for today's standards, and performance of the old XFree86 Acceleration Architecture (XAA) that supports the SM712 has slowly decayed as developers move to support newer hardware and newer acceleration architectures. In short, graphics performance of the SM712 isn't very good with new X servers, so how can we improve it?