Google ends Chrome hardware acceleration on 'old drivers'
Slackers lose interwebs 3D
Google has disabled Chrome hardware acceleration for systems with certain "older" graphics drivers, after noticing that such systems caused an unusual number of crashes.
"Over the last few months, we’ve made a lot of progress using graphics hardware (commonly referred to as the GPU) to make Chrome faster and more power-efficient," the company said in a blog post. "However, as we’ve rolled out features like WebGL and GPU-accelerated HTML5 video, we noticed a troubling trend: users with old graphics drivers experienced a significant increase in crashes when using these features. "
The company has put "ranges of old drivers" on a list that defaults systems to software rendering. WebGL content on these "out-of-date" systems will not display at all, but Google says it's "working to provide a software path so that these systems can run basic 3D applications".
These systems can still view HTML5 video and other formerly hardware-accelerated content, but naturally, performance won't be as high.
Chrome is the only browser that offers WebGL from its stable channel. Mozilla, Opera, and Apple also provide WebGL support but only from beta, preview, or nightly browser builds. Microsoft doesn't support the standard at all.
Google urges end users to install the latest major version of your operating system – such as Windows 7 or Mac OS 10.6 – and to regularly load all system and driver updates. Do as it says. At least in this case. ®
The WebGL revolution might take a while...
Your browser quite reasonably blacklists your driver to avoid a BSOD when you run WebGL Aquarium or some other eye candy because your driver was written by the work experience kid in Visual Basic. No problem, you think, I'll pop along to nVidia's, ATI's or Intel's website to get the latest version. It says no dice, you should go to your OEM's website. You then go to your OEM's website and find out the last update was a year and a half ago.
This is where several hours of your precious time disappear into reading up on registry hacks or you just give up on all this nonsense.
Point missed there, boyo!
Google are saying "These particular features don't work on these older drivers, so we disabled them for those older drivers."
They're even going so far as to write software versions of the features so you can have them back later.
Google are not alone here - pretty much every game silently cuts some features for certain driver versions, and if you read the release notes for nVidia and ATI drivers you'll see lots of "Fixed this crash, prevented graphics corruption here" etc. Checking game developer release notes (where published) you'll probably see similar things.
Graphics card drivers are probably the most complex low-level code on anyone's computer by far (much bigger than kernels), so it's really quite surprising that they don't go wrong more often.
I have a header file listing drivers and the bugs I've found in each. It's a pretty long file.