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 …
Will it catch on?
I will move from XP to Windows 7 in my time, not Google's
Windows XP, along with Android and Linux, does an excellent job as an OS. It is stable, I haven't had to reboot this computer for weeks. It is capable, does everything I need. And it is not burdened by HDMI HDCP copy protection to tell me what I can view and what I can't.
I still run Firefox, and after this article I have now lost interest in Chrome. Doesn't Google understand that not all of us are Geeks? Some of us have to use computers as aids to actually get real-work done. Why should we be forced to learn a new OS, new anti-virus measures, new file-manipulation methods, new directory structures, just because Google wants us to switch to Windows 7?
Why doesn't Google doesn't want us to use VOIP with Google-Voice? Because it might reduce the telco carriers income?
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.
Some graphics drivers are too poor to have ever been releaased. I've seen drivers claiming support for features, then when you try to use said feature, hard lock the OS. Annoyling visual bugs are extremely common also. Having a blacklist of drivers that simply don't work is the only way to work around it.
I wouldn't say it was 'old drivers' - only yesterday we had a case where the latest driver for a card didn't work on windows 7 (it turned the 3d into impressionist art), forcing the customer to have a choice of rolling back to vista or buying a new laptop.
I have a header file listing drivers and the bugs I've found in each. It's a pretty long file.
Sometimes there are no new drivers
I still use an aging Pentium 4 laptop, and the drivers for the horrible basic Intel chipset graphics that that machine has haven't been updated for donkeys' years. However I run Chrome because it just seems to be much much quicker than Firefox on the same machine - Chrome is surprisingly good on legacy hardware.
If my graphics driver causes Chrome to crash when doing complex stuff with my rubbish hardware, I don't really see any problem having that functionality automatically switched off. I'm unlikely to do any fancy 3D stuff anyway on hardware that old.
On Windows you *need* to keep your drivers updated, so Google's advice there makes sense. But it's a bit cheeky to expect people to upgrade to Microsoft's latest OS just to run their web browser. XP works perfectly fine for most.
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.
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