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April 8, 2024

Understanding How Explicit Sync Will Solve NVIDIA/Wayland Issues: An Explanation by Developer

If you’ve ever questioned why certain Linux users encounter issues with an NVIDIA GPU on Wayland while you remain unaffected, a detailed explanation is provided by KDE developer Xaver Hugl in a recent article. It reveals how the explicit sync protocol will ultimately level the playing field for all parties.

Explicit sync or explicit synchronization, as it’s recently been integrated into the Wayland protocols, might ring a bell. So what is it exactly? Essentially, it’s a new approach based on DRM synchronization objects where apps clearly convey to the graphics driver, kernel, or compositor in the userspace when the rendering process is finished.

In the past, the rendering process by apps wasn’t instant. This technique, known as “implicit sync,” sees apps documenting a queue of commands with the OpenGL or Vulkan drivers for execution by the graphics card. This might be the cause behind some users facing issues with NVIDIA and Wayland.

“This architecture enables app developers to create functioning applications with ease, but it can also lead to problems,” Xaver Hugl elaborates. “The most pertinent problem for Wayland is that the application is oblivious to the tasks it synchronizes to, and there can be instances where you inadvertently synchronize with GPU commands that bear no relevance to your task.”

With the explicit synchronization in place, these “accidental” synchronization will no longer happen. In addition, Xaver Hugl says that it will boost performance by reducing the work drivers have to do because apps will just tell them directly instead of having to figure out the dependencies of tasks from a list of commands.

“There’s been a lot of discussions around the Internet between people experiencing the issues constantly, and others not seeing any, and now you should know why it doesn’t seem to affect everyone,” explains Xaver Hugl. “This means that a lot of factors – like the apps you use, the CPU and GPU you have, the driver version, the kernel, compositor, and so on – decide whether or not you actually see the issue.”

So, long story short, the explicit sync protocol is something NVIDIA GPU users should look for this year as it is being implemented in Wayland compositors, the proprietary NVIDIA driver, and Xwayland to finally make everyone happy and encourage the Wayland adoption among NVIDIA users.

Image credits: NVIDIA Corporation (edited by Marius Nestor)

Last updated 4 hours ago

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