Monday, May 5, 2014

FreeBSD Foundation Newcons Project Highlight

Spring Fundraising Campaign - Newcons Project Highlight

Our Spring Fundraising Campaign is in full swing, and we couldn't be more grateful for all your support! We are honored to be the stewards of your donations for the FreeBSD Project and community. Around half of our funding goes towards project development to help keep FreeBSD an innovative, reliable, and high-performance operating system

During our Spring Fundraising Campaign, we are highlighting the projects we are funding to show our commitment to helping FreeBSD. Please take a moment to read about the Newcons project.

What is the Newcons project?
The Newcons project provides a replacement system console for directly-attached displays, keyboards, and mice.  It replaces the legacy syscons driver, sc(4), and is short for “new console.”  Because it won’t be “new” forever and will become just “the console,” it is more correctly known by the name of the device driver, “vt.”

Why does FreeBSD need a new console?
Newcons provides a number of benefits, including support for Unicode and UTF-8, and double-width characters.  This eliminates the historical text-mode limit of 256 characters, and allows for Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) and other character set support on the console.

Without Newcons it’s not possible to switch back to the console after starting the X graphical environment.  Newcons allows this by integrating with Kernel Modesetting (KMS), the method of changing graphics modes used by current display hardware drivers and releases.  This integration also enables high-resolution consoles.

Newcons also provides an improved infrastructure that is not user-facing, but enables simplified support for new hardware.

What work is the Foundation sponsoring?
The Foundation awarded a development grant to Aleksandr Rybalko to implement missing functionality, and finish integration tasks.  Completed tasks include history buffer improvements, kernel mode setting integration, and additional hardware device support.  This work is already available in FreeBSD-CURRENT.

Documentation and performance improvements are the main outstanding tasks; font setting and other user interface features are also in progress.  The “vt” driver is expected to be available in the FreeBSD 10.1 release.

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