In the past few weeks, I was examining two issues on vkms: development of writeback support and alpha blending. I try to keep activities in parallel so that one can recover me from any tiredness from the other :P

Alpha blending is a TODO[1] of the VKMS that possibly could solve the warning[2] triggered in the cursor-alpha-transparent testcase. And, you know, if you still have a warning, you still have work.

  1. Blend - blend value at vaddr_src with value at vaddr_dst
     * TODO: Use the alpha value to blend vaddr_src with vaddr_dst
     *	 instead of overwriting it.
  2. WARNING: Suspicious CRC: All values are 0

To develop this feature, I needed to understand and “practice” some abstractions concepts: alpha composition, bitwise operation, and endianness. The beginning was a little confusing, as I was reading many definitions and rare seeing practical examples, which was terrible for dealing with abstractions. I searched for information on Google and little by little, the code was taking shape in my head.

The code, the problem solved and a new problem found

I combined what I understood from these links above with what was already on VKMS. An important note is that I consider that when we combine an alpha layer in the background, this final composition is solid (that is, an opaque alpha), that is, the result on the screen is not a transparent plate - it is usually black background. That said, the resulting alpha channel is 100% opaque, so we set it to 0xFF.

When executing my code, the two test cases related to the alpha channel (opaque-transparent) pass clean. But for me, it still wasn’t enough. I need to see the colors read and the result of the composition (putting some pr_info in the code). Besides, only testing extreme values (background solid black, cursor completely white with totally opaque or transparent alpha) did not convince me. See that I’m a little pessimist and a little wary.

So I decided to play with the cursor-alpha testcase… and I scraped myself.


I changed the transparent test case from 0.0 to 0.5, and things started to fail. After a few rounds checking the returned values, what I always saw was a cursor color (ARGB) returned as follows:

  • A: the alpha determined (ok)
  • RGB: the color resulted by a white cursor with the set transparency already applied to a standard solid black background (not ok).

For example, I expected that a white cursor with transparency 0.5 returned the following ARGB = 80FFFFFF, but the VKMS was reading 80808080 (???)

What is that?

I did more experiments to understand what was going on. I checked if the 0.5-transparency was working on i915, and yes. I also changed the test RGB color of the cursor and the level of transparency. The cursor color read was always a combination of a given A + RGB blended with black color. I could only realize that the mismatch happens because, in the hardware test, when composing a cursor color 80808080, again on a background FF000000 (primary), I obtained as the final result FF404040. However, in the software test step, what was drawn as a final color FF808080.

The developed code would also do that if it was getting the right color… how to deal with it and why it is not a problem on i915 drive?

Reading the documentation

I was reading the cairo manual in addition to perform different color combinations tests. I was suspicious that it could be a format problem, but even if it was that, I had no idea what was “wrong”. After some days, I found the reason:


each pixel is a 32-bit quantity, with alpha in the upper 8 bits, then red, then
green, then blue. The 32-bit quantities are stored native-endian.
Pre-multiplied alpha is used. (That is, 50% transparent red is 0x80800000, not

Pre-multiplied alpha is used. Thanks, cairo… or not!

But what is pre-multiplied alpha? I didn’t even know it existed.

So, I needed to read about the difference between straight and premultiplied alpha. Moreover, I needed to figure out how to do alpha blending using this format.

After some searching, I found a post on Nvidia - Gameworks Blog that helped me a lot to understand this approach. Besides, the good old StackOverflow clarified what I needed to do.

So I adapted the code I had previously prepared considering a straight alpha blending to work with alpha-premultiplied colors. Of course, I put pr_info to see the result. I also played a little more with the cursor and background colors on kms_cursor_crc test for checking. For example, I changed the background color to a solid red and/or the cursor color and/or the cursor alpha value. In all this situation, the patch works fine.

So, I just sent:

A new interpretation for the warning

Examining this behavior, I discovered a more precise cause of the warning. As VKMS currently only overwrites the cursor over the background, a fully transparent black cursor has a color of 0 and results in a transparent primary layer instead of solid black. When doing XRGB, VKMS zeroes the alpha instead of making it opaque, which seems incorrect and triggers the warning.

I also think that this shows the weakness of the full opaque/transparent tests since they were not able to expose the wrong composition of colors. So I will prepare a patch for IGT to expand the coverage of this type of problem.

Well, doing the alpha blending, the warning will never bothered me anyway.

Let it go!