This laptop has an Intel 855GM video card and according to the man page for the driver it should be able to use DRI. Every time I’ve tried this it has failed to initialise correctly, but finally having an application that needs such capabilities I decided to persue it a little more than before. By applying the patch found at http://www.jail.se/p7010/drm3.patch, rebuilding and rebooting DRM/DRI suddenly works for the card. This seems like a good thing, but the performance of the machine has slowed!
Running glxgears without any arguments before the changes resulted in figures around 600, with the patches it maxes out around 200. glxinfo still says that direct rendering isn’t enabled, despite the Xorg log saying it is.
Confusing. Apparently the code works better under freeBSD 7, but the laptop is still running 6-CURRENT. Looking around the web I found plenty of people talking of similar problems, but no real solutions beyond the patch I applied – which gets me further but still doesn’t give the solution I wanted.