Nvidia Offers Linux an Olive Branch With Open-Source Drivers

Nvidia Offers Linux an Olive Branch With Open-Source Drivers

Last year, Linux founder Linus Torvalds called Nvidia the "single worst company" Linux has ever worked with.

Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux platform, famously gave Nvidia the finger at a Q&A session last year, telling attendees that the graphics card manufacturer was the "single worst company" Linux has ever worked with. This made Nvidia very sad, and it has recently been trying its best to get back on Torvalds' good side. Its latest attempt to extend an olive branch to Linux has been with a pledge to improve its open-source drivers.

One of the things Torvalds criticized about Nvidia was the near non-existent documentation for Nouveau, an open-source driver for Nvidia cards that is built by reverse engineering Nvidia's proprietary drivers. Nvidia's Andy Ritger recently e-mailed the Nouveau developers, stating:

"Nvidia is releasing public documentation on certain aspects of our GPUs, with the intent to address areas that impact the out-of-the-box usability of Nvidia GPUs with Nouveau. We intend to provide more documentation over time, and guidance in additional areas as we are able."

The reaction from Nouveau developers has generally been positive, with several devs offering praise to Nvidia for changing its tune.

Torvalds himself responded to the news by stating: "I'm cautiously optimistic that this is a real shift in how Nvidia perceives Linux. The actual docs released so far are fairly limited, and in themselves they wouldn't be a big thing, but if Nvidia really does follow up and start opening up more, that would certainly be great."

Source: Arts Technica

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...Nice picture.

Looks like Linux may finally gain some traction in gaming. It could be better, but at least its a start.

...Arts Technica? Go full latin or full english, not half of each! :P

Also, I like how this is right after the SteamOS announcement...

Is the headline misleading, or am I just reading it wrong? It makes it sound like Nvidia is open-sourcing their drivers, but then apparently all they're doing is releasing some documentation that might be helpful to the Nouveau developers (and promising to be nice to them from now on). Which means this isn't particularly relevant to gaming on Linux, since you're probably using the proprietary drivers for that right now.

As far as I know Nvidia has always released binaries for Linux unless I am totally wrong and the binaries were developed independently by the Nouveau project.

I doubt that is the case. I think many Linux devices use Nvidia chipsets. While I've been suspended for a while during the whole toss up around SteamOS its been pretty obvious that regular folks have some very misguided notions about what Linux is and are willing to discuss things endlessly in online discussion forums nevertheless. Only about 1 post every couple pages in these Linux related articles of late even touches on the reality with Linux.

At any rate, what open-source drivers would mean for Linux, is that drivers could be compiled, and thus work with any variety of hardware, or architecture, even those which Nvidia has never blessed (by way of maintaining public (black box) binaries on a per architecture basis.) Even something really exotic, or something literally no one has ever heard of, not even Nvidia, because it's a private venture of some kind. Or at least that's my take away.

Open source graphics drivers would be a huge deal. Open source hardware specifications would be an even bigger deal. Once there is open hardware that can play games decently etc, things will get very interesting. Not the least of which is the problem that developing for closed sources software and hardware can feel really unethical, depending on how evolved a developer you are. If not unethical, at least insulting, to know you are putting so much work into something that is completely dependent on something else that you and everyone else are not allowed to comprehend.

At any rate this could be really good news. And could well be the result of this Valve company leaning on Nvidia. Which could hint at collaboration between the two in the future.

Vim-Hogar:
Is the headline misleading, or am I just reading it wrong? It makes it sound like Nvidia is open-sourcing their drivers, but then apparently all they're doing is releasing some documentation that might be helpful to the Nouveau developers (and promising to be nice to them from now on). Which means this isn't particularly relevant to gaming on Linux, since you're probably using the proprietary drivers for that right now.

It would be unrealistic for Nvidia to make its drivers open source. Or at least the company couldn't be expected to maintain the open source drivers, unless it was "technically open source" which is something that really rubs me raw... where yes you can see the source, but no, no one can realistically do anything about it, because the maintainers are total knobs.

It's much more realistic, and a better situation, conflict of interest and all, to let an independent organization deal with all of that. Better for Nvidia too, because it wouldn't have to spend much money, and could only reap rewards from increasing the popularity of its hardware.

Well if Lord Gaben says something is the future, people listen I suppose.

Like the 2 posters above said, no, it's not open source drivers. It's 'more documentation' for their closed stuff.

An easy mistake to make, since nobody except Linux geeks really know what 'open source' means. Still bummer, I almost got a heart attack that Nvidia would open their drivers... Oh well.

Sgt. Sykes:
Like the 2 posters above said, no, it's not open source drivers. It's 'more documentation' for their closed stuff.

The title is a tad misleading....

Would've been nice, it might have just found the solution to the drivers people are having problems with lately...I'm still waiting Nvida.

Now they just need to convince people to start using openGL instead of DirectX and we gamers may actually start using Linux.

Now if AMD released some good docs for their GPUs, that'd be nice. Being on a 4-display configuration, I can't exactly use anything else, can I?

Let's hope the OpenGL performance of future open source drivers is better than Windows by a factor, because that would certainly make companies switch over in the next few years (and with Linux being propagated inside companies, programs get written for it and more people thus start using it. It's a snowball effect, just on a much grander scale than just one tiny mountain).

Alleged_Alec:
Now they just need to convince people to start using openGL instead of DirectX and we gamers may actually start using Linux.

If you mean the developers, id already does. The rest of them should already have something along the lines implemented for the PS4, so I don't really see a problem to get that done other than them being hugely incompetent at recognising an emerging market.
If you mean normal users, then you're wrong. The developer decides what API its graphics engine uses, and most programmers are accustomed to D3D, so that gets used (even if it usually offers a worse performance in almost any application). Gone are the days of Half-Life when you could choose if you wanted your game to use OpenGL, 3dfx Glide, Windows D3D, render on the CPU or even just use null output (that is, not show anything at all, which is used for debugging purposes).

Source should read Ars Technica, not Arts Technica(or Arts Technia on the photo.).

Matthi205:
Now if AMD released some good docs for their GPUs, that'd be nice. Being on a 4-display configuration, I can't exactly use anything else, can I?

Let's hope the OpenGL performance of future open source drivers is better than Windows by a factor, because that would certainly make companies switch over in the next few years (and with Linux being propagated inside companies, programs get written for it and more people thus start using it. It's a snowball effect, just on a much grander scale than just one tiny mountain).

Alleged_Alec:
Now they just need to convince people to start using openGL instead of DirectX and we gamers may actually start using Linux.

If you mean the developers, id already does. The rest of them should already have something along the lines implemented for the PS4, so I don't really see a problem to get that done other than them being hugely incompetent at recognising an emerging market.
If you mean normal users, then you're wrong. The developer decides what API its graphics engine uses, and most programmers are accustomed to D3D, so that gets used (even if it usually offers a worse performance in almost any application). Gone are the days of Half-Life when you could choose if you wanted your game to use OpenGL, 3dfx Glide, Windows D3D, render on the CPU or even just use null output (that is, not show anything at all, which is used for debugging purposes).

I indeed mean the developers. If the PS4 indeed uses openGL and not some proprietary API, that's a good thing. Let's hope it catches on.

Realistically, while I know a ton of people are excited for Linux, Windows is still going to be going strong for a while: at least until we can't get windows 7 OS discs and licenses anymore. Truth be told, Linux is still a learning curve experience for anyone used to a windows or mac system due to how open it is. Windows and Mac OSX are designed to be run from the Graphic User Interface almost exclusively, while Linux is usable in any regard.

Alleged_Alec:

Matthi205:
-snip-

Alleged_Alec:
Now they just need to convince people to start using openGL instead of DirectX and we gamers may actually start using Linux.

If you mean the developers, id already does. The rest of them should already have something along the lines implemented for the PS4, so I don't really see a problem to get that done other than them being hugely incompetent at recognising an emerging market.
If you mean normal users, then you're wrong. The developer decides what API its graphics engine uses, and most programmers are accustomed to D3D, so that gets used (even if it usually offers a worse performance in almost any application). Gone are the days of Half-Life when you could choose if you wanted your game to use OpenGL, 3dfx Glide, Windows D3D, render on the CPU or even just use null output (that is, not show anything at all, which is used for debugging purposes).

I indeed mean the developers. If the PS4 indeed uses openGL and not some proprietary API, that's a good thing. Let's hope it catches on.

The PS3 used a proprietary API based on OpenGL, and the PS4 is expected to run on OpenGL completely. We aren't certain yet, we only know that the console is going to be running Sony's BSD derivative again.

Colt47:
Realistically, while I know a ton of people are excited for Linux, Windows is still going to be going strong for a while: at least until we can't get windows 7 OS discs and licenses anymore. Truth be told, Linux is still a learning curve experience for anyone used to a windows or mac system due to how open it is. Windows and Mac OSX are designed to be run from the Graphic User Interface almost exclusively, while Linux is usable in any regard.

I might be wrong, but: businesses not using Linux is the problem, and not the normal home users. Business is what most software is made for. And more accurately, what SAP is made for. Most big companies run that gargantuan piece of software, and only because it doesn't run (at least not completely I'm afraid) on Linux, most companies aren't willing to make the switch. That's not to mention that they'd need to double their IT staff for quite a while.
As for the "Linux is usable entirely from the keyboard" argument: most of the desktop suites for it are a pain to use without a mouse (and I should know, Xorg has massive problems with my mouse). If you drop to the command prompt, yes it's completely usable and it's even quite comfortable. But the only people that normally do that are people that have slow-ass computers (me a few years ago, on a 154MB RAM PPC Mac) or blind people (it's incredibly useful for them as the screen reader doesn't get annoyed by any images and anything is entirely usable with the keyboard).

Sadly as long as DirectX remains the preeminent gaming standard (which with the XBone/DX11 on the horizon looks set to continue) Linux can't take off as a proper gaming platform. It's quite tragic that in spite of Microsoft giving up on PC gaming almost a decade ago, Windows is still the dominant gaming platform just because of Direct-Fu****g-X.

From what I understand however, OpenGL isn't a great alternative for engine devs and with all AAA titles being cross platform now, DX fits two of the three platforms so makes sense in that regard.

Matthi205:

Alleged_Alec:

Matthi205:
-snip-

If you mean the developers, id already does. The rest of them should already have something along the lines implemented for the PS4, so I don't really see a problem to get that done other than them being hugely incompetent at recognising an emerging market.
If you mean normal users, then you're wrong. The developer decides what API its graphics engine uses, and most programmers are accustomed to D3D, so that gets used (even if it usually offers a worse performance in almost any application). Gone are the days of Half-Life when you could choose if you wanted your game to use OpenGL, 3dfx Glide, Windows D3D, render on the CPU or even just use null output (that is, not show anything at all, which is used for debugging purposes).

I indeed mean the developers. If the PS4 indeed uses openGL and not some proprietary API, that's a good thing. Let's hope it catches on.

The PS3 used a proprietary API based on OpenGL, and the PS4 is expected to run on OpenGL completely. We aren't certain yet, we only know that the console is going to be running Sony's BSD derivative again.

Colt47:
Realistically, while I know a ton of people are excited for Linux, Windows is still going to be going strong for a while: at least until we can't get windows 7 OS discs and licenses anymore. Truth be told, Linux is still a learning curve experience for anyone used to a windows or mac system due to how open it is. Windows and Mac OSX are designed to be run from the Graphic User Interface almost exclusively, while Linux is usable in any regard.

I might be wrong, but: businesses not using Linux is the problem, and not the normal home users. Business is what most software is made for. And more accurately, what SAP is made for. Most big companies run that gargantuan piece of software, and only because it doesn't run (at least not completely I'm afraid) on Linux, most companies aren't willing to make the switch. That's not to mention that they'd need to double their IT staff for quite a while.
As for the "Linux is usable entirely from the keyboard" argument: most of the desktop suites for it are a pain to use without a mouse (and I should know, Xorg has massive problems with my mouse). If you drop to the command prompt, yes it's completely usable and it's even quite comfortable. But the only people that normally do that are people that have slow-ass computers (me a few years ago, on a 154MB RAM PPC Mac) or blind people (it's incredibly useful for them as the screen reader doesn't get annoyed by any images and anything is entirely usable with the keyboard).

It's more of a combination of both home users and business users making use of Windows. The reason it is so popular to begin with is because people who are used to a home premium version of windows already have some experience using the Operating system, so it's mostly just software that runs on the OS that has to be learned.

Steven Bogos:
One of the things Torvalds criticized about Nvidia was the near non-existent documentation for Nouveau, an open-source driver for Nvidia cards that is built by reverse engineering Nvidia's proprietary drivers.

As someone who works with Linux on occasion and has had to learn new command-line software on a whim before: It is impossible to explain how FREAKING AGGRAVATING this is.

Seriously, companies that don't provide detailed documentation for their products should be shot.

I'm very pleased that Nvidia is adding more documentation. VERY pleased. More documentation for everyone!

Colt47:
Realistically, while I know a ton of people are excited for Linux, Windows is still going to be going strong for a while: at least until we can't get windows 7 OS discs and licenses anymore. Truth be told, Linux is still a learning curve experience for anyone used to a windows or mac system due to how open it is. Windows and Mac OSX are designed to be run from the Graphic User Interface almost exclusively, while Linux is usable in any regard.

I installed Mint on my netbook and never looked back. It runs much faster now than under Windows and I had no issues at all, apart from having to download one driver, for which I found a very good guide on how to do that.
Yes, if you're going to be using a light version of Linux, it has a pretty steep learning curve. However, I'd say that Mint and some other distros are much easier. Little need to much about with antivirus, which often are a pain in the arse, a great update manager and a very good manager for installing new software.

Ed130:
Looks like Linux may finally gain some traction in gaming. It could be better, but at least its a start.

I'm curious if this has anything to do with Gabe Newell prodding from behind the scenes? Pure speculation, but if he's serious about creating a SteamBox/SteamOS that can run Windows games, this seems like a great place to start. It's just that the combination of recent events doesn't seem completely coincidental.

Nvidia finally writes documentation that isn't shit you mean?
That's about the only thing they are doing, and so far what they handed out was still very limited, maybe Nvidia will offer something of value down the line now that Gabe is kicking down the doors but these guys are working very hard on carving out a very closed proprietary PC market of their very own.

That is why they got that finger in the first place.

NVidia's documentation is shit, but their closed source drivers are pretty good. AMD (and ATI before them) only release documentation because they couldn't be bothered to release decent Linux (and BSD) drivers. And let's not forget that NVidia were among the first hardware manufacturers to actively support Linux, despite Torvalds & Co making things as difficult as possible by not having a stable kernel API.

 

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