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Nvidia Drops Support For Its Open Source Driver 412

An anonymous reader writes "While Nvidia is not open-source friendly (despite public outcries over the years), they have traditionally supported the xf86-video-nv driver to provide basic mode setting support and other basic functionality. However, with the 'Fermi' and future products, even that open source support will cease to exist. Nvidia has announced they are dropping this open source support for future GPUs and really ending it altogether. Nvidia's recommendation is to just use the generic X.Org VESA driver to navigate their way to so that they can install the proprietary driver. Fortunately there is the Nouveau project that provides a 2D and 3D video driver for Nvidia's hardware, but Nvidia fails to acknowledge it nor support their efforts in any form." David Gerard points out that Nouveau is going into Linux 2.6.33.
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Nvidia Drops Support For Its Open Source Driver

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  • Re:Bad move.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:03PM (#31633860) Homepage

    Nvidia is so far the only company that managed to provide a high-quality proprietary Linux driver for their hardware.
    Others either provide high-quality open source drivers (ex: Intel) or crappy proprietary drivers (AMD/ATI).

    So dozens or not, Nvidia is doing fine as far as Linux-using gamers are concerned. Developers, on the other hand, could use a less hostile stance on documentation and vendor support of open drivers.

  • nVidia also ran? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:07PM (#31633918)
    Is nVidia turning into an "also-ran"? I'm not stating, I'm asking. The reason they are "protecting" their drivers is because it "contains" proprietary secrets. If I'm not mistaken Ati is kicking their ass right now so is their strategy paying off for them? nVidia spent a lot of money promoting themselves in game title screens while arguably Ati just went out and built better hardware. Perhaps nVidia needs to refocus on "technical" advances instead of "marketing" ones.
  • Open matters..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by budword ( 680846 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:07PM (#31633922)

    In the past, I've made it a point to buy nvidia cards, because of it's Linux support, even though that support wasn't Free as in Freedom. They are a for profit company, who supported a binary driver for my favourite GNU/Linux OS. (I am in favour of the whole for profit idea, but believe there is a place for open source software in it, like Red Hat.) However, since ATI was bought by AMD, and are putting out a truly free driver for their cards, I will buy exclusively ATI cards in the future.

    Open matters when I vote with my wallet. This will cost them my business at the very least.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:18PM (#31634024)

    NVidia is also voting with their wallet. They seem to feel that they're not getting enough in additional sales to cover the cost of supporting the open source driver.

    Why is it cheaper to support a proprietary driver where you have to do all the development yourself, then to help developing an open-source driver?

  • by GaryPatterson ( 852699 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:20PM (#31634042)

    Honest question - is it really worth their time (and costs) to write open-sourced drivers for Linux?

    Has anyone quantified the sales to show that Linux is a worthwhile market segment?

  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:23PM (#31634074) Journal

    Video support in is one thing, but NVIDIA cards are also used for high-performance computing via the CUDA environment. OpenCL (a potential alternative to CUDA) is mentioned as being part of Nouveau, but CUDA is a well-established solution.

    So what's the status now of HPC with NVIDIA cards?

  • Re:Bad move.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:39PM (#31634212)

    To be fair ATI makes crap drivers for all platforms, not just linux.

    Spoken like someone who's never owned any good ATI cards. Having been through the 9700 Pro and 9800 Pro days, I've rarely had problems with ATI cards at all. I went nVidia for my last computer and have been through 2 cards so far, they may well be the most unstable pieces of crap I've ever spent that much money on. Seriously, these were the highly rated, high end nVidia chips and both were BFGTech cards, and frankly they are unstable junk on any OS. ATI gets a bad rep, but having owned a half dozen or more of their high end cards, I've really never had any instability problems.

    There, you've had your anecdote for the day.

  • Re:Bad move.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ashridah ( 72567 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:12PM (#31634530)

    Just to make this anecdote war complete: I used to have an nvidia 285-based card. Ran perfectly, stable, no issues. Eventually, it passes it's used by date, and releases the magic smoke (case was on the hot side)

    I replaced it with an ati card: a HIS 5970, high end video card:
    Framerate issues in l4d2 after a level change
    Frequent hangs/crashes of the video system
    Drivers that blue screen the system during installation
    Drivers that can't upgrade to the next version without a full uninstall, boot to safe mode, and wipe using a driver cleaner
    Horrible flickering in GTA4 when shadows are turned on.
    And to cap it all off, the performance with a built-in-sli card is WORSE than the old 285 i used to have!

    (yeah, okay, it's windows for both, but the exact same system was 100% stable with one, and not with the other, the only difference being the card and the drivers.)
    I see your anecdote, and raise you one "surprise, both sides have issues, that's not what this story is about"

  • Re:Bad move.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bigbutt ( 65939 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:17PM (#31634560) Homepage Journal

    A pair of 4870's.

    I've had over a year of random boots, continually booting system until it warms up (I guess), and driver issues.

    One of the biggest problems with the drivers is that if you don't eradicate every bit from your system (I use a driver sweeper and registry cleaner), upgrades are very erratic. It took 10 months or so of upgrading, uninstalling and installing upgrades until I chased down the two tools and fully cleaned my system before applying the newest drivers. I still had problems but they were much reduced. With the latest clean up and drivers, the 512M card seems to have stabilized

    The 1 gig card still caused problems until I finally (after several months of posting errors to my trouble ticket at Diamond) got the ok to return it. Since its return, it hasn't had a single problem (it's been a week). Keeping my fingers crossed.

    And there, I've provided one in return.


  • Re:nVidia also ran? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:20PM (#31634596) Homepage Journal

    Maybe nVidia is following the path SGI did?

    Work hard, become top dog, and then sit on your haunches licking your nuts while your formerly-inferior competition whips by you.

  • Re:Bad move.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Draek ( 916851 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:48PM (#31634844)

    Exactly. NVidia users should really get out of their heads the notion that, if a company offers propietary drivers, they *must* be superior to the open-source ones in some shape or form.

    Sometimes, companies do stupid things like sending a terrible piece of software to compete with a superior one that's available with far less strings attached, and that they support as well, just because they can. AMD is one of those companies.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:50PM (#31634850) Homepage

    They don't have to support an open source driver. If they would just publish specs the community could take care of implementing them.

    1) You assume that there's a ready set of PDFs that could be uploaded somewhere. There's not, there's actually a mess of various documentation mixed in with tons of internal notes, foreign IP, trade secrets and stuff that was fixed in the driver and commented there but isn't really in a separate document at all. AMD has put a helluva lot of effort in creating a process to produce the documentation and get formal signoff from lawyers, technical experts and executives that this information is safe to release. Often they've given up on documentation and found it's easier to produce a clean code snippet and get that through the review - it's far from a trivial process.

    2) Since it's normally a one-to-one hardware-driver combination, things get redone. A lot. Many things are simply removed and replaced by software, kind of like winmodems. It's not like you build a OpenGL 2.0 driver and next generation you have a working 2.0 driver on 3.0 hardware, you have to keep up with the changes to get any hardware support at all. It wouldn't be entirely impossible to do it from specs alone, but it would be difficult. In practice you need people in the project or available to the project to answer questions, correct documentation and work with the internal driver/hardware team. And/or possibly have some sort of NDA program in addition to the public specs, but all of this takes time and effort which equals money.

    3) The community is quite frankly not that big. At last headcount there was about a dozen working on the AMD source drivers, of which three are AMD employees. I've heard Bridgman say they use 2-3% of the effort on Linux despite accounting for 1% of the sales, so a back-of-the-napkin calculation says the internal driver team is something like 100 people. With complete access to all the documentation including on unreleased products, the hardware designers, hardware simulators, early engineering samples and so on. So on top of all their other disadvantages, the community is vastly outnumbered. Not to dispute that they could do a lot more specs than without, just that there's a lot more missing than specs.

  • Re:Bad move.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:10PM (#31635060)

    I know at least 200 CGI artists whose IT department would love to switch to Linux and use economically affordable but quite powerful NVidia cards, and a desktop vendor who lost the sale because they couldn't legally pre-install the NVidia drivers nor rely on the NVidia setups to remain stable. The NVidia installer moves aside OpenGL libraries and replaces them: any software updates that accidentally include fresh OpenGL libraries break the NVidia setup.

    They're testing ATI based video cards right now to try and close the deal.

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:41PM (#31635384)

    I've heard Bridgman say they use 2-3% of the effort on Linux despite accounting for 1% of the sales

    If documentation disclosure had been baked in from the beginning, they might have been able to keep their IP from becoming so difficult to untangle. Perhaps moving forward they are taking this better into account. If so the burden should already be on a downward trajectory.

    Plus they have nVidia's recent decision to thank for potentially shifting another 0.5% their way.

    While they're at it, they might wish to adopt a living documentation model internally, so that bugs fixed in the code base are directly reflected in the primary documentation. How is that an insurmountable process challenge to a group of 100 smart people coding device drivers for billion transistor chips of mind boggling complexity?

  • Re:nVidia also ran? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smash ( 1351 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:50PM (#31636038) Homepage Journal
    Well, they DID (allegedly) buy/steal a lot of SGI I.P.

Friction is a drag.