What Linux Users Can Expect from NVIDIA’s New Open-Source Driver

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What Linux Users Expect NVIDIA's Driver

NVIDIA just just released a Linux GPU driver under an open-source license. Does this make a difference for the gaming community that uses Linux? What are the following steps to take?

Graphics cards produced by NVIDIA are renowned for their high levels of performance. Another thing that they are renowned for in the Linux community is their dissatisfaction with various drivers. Because of the level of irritation, you might have seen a video or a GIF depicting Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, giving NVIDIA the middle finger in reference to the company. Because of this, the announcement that NVIDIA has at long last made available an open-source kernel driver for its GPUs is quite noteworthy.

Does this suggest that installing Linux on a system powered by NVIDIA will be less of a hassle in the future? Well, not yet. However, I have faith that the response will, at some point, become yes.

NVIDIA’s Open-Source Driver for Newer GPUs

Beginning with the R515 driver release, NVIDIA has made the decision to offer Linux GPU kernel modules as open-source software for the very first time. This project’s source code may be accessed through GitHub.

The driver is only compatible with NVIDIA Turing Chip GPUs and subsequent versions of these chips. 2018 was the year of their initial release. If you’re using hardware that’s older than that, which is the case for the vast majority of people who use Linux, then this source code won’t be of any help to you for the time being.

What Purpose Is This Driver Designed To Serve?

This driver has been tested to support CUDA on GPUs used in data centers before it was released.

People who use GPUs for work in the cloud, or for work such as developing artificial intelligence and machine learning, can immediately benefit from having greater integration between NVIDIA GPUs and the rest of their Linux system. This is especially true for people who use GPUs for work in the cloud.

Where Does NVIDIA’s Driver Stand in Terms of Its Limitations?

According to the information provided on the blog that Christian Schaller of the Fedora Project maintains, the code for the displays is neither finished nor has it been thoroughly tested. This is the code that matters for those of us who use our personal PCs with graphics cards manufactured by NVIDIA.

This is also solely the code that pertains to the kernel. The userspace level and the firmware level both contain a significant portion of a contemporary graphics driver. Those portions of the NVIDIA driver will not be made available. If you are a gamer and you were expecting that you could avoid using the proprietary driver while still receiving comparable performance and software to support that performance, unfortunately, this is not currently the case. And it won’t be for a good long while, either.

Do You Know What to Expect in the Future?

In the short run, you shouldn’t put too much weight on your hopes for very much. However, this is a hint that NVIDIA is working more closely with the community, and there is reason to expect that this level of collaboration may further expand in the future.

One concrete illustration of advancement may be related to the evolution of the open-source driver for NVIDIA graphics cards known as the Nouveau driver, which has been developed by the community. This project started out as an attempt at reverse engineering, but in recent years, NVIDIA has been actively supporting it.

Although the driver is entirely functional, it is unable to re-clock the NVIDIA card, which is one of the reasons it is unable to give the same level of performance as the binary driver. The introduction of this new code paves the way for the completion of some of the open tasks.

Because of certain technological constraints, the community may be required to collaborate with NVIDIA to develop a new open driver for more recent cards. This driver would be able to interact not only with NVIDIA’s proprietary userspace but also with the open MESA userspace. However, in the case of more mature graphics cards, the Nouveau driver will continue to be the only open-source alternative available. Enhancements to Nouveau are particularly important for older hardware, the type for which the corresponding proprietary driver will no longer receive updates.

Do You Know Where This Came From?

Yes, at first glance. No noteworthy stories have emerged about NVIDIA’s open-source initiatives. There has been some work with open-source partners like Canonical, Red Hat, and SUSE behind the scenes, though. This is NVIDIA’s next move, if you will.

Open drivers may eventually be less of a motivator for Linux users to switch to AMD graphics cards in place of Intel ones.

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