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Nvidia Engineer Asks How the Company Can Improve Linux Support 581

Posted by timothy
from the increase-its-sleep-number dept.
sfcrazy writes "It seems that recent comments made by Linus Torvalds have made the people at NVIDIA take Linux more seriously. Recently Nvidia employee Stephen Warren asked in the Kernel Summit mailing list what could be done differently to make Linux support better. 'In a Google+ comment, Linus noted that we have mainly been contributing patches for Tegra SoC infra-structure details. I'm curious what other areas people might expect me/NVIDIA to contribute to. I assume the issue is mainly the lack of open support for the graphics-related parts of our HW, but perhaps there's some expectation that we'd also start helping out some core area of the kernel too? Would that kind of thing help our image even if we didn't open up our HW?'"
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Nvidia Engineer Asks How the Company Can Improve Linux Support

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  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:22PM (#40425895)

    [...] we'd also start helping out some core area of the kernel too? Would that kind of thing help our image even if we didn't open up our HW?

    You seem to care more about NVIDIA's image than about what the Linux community actually needs.

    I truly don't understand what the big deal is. Just open up your damn specifications already.

    • by ethan961 (1895082) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:28PM (#40425929)
      If this engineer knows that will never happen (through no fault of his own, higher-ups would have decided this) then at least he's making an effort. People can get upset all they want, but nothing other than good is going to come out of this, whether it's exactly what would be ideal or not. Some help is better than none.
      • by FridayBob (619244) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:47PM (#40426071) Homepage

        ... Some help is better than none.

        Okay, so how about pointing him in the direction of the nouveau project [freedesktop.org]? Even if his company refuses to share the full API, just a few hints here and there could make an enormous difference.

        • by ethan961 (1895082) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:06AM (#40426179)
          I agree, helping the nouveau project would be greatly beneficial. My post was mainly referring to the general attitude some hold that nothing is ever good enough, and while it is true that the driver state is rather poor, potential for improvement exists. Instead of attacking Nvidia for their efforts, people should actually help and show them where to direct their resources. No, it may not involve the release of all their specs, but they can help in other ways.
          • by jvillain (546827) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @02:10AM (#40426765)
            Telling them that it will be OK to slide on the documentation for the video drivers just as long as they do X, Y & Z would be a real disservice to them. The blob just isn't an option any more. Telling people which versions of Linux they can use the video cards with is equivalent to telling Windows users they all have to use Vista if they want to use NVidia hardware. For me right now all of their cards are the equivalent of a 10 year old 2D Cirrus card but with a stupid high price tag attached to it. Get it straight. Every thing takes a back seat to opening up the documentation for the video drivers. My money stays with AMD until they yank their heads out of their ....
            • by jvillain (546827) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @02:17AM (#40426813)
              BTW we aren't asking them to open up the HW. We are asking them to document the interfaces to the hardware. Just like the PCI interface they use has been documented and like the entire PC spec they have been leeching off of and almost every thing else in the world of computing has opened up. This attitude just isn't acceptable any more. Period. Even Microsoft is starting to wake up to that fact.
              • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:09AM (#40427495)

                I doubt anyone will even see this, but I think it's great that they took any interest at all.

                The owe our tiny market segment exactly nothing, but they're asking anyway. That's certainly something and it seems awfully nasty to get all "fuck you, it's all or nothing" about it.

                Just a thought.

            • by gbjbaanb (229885)

              Telling people which versions of Linux they can use the video cards with

              or guess what, we could create a stable ABI and then a single blob would work with (gosh) all versions of Linux.

              The other benefit is that all other bits of hardware would work with all versions of Linux and could they start to be sold with shrink-wrapped drivers in the shops.

            • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:39PM (#40430071) Journal

              But whose fault is that when Torvalds flat out refuses to allow a hardware ABI that EVERYONE ELSE has? Solaris, BSD, Windows, OSX, hell even OS/2 has a fricking ABI now and the ONLY OS that doesn't is Linux. So why should Nvidia or anybody else jump through hoops to support a broken design?

              You can use Win2K drivers on XP, you can use Vista drivers on win 7 and 8, that's over a decade of support for a driver. That means that in all likelihood the hardware will be long dead before you can no longer run it on your choice of Windows OS.

              I'm personally using a 2008 Vista driver on my fully updated Win 7 simply because it interacts better with the software I prefer to use, yet on Linux its fully expected that driver simply won't work without a recompile or major futzing, that's just fucked up folks, and even one of the Red Hat developers [google.com] says the current system simply isn't sustainable, you have too few qualified people trying to support too much and the QA and QC simply isn't there because of it.

              I can tell you that as a retailer that is why I'll sell a system with XP despite XP being creaky as hell now, simply because I can't even take a 4 year old Linux and upgrade it to current without shit breaking. The entire driver subsystem in Linux is a God awful mess and if this finally gets people to talk about it, instead of just accepting fixes and forum hunts as par for the course? let me be the first to say i'm ALL for it. there is no damned reason why companies like Nvidia and AMD should have to keep releasing drivers for old hardware simply because Torvalds ego won't let him see the current system doesn't work. And PLEASE don't say it would encourage binary blobs because in case you ain't notice? they ALREADY DO THAT NOW, you just have shittier support.

              So don't sweep it under the rug folks, this is simply a symptom of a MUCH larger problem, and that is the current driver model simply isn't sustainable. You can get by with it in server and embedded because hardware changes there are practically non existent and positively glacial, hell many servers still use Rage II for GPUs for the love of Pete, but to gain in the consumer market you need to be able to keep up with the constantly changing hardware and the current model simply doesn't work. Its always behind the curve, always way behind, hell by the time things are properly supported they usually aren't being sold in retail anymore. this really needs to change folks, and the only way it'll happen is if enough people get fed up with the status quo and complain. You can and DO deserve better fellas.

        • by Instine (963303) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:56AM (#40427457)
          Agreed. They should help this project. While the opinions of readers here clearly matters to *some* degree, I'd like to think NVIDIA would care about my take. As I'm right now designing and building a GPGPU compute system. And while it won't get in the Linpack this year, it genuinely might in a few years from now. Right now (I broke away to write this) I'm pawing over the OpenCL vs CUDA options AGAIN, to weigh up which to go for. Right now OpenCL is pulling me strongest, simply because I know I could move to something else if I had to. I don't want to. NVIDIA apear to be leading the race to me, for stable, enterprise ready, server standard GPUs. I prefer CUDA.

          So guys, I prefer your products, I could spend hundreds of thousands, maybe million some day, but I'm nervous enough to choose a lesser option in order to leave myself an escape path - purely because your lack of openness at the interface with the hardware worries me. I don't want the hardware opened, I want its API. The lowest level software interface to it (and preferably the code to your supported drivers). If you opened up I'd know I could always get a driver that worked if I needed to move OS. Or that I could tweek for performance in the area I need it. etc... Open up. Why not? I've given you a bloody good reason to. Haven't I?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GNious (953874)

          I would think that the Nouveau project would prefer to keep nVidia people/developers out of the source - they cannot risk there being any "polution" of intellectual property.
          Lawyers should first classify what the company can divulge (and their answer: Nothing), before anyone from nVidia even thinks about looking at the Nouveau source.

          • by FridayBob (619244) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @08:20AM (#40428143) Homepage

            I would think that the Nouveau project would prefer to keep nVidia people/developers out of the source - they cannot risk there being any "polution" of intellectual property. ...

            Not necessarily. We don't need their source code, just more information about their API. And as was recently ruled in the Oracle vs Google case regarding Java, API's can not be copyrighted [slashdot.org].

            Lawyers should first classify what the company can divulge (and their answer: Nothing), before anyone from nVidia even thinks about looking at the Nouveau source.

            Not their source code -- just the API for their hardware! Not that I expect that Nvidia's management will allow their engineers to divulge any API information (even just a little), but for us that's what's most important.

        • by Tough Love (215404) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:45AM (#40427603)

          NVidia should open their register specs like AMD or else fuck themselves. I believe that is what Linus meant.

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          We can even point him to the exact page where Optimus developers complain about NVidia's attitude and ask for specific help [freedesktop.org]

          There should be ways to detect the wirings and whether there is a mux and where, but the documentation is not available to the developers (maybe you can help us figure out how to do this, have any ideas? You can also 'petition' nvidia for releasing these specs: nvidia customer help [custhelp.com] ? )

      • Not really. What is needed is hardware that can be documented. Nice of nVidia to confess they are "not it". Spares having to consider them.
      • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:08AM (#40427073)

        If this engineer knows that will never happen (through no fault of his own, higher-ups would have decided this) then at least he's making an effort. People can get upset all they want, but nothing other than good is going to come out of this, whether it's exactly what would be ideal or not. Some help is better than none.

        Right; I'm not getting upset about him. We love him and if he ever gets kicked out by NVIDIA, I'm sure there are lots of us here who will want to hear about it and offer him a job. What upsets us is that NVIDIA clearly has people who understand that we are upset and why we are upset and they still don't do anything. From my point of view this makes things even worse.

        NVIDIA; please: even if it's incomplete and misses your latest fastest newest stuff, please provide the Linux developers; both kernel and Noveau; with publishable open documentation which tells them how to set up the rest of the features and at the very least provide good, reliable and colour tunable 2D and low level support for your cards. Preferably provide full, documented access to any feature older than two years.

        This can have no possible bad influence on your competitive advantage and will go a long way to making those of us using Linux happier.

      • by miknix (1047580) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:34AM (#40427169) Homepage

        I can give them some ideas:

        What about starting to properly support XRandR and stop the TwinView crap?
        What about continuing giving minimal support to old GPUs? My parent's computer has a GeForce FX Go 5300 which has currently no official driver that supports the latest Xorg. Unfortunately nouveau is not working very well with this graphic card either, being the 2D support buggy.
        What about supporting KMS in their drivers?

        Not going to happen, that's why my next computers will have Intel GPUs.

      • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:37AM (#40427183) Homepage Journal

        Good Point. (sorry - lower case "P"s seem to be dead on this keyboard)

        It is easy to imagine that Nvidia might make a contribution or more to the kernel, that would helP Performance. I'd much rather see everything oPen sourced, but if that can't be done - let them get their hands dirty, and make the drivers work better for Linux. Even if they never actually contribute kernel Patches, the attemPt to do so can only give them a better understanding of the whole system!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:17AM (#40427731)

        and we ought to just accept it, then he should know a better perception will never happen and just accept it and the consequent loss of sales.

        The REALLY DUMB thing about both the engineer (and NVidia) and you is that you don't seem to even consider "Hey, lets tell them why it can't ever be done.".

        Except that was tried a long time ago, where NVidia said something like "SGI owns some of the stuff we use and they won't let us release it". Well, given specific goals, the FOSS people went to SGI and asked "Can NVidia release the stuff they got from you?" SGI answered "We cannot conceive of anything that NVidia has off us that we wouldn't be happy with them releasing.".

        Now, given that, did NVidia release specs?

        No.

        And, having been caught out in a porkie-pie, they have refused since then to do other than let their fanbois (and I use their cards too) say "Oh, maybe they can't for contract reasons" because, not being party to any secret NDA, the fanbois cannot supply any information on who/what or why and therefore it can't be rectified.

    • by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:01AM (#40426143)

      "You seem to care more about NVIDIA's image than about what the Linux community actually needs."

      Of course they do. Why in the world would this surprise you? It's a public, for-profit company. The vast majority of contributions to open source by companies are not done out of altruism. They're done out of self-interest.

      "I truly don't understand what the big deal is. Just open up your damn specifications already."

      There's probably something in how they do things that they think (rightly or wrongly) that gives them an advantage over their competition that either isn't patented or can't be patented (or maybe violates someone else's patents).

      • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:29AM (#40426293)

        Or would give away something about how their hardware, or hardware development works that they don't want anyone to know too much about. Or at least not to wave around in public. I'm sure AMD know, enough staff move back and forth, but some random chinese hardware maker, that I'd be worried about.

        Remember nVIDIA sells it's 'first silicon' runs, they don't usually prototype, they do simulations first, and from the simulations that are used to design the hardware they go straight to manufacturing. It's possible some of their driver support would have some hooks (or parts) of their simulation tools in it that they don't really want to be broadcasting around.

        But broadly ya, for whatever reason, if their higher ups don't want to be telling the world how their drivers work, and so they won't. Hell for all we know it could be entirely paranoia from an MBA type who just doesn't understand and doesn't want his ass fired if something goes wrong.

        • by X0563511 (793323) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @01:51AM (#40426677) Homepage Journal

          We're asking for specs, not driver code. There's no reason they would have to give us any of those simulation hooks, or any information about them.

        • by Pausanias (681077)

          I'd put money on the likelihood that there is a GPL violation in their driver code that they'd have to own up to if they actually released the source.

      • by bug1 (96678)

        "You seem to care more about NVIDIA's image than about what the Linux community actually needs."

        Of course they do. Why in the world would this surprise you? It's a public, for-profit company. The vast majority of contributions to open source by companies are not done out of altruism. They're done out of self-interest.

        Good engineers dont think like marketing people, they think like engineers. How to do stuff rather than how to manipulate people.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by treadmarks (2528414)

        I don't think NVIDIA is doing anything wrong, but I'm sick of hearing the profit motive used as a euphemism for antisocial or greedy behavior. That's not the way capitalism is supposed to work and everybody needs to know this. Any business textbook will tell you that the profit motive is not meant to be synonymous with greed, but in practice that is how most Americans think of it. I don't know how people got tricked or corrupted into this way of thinking but we're all paying the price now as fraud played a

    • by kllrnohj (2626947) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @02:22AM (#40426835)

      You seem to care more about NVIDIA's image than about what the Linux community actually needs.

      I truly don't understand what the big deal is. Just open up your damn specifications already.

      AMD did this, and the Linux community still recommends people buy NVIDIA cards. Vote with your wallet, or shut the fuck up. Keep buying from the company with closed specs instead of open ones, and you'll keep getting closed specs instead of open ones. Not a difficult concept, people.

    • by dbIII (701233) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:28AM (#40427771)
      I think some of the SGI people that were burnt very badly by software patent trolls ended up at Nvidia. Currently there is nothing to stop it all happening again if Nvidia describe their methods in enough detail to let opportunists go after them in court. It appears they don't think they can afford to open up the specs while broad software patents that should never have been granted still cover everything obvious in computer graphics.
      That appears to be the "big deal".
  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:24PM (#40425911) Homepage

    Open up the hardware such that proper drivers can be written for any card (recent or not) and platform w/o the need of binary blobs.

    That shouldn't be an impossible task given how much weight NVidia has towards third parties.

    • Open up the hardware such that proper drivers can be written for any card (recent or not) and platform w/o the need of binary blobs.

      That shouldn't be an impossible task given how much weight NVidia has towards third parties.

      People keep spouting these things without actually taking into account that NVIDIA most likely has all sorts of contracts and license agreements they just can't break. Yes, it's fun to bash NVIDIA and try to paint them as some sort of a big, black demon worth all the hatred in the world, but in the end that doesn't actually *help* anyone, least of all F/OSS movement. Intel has the advantage in that that they entered the GPU-market a lot later than NVIDIA et.al., so they could avoid many of the mistakes their competitors did and they also have the whole, complete chain needed to produce and ship GPUs all by themselves and that really makes the comparison feel more like apples and oranges than anything directly comparable.

      NVIDIA could possibly open up future hardware, but they'd still possibly have to then develop some areas completely from scratch in order to not run afoul of their previous engagements and such a move obviously would cost them huge amounts of time and money. And well, Linux-users simply ain't worth that. All this is to say that NVIDIA should open up as much as they can, that I agree with, but that it is also highly unlikely they could open it all up even if they wanted to.

      • Well yeah maybe. There are degrees in these things. AVR outsourced their entire developer toolchain for working on their microprocessors so that you can compile for any of their chips with gcc. Its very convenient and it sells a lot of hardware for them.

  • by hackus (159037) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:30PM (#40425939) Homepage

    Eventually given how global markets expand and change, Nvidia will have to change its policies.

    After all, they sell a GPU.

    Consider how silly it is not to publish register information so you can write software for it. It is silly. Especially if Intel did the same thing with its chipsets because AMD might get some information on how a instruction works and try and copy it therefore making assembly language illegal and silly IP laws.

    Eventually this policy is going to cost Nvidia in the pocket book, and they will either come around or sink into nothingness.

    The exact same direction Apple is going to be heading to very shortly.

    -Hack

  • Same thing as always (Score:5, Informative)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:41PM (#40426025) Homepage

    It's unnecessary, and likely impossible, for Nvidia to open source its proprietary driver, due to licensed software they don't own (they have stated in the past). All that's needed is for Nvidia to release the documentation on the components they manufacture, as AMD/ATI did in 2008 (and Intel has always done). The existing nouveau driver team will take it from there. Nvidia can also choose to provide funding, salaried developers, or sample cards for the team. That would put them in a parity position with AMD and Intel.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:14AM (#40426207)

      Here are the initial steps that can be taken:

      1. Document the hardware. Releasing full specs would go a long way. Intel just released thousands of pages for its new stuff.
      2. Have your engineers work on the nouveau project to support all of your cards in 2D.
      3. Make nouveau your official linux driver for all 2D stuff. Initially this would be hard, but this is a case of if you bite the bullet, you will see rewards both short and long term.
      4. We understand that the 3D stuff is where things are exciting. Move all of the 3D stuff to being a closed module of nouveau, or even to userspace.
      5. Work with the virtualization people. You can do it, we know you can.
      6. Work towards being able to open all of your cards. Can you work with people to set release dates for older cards? How about the ones you don't really support anymore?
      7. Keep talking to the community. It does help.
      8. Contribute to an open hardware project. Perhaps by agreeing to manufacture an open video board?

    • by Crosshair84 (2598247) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:23AM (#40426273)

      All that's needed is for Nvidia to release the documentation on the components they manufacture, as AMD/ATI did in 2008 (and Intel has always done). The existing nouveau driver team will take it from there.

      Yea, how well has that actually worked. Oh yea, it's failed miserably. 4 years later and ATI Linux drivers are still garbage and the only reason Intel drivers work is because of the server market and because chips don't change often. It's not rocket science, writing graphics drivers are HARD and Linus continually poking his pecker into the kernel means they continually break and have to be tinkered with to work again.

      The VOIP visitation recorders at work have to have updates turned off because Ubuntu craps itself whenever it tries to update. When the box is 4 hours away that is a big deal. Our windows machines have auto-updates turned on and never have problems. We've tried having a development machine at the office to test the updates, but for whatever reason, the number of VOIP boxes and minor hardware revisions make it impossible to develop a standard update profile for us to reliably push out to all machines. So we have to just lock them down as much as we can and hope for the best. We are working on a Windows based solution so we can eliminate the Linux boxes in the future.

      It needs to be repeated so it sinks in, Linux needs a reliable ABI so ATI and others can just slap a Linux driver onto the CD that comes with the card and call it a day.

      • by wrook (134116) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @01:43AM (#40426643) Homepage

        4 years later and ATI Linux drivers are still garbage

        Actually, I have an HD6950 in my box. I had been running the proprietary driver basically because it was set up by default and I was too lazy to change, but yesterday I decided to give it a go. In terms of performance, it is not garbage (I haven't looked at the code). There are actually quite a few advantages to the open source driver.

        For one, the 2D operations seem to be significantly faster. I had to screw around with Catalyst on the proprietary driver to get good desktop performance, but the open source driver is considerably snappier out of the box. Also, Gnome Shell was crashing on me frequently with the proprietary driver (usually when doing an expose type event), but this seems to have stopped completely with the open source driver (it has also never crashed with my Intel card on my netbook). Finally video playing seems to have been improved. No matter what I did there would always be some situations where I would get tearing with the proprietary driver, but I never get tearing with the open source driver. There is probably a way to fiddle with Catalyst to get everything working well on the proprietary driver, but I could never seem to find the sweet spot in terms of performance and stability

        I'm not a big gamer, but I have a few games. Some games work flawlessly. Some have reduced framerate. One game (the World Forge Ember client did not run at all due to driver problems.

        Apart from Ember (which is kind of screwy most of the time anyway), every game I've tried is playable at a reasonable framerate and resolution. I suspect that hard core gamers would not be happy playing some of the more modern windows games under wine, but I don't have any of those to test. On the whole, for a casual open source gamer, the open source driver actually has a better user experience for me. Admittedly, I have a fairly high end card, so I don't know what it's like for a cheaper one, but I don't get a dramatic drop off in performance. The improvement in other areas more than makes up for it in my mind.

        Quite possibly for a specific application you have in mind, it's not acceptable, but that's a far cry from "garbage".

      • by jvillain (546827)
        You can get a distro with 10 year stability if you want it. But that leaves you frozen in time. Linux has made hellacious progress compared to all other OS's because it is willing to ditch the bad and move forward. I remember one year where we were all fretting about having no journalled file system. 6 months later Linux had 5. How many can you run now? Telecom companies and others run their Linux machines with 5 nines of uptime. Maybe the problem isn't actually the ABI.
    • It's unnecessary, and likely impossible, for Nvidia to open source its proprietary driver, due to licensed software they don't own (they have stated in the past).

      It also can break DRM.

  • Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lennier1 (264730) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:41PM (#40426029)

    Firstly, deal with the goddamn shitfucking Optimus hardware that's out there!!!!!!

  • Optimus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jaminJay (1198469) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:43PM (#40426043) Homepage
    Better power management. KMS. More timely releases. Stop whinging that there are problems with Linux/Xorg/whatever preventing you from doing something and work with those up-streams to fix it. Stop making excuses, start releasing code. Extract the proprietry stuff to (a) smaller blob(s) and expose the trivial interconnects and such at the very least. Never say it can't be done: everything's possible. Etc.
  • he knows (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @11:47PM (#40426069) Journal

    . I assume the issue is mainly the lack of open support for the graphics-related parts of our HW,

    He knows exactly what people want. The entire point of the question is to make it look like they are doing something without actually doing something.

    • Re:he knows (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Luckyo (1726890) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:25AM (#40426281)

      He also knows that this is not going to happen, and is looking for a middle ground. Fanatical "open source or GTFO" movement isn't look pretty in this either.

      • Re:he knows (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wrook (134116) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @01:55AM (#40426695) Homepage

        But it's not a middle ground. It's not related.

        Let's say I'm trying to get to the bus station. You live in the area and so I ask you how to get to the bus station. You say, "I don't really want to tell you that." I get pissed off and complain loudly that even though you know the way to the bus station, you won't tell me. People start saying, "Boy, that guy's not friendly at all, is he?"

        So in order to avoid the bad reputation you say, "Well, I still don't want to tell you where the bus station is, but what if I offered to cut your grass. Would that help matters?"

        Of course I would love for you to cut my grass, but it isn't at all related to the issue of the bus station. It's not a middle ground, it's a red herring.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          That's a shitty analogy. Don't feel bad; most people make shitty analogies when a car gets anywhere near the conversation.

          Here's a better automotive analogy to the current situation: It's like you're trying to get somewhere on a bus, because you don't own a car, don't want to own a car, you think cars suck. And you ask which bus you need to get on to get where you're going, and the person you're talking to says "Well, I just get in my car and I drive up this way and down that way and I'm there." You don't w

  • by ArcRiley (737114) <arcriley@ubuntu.com> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:00AM (#40426133)

    Very happy with my Radeon chipsets, don't have to worry about kernel version incompatibility or graphics lockups from some bug we can't even begin to fix. I've had both problems with nVidia hardware.

    No PR move from nVidia is going to change my mind beside opening the specs.

  • by Narcocide (102829) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:01AM (#40426145) Homepage

    Frankly the GPU support issues are going to be the big key issue no matter what. Whether you think its wrong/stupid/immoral/wasteful/anti-american or whatever to use Linux as a gaming platform or for any other sort of performance-critical real-time 3d rendering *some* Linux users will still disagree with you and do it anyway. Whether flaws in your business plan and/or shady under-the-table anti-competitive agreements made years ago with certain big software vendors preclude you from giving Linux full support or if its really some legitimate logistics problem *some* Linux users will still disbelieve the excuses and not forgive you for it. Some of those Linux users still consider themselves your paying customers. You will never truly live this down, but don't worry; judging by the word on the street these days neither will any of your competitors.

    However, if you want to set up a smokescreen that hides the fact that *someone* in the higher end of Nvidia's chain of command is openly prejudiced against open source software (or just made a shit ton of cash on Microsoft stock perhaps and refuses to believe therefore that Linux is anything other than a waste of the company's time) you could at least consider making an attempt at distro-native packages for your driver that show evidence that you are capable of and willing to put at least half as much effort into working within the rules and parameters of various distro's packaging systems and with their tools properly as you've already put into that big self-extracting NVIDIA-Linux-x86-whatever.run bash script monstrosity to make it capable of the far more arduous task of cleaning up after itself enough to get a working GLX after it has fully subverted and broken said packaging system by using very crude non-native tools and methods that are not dependency-aware.

  • by peanutious (730210) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @12:25AM (#40426285)

    Here's a summary of some of the most insightful discussions posted on slashdot when this discussion came up last week:

    nVidia Issues:
    *Proprietary drivers that don’t always survive kernel upgrades. So people who rely on nVidia's proprietary binary drivers can't always update their kernel or they lose their graphics until nVidia puts out an update. (from UnknowingFool) nVidia only provide a binary blob driver which makes bug fixing for it dependent on Nvidia's whims. (from AC)
    *open source drivers – nVidia refuses to provide specs and API's for their hardware which make writing open drivers much more difficult and time-consuming because of having to reverse-engineer everything to get a workable driver. (from AC) As a result, open source drivers are unable to use full card functionality like full 3D acceleration (from UnknowingFool)

    Summary of graphic chip vendor support (from Lonewolf666):
    *AMD provides specifications and a small developer team that actually works on open source drivers.
    *Intel provides open source drivers.
    *NVIDIA makes good binary drivers, but those have problems when a new kernel version comes out with changed interfaces: Only NVIDIA can adapt them, and until they get around to it, NVIDIA may not work with the latest kernel version.

    From rajafarian: If the kernel maintainers have a question about the hardware, they can't ask NVIDIA they have to test and reverse engineer to find the answer whereas with other companies, they may get an answer directly from the manufacturer. Get it? "...NVIDIA just made the damn drivers. Now that is not good enough." Not from a kernel maintainer's or Stallman's point of view, I'm pretty sure.

    From jmorris42 : Name another major chip vendor who hasn't figured out that getting into the Linux kernel is a required checkoff for market success. Doubly so for any product used in the enterprise vs the fanboi market. NVidia's CUDA is about the entire list these days, the last major holdout.

    From basscomm: Windows users who have SLI and multiple monitors have been able to enable SLI and use both of their monitors at the same time since about 2008. But under Linux, no dice. So if I had two monitors (which I do), and two Nvidia GPUs in SLI mode (which I do), and I wanted to run some 3D app that took advantage of SLI, I would have to: reconfigure X to disable my second monitor and enable SLI, restart X, play the game/use the app I wanted, when I was done I would have to reconfigure X again to enable my second monitor and disable SLI, restart X again, and reopen all my apps. Hardly ideal.

    Given all of this discussion, here are a few ways nVidia could work better with the community:
    *Open Source drivers - 1) provide specs 2) provide developer team that works on the OS drivers 3) provide rep to interface with the OS community 4) provide enough detail to get 3D working well
    *Proprietary drivers - 1) monitor upcoming kernel builds and proactively update drivers before the next kernel release or 2) have a dedicated nVidia contact to work on updating drivers ASAP when notified that an upcoming kernel build breaks them
    *Overall - enhannce SLI and multiple monitor support,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kthreadd (1558445)
      Sounds like the situation could improve if Linux exposed a more stable API toward drivers.
      • by bersl2 (689221)

        That's not the Linux driver model, though. The model is that drivers are expected to be at least working towards integration into the kernel tree, so that the kernel devs can easily know if they're breaking something and maybe even fix or help fix it. Failure to do this results in long-term pain for everyone, while being in the tree or working towards being in the tree keeps everyone communicating on a regular basis and working together.

        In other words, developing hardware for Linux actually requires communi

  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @01:22AM (#40426553)

    Years ago I got good support from Nvidia. I had a problem and sent a bug report and got a response late on a Saturday night (West Coast) that involved a kernel patch to fix a bug in the kernel that was causing the problem. I was an Nvidia fanboy for many years after that. I helped dozens of people get things like Twinview working.

    In recent years, working with Nivida has been very frustrating and I can no longer recommend them for Linux systems. For example some interaction between closed-source Flash and the closed-source Nvidia drivers turns people blue in Youtube videos but not other sites.

    There has also been a heart breaking struggle to remove video "tearing" (vsync problem) when watching dvds and blurays. The last time I checked I needed to use the GL video to remove tearing when watching dvds but I still have some tearing when watching blurays which is kind of heart breaking. At the very least Nvidia should have a sticky post in the Linux forum explaining all the hoops one must jump through to try to get rid of video tearing. Also, having the sticky posts show up on all pages, not just the first page is a big PITA. It wastes my time and attention. It is disrepectful.

    I don't understand why video tearing is such a recurring problem. Are these environment variables still needed?

    export VDPAU_NVIDIA_SYNC_DISPLAY_DEVICE="DFP-0"
    export __VDPAU_NVIDIA_SYNC_DISPLAY_DEVICE="DFP-0"
    export GL_SYNC_TO_VBLANK=1
    export __GL_SYNC_TO_VBLANK=1
    export GL_SYNC_DISPLAY_DEVICE="DFP-0"
    export __GL_SYNC_DISPLAY_DEVICE="DFP-0"

    When an nvidia driver update causes tearing to start again, or worse, if it causes X (or the entire machine) to crash, it feels like you are telling me "F- you!"

    I get it that opening up your drivers is not an option. The problem is that this decision causes a lot of breakage and you do not make it easy to fix this breakage. Please just make it easy for me to get your drivers to work. Is Twinview plus non-tearing video playback really too much to ask for? Also, what about the problem with non-tearing and composite? Has that ever been fixed? If not, maybe that's something you could help with.

    Years ago I felt like I was getting support. Nowadays I'm not feeling the love.

  • by iCEBaLM (34905) <icebalm@i c e b a l m .com> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @01:22AM (#40426557)

    Move everything to userspace, and use an existing driver, or a very small open driver, to access the card. There should be no reason, even if they're crying "trade secrets" for this to happen. If nouveau can do it, and they're not crying trade secrets over it, then nvidia proper can do it too.

    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      Move everything to userspace, and use an existing driver, or a very small open driver, to access the card. There should be no reason, even if they're crying "trade secrets" for this to happen. If nouveau can do it, and they're not crying trade secrets over it, then nvidia proper can do it too.

      Everyone is free to keep secrets, even you. If you have a problem with their actions then use other chipsets.

  • Well, they lost me. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @02:59AM (#40427035) Homepage Journal

    It's funny, when I used to buy graphics cards, I bought nVidia because the driver was that much better - TwinView meant good multi-monitor support, etc... Now all that has changed. I replaced two nVidia cards with an AMD card, because AMD support their Eyefinity tech even on low-end cards, and my triple monitor setup works perfectly with 3D acceleration on the open drivers, which means I get KMS and no binary blobs. By comparison, I had to use xinerama to get triple monitors with the nVidia driver, no KMS, no 3D acceleration.

    It's obvious what we want, open source drivers. If they can't handle that, documentation, but we all know they'll spout the same stuff about NDAs and 3rd party stuff they are licensing and can't reveal, and tell us binary blobs are the only way - well, I don't buy it. Intel manage it well, and AMD are definitely getting there. Binary blobs just don't give the experience any more, that's the reality.

  • by jejones (115979) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:09AM (#40427077) Journal

    From TFE (email): "Within the constraints I have, what should I and perhaps other NVIDIA employees be contributing to in the kernel?"

    I suspect those constraints essentially preclude what would really be useful, so what's the point?

  • Wayland? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:59AM (#40427889)

    Retrofit your monolithic binary blob into a wayland capable architecture and you'll have addressed many concerns such as KMS, EGL, etc.

    Supporting it on Tegra would be a step towards running standard accelerated Linux on an ARM phone or tablet and you'll be the slashdot nerd's platform of choice ahead of Adreno, Mali, PowerVR, VideoCore etc.

  • by trevelyon (892253) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:26AM (#40428549)
    After my optimus experience I will simply not buy another closed source NVIDIA graphics solution. In the end I much like others and the internet in general route around broken parts. I will be curious to see how kernel module signing some distros are doing now for secure boot will effect NVIDIA proprietary drivers.

Slowly and surely the unix crept up on the Nintendo user ...

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