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Graphics Open Source Linux

NVIDIA Begins Releasing Documentation For Nouveau 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the baby-steps dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "Nvidia, perhaps inspired by the infamous Torvalds Salute, has decided to do something about its crummy image with Open Source developers. The company has begun to release public documentation on certain aspects of its GPUs. Reactions from developers have been mixed; much of what's already been released wasn't a big mystery, but Nvidia says more is coming and they will also provide guidance in needed areas as well. Linus said, '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. They've already been much better in the ARM SoC space than they were on the more traditional GPU side, and I really hope that some day I can just apologize for ever giving them the finger.'"
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NVIDIA Begins Releasing Documentation For Nouveau

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  • Valve/Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @02:40PM (#44939383) Homepage Journal

    Anyone else think this is a result of Valve's announcement of focus on Linux-based Steam?

    • Re:Valve/Steam (Score:5, Interesting)

      by digsbo (1292334) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @02:42PM (#44939417)
      That was my first thought as well, though I cynically suspect this new openness from NVidia suggests the Steam box will be AMD based, and NVidia is trying to control damage with this move.
      • by citizenr (871508)

        That was my first thought as well, though I cynically suspect this new openness from NVidia suggests the Steam box will be AMD based

        oh mah dog! That would be something :) AMD would own gaming market for next 5-10 years.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          That was my first thought as well, though I cynically suspect this new openness from NVidia suggests the Steam box will be AMD based

          oh mah dog! That would be something :) AMD would own gaming market for next 5-10 years.

          Well, it would make Intel very happy if that's the case - AMD's in loads of hurt, so having both the Xbox One and PS4 be AMD based is good news for Intel - it means AMD will not likely fold in the next 5-10 years. And having AMD around means Intel is pretty much free to do what they want as t

          • Intel is counting on Haswell to increase chip sales. AMD is hurting like crazy and the gamer market will not hurt them with consoles. BUT the reality is that Arm SoCs are cutting into both intel and amd. The shine is off the 45-65 watts small space heater chipsets and the race to heat whole rooms with 100 watt plus chips is over.

            1000 watt water cooled gamer pc power supplies are a footnote in computing history. Low wattage is more than just a trend it is where computing is heading like it or not. Huge NVi

            • by exomondo (1725132)

              NVidia needs to partner with someone soon and a partnership between NVIdia and Amd is not a bad step to avoid a melt down to an all arm and intel duopoly.

              By creating a monopoly in the discrete graphics card market, great idea.

              • NVidia needs to partner with someone soon and a partnership between NVIdia and Amd is not a bad step to avoid a melt down to an all arm and intel duopoly.

                By creating a monopoly in the discrete graphics card market, great idea.

                Point was that the discrete graphics card market is dead it is a shrinking small sector and there is not even room for one player! The few computer stores that are left out there only have a few in stock for a very limited PC gaming crowd who are essentially running out of game options as PC gaming is also dying, albeit a slower death than the home desktop pc but it is still dying.

                What options do AMD and Nvidia have? They still have good manufacturing facilities and they still both have a decent work force

                • Re:Valve/Steam (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by exomondo (1725132) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @02:48AM (#44945195)

                  Point was that the discrete graphics card market is dead

                  Why is it that some people see a decline in a market and translate that to it being 'dead'? I suppose desktops and laptops are dead too? We might as well just ditch them and shift to....what?

                  it is a shrinking small sector and there is not even room for one player!

                  Really? In this multi-billion dollar a year industry there is not even room for one player? Why are they even bothering to make them then? If there's not even room for one player then the fact that there are 2 must be catastrophic to their bottom lines, they must be losing money hand over fist just supporting that market!

                  • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Wednesday September 25, 2013 @08:42AM (#44946777)
                    Let's face it: Gaming is dead. PC gaming is dead because of consoles. Console gaming is dead because of smartphones. iOS is dead because of Android and Android is dead because of fragmentation. Physical games are dead because of video games.

                    We are most likely the last generation that engages in unproductive activities for fun. Yes, even those of us who aren't part of "this generation". Especially them, in fact.
                  • by mcgrew (92797) *

                    Why is it that some people see a decline in a market and translate that to it being 'dead'? I suppose desktops and laptops are dead too? We might as well just ditch them and shift to....what?

                    Twenty years ago a video card was absolutely necessary; there were no motherboards containing video chips. A few years later when motherboards started sporting video chips, most home PCs were mostly gaming rigs (single player because everyone was on a 33k modem) and more were on BBSes than on the internet, and dedicated

                    • by exomondo (1725132)

                      Few homes need a PC any more, they can play Angry Birds and surf Facebook on their tablets and phones.

                      Yeah because that's all people did on their PCs, this idea that the majority of people just use devices to play Angry Birds and Facebook is so stupid, such tasks may be common to the majority of people but they most certainly aren't the only the things the majority of people do.

                    • by mcgrew (92797) *

                      Non-nerds use their computers to email, play simple games, look stuff up on google, post lolcats on facebook, look at YouTube videos and that's about all. A tablet suffices; you only need a mouse and keyboard for content creation and PC gaming (not angry birds), and only a tiny minority do that.

                    • by exomondo (1725132)
                      No that's what they have in common and a discrete graphics card hasn't been needed for such things for over a decade, moving those things from a PC to a tablet has no impact on discrete graphics cards.
          • by Smauler (915644)

            Well, it would make Intel very happy if that's the case - AMD's in loads of hurt, so having both the Xbox One and PS4 be AMD based is good news for Intel - it means AMD will not likely fold in the next 5-10 years. And having AMD around means Intel is pretty much free to do what they want as there's still viable competition. AMD was looking fairly dicey and Intel's probably worried it may attract government oversight and investigations. Or worse yet, force AMD's patents to be sold off to many competitors, m

            • AMD has lost money in the last 4 quarters, and 6 of the last 7. After accounting for cash on hand, they're a billion dollars in debt.
    • by geek (5680)

      Anyone else think this is a result of Valve's announcement of focus on Linux-based Steam?

      Why would it be? SteamOS will be using the proprietary drivers. This article is about the open source drivers.

      • That assumes a lot. Not everyone will switch distros (or choose SteamOS) when Steam is available for Linux as a whole.

        • I don't think "switching to SteamOS" is even the point of the OS. Sounds like it's basically just an open OS primarily designed for steam branded hardware. I'm sure there will be nothing preventing others from using it in more traditional setting but I don't think Valve expects that to be a big thing.

          • I don't think "switching to SteamOS" is even the point of the OS. Sounds like it's basically just an open OS primarily designed for steam branded hardware. I'm sure there will be nothing preventing others from using it in more traditional setting but I don't think Valve expects that to be a big thing.

            The goal here isn't to solely make an OS for Steam branded hardware. If you visit the website: http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/SteamOS/ you'll see it's to be made available for off the shelf hardware for anybody to install on their computers and to manufacturers with a small licensing fee. Obviously they'd put in the effort to make this compatible with both AMD/Nvidia offerings and presumably for Intel IGPs as well to appeal to the largest base possible. The more people install the OS the higher t

          • I don't think it's for hardware either. I think what they're trying to do is normalize Linux in such a way that makes it more friendly towards game development.

            The current problem with linux is that it varies so heavily from distro to distro that some things might break for some games. Varying kernels, varying window managers, varying this and that...however if you establish a good baseline, that makes things much easier from a support perspective.

            This is an interesting model to adopt by the way. Traditiona

            • by Smauler (915644)

              The current problem with linux is that it varies so heavily from distro to distro that some things might break for some games. Varying kernels, varying window managers, varying this and that...however if you establish a good baseline, that makes things much easier from a support perspective.

              I still run Vista as my gaming operating system. It's getting on for a decade old, both my system and Vista, which I bought at the same time. I've upgraded the graphics card to a 460GTX (about the best my motherboard

      • by Wootery (1087023)

        Let's not be short-sighted here: assuming SteamOS drives at least some notable level of adoption of Linux for gaming, nVidia will have an increased interest in being known as a good graphics-card choice on Linux.

        They will stand to benefit by just looking serious about Linux, but more specifically: having good Open Source graphics drivers can only help, even if their proprietary drivers are good to begin with. It will be more readily bundled by distros, will be easier to install, will have reduced kernel com

        • by dimeglio (456244)
          I'm almost certain nVidia needed time to clean-up their code so it's up to par with OSS coding quality. You don't invite your boss to you house for a party before cleaning things up a little. SteamOS is only a coincidence but who knows, maybe there's some interesting strategy at work.
        • by exomondo (1725132)

          will keep FOSS purists happy

          I doubt that's a concern at all given that Steam is a distribution mechanism primarily for non-free DRM software.

          • by Wootery (1087023)

            You could be right - they've not cared before.

            If I understand correctly, nouveau beats the equivalent Open Source driver for AMD's chips - nVidia might be thinking of this is as a way to stay well ahead of AMD when it comes to Open Source Linux drivers.

        • by Bert64 (520050)

          It's not just about gamers... Lots of people are using GPUs for processing these days, and Linux has a much bigger market share of compute servers than it does gaming.

      • by citizenr (871508)

        Valve is huge into open source GFX drivers - they made a big deal out of Valve-Intel collaboration that let them speed up opengl engine by almost hundred percent directly because they could work with driver source and Intel software engineers.

    • Re:Valve/Steam (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Luciano Moretti (2887109) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @02:44PM (#44939465)

      That was exactly my thought.

      Valve is making a big push into the Linux game space, and is likely putting some pressure on partners to "play nice" with Linux. While Valve isn't likely big enough to cause a complete reversal on their own, I'm guessing that Valve + Shield + success with releasing mobile specs + other internal pressures is causing them to reevaluate their stance in regard to desktop graphics accelerators.

      • by Threni (635302)

        Play nice? Don't be daft. Linux has always been pointless for driver/card manufactures because Linux has never been popular on the desktop. Finally there's a chance people will now use Linux this way and there's some money in it you watch them all crawl out.

      • + other internal pressures

        There was always the rumor that some things "couldn't be released" because of the patent minefield (that every vendor was certainly infringing on dozens of bogus patents both from other vendors and potential trolls). Perhaps some of those have expired.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I had assumed I somehow magically woke up on April 1st.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      Why would valve care? they could just run off with closed drivers.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        They can't ship the OS with them. Even Ubuntu installs them separately later.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Why couldn't they license them for redistribution?

          • by gagol (583737)
            GPL?
            • by exomondo (1725132)

              GPL?

              Many companies ship the linux kernel with proprietary drivers, have a look at Android smartphones for many examples.

              • by gagol (583737)
                Hence the "?", thank you for the details.
                • by exomondo (1725132)
                  To elaborate further there are provisions to allow for non-free code to link to the kernel using its external interfaces. Though there is also a mechanism to override that such that certain interfaces can be marked such that they can only be linked to by GPL-compatible licensed code. I find the latter to be very anti-freedom and user-hostile though.
                  • by h4rr4r (612664)

                    I find the former to be very anti-freedom and user-hostile. The latter is pro freedom and user friendly, while being third party developer hostile. The user's freedom simply matters more.

                    • by exomondo (1725132)

                      The latter is pro freedom and user friendly, while being third party developer hostile. The user's freedom simply matters more.

                      No, when it prevents me from having a working driver because the ideology of the driver author and the kernel author don't match that most certainly is user-hostile and anti-freedom! If i want to mix and match proprietary and free software that should be my choice to make, not anybody elses.

                    • by vilanye (1906708)
                      What license stops you from running proprietary software?

                      The GPL doesn't. As an example there is plenty of proprietary userland and driver software available on Linux.

                      Linux can't ship which the closed Nvidia driver, but no license stops you from using it. Linux can't ship with ZFS support in the kernel, but no license stops you from using it with Linux.
        • by apcullen (2504324)
          But they could certainly install them automatically using a post-installation script
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Definitely. They like to keep this stuff locked up tighter than a hooker's snatch. SteamOS means millions of new users that care about open source software and that money will be going straight to AMD/ATI since they publish their info.

      I have it on good authority that their board of directors mandated this release to prevent fiduciary duty lawsuits.

      • by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @02:49PM (#44939555) Homepage Journal

        They like to keep this stuff locked up tighter than a hooker's snatch.

        I'm not so sure that analogy means what you think it means.

        I have it on good authority that their board of directors mandated this release to prevent fiduciary duty lawsuits.

        Nothing like putting the douche in fiduciary, eh?

        • They like to keep this stuff locked up tighter than a hooker's snatch.

          I'm not so sure that analogy means what you think it means.

          I think he meant to say "tighter than a gnat's chuff", but got lost halfway through the sentence.

      • Where might one find these tight ones?

        Apologies to any sensitive women for encouraging this.

      • Re:Valve/Steam (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @04:48PM (#44941141)

        SteamOS means millions of new users

        Potentially, sure.

        that care about open source software

        You're incredibly naive if you believe that bit.

        • by gagol (583737)
          Well, I am one and knows others. I live in a very small village. Not hard to believe at least 2 millions people worldwide is interrested in open tech, have the means to buy the SteamBox+Games and will. Unless you count only USA as the whole world, your premise is badly broken.
          • I think you are confusing "care about Open Source software" with "care about getting stuff for free".

            Don't get me wrong, I've been a big Linux and UNIX guy for a couple of decades now, I'm also the "IT bloke" that gets everyone else's PCs to fix and repair. I've turned a lot of friends and family into using Open Source applications (mostly on Windows), especially when I have found illegally installed commercial software on their PCs and told them I won't do a thing to repair their PCs unless they un-install

        • You're incredibly naive if you believe that bit.

          You just missed all of those Android users being branded as 'linux zealots'. Oh, wait...

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        SteamOS means millions of new users that care about open source software

        I highly doubt that, in fact the users will primarily be using it for closed-source non-free DRM software, they don't care about open source.

        • by Narcocide (102829)

          You might be surprised. I'd only try SteamOS under the pretext it would be easier to integrate with Steam than Debian, and less insecure/pointlessly obfuscated than Ubuntu. Nobody else I know who uses Steam uses it on Linux (despite the demonstrated framerate improvements in tf2/l4d2) because Linux itself is perceived as too hard to install and use. All SteamOS has to do is keep me satisfied and be easier to get up and running with optimized hardware 3d accerlation and a Steam client than Ubuntu or Windo

          • by exomondo (1725132)
            I don't doubt they could potentially see millions of users, but I do doubt that many - if any - of those users actually care about open source at all, in fact most of the software they will actually use will be closed-source anyway.
    • Re:Valve/Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @02:50PM (#44939589)

      Not really. I think it was a response to the increased fragmentation of display servers. They'd have to support X and Mir and Wayland with their drivers. It's easier to just provide documentation and let the open source drivers do most of the heavy-lifting. Also, AMD's open support has been met with a lot of praise lately, due to DPM being available for the open drivers. Thinking more long-term, the Wintel platform is starting to give signs of decline, so it doesn't hurt NVIDIA to hedge their bets - and the most economical way of doing that is by releasing specs.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Open source drivers for AMD hardware aren't really coming along that well as we had hoped when the specs were first released. I doubt we'd get a good open source Geforce driver even if they released all their hardware specs tomorrow. It'd be nice if in addition to the specs they at least provided a (even closed, but easily interfacable) shader compiler, they've been perfecting that for years.

    • by WarJolt (990309)

      I think embedded and mobile development benefits from open source.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I think embedded and mobile development benefits from open source.

        Only in that you can get a ready made embedded OS on the cheap.

        Proprietary stuff it depends - partners of SoC vendors (you usually have to be one in order to use their stuff) get access to documents and source code to what gets turned into a binary blob a lot of the time.

        So embedded OEMs and vendors can get access to the code if they need it, make changes to suit them build it and ship it. As far as they're concerned, it's "open source" to th

    • Yeah, i was going to post that too. It may also be that Nvidia is worried that AMD will try to gain mindshare among Linux gamers. PS4 is running orbis (~freebsd) with AMD. Developers of C++ games may find it easier to port code to Linux from BSD than in previous generations. If the Steambox idea holds up, and the PS4 is truly indie-friendly, I can see a lot of games being ported.
    • by becker (190314)

      Releasing the documentation has actually been a lengthy internal process that started long ago. The present timing hasn't been strongly motivated by any external event, although there was a little extra push to release at least one document before the X Developer's Conference.

    • by Monsuco (998964)

      Anyone else think this is a result of Valve's announcement of focus on Linux-based Steam?

      Valve, unlike most Linux vendors, probably won't get their panties in a wad over whether or not a driver is "free as in freedom" vs "free as in beer". I'm guessing a SteamOS probably would use the closed source drivers. This anouncement sure helps the Noaveau team, but Valve users will probably just use the NVidia drivers anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since Intel, ARM, and Vivante have already spent their millions on delevoping the 3D graphics to compete with AMD, nvidia, and Immagination, nvidia might now feel it is ok to open source some of its specs.

  • Apologize? No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @02:54PM (#44939645)

    I really hope that some day I can just apologize for ever giving them the finger.

    There's no need to apologize later Linus. They behaved badly and you called them out on it. If they change their behavior for the better, simply praise them for that then.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      That was my thought. You don't take back a valid criticism when someone changes their behavior. You acknowledge that the bad behavior is now in the past.
    • by Brandano (1192819)
      Still, it WOULD make the news
    • They behaved badly and you called them out on it. If they change their behavior for the better, simply praise them for that then.

      Ah, you're probably not married then.

      Bayesian Social Science is mostly harmless.

      • They behaved badly and you called them out on it. If they change their behavior for the better, simply praise them for that then.

        Ah, you're probably not married then.

        Actually, I was very happily married for 20.5 years. My wife died in January 2006.

  • Intel and AMD have their cpu architectures opened to the public, why not gpu architectures so the linux and bsd communities can develop better drivers for wayland and mir windowing systems, what are they hiding. Or at least Nvidia and AMD can build an opengl only gpu for the open source world(linux, bsd). Fucking corporations.

    • by syockit (1480393)

      what are they hiding.

      Patent infringements, perhaps.

    • Intel and AMD have their cpu architectures opened to the public, why not gpu architectures so the linux and bsd communities can develop better drivers for wayland and mir windowing systems, what are they hiding. Or at least Nvidia and AMD can build an opengl only gpu for the open source world(linux, bsd). Fucking corporations.

      What? This particular article is exactly about Nvidia releasing more open documentation about their hardware.

  • Nintendo should give up on making console hardware and stick with handhelds and offer their traditional console titles via Steam.
  • A couple of days ago there was the Slashdot article about Linus being asked if he has been ever asked to insert a backdoor into Linux. Now as the full talk is available in YouTube [youtube.com] , you might want to check the particular comment at 24:15 and judge for yourself. After his nodding and audience laughter, a few seconds after that Linus writes it off by shaking his head and saying "no", in a voice that to me sounds like it really was just meant to be only a joke. Any comments?
  • I hear that somewhere in the company there's a short video that serves as an introduction to their GPU architecture for new driver engineers. I wonder if they'll release it, too?

    (*uncontrollable giggling*)

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