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Graphics Open Source Upgrades Linux

Open-Source NVIDIA Driver Steps Up Its Game & Runs Much Faster 143

Posted by timothy
from the when-factors-combine dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With the Linux 3.16 kernel the Nouveau driver now supports re-clocking for letting the NVIDIA GPU cores and video memory on this reverse-engineered NVIDIA driver run at their designed frequencies. Up to now the Nouveau driver has been handicapped to running at whatever (generally low) clock frequencies the video BIOS programmed the hardware to at boot time, but with Linux 3.16 is experimental support for up-clocking to the hardware-rated speeds. The results show the open-source NVIDIA driver running multiple times faster, but it doesn't work for all NVIDIA hardware, causes lock-ups for some GPUs at some frequencies, and isn't yet dynamically controlled. However, it appears to be the biggest break-through in years for this open-source NVIDIA driver that up to now has been too slow for most Linux games."
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Open-Source NVIDIA Driver Steps Up Its Game & Runs Much Faster

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  • So based on this article it sounds like overclocking your video card is something everyone should do?
    And NVIDIA is a pretty big name. This article is saying that all of htere cards are too slow without overclocking to play most Linux games?

    • No overclocking (Score:5, Informative)

      by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:46AM (#47287959)
      This isn't about overclocking. Most GPUs get set to a power saving speed for boot that is way below their maximal factory rated capacity. A 1GHz GPU could well be clocked at 300MHz or even lower during boot by the BIOS settings.
      • Re:No overclocking (Score:4, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:14AM (#47288053) Homepage Journal

        This isn't about overclocking. Most GPUs get set to a power saving speed for boot that is way below their maximal factory rated capacity. A 1GHz GPU could well be clocked at 300MHz or even lower during boot by the BIOS settings.

        And it's a damned good thing, too. When clocked lower and only displaying text the GPU is using the absolute lowest amount of power. If you're having problems with PCIE VRM (badcaps!) then the system will often come up to the GUI and then fail, but you can still use the text interface to troubleshoot, for example changing BIOS settings around and the like while chasing the problem.

      • It's a very good start but until they can manage dynamic clocking, proper monitoring of GPU, RAM and PCB temperature, and then adjust fan speeds or fallback lower in case of overheat, you are better be very careful with this recent feature.

    • by GNious (953874)

      BIOSes would generally set it to a default, low clock-speed.
      This is for setting it to the proper (non-overclocked) speed.

      • Why would the BIOS underclock it to something below the recommended speed?
        Are you implying that the proprietary drivers for Linux and Windows default to overclocking to this "proper" speed?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          More or less, that's exactly what happens.

          The card's official drivers will have multiple known good power states configured - a low power, low performance configuration for an idle desktop, a high power, high performance mode for demanding games or CAD/CAM work, and something in the middle for older titles that don't need the cards full performance potential. This is what the 'adaptive' and 'prefer maximum performance' options in nvidia's windows drivers refer to.

          For mine, under windows, these modes are 51M

        • The BIOS has safe default settings that do not require active monitoring or even knowing the ambient temperature. (Consider a laptop that had been left an a car overnight during winter. When booting you need to have high voltage and low frequency to get it to initially work. That is not necessarily a typical condition, but the system when booting does not know anything yet.)

          Once the driver is running it can start adjusting things to account for ambient temperature, work load, relative usage of other system

        • by epyT-R (613989)

          The chip is specced to run at a specific speed.. when the full performance is not needed, the drivers underclock it to save power and heat. same is true for the ram on the card too. Voltages and memory timings also scale too, which might be why some cards are having trouble at their highest settings. Nouveau might not set the right timings and voltages for those clocks.

          So technically the card is not 'overclocked' unless it's run beyond the manufacturer set top speed and voltage.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          power saving. the clocks go up and down all the time in use.

          it's not really overclocking or underclocking but a mhz management feature - of course, drivers without this feature would be quite useless.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      So based on this article it sounds like overclocking your video card is something everyone should do?

      As the sibling comment says, that's not what the article says at all.

      With that said, yes, overclocking your video card is something pretty much everyone should do. Video cards are now typically sold with considerable headroom, and manufacturers actually bundle overclocking tools with the cards. Whether the idea here is to stop throwing away low-binned GPUs or to make customers feel better about their purchases, either way you do want to overclock your video card. I got one extra FPS out of furmark at 1920x1

      • Unfortunately, this card either can't be overclocked on Linux, or I need another driver. Whether I set coolbits to 1, 4, 5, 12, 13 or whatever, I never get overclocking options. So I guess I won't be buying any linux games which have fancy graphics. I can only use the full power of my system under windows.

        Then why do you use Linux? I always choose the operating system which allows me to utilize my hardware to the greatest extent. Right now I'm using Linux, because in this case I get higher OpenGL support for the old Intel gen4 hardware.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Then why do you use Linux?

          I use Linux when I want to do secure things, like banking. I don't trust Microsoft to handle paypal, let alone online banking. I use windows when I want to play games. The right tool for the job. I will do some light surfing on Windows with firefox, noscript, ghostery, adblock plus, but I don't trust it* with anything important, e.g. if I see something I want to eBay I will go ahead and log into eBay so I can buy it, but I stop short of entering my paypal password and I go handle the payment later, when I'm

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      There is a high quality proprietary driver made by NVIDIA.
      This is about an alternative open-source driver made by hobbyists which is much slower than the real thing.

      • And the article states that the reason it is slower is because it does not overclock the card by a factor or two or three. Or maybe it is making up for being so slow by overclocking the card?

        Either way the article is stating. "NVidia Linux users, your graphical woes are over. Download this update and overclock your card to many times its original speed". I am asking if that advice is good advice? If 2X-overclocking a graphics card just something everyone with an NVidia card should do?

        • The summary is misleading. It's not about overclocking at all, but actually letting your NVidia card run at full speed under Nouveau. See, Nouveau doesn't have the ability to dynamically set your GPU's clock, so it boots in the normal low power state and then can never go up, no matter what.

          Using the proprietary driver, the card is clocked based upon graphics needs.

          Under Nouveau say, a GT640 rev 2 would always run at 405Mhz, NOT the full 1124 Mhz even if you ran a 3D using application. Using the propriet

  • by nonsequitor (893813) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:12AM (#47288039)

    Kudos to the Nouveau team for reaching this exciting milestone!

    If they tested side by side with the closed source driver from Nvidia, where does this put them in terms of performance?

    How long until an average user will chose the nouveau driver over the closed source driver, if said user doesn't care about licensing or building from source, but is looking for out of the box performance? Where does that put them in comparison with the Nvidia driver on Windows?

    Personally, this project is not very relevant to me since I have no qualms about using the closed source driver which is good enough for my purposes, but I'm not a gamer. I really hope someone like Valve is sponsoring this development because it sounds like a lot of tedious, hard work to be doing pro bono.

    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:04AM (#47288259)

      How long until an average user will chose the nouveau driver over the closed source driver, if said user doesn't care about licensing or building from source, but is looking for out of the box performance?

      When it is stable? The damn thing kept crashing on me one or two times a day which is why I switched to the proprietary driver. Now I'm back to using the Nouveau driver with a new Nvidia card and it only crashes one or two times a month which is just about stable enough to not make me bother with the proprietary one.

      Where does that put them in comparison with the Nvidia driver on Windows?

      The Windows driver is somewhat more stable, I regard stability as an aspect of performance.

    • In the past I've primarily used Nvidia cards and always used the closed source drivers because they were so much better.

      Now I have an AMD card and was having performance problems. I found out that the open source drivers for AMD are better than the proprietary ones.

      So I consider it relevant just for the simplicity of the overall system. New users shouldn't have to research whether the proprietary driver is better than the open source one for their card. It's better for the success of Linux when things ju

  • I know that NV2A is a lumpy problem, but I'd sure like to know if there's been any progress on that front. I googled around a little bit and didn't see anything, but that is hardly an exhaustive search. My understanding was that someone was going to have to get passionate about the project to move it forwards, and I suppose that's unlikely to happen now, but there's still a lot of 360s out there in the world and they still have 720p/1080i and digital audio out, they're a pretty decent display box.

    • by jonwil (467024)

      I think you mean original xboxes. The 360 has an ATI GPU, not NVIDIA.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I think you mean original xboxes. The 360 has an ATI GPU, not NVIDIA.

        Yes I do, sorry. I have three of them here still, I think. At least two. My 360 is on my mind because last time I wanted to use it (last night) I instead got to make several hundred megabytes of updates, between the OS and GTAV with two required (free) content packs, and then it hung. Probably I should crack it again, de-dust it, and apply new thermal compound. Now, where is my arctic silver?

        • by goarilla (908067)

          Now, where is my arctic silver?

          I always wonder, is there an expiration date on thermal paste. I keep buying new ones because I don't know and it's cheap.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I always wonder, is there an expiration date on thermal paste. I keep buying new ones because I don't know and it's cheap.

            Well, it only lasts so long when applied, but I assume that it will last longer before application, while still in the syringe. If it's in a plasti-packet, then I assume that it will go bad about as quickly as applied compound, although it will probably take longer than that due to decreased thermal cycling.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:45AM (#47288187)

    I'm glad that it got fixed, but why haven't I ever before heard about this constrainment in the Nouveau driver? Once again, were the open source propellerheads so excited about open source, that they never honestly mentioned this glooming limitation in any discussions? :(

    What next? "Oh, we forgot to mention that all vertex shaders have been software-emulated in Mesa for the last 10 years. Well, we've finally fixed it."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      From the front page of the nouveau wiki (http://nouveau.freedesktop.org/wiki/):

      """
      Performance level selection (also known as "reclocking") is not supported yet. Expect low 3D performance on laptops using a Tesla GPU and all Fermi/Kepler cards. (see CodeNames)
      """

      So... don't know why you haven't heard it before... perhaps you don't look for things?

    • Lots of phoronix blog posts have made it to the front page of slashdot and talked about this exact issue. It's only recently that the open source drivers have been gaining momentum and becoming usable for gaming on most GPU's. But they've been fine for desktop work for ages.
    • As the anon says, it's been stated on Nouveau's website for ages. Similarly, googling for "nouveau reclocking" or similar shows plenty of posts and websites dating at least to 30.1.2012. So basically, it's been discussed a lot, it's been discussed even here on Slashdot, and you've just missed the whole thing. Calling others "propellerheads" for your failures isn't quite fair.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...for your failures...".

        Well there we have it. One of the FOSS communities most objectionable habits, which is to say, blame the user. The failings never have anything to do with FOSS, it's always the user's fault! FLOSS is clean, decent, right-thinking and can never be wrong.

        Speaking only for myself, here's what is wrong with your statement. It assumes that I am visting the Nouveau web site, which I do not. It assumes that I know to search for "nouveau reclocking" which I do not. And it assume

    • by ledow (319597)

      Please don't lose sight of the real problem:

      If nVidia just pulled their finger out and gave these guys proper documentation, or at least a hint, or a hand, or maybe even some damn code, things would have moved HUNDREDS OF TIMES FASTER.

      These people are finding out how to do this stuff by probing the card, listening to what the driver does, and that's all extremely low-level stuff on undocumented chips.

      The fact it works AT ALL is because these guys are fucking good at what they do and are trying extremely har

    • by zequav (2700007)
      Nouveau *did* have reclocking for several cards before. I used to be able to reclock my 450GTS and 460GTX without any problems with something like:

      # echo 3 > /sys/class/drm/card0/device/performance_level

      but since kernel 3.11 or 3.12 (I don't remember) they changed the interface to the new yadda/yadda/pstate, and we lost the reclocking ability for the last 3 or 4 kernel versions. I wish they had waited until they had something functional to remove something that (at least for some of us) worked fine
    • I never heard of it either, despite all the guys trying to tear me a new one for supporting those horrible and evil propietary drivers. I even got called shill about it, just because it works for me. (...and if I was on nvidia's payroll I wouldn't be wasting my time here anyway...)

      I guess they got to resort to disinformation in order to scare people away from the binary driver that works so we can all use our systems in a total "libre" fashion. I am a strong supporter of open source, I only produce open sou

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:29AM (#47288647)

    Even though this is a good step in the right direction, Nouveau still isn't even stable enough for general consumption, let alone seriously competitive with features or performance of nVidia's binary-only driver.

    It annoys the heck out of me that Mint switched to installing nouveau by default and especially without any alternative graphics driver option at install time, as on my laptop at least, as soon as Nouveau starts it crashes and locks up the whole PC. Trendy political correctness for (broken) open source shouldn't ever trump a binary driver if it actually works better, or especialy if it is the only option that works at all in some cases.

    Add on top of that the fact that Mint devs also removed Ubuntu's boot menu option to install Linux before X starts, means the retarded decision to use nouveau by default makes it impossible for me and presumably therefore many others to install Mint from scratch without some obscure and what should be completely unnecessary hacking every time.

    If even just installing Mint is borked, its really going to put off people who are trying Linux for the first time.

    • by Arker (91948)
      So you happen to have one of the cards it crashes on. I can understand being annoyed by that.

      But look at the big picture, please. The binary driver is a buggy POS on any system, and will never be anything else. The nouveau driver gives a viable way to support this hardware properly. Sure it still crashes on some cards. Bug reports are needed to identify the issues and fix them. The point here is this is software that CAN be fixed, unlike a binary that cant even be USED in many cases, let alone fixed.

      "Add on
      • by JustNiz (692889)

        >> The binary driver is a buggy POS on any system, and will never be anything else.

        No it really isn't. i run it on several linux boxes all with different nVidia GPUs and they all work perfectly. By which I mean I've NEVER seen a crash using the nVidia Linux driver.

        Novueau crashes all the time. On my laptop especailyl I can't even start it.

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