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Old 11-09-2004, 08:23 PM   #1
jeremy
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Interview with NVIDIA Engineers


LQ) Can you tell me a little bit about what went into the original decision to release an NVIDIA driver for Linux?
NV) NVIDIA received several requests from our end users for giving the same quality Linux drivers that we provide on other platforms. In addition, our workstation customers were moving more and more of their development to Linux. NVIDIA recognized early on the demand for Linux drivers from the community as well as from significant commercial customers such as the film studios, national labs, geosciences, life sciences, etc and knew that this was to become a trend in professional graphics as customers started migrating from proprietary UNIX workstations to open platforms.

LQ) Does NVIDIA use Linux for anything internally?
NV) Yes, we use it for many things internally from developing drivers to designing and verifying our chip design. We use Linux substantially for software development, testing, as well as having the largest Linux data center for chip simulation in the industry!

LQ) Can you tell us a little bit about the current demand you are seeing for Linux drivers? What has the recent trend been?
NV) Demand has continues to grow for high quality Linux drivers with each new generation of GPUs. Around 15-20% of our workstation users ship with Linux. Some industries in the workstation business are 100% Linux. We have users using our Linux OpenGL drivers for things like designing automobiles, operating medical equipment, broadcasting television, and creating the latest special effects in movies.

LQ) From a technical perspective, which drivers do your engineers like working on? Why?
NV) I think its fair to say that our engineers like working on great GPUs. We have some folks on our team that like working on Linux, others on Windows, and others on Apple. Driver developers can be bigots too. We have too many developers to make such a generalization. Due to the unified driver infrastructure, we share a common driver base between multiple operating systems (like Linux, Windows, Linux64, Win64, MacOS, Solaris).

LQ) At times, NVIDIA has taken a bit of flak for the Linux drivers not being Open Source. Can you tell us a little bit about why they aren't? Do you have any plans for a full open source driver, or is the long term plan to stick with one Open Source driver (nv) and one closed source driver (nvidia).
NV) We have lots of IP in our supported closed source Linux driver some of which is licensed and cannot be open sourced. While we did our best to ensure that there was open source driver (nv) for our chips available, we got lots of feedback from our professional partners as well as end users that wanted a driver that had the same quality and performance characteristics of our supported drivers for platforms such as Windows and Apple. By taking on the commitment to providing great Linux drivers for our GPUs, networking adapters/storage/audio devices we have given our end users the same Compatibility, Reliability & Stability that NVIDIA Software has become known for. We will maintain the strategy of providing both. Due to the UDA architecture, there is too much IP in the driver source to make open sourcing the driver a practicality.

LQ) Is there anything the Linux community could do to help enable the release of an Open Source driver?
NV) Not at this time.

LQ) Has NVIDIA considered putting a "Compatible with Linux" type logo (similar to the Windows logo) on any of its products?
NV) We do use the Linux (Penguin) logo when appropriate on our software etc, but this is more of a question for our OEM's and channel partners who place these types of stickers on their boxes.

LQ) What do you see as the biggest obstacle for Linux becoming a mainstream gaming platform?
NV) Having better game developer tools for Linux, more installed base of consumer users for Linux and the general availability of Linux gaming titles.

LQ) Any comment on the recent X.org fork? Do you anticipate it impacting NVIDIA in any way?
NV) No comment at this time.

LQ) Can you give us a glimpse or tip on anything that may be upcoming from NVIDIA?
NV) The Linux team leaves product announcements to our marketing team but in software we are always focused on faster and more features.

UPDATE - 11/12/04
--------------------
LQ) Has NVIDIA considered releasing the hardware specs for any of their cards (video or otherwise) so that the Linux community could write a fully functional Open Source driver? If not, why?
NV) In answer to your follow-up question, the answer is really the IP involved. In talking with the developers, there is no effective way we could both do this in a manner that is effective while protecting our IP as it relates to the hardware. Similar response to the "why aren't our Linux drivers open source" question.

I also have a couple updates to the previous questions you asked - I inadvertently left out the comments from one of our Linux developers. Please update if you can - see below:

LQ) What do you see as the biggest obstacle for Linux becoming a mainstream gaming platform?

Update) Having better game developer tools for Linux, more installed base of consumer users for Linux and the general availability of Linux gaming titles. The extremely dynamic nature of Linux is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, the components of Linux can change quick (from version to version) to provide new functionality or better ways of doing things, but that dynamic nature causes interfaces to change frequently, making it hard for anyone to release software that will run on a wide spectrum of Linux distributions/versions.

LQ) Any comment on the recent X.org fork? Do you anticipate it impacting NVIDIA in any way?
Update) As long as both X servers continue to maintain their binary compatible driver interface, our graphics driver will work with both X servers. We have open communication with both X.org and XFree86 developers, so we do not anticipate that compatibility will break. The politics involved are unfortunate, but some of the new features under development in the X.org server are exciting (Damage/Composite for translucent windows, etc), though we are unsure what impact Composite will have on some of our workstation customers: the interaction between Composite and things like workstation overlays is ill-defined, at best.
 
Old 11-10-2004, 12:07 AM   #2
The_Nerd
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cool
 
Old 11-10-2004, 12:39 AM   #3
Dummy-in-Linux
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I agree, if there are more games the Linux platform will be more accepted.

It is a bit funny that an operating system stands or falls with the availability of games.
 
Old 11-10-2004, 02:25 AM   #4
student04
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Awesome - I am pro-nvidia, and admire their support and development for Linux platforms. However, I am stuck with my ATI card, only because dell didn't offer an nvidia card with my laptop (and i didn't get the choice of which version laptop to use so my games are stuck in windows at the moment) I helped get the drivers installed on other friend's machines - those willing to use linux.

I didn't know there were two drivers to choose from. Is there any other difference besides open/closed source?

Quote:
Originally posted by Dummy-in-Linux
I agree, if there are more games the Linux platform will be more accepted.

It is a bit funny that an operating system stands or falls with the availability of games.
That I definitely notice. My friends don't use Linux using the excuse that their game won't work (ported over) - which is true for a majority of the cases.




NVIDIA, keep up the great work! And thanks, jeremy, for the interview Always a pleasure to read them!
 
Old 11-10-2004, 07:58 AM   #5
TiMiN8R
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Yeah i'm an nvidia lover myself, i do have a laptop manufatcurer (toshiba) who put a geforce4 in it, although it's not as good as the desktop versions. got a geforce 2 in my old p3 600.

student04, to answer your question about the two drivers: the "nv" driver is a very basic open source driver that ships with most distro's and doesn't support 3d acceleration. if you want 3d you have to download the "nvidia" driver from the nvidia site or through the online update if your distro has it.
 
Old 11-10-2004, 09:20 AM   #6
student04
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Quote:
Originally posted by TiMiN8R
student04, to answer your question about the two drivers: the "nv" driver is a very basic open source driver that ships with most distro's and doesn't support 3d acceleration. if you want 3d you have to download the "nvidia" driver from the nvidia site or through the online update if your distro has it.
Right, that's what I have been doing. I just didn't know that whether now I was downloading and installing the wrong ones, but I guess everything is ok as the one on the nvidia site is the closed source, and 3d accelerated. No quarrels here .. uh, rather, with my friends! (haha unless one is reading this post and has a different view? )
 
Old 11-10-2004, 10:13 AM   #7
RHLinuxGUY
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Awwww, they didn't put my question's in there... :[
 
Old 11-10-2004, 10:20 AM   #8
Zyglow
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Good Article!
 
Old 11-10-2004, 11:20 AM   #9
mariuz
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i just installed nvidia driver on my "workstation" (userlinux aka debian-sid)
works great (gf2mx400)
And look what they have done with the new drivers !
http://planet64bit.de/modules/news/a...hp?storyid=351
ps:
os linux drivers sometimes works even when the hw is faulty (when it shouldn't)
Had one gf4mx440 (elixir or something) and one day stoped working on windows (no hw acceleration even after driver/os reinstall) took the userlinux livecd http://hams.com/Mirror/userlinux-live-0.2.iso and booted .Was in the state of shock every thing worked (hw detected) , i could watch divx movies ...etc
Ok when i booted from the hdd (debian-sid) it crashed (black screen no signal)
What puzzled me was why it worked with live cd I know the board is dead (it will be replaced at vendor)

Last edited by mariuz; 11-10-2004 at 11:24 AM.
 
Old 11-10-2004, 03:39 PM   #10
Darin
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Great that they are willing to talk to the Linux community!

I think the closed source issue will plague NVidia for awhile, only for the fact that it can not be shipped with Open Source distros. I do see the possiblity of a trend developing where more hardware vendors offer closed source drivers, I belive that is how Intel does their network drivers. I think we just have been spoiled by the fact that so many drivers are open source and can ship with Linux, this has to do with the way Linux originated. We do need to be willing to accept the fact that the drivers we want that have full functionality need to be closed source from a developer standpoint so that internal development 'trade secrets' aren't available to competitors. Us accepting closed source drivers such as NVidia's is something that needs to be done since the hardware industry will always be leary of opening up their code and I think they have done very well in compromising by providing their linux drivers free to download with the excellent installer that they have.

My guess is that some sort of compromise should be reached with licensing so that Linux distros can ship with these closed source drivers. For now I'll take the fact that I have to get free downloadable drivers for my hardware seperatly from my Linux distribution if it enables functionality like the 3D support that NVidia has.
 
Old 11-10-2004, 08:48 PM   #11
henryg
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NVIDIA we LOVE you !
 
Old 11-10-2004, 10:13 PM   #12
uriel
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How much hypocrisy, their NForce support is a joke, can't document a NIC so non-buggy drivers can be written? Can't they document their sound chipset so we don't have to deal with a crippled sound driver?

It's so sad that people has to reverse-engineer their buggy and useless binary drivers to get the network cards we paid for to work half decently.

I had enough of NVidia nonsense. Other companies suck, but NVidia will have to change a lot before I consider buying anything from them again.

Their 3D Video drivers might be good, but if you run any development kernel they don't work half of the time, and anyway, I don't feel like tainning my kernel just so I can get some extra FPS. If they really cared about Linux they would release the documentation to their hardware and let people write open source drivers for it. Maybe they wont be every bit as fast as their proprietary ones, but at least they will be better integrated with the system.
 
Old 11-10-2004, 11:14 PM   #13
ubuntu-addict
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Quote:
If they really cared about Linux they would release the documentation to their hardware and let people write open source drivers for it
Quote:
LQ) At times, NVIDIA has taken a bit of flak for the Linux drivers not being Open Source. Can you tell us a little bit about why they aren't? Do you have any plans for a full open source driver, or is the long term plan to stick with one Open Source driver (nv) and one closed source driver (nvidia).
NV) We have lots of IP in our supported closed source Linux driver some of which is licensed and cannot be open sourced. While we did our best to ensure that there was open source driver (nv) for our chips available, we got lots of feedback from our professional partners as well as end users that wanted a driver that had the same quality and performance characteristics of our supported drivers for platforms such as Windows and Apple. By taking on the commitment to providing great Linux drivers for our GPUs, networking adapters/storage/audio devices we have given our end users the same Compatibility, Reliability & Stability that NVIDIA Software has become known for. We will maintain the strategy of providing both. Due to the UDA architecture, there is too much IP in the driver source to make open sourcing the driver a practicality.
How about actually reading the article? If you don't like it, STFU and have a great time getting an ATI card to work. lol, or have fun with Intel's piece of shit video cards.
 
Old 11-10-2004, 11:37 PM   #14
J.W.
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I'm impressed with nVidia's attitude and this interview. I've got to admit that I've spent endless frustrating hours wrestling with ATI, and plan on making my next video upgrade a high-end nVidia card.

I do think however that nVidia should push its OEM's to include the Tux emblem on the box. If they publicize their cards' compatibility with Windows, then the absence of a Linux-compatibility sticker very well could create doubts in the minds of purchasers who might not know that these cards are in fact Linux-compatible. I would think that nVidia would want to maximize the chances of making a sale, and therefore if the Linux market is growing, it would be foolish _not_ to advertise that these cards work just as well under Linux.

Anyway, just my 2 cents. Thanks for the insightful interview -- J.W.
 
Old 11-11-2004, 02:42 AM   #15
Obi-Wan_Kenobi
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I can tell you that Linux drivers is the sole reason I buy nVidia, and ONLY nVidia. Congrats guys, you earned brand loyalty from me by supporting Linux. Many other Linux users feel the same way, and if anyone asks me what graphics card to get, you can be sure I'll recommend nVidia because of its good Linux drivers.

See, supporting Linux is profitable

-= Obi-Wan =-
 
  


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