Nvidia releases open-source Linux drivers for their GPUs

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Coming as a shock to some is a surprise announcement from Nvidia: the tech company has released an open-source version of its graphics drivers. There are a few caveats to the story, but as of right now, you can grab the freshly released GPU kernel module over on Nvidia's own GitHub page. This applies specifically to Linux, and will allow for better driver support on the platform, and lets the community help provide input, according to veteran developer teams Canonical, Red Hat, and SUSE.

This release is a significant step toward improving the experience of using NVIDIA GPUs in Linux, for tighter integration with the OS, and for developers to debug, integrate, and contribute back. For Linux distribution providers, the open-source modules increase ease of use. They also improve the out-of-the-box user experience to sign and distribute the NVIDIA GPU driver. Canonical and SUSE can immediately package the open kernel modules with Ubuntu and SUSE Linux Enterprise Distributions.

You can trace into code paths and see how kernel event scheduling is interacting with your workload, for faster root-cause debugging. In addition, enterprise software developers can now integrate the driver seamlessly into the customized Linux kernel configured for their project.

This helps improve NVIDIA GPU driver quality and security with input and reviews from the Linux end-user community.

Other developers, however, were less enthusiastic about the announcement. Hector Matrin, behind Asahi Linux, explained that despite the open-source release, Nvidia has now put most of their important or sensitive data within the firmware of their graphics cards; the open-source code then interacts with nearly 900 functions of the firmware, which itself is closed-source. Their other proprietary graphics software, including OpenGL and Vulkan, also remain closed-source as well.

Currently, Nvidia says that the driver release is usable for testing, but those who want to use it with GeForce support will have to wait a little bit longer. The R515.43.04 release is available below for those curious to check it out.


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RedoLane

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Being a Nvidia GPU user is a long-lasting pain in the form of driver updates.
Just when you think it optimizes one thing, it breaks another.
I'm not surprised about Hector's claim, but it's pretty stupid to open source those Linux drivers when there are still some closed-source software which probably won't operate as fast as they do on Windows without the right optimization. It's like telling programmers to deal with it themselves since they(Nvidia) have better things to do.
Better driver support means that certain Linux-based programmers could potentially have to work harder in order to provide that support for everyone.
Btw, Nvidia needs to learn their lesson and have a better plan of their roadmap for the year, because for a long time I get the impression that their driver updates are tied to game releases, and those updates end up being rushed and not tested for enough time.

EDIT: Had to double-check my sources.
 
Last edited by RedoLane,

gbatempfan1

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They just rearranged things and open sourced a loader that uploads to your gpu a proprietary binary blob that actually operates it. It will help though by making the interfaces easier to use, but continues to keep the card itself opaque, which means certain advanced features and deeper level control are still not available. Features on par with vGPU that haven't been reverse engineered, but would be much simpler with true open source, still require lots of work.
 
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diggeloid

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I wonder if the Steam Deck may have something to do with this move. It's an extremely popular mainstream Linux device, while at the same time people are becoming more and more hesitant to adopt Windows 11. Whether those observations are significant enough to impact Nvidia's decision-making, idk. Maybe it's wishful thinking to believe it is, but this is a good move from them regardless.

Even though the firmware is still closed source, this is a very big step in the right direction for Nvidia, who have probably been enemy number 1 in the world of open source since forever. Moving functionality into the firmware is bad long-term, but at the very least it means that my operating system potentially doesn't need closed source drivers to provide a decent experience. That's a tiny win, but I'll take it.
 

Urbanshadow

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Let me gather all that I know about this and put it in the most constructive way possible...

Does this mean eventually, hopefully, we could replace the now almost 700MB pile of garbage that is the windows NVIDIA propietary driver and replace it with a 34MB firmware wrapper with vulkan support?

Where do I have to sign?
 

chrisrlink

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yeah i was thinking bout that hack/stolen data supprised they caved but i am more worried bout viruses or even anti miner code being stripped and the price of nvidia cards going up again,on another note wish they did this sooner on better grounds, IK mac OS is a modified BSD but i would love to see non kepler board nvidias work on mojave an up (Until Intel macs lose 100% support at least)
 

yoyoyo69

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Was this because of the threat Nvidia received? From the stolen data.
Came to post this myself. Weren't they blackmailed?

Either make drivers open source (there were others too, but I think this was the most significant) or have all data the hackers had acquired, made public (including drivers anyway).
 

Taleweaver

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I thought this was good news and a good stance from Nvidia...

... And then I read the comments. If all that is true...

... They just open sourced an unimportant part of the drivers to meet blackmailers (in their hope) halfway, and this is done so others can improve the shoddy drivers to properly use on (future) valve steam decks. :creep:
 
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