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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