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Nouveau Driver Q&A

Published on 3 September 2007

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Knuckles: Do you think it'll ever be possible to reach performance-parity with the closed-source nvidia drivers, or even with the windows nVidia drivers? Are there any cards you're missing that would help development (except the G8X, that are regularly mentioned)?

Well the design of the NVidia cards is solid to good. For example, the NVidia cards were the first to include context switching at the hardware level, 10 years ago. Another example is the integrated debugging facilities that the hardware exposes. Each time you send an invalid value somewhere, the hardware will detect that and will notify you. Some of this functionality can sometimes be a little difficult to setup, though.

Missing cards are the cards marked red in this Nouveau status list. We have at least one regular contributor / developer for NV0x, NV1x, NV2x, NV3x, NV4x and G84. Really missing are people who offer more than one time help with 8800 (NV50 or G8x) cards.

Knuckles: What do you generally think of NVIDIA's hardware? Does it have ugly things that generally get masked by software and that you're uncovering now, or do you generally like their designs?

Well, without specs we will never be able to know everything about nVidia's hardware. So they might always do some tricks to increase performance and we would try to catch up. However, we have advantages too. We are working with the both the kernel and dri / drm community to use the latest technology. We can adapt our sources to it. So we are future proof and we don't need to jump through hoops to avoid license infringement. This may even result in better performance.

There are also a number of features that nVidia only enables on Quadro cards, that could be enabled on all cards. This could be another source of additional performance. In any case, reaching high levels of performance will require large amounts of manpower, which we might or might not have.

Michael: Where do you see the driver in the next 6 months? Year? Two years?

We'd love to have full 2D and focus on 3D in 6 months. Of course, that will require a fair deal of reorganization in the code. Adding proper memory management support will surely unlock a number of things.

Michael: If there was one thing you wanted to tell NVIDIA aside from "give us the source code" or "give us the specifications", what would it be?

We'd be very happy that they cooperate with us on an open source driver :)

Michael: Are you confident that at some point in the future there will be Scalable Link Interface (SLI) support with the Nouveau driver?

SLI is a feature of nVidia cards that we have not fully investigated yet. If it blends in well within the current code and we have the hardware available, we will surely implement it. That's not a high priority target at the moment though. That also requires developer access to SLI hardware, obviously.

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