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NVIDIA Quietly Releases New Drivers, Utility

Michael Larabel

Published on 2 February 2008
Written by Michael Larabel
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Last night NVIDIA quietly uploaded a new Linux display driver to their FTP server. This new driver is tagged 171.05, while the latest public driver has been 169.09. Having already three releases in the 169.xx series, this is a moderate update to 171.xx, but according to NVIDIA it's not for everyone. There is no official change-log that NVIDIA has published for the 171.05 driver, and the change-log that ships with the driver hasn't been updated (whether it be intentional or not). The only word that has come out of the NVIDIA camp on this new driver is from Christian Zander and he has said that this driver is only intended for use with the Tesla S870 GPU Computing Systems. The legacy NVIDIA Linux drivers have also been updated this week.

NVIDIA's Tesla S870 GPU computing system is designed for high-performance computing (HPC) environments and has a total of 6GB of dedicated video memory, which is shared by the four 128 processing core GPUs that make up the S870, and is all housed inside a 1U rackmount chassis. NVIDIA's Tesla was originally introduced in June of last year, but the 171.05 driver is the first Linux release to support the Tesla S870.

So far we noticed one change with the 171.05 driver and that is the introduction of a new NVIDIA utility, nvidia-smi. This utility is for the NVIDIA System Management Interface and provides system-state and diagnostic information. Nvidia-smi will dump this system information either as ASCII text or into an XML log. In addition to the output format, other arguments include -l for creating an infinite loop of nvidia-smi, -t for toggling the LED state, and -i for probing every specified number of seconds. According to the man page and the --help output, nvidia-smi is only designed for the NVIDIA Tesla S870. However, nvidia-smi had run with a GeForce 8 graphics card installed but with little information. Likewise, the 171.05 driver during our initial tests had worked just fine when using it in a non-Tesla environment.

We are continuing to explore the NVIDIA 171.05 driver package and if we come across anything else interesting about this release, we will be sure to pass it along. Likewise, you can try out this driver by heading on over to the NVIDIA FTP server and then share your results in the Phoronix Forums.

Also quietly surfacing from NVIDIA's Santa Clara offices this week are the Linux 96.43.05 and 71.86.04 display drivers. These are updates for NVIDIA's two legacy drivers, which offer product support for GPUs earlier than the GeForce 6 series. The 71.86.04 release offers improved compatibility for the latest X server, recent Linux 2.6 kernels, and SELinux-enabled systems. The release notes for the 96.43.05 driver consist of the same changes, but also improved GLX_EXT_texture_from_pixmap out-of-memory handling.

No Solaris 171.05 driver is yet available, but there is the 96.43.05 legacy update available. On the FreeBSD side there are no updates available for either the legacy drivers or the Tesla driver. In fact, NVIDIA has yet to even release a 169.09 driver for FreeBSD.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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