The OpenGL 3.0 and GLSL 1.30 specification were released back in August during SIGGRAPH 2008. Just days later NVIDIA had delivered a beta driver for Windows that added OpenGL 3.0 functionality, but Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris users were left in the dark. Two months later though NVIDIA has now published a beta Linux driver that implements most of the latest GL/GLSL specification.
The NVIDIA 177.61.02 is the version of this first beta driver that adds OpenGL 3.0 and OpenGL Shading Language (GLSL) 1.30 support. NVIDIA's Aaron Plattner has stated this driver is aimed at developers who wish to start using the new OpenGL features. The 177.61.02 driver implements all OpenGL 3.0 and GLSL 1.30 functionality except for one-channel (RED) and two-channel (RG) textures, the Clearbuffer API, windowless rendering support, forward-compatible context, and the debug context. These support limitations are the same as what was found with the initial Windows ForceWare 180 Beta driver.
As part of this OpenGL 3.0 effort, the NVIDIA Linux driver now exposes the ARB_vertex_array_object, ARB_framebuffer_object, and ARB_half_float_vertex extensions on OpenGL 2.1. The additional OpenGL 3.0 extensions exposed include GLX_create_context, ARB_draw_instanced, ARB_geometry_shader4, ad ARB_texture_buffer_object. Also added to this beta driver is rendering support to a FBO with mixed-size attachments, VAO bug-fixes and performance improvements, EXT_texture_swizzle support, transform feedback missing functionality is now implemented, and other fixes.
To use the OpenGL 3.0 / GLSL 1.30 functionality with NVIDIA hardware you will need a Quadro FX 370 workstation graphics card or Quadro FX 360M mobile graphics processor or newer. The consumer-grade GeForce graphics cards that support this latest OpenGL 3.0 standard are the GeForce 8000 series and newer.
Beyond the added OpenGL 3.0 / GLSL 1.30 support there doesn't appear to be any other major changes with this Linux driver beyond what can be found in the 177.80 Display Driver. It will likely be the NVIDIA 180.xx Linux driver that adds OpenGL 3.0 support (along with other major changes) in a non-beta form. At the time of publishing NVIDIA has yet to release an OpenGL 3.0 driver for the FreeBSD or Solaris operating systems. The x86 and x86_64 177.61.02 driver downloads can be found in this NVIDIA FTP directory.
AMD has yet to comment on when the ATI Catalyst Linux driver will introduce OpenGL 3.0 / GLSL 1.30 support. It will also be a while before the updated OpenGL specification finds its way into the Mesa stack for open-source drivers.