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NVIDIA Developer Talks Openly About Linux Support

Michael Larabel

Published on 20 October 2009
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 3 of 8 - 131 Comments

Q: Are there any plans to provide a new NVIDIA Linux installer, perhaps one that is able to be executed from within a running X session and have a GTK/Qt interface?

Yes, I know this topic comes up frequently. I think there is more that we could do to improve the user's installation experience. We've had a few brainstorming sessions about it, but we don't yet have any concrete plans. We'd also like to interact better with distributions' native package management systems. Installing drivers reliably across all distributions is challenging, so we want to tread carefully. We haven't been able to prioritize any of this very highly.

Q: How does NVIDIA go about marketing/evangelizing the Linux driver to developers and publishers?

NVIDIA's core commitment is to Visual Computing, independent of particular operating system or graphics API. Developers overall know their target audience fairly well, and so there isn't much need for us to market or evangelize to them. They generally know what they need from us, and our role is to document our APIs, and to provide samples and whitepapers such as those on http://developer.nvidia.com.

Q: Is NVIDIA starting to see more interest in the driver from companies or publishers?

There has been, and continues to be, significant Linux workstation interest from a variety of workstation segments (e.g., Oil & Gas, Automotive, Film and Broadcast, etc). Workstation is where Linux has the most measurable business impact for NVIDIA.

In large multi-display installations Linux is very popular and offers several strong and distinct advantages over other operating systems.

CUDA on Linux receives huge interest from a variety of High Performance Computing (HPC) customers.

Linux on Tegra receives a lot of customer interest.

Linux on Ion also receives considerable interest.

Q: Are there any plans in place to provide new features within the xf86-video-nv driver or to better engage with the Nouveau developers for some open-source support?

With the nv driver, we've always tried to provide something minimal that just works out of the box and requires the least maintenance. For that reason, feature set in the nv driver has stayed pretty slim.

The guys working on nouveau have done a really incredible job so far. However, our policy remains the same: we won't try to hinder their efforts, but we have no plans to help them.

Q: AMD was able to open source and/or document a lot by separating out the parts they couldn't legally disclose. Similar problems have been cited as preventing NVIDIA from open sourcing their driver (licensed 3rd parts code, etc) or documentation. Could nVidia use the same strategy?

A similar strategy might be technically possible for NVIDIA, but for better or worse I think it is quite unlikely. There are several reasons for this:

- For competitive reasons on other platforms, I don't think we would ever open source any of our cross-platform driver source code (which is 90%+ of the Linux driver... see my earlier description of code sharing). The Linux-specific pieces of the driver code base don't really stand on their own, and generally need to change in sync with the cross-platform code, so I don't believe it would be practical to just open source the Linux-specific pieces.

- We have developed substantial IP in our graphics driver that we do not want to expose.

- Unfortunately the vast majority of our documentation is created solely for internal distribution. While at some point it may be possible to release some of this information in pubic form it would be quite a monumental effort to go through the vast amounts of internal documents and repurpose them for external consumption.

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