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NVIDIA, Valve Share Lessons In Porting To Linux

Valve

Published on 04 April 2013 02:44 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Valve
9 Comments

Last month at the Game Developers' Conference (GDC), NVIDIA and Valve shared their experiences and pitfalls in porting the Source Engine to Linux. While talking about Valve's experiences, many of the information can apply to any game developer (or Direct3D/OpenGL application) wishing to come to Linux.

The PDF slides in full from the GDC 2013 presentation by NVIDIA/Valve can be found in full at developer.nvidia.com. To Many Phoronix readers, this information isn't too new. Below are a few of the highlights from these slides.

- Reasons for porting to Linux now that were expressed is that Linux is open, Linux for gaming is growing quickly, it's a stepping stone to mobile (Android), performance reasons, and Steam for Linux. While OpenGL isn't exclusive to Linux, it also offers its own benefits by not being OS-specific, easy (proprietary) driver updates, public specifications, and being controlled by an independent committe (Khronos Group).

- For windowing-related work, NVIDIA/Valve highly recommends using SDL (Simple Direct Layer) for its cross-platform niceness (including mobile targets), tight C implementation, and is used by all of Valve's Linux ports. (It also helps that Valve employs one of the lead SDL programmers.)

- Other porting issues can be file-system differences (namely Linux file-systems being case-sensitive), bad defines/logic with earlier Linux server ports, internationalization issues, multi-monitor being less nice than on windows, raw mouse input differences, and some differences with Linux font handling.

- The tools NVIDIA/Valve recommends for CPU performance analysis at a low-level is perf, vtune, and Telemetry.

- Recommended GPU debugging tools are NVIDIA Nsight, PerfStudio, gDEBugger, CodeXL, and ApiTrace.

- There's many slides going over specific OpenGL extension recommendations and other information for those inexperienced in OpenGL graphics. Some performance tips mentioned were watching out for GPU driver serialization / multi-threaded, writing vendor-specific graphics code in some cases, etc.

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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