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Nouveau To Go Into Linux 2.6.33 Kernel!

Nouveau

Published on 11 December 2009 08:09 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau
24 Comments

Wow, the day has come, open-source fans with NVIDIA hardware that run Linux have quite the present this holiday season. Yesterday there was the first DRM pull request for the Linux 2.6.33 kernel that brought many changes to the ATI/AMD and Intel DRM along with other core DRM improvements (such as to the TTM memory manager). These changes were quite significant and we even called it a great present in the Linux 2.6.33 kernel.

These DRM changes were accepted, but Linus Torvalds went off on a bit of rant wanting Nouveau merged into the kernel. A discussion ensued and after blaming Nouveau's lack of upstreaming on wanting the kernel/user-space API to potentially change in the future and then with Red Hat disclosing the Nouveau microcode problem that seemed to be pretty much that and we had not expected any immediate activity on the matter.

This morning though, David Airlie and Ben Skeggs of Red Hat are delivering one grand present to NVIDIA Linux users for Christmas: the Nouveau DRM. Less than 24 hours ago David Airlie was writing on the mailing list how Red Hat would not sign off on the Nouveau work even though they ship it in Fedora due to these ctx_voodoo microcode issues, but they have worked around that in drm-nouveau-pony.

In this pull request, there is the Nouveau driver that is set to go in the Linux 2.6.33 kernel under the staging area. The Nouveau driver no long carries the ctx_voodoo microcode directly within the driver, but those mysterious files have been extracted from the code and are now loaded through the kernel's firmware interface loader.

The Nouveau DRM driver is around 36,000 lines of code which is quite huge, but it supports nearly every NVIDIA GPU to date. Stay tuned as we will have many more stories coming up on the Nouveau driver with this surprise change to push it in the Linux 2.6.33 kernel, which will be publicly released in February.

What is finding its way into the Linux 2.6.33 kernel is the Nouveau DRM driver, which is the underlying component that is needed for kernel mode-setting as well as the foundations of the 3D support. Kernel mode-setting is great, but the xf86-video-nouveau DDX driver will need to be released in 2010 when the Linux 2.6.33 kernel is available so that there is support within the X.Org server too. The Gallium3D driver for Nouveau will need to be released to provide any usable form of OpenGL acceleration with this open-source stack, but it will likely be some months before the Gallium3D driver is completed and ready for release. However, this may very well mean the death of the xf86-video-nv driver in 2010.

Up to this point unless building the Nouveau components from source or using separate packages, the only place to find this free software NVIDIA driver in action by default has been with Fedora. Red Hat has been shipping Nouveau (with kernel mode-setting support) for a while now as part of their Fedora package set. However, Canonical is preparing to backport Nouveau into the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS kernel to provide support for the Lucid Lynx. With the Nouveau DRM entering the Linux kernel, more distributions will likely be shipping this NVIDIA driver rather than the xf86-video-nv mess in 2010.

Many thanks go out to Red Hat (particularly David Airlie and Ben Skeggs) along with Stephane Marchesin who had founded the Nouveau driver project and all of the other contributors to this free software NVIDIA graphics driver.

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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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