NVIDIA's Response To Recent Nouveau Work
Written by Michael Larabel in NVIDIA on 14 December 2009 at 03:32 PM EST. 24 Comments
Last week after many DRM improvements went into the Linux 2.6.33 kernel Linus Torvalds got a bit upset and wanted Nouveau merged into the mainline kernel. After all, it's been in development for a few years and offers a vast feature-set compared to the xf86-video-nv DDX driver even if this driver is still somewhat experimental. Red Hat has been shipping Nouveau in their Fedora distribution for some time and others (such as Ubuntu) are jumping onto the Nouveau bandwagon too.

In the mailing list discussion that followed, it looked like Linus' request wouldn't be immediately acted upon due to legal issues with Nouveau surrounding some unknown microcode/firmware that is a critical part of the initialization process for newer graphics cards. However, this microcode ended up being pulled out of the driver itself and now relies upon it being loaded as firmware, which ended up in a Nouveau pull request just a day later. Now NVIDIA customers of the Linux 2.6.33 kernel and later can benefit from the mainline DRM with kernel mode-setting and when using the yet-to-be-released xf86-video-nouveau DDX driver and eventually its Gallium3D driver for providing 3D support.

This essentially spells the end of the xf86-video-nv driver, which was never good and should have died off long ago. Something is likely to happen to this driver in 2010 once Nouveau reaches a prime state on the Linux desktop. There's a few possibilities that we discussed in the aforementioned posting, but we sought comments from NVIDIA regarding this recent Nouveau work and what their plans are going forward. Below is Andy Ritger's response, who leads NVIDIA's Unix graphics team.

As of right now, our plan remains the same: neither help nor hinder nouveau, provide basic modesetting and 2D acceleration support in the nv driver, and invest the majority of our engineering effort in the NVIDIA proprietary driver.

This really isn't any different from when we interviewed Andy Ritger in October. "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."

Of course, Andy just mentions this is what their plans are "right now", but we will see if and how it evolves. At least they are not looking to hinder any Nouveau efforts through the ctx_voodoo microcode uncertainty at this point.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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