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Nouveau Makes Its Own NV40 Firmware Replacement

Nouveau

Published on 16 December 2009 03:33 PM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau
28 Comments

Since last week the DRM code for the Nouveau driver has been in the mainline kernel code-base for its official debut with the Linux 2.6.33 kernel. However, by default this DRM will not work with hardware newer than the GeForce 5 series as there is some firmware that must be loaded. Due to legal issues with this firmware/microcode (referred to as "ctx_voodoo"), this binary code must be installed separately if you wish to use Nouveau with one of the newer NVIDIA graphics cards.

While this ctx_voodoo installation really only affects those wishing to play with this staging driver early as Red Hat ships Fedora with ctx_voodoo and other distributions will likely do the same (or at least make for an easy installation), there is a better solution on the horizon and it will make this free software driver even more pure.

Red Hat's Ben Skeggs over the past few days ended up being able to write his own firmware replacement for the context switching microcode (ctx_voodoo) that for at least his GeForce 6/7 graphics cards is working correctly. His free software version of ctx_voodoo is much less complex than NVIDIA's blob, but for the Nouveau purposes it seems that it will work out at least for the time being.

This generated firmware made by Ben can be found on the Nouveau mailing list. Assuming others report success with this firmware, it will end up being pushed into the DRM shortly, which means the NVIDIA ctx_voodoo right now will only be needed for the GeForce 8 series graphics cards and newer. Over time we may end up seeing new firmware replacements for the other NVIDIA graphics cards too.

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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