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A Nouveau 3D Driver That Works For Old NVIDIA Hardware

Nouveau

Published on 02 February 2010 08:36 PM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau
19 Comments

While there is now DRM support in the Linux 2.6.33 kernel for the Nouveau driver that carries the bits for kernel mode-setting, 2D (EXA) acceleration, and other fundamental functions on NVIDIA graphics processors, the Gallium3D driver still is incomplete. Prior to focusing solely on Gallium3D for their OpenGL acceleration, the Nouveau project was working on a DRI driver for classic Mesa, but that work was dropped in 2008 to focus entirely on Gallium3D support. This afternoon, however, a new Mesa DRI driver has emerged for Nouveau that provides *working* 3D support for older NVIDIA hardware.

Gallium3D is largely designed around modern graphics processors (particularly GPUs with shaders) and the fixed-function NVIDIA graphics hardware that came prior to this has largely suffered in Gallium3D. These old GPUs being referenced are from the NV0x, NV1x, and some NV2x series graphics processors. Rather than continuing to let this support rot for extremely old NVIDIA graphics hardware, a new Mesa driver has been constructed that provides support for these old graphics cards and implements texturing, transform and lighting, etc. Most importantly, however, is that this driver actually works right now.

In a new Git repository by Francisco Jerez is the Mesa code that soon will be merged to Mesa master. This code drops the NV04/NV10/NV20 Gallium3D pipe drivers and delivers on a DRI driver for classic Mesa. The reincarnation of the Nouveau classic Mesa driver was announced on the Nouveau mailing list. Already in response to this, it's been confirmed by a user that OpenArena, Tremulous, and other lightweight Linux games are running fine while there are a couple games currently running into problems.

This is good news for those with these very old NVIDIA graphics cards, but most NVIDIA GPUs currently in use are well beyond the NV20 series. The NV20 is the GPU found within the NVIDIA GeForce 3 series, which was brought to the market about a decade ago. The Gallium3D driver will continue to be the sole focus for the GeForce 4 series and later.

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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