NVIDIA's Dead Open-Source Driver Gets Updated
Written by Michael Larabel in NVIDIA on 30 July 2010 at 06:15 PM EDT. 1 Comment
Back in March an announcement came out of NVIDIA as they were getting ready to launch the GeForce GTX 400 "Fermi" graphics cards that they would be dropping support for the xf86-video-nv driver. The xf86-video-nv driver really didn't provide much of a feature set and was far behind the Nouveau KMS and Gallium3D drivers even though these were reverse-engineered by the open-source, so NVIDIA announced they would be discontinuing this open-source DDX driver and advised its customers to just use the VESA driver until they are able to download and install NVIDIA's proprietary Linux graphics driver. However, today they have decided to release an updated driver.

The last time the xf86-video-nv driver was updated was in early March -- just a couple weeks before NVIDIA announced it would stop supporting future ASICs in this driver nor would it deliver any support for features like DisplayPort. That March update didn't bring much to the table nor does this update that's coming out of NVIDIA's Santa Clara offices on a Friday afternoon.

The most notable change with this xf86-video-nv 2.1.18 driver update is that this DDX driver will no longer load if there is a kernel module bound already to the device, which makes it so this crufty driver will not interfere with Nouveau's DRM when loaded and already claiming the NVIDIA graphics card. Other changes include updating the PCI ID associations with different product names, a couple of bug-fixes, and cleaning some old code. Support for the now very old GeForce 7025/7050 GPUs was also added to this 2D-only driver to fix an old bug.

The release announcement and rather uninteresting change-log for the xf86-video-nv 2.1.18 driver can be read on xorg-announce. This xf86-video-nv driver update will really only be useful for those running an older Linux distribution with NVIDIA hardware and happen to be using this driver rather than the proprietary NVIDIA Linux driver that provides full 2D/3D/VDPAU acceleration. Most of the Linux distributions shipping this year are using the open-source Nouveau driver that provides kernel mode-setting support and a much greater set of features than what was ever provided by xf86-video-nv. Some Linux distributions are even now enabling Nouveau's Gallium3D driver for providing OpenGL acceleration. This xf86-video-nv driver update may also be of some benefit to those using other Unix-like operating systems such as FreeBSD or OpenSolaris where the Nouveau DRM driver has not yet been fully ported and enabled on such platforms.

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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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