Nouveau In Linux 2.6.36 Has NVIDIA Fermi Mode-Setting
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 9 August 2010 at 07:34 PM EDT. 37 Comments
Last week we reported on the first DRM pull request for the Linux 2.6.36 kernel and it brought forth some interesting features and improvements for the open-source Linux graphics drivers living within the kernel, but a second pull request has reached the email inbox of Linus Torvalds this afternoon.

What is most interesting about this second Direct Rendering Manager pull request for the Linux 2.6.36 kernel is what's brought on the side of the Nouveau driver: kernel mode-setting support for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 400 "Fermi" series. While the GeForce GTX 470/480 graphics cards were launched back in March and greeted by support within NVIDIA's proprietary Linux driver, up to this point there has been no open-source support.

Prior to launching the Fermi hardware, NVIDIA announced it would not support the open-source NVIDIA X.Org driver going forward (xf86-video-nv) and instead with the GeForce GTX 400 series and future ASICs to instead just use the VESA display driver until they are able to install NVIDIA's binary blob. Fortunately though the Nouveau developers as part of the X.Org community have been reverse-engineering NVIDIA's Linux driver to be able to write their own driver and now they have the initial workings of open-source Fermi support.

While a month after the first Fermi GPUs launched, PathScale offered free Fermi GPUs to open-source developers, it was not until recently that Ben Skeggs who works on the Nouveau driver and is a Red Hat employee was able to get his hands on NVIDIA's newest hardware. With the hardware in hand, however, he has been able to get kernel mode-setting (KMS) functioning for the GeForce GTX 400 graphics cards and it's ready to be pushed into the Linux 2.6.36 kernel.

Before getting too excited, however, this 2.6.36 code is just kernel mode-setting for Fermi and there is no 2D EXA/X-Video acceleration support nor the DRM bits needed to get 3D/OpenGL acceleration atop Gallium3D running. This will come at some point in the future along with a Gallium3D Fermi user-space driver.

Aside from the Fermi KMS excitement, this second pull request also has some Radeon KMS clean-ups such as command submission (CS) parser fixes, unified I2C handling, and the ability to revoke Hyper-Z (one of the features finally implemented in the open-source driver with the first 2.6.36 pull request). There's also some core DRM changes too.

This second Linux 2.6.36 DRM pull request can be found on dri-devel. Speaking of Fermi, this month on Phoronix we will have a Linux review of the recently-launched GeForce GTX 460 graphics card.
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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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