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18 June 2012, 16:00

Free NVIDIA graphics driver reaches version 1.0

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X icon The developers at the Nouveau project have published version 1.0.0 of their open source graphics driver for's X Server. About seven years into the project, this milestone means that the final part of the Nouveau driver has now left behind its pre-release status – the Nouveau 3D drivers have been part of Mesa 3D for some time, and the Nouveau DRM driver, which is being developed as part of the Linux kernel, left the staging area with Linux 3.4 in mid-May. At the time of writing, an official release email has yet to be issued.

The Nouveau driver, which has been a standard component of Linux distributions for quite some time now, supports dual monitor operation and 2D acceleration via EXA, and offers all the components that are required to use 3D acceleration with nearly all NVIDIA graphics chips. However, as recently demonstrated by Phoronix in a series of benchmarks, the proprietary NVIDIA driver gets far better 3D performance from the graphics cores. For simple games and the desktop effects of GNOME and KDE, however, the Nouveau driver's 3D performance is sufficient. The driver doesn't activate a number of power management features, and it can't access the fan control on many graphics cards. If a graphics card doesn't control the fan on its own, the fan will run at full speed when the Nouveau driver is used, which causes excess noise and can wear out bearings.

NVIDIA has been a member of the Linux Foundation since March but doesn't contribute to the development of Nouveau – lately, the company has mainly focused its Linux efforts on its ARM chips. NVIDIA doesn't even provide programming information; the Nouveau developers have to reverse engineer it all. This is one of several areas where NVIDIA stands out because of its poor support of the open source developers, and it is likely one of the reasons why Linux creator Linus Torvalds recently held his middle finger up to a camera and said: "NVIDIA, fuck you".


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