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07 March 2012, 11:32

NVIDIA joins the Linux Foundation

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NVIDIA, the company known for its GeForce graphics chips but which has recently also been active in the embedded market with its Tegra platform, has joined the Linux Foundation. The company said that, by joining the foundation, it hopes to improve its co-operation with the organisations and developers who contribute to the development of Linux. The move means that the three companies that dominate the graphics chip market for PCs are now all members of the Linux Foundation, as Intel and AMD have been members for quite some time.

However, there is no indication that this step will have an immediate effect on NVIDIA's driver policy. The company offers a proprietary Linux driver for its own graphic cards and has not contributed to the Nouveau open source driver, which is predominantly developed through reverse engineering and is configured by default for GeForce graphics chips in most PC Linux distributions. To support the core features of Tegra chips, NVIDIA has developed GPLv2-licenced changes to the Linux kernel and has actively, and usually successfully, worked to submit these changes for integration into the main development branch of Linux so that new versions of Linux will support the chips by default.

The graphics drivers for the ARM cores that are part of Tegra chips are, however, also proprietary. According to kernel developer Arnd Bergmann, who is currently handling a major effort to clean up and restructure the Linux kernel's ARM code, there are NVIDIA developers who internally advocate open source drivers – "I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the same boat as Intel and AMD regarding their support for free drivers in the near future", said Bergmann.

In addition to NVIDIA, three other companies – Fluendo, Lineo Solutions and Mocana – have joined the Linux Foundation, a non-profit consortium that promotes and supports the development of Linux and has granted fellowships to kernel developers such as Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman.

Fluendo mainly develops multimedia software and contributes to Gstreamer, a framework that is used by almost all major Linux distributions. The company is known for its commercial DVD player and media centre software for Linux, and for a free-of-charge Gstreamer plugin that allows users to play MP3s. Only recently, Fluendo announced plans to co-operate with Collabora to help promote the adoption of Gstreamer; Collabora is also a major contributor to Gstreamer.

Japan-based Lineo Solutions is a company with experience in the Linux and embedded environments and has, for example, developed the Linux-based operating system for the Sharp Zaurus. Mocana is based in the US and specialises in security solutions for various mobile platforms and apps.

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