Without a functioning graphics driver, you will have none of these things, unless you run them from a terminal, and with the VESA driver, your experience will be close to unusable.

You are right that nouveau has made great progress, but it still has ways to go, and none of this progress is due to Nvidia's help. Nouveau was started to provide a free alternative, and has momentum because large Linux players do not want to depend on a binary-only driver.