While NVIDIA may not release specifications for the GPU hardware or support any open-source drivers for their graphics processors after dropping their open-source X.Org driver, they do contribute a bit to the development of the X.Org Server. NVIDIA engineers like Aaron Plattner have contributed various patches and fixes against the server in the past and for features like VDPAU for DRI2. This afternoon there's a big patch-set coming out of NVIDIA that touches several X components. This set of patches adds support for X Synchronization Fences.
A few days back NVIDIA released the 256.35 Linux display driver as a release candidate for their 256.xx driver series that brings OpenGL changes, VDPAU improvements, and other enhancements. Today, NVIDIA has promoted the 256.35 driver as being an official, stable release.
A month ago NVIDIA had released the first 256.xx Linux series beta that implemented new GLX protocol support, offered up VDPAU improvements, carried a few NVIDIA installer enhancements, and provided improved thermal performance reporting, among other changes. That beta driver was succeeded a week later by a second NVIDIA 256 beta due to some performance issues we spotted on the mobile side. NVIDIA has now released another 256 series driver and this pushes them into the release candidate phase.
Last week NVIDIA had released their first 256.xx series Linux driver in the form of the 256.25 Beta release, but as we discovered, it boasted some major performance regressions for a NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250M and other mobile ASICs. This issue has now been resolved thanks to a new beta release.
One of the articles published on Phoronix this week was NVIDIA's 256.25 Beta Linux Driver Slows Things Down? With NVIDIA's first 256.xx Linux beta driver we encountered significant performance drops from a ZaReason notebook with a NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250M graphics processor. Some thought that PowerMizer was to blame, but this does not appear to be the case.
NVIDIA has rolled out its first beta in the expected 256.xx driver series for Linux, Windows, and other supported platforms. Last month we asked what you wanted from the NVIDIA 256.xx driver and while many of the respondents didn't get their greatest wishes answered, the 256.25 beta driver does offer quite a bit of changes over the previous-generation proprietary NVIDIA driver.
With NVIDIA having released a stable 195.xx Linux driver and are working on a second stable update that's due out in the coming days, the bulk of the driver development work is now focused on their next major driver series. This next major driver release from NVIDIA is the 256.xx series, but what are you hoping it will bring forth?
While NVIDIA's official 195.36.18 driver has been around for about one month, the Santa Clara engineers are getting ready to pump out a new official update. In fact, before the week ended, NVIDIA put out the 195.36.24 pre-release, which may be marked as their official stable release this week.
Prior to launching their next-generation graphics processors, NVIDIA dropped their obfuscated open-source driver and have said they will not provide any open-source support at all for their GeForce GTX 400 "Fermi" series as they just recommended their customers use the X.Org VESA driver until they can install the official binary Linux driver. However, the community developers working on the Nouveau driver project still plan to support the GeForce GTX 470/480 graphics cards via clean-room reverse engineering. Today their efforts might be helped thanks to a hardware sponsorship.
With NVIDIA having announced the GeForce GTX 470 and 480 graphics cards (formerly known as "Fermi") at the end of March and these graphics cards starting to appear at Internet retailers (see links below), NVIDIA has now put out its OpenGL 4.0 Linux driver.
If you wondered why NVIDIA chose today to announce its canning the xf86-video-nv driver for all future GPUs and diverting users to use the VESA X.Org driver (even though most of them will start out using the Nouveau driver) until downloading their proprietary driver, it's because they have finally launched Fermi.
With the first of NVIDIA's GeForce 400 "Fermi" graphics cards arriving later this month, their software engineers have put out the release of CUDA 3.0. Version 3 of the Compute Unified Device Architecture has a wealth of changes including Fermi support, C++ support, a new unified interoperability API for Direct3D (including Direct3D 11.0) and OpenGL (including OpenGL 3.x/4.0), up to a 100x performance increase when debugging with cuda-gdb, a new CUDA memory checker, and support for all the OpenCL features in the latest R195 production driver package.
Well, that didn't take long. Just earlier this month the Khronos Group unveiled the OpenGL 4.0 specification that brought many long-awaited changed to this open graphics API. On the same day this industry consortium also released the OpenGL 3.3 specification, which aims to bring back as much of the OpenGL 4.0 functionality to graphics cards that only support OGL3. OpenGL 4.0 is designed for graphics cards that are meant for DirectX 11.0, which basically means AMD's Radeon HD 5000 series and NVIDIA's forthcoming GeForce 400 series. OpenGL 3.x on the other-hand is compatible with DirectX 10.0 grade hardware, such as the Radeon HD 4000 series and GeForce 200 series. For those with a newer NVIDIA graphics card, you can now run OpenGL 3.3 applications or games as they have just released a supported driver.
While NVIDIA has been working on the 195.xx Linux driver since before last November, they have yet to officially release a stable driver in this series as of yet. Betas have been available and they even had to recall their recent drivers over a fan speed issue that could damage the system, but now they are finally getting ready to push out a stable release.
Most Linux distributions this year will be switching over to the community-created Nouveau graphics driver stack now that there's mainline DRM support in the Linux 2.6.33 kernel and later releases that provides kernel mode-setting support and more. However, for those that have not yet made move to the Nouveau driver (or are running a *BSD or OpenSolaris where there is not yet the ported DRM) and are sticking it out with NVIDIA's rudimentary, feature-limited open-source driver, there is a new update out today. NVIDIA's Aaron Plattner has just declared the xf86-video-nv 2.1.17 driver release.
This week NVIDIA had to pull its latest WHQL-certified graphics drivers on Windows due to a bug that would cause the fan controller to not respond correctly to the current conditions of the GPU workload and in some cases would even turn the GPU's fan off. This bug could potentially kill the NVIDIA graphics card due to overheating. It turns out this potentially fatal bug is also present in their newest 195.36.08 and 195.36.03 Linux drivers.
The NVIDIA ION platform for nettops (like the ASRock ION 330HT-BD) and netbooks (like the ASUS Eee PC 1201N) launched last year and these parts have worked their way into many different low-powered computers. NVIDIA even recently introduced the ION2 platform, but it was not until today that they finally got around to adding the ION ASIC support to their feature-limited xf86-video-nv driver.
Last week we reported on GPU switching and then delayed GPU switching coming to Linux via some Linux kernel hacks, but today NVIDIA has launched a new technology for dual-GPU notebooks and that is "Optimus Technology." NVIDIA's Optimus is similar to the hybrid-switching technologies that have been available on notebooks up to this point for switching between ATI/AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA GPUs on notebooks depending upon the graphics workload, but with Optimus the experience is supposed to be seamless.
NVIDIA has been at work on the 195.xx driver series for some months already and has delivered beta releases to the public that offer VDPAU improvements and new features along with faster X Render performance. This evening they have published a new beta driver for the public, this time it's 195.36.03.
NVIDIA's Aaron Plattner has announced the release of libvdpau 0.4. From November of 2008 when VDPAU was introduced to September of 2009, the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix lived within NVIDIA's binary display driver package. However, in September NVIDIA began releasing a standalone driver package to make it easier for other Linux graphics drivers to implement. A month later NVIDIA then pushed out a DRI2 patch that allowed choosing the VDPAU back-end implementation on a per-screen basis.
While improved X Render support hasn't been specifically brought up by any users in our thread for What Do You Want From Linux GPU Drivers In 2010?, it looks like NVIDIA may be working on improving their X Render support in its binary graphics drivers. NVIDIA's X Render extension support is already quite good and fast after being revitalized in some driver updates last year, but recent work is signaling that they may be further polishing this support to help users with 2D acceleration.
Before going off on a holiday recess, NVIDIA's Unix graphics driver team has put out a new NVIDIA driver beta release in the 195.xx driver series for Linux, FreeBSD, and OpenSolaris. Just shy of a month ago NVIDIA had put out the 195.22 Linux display driver that delivered on VDPAU improvements, support for NVIDIA 3D Vision Stereo, better DisplayPort monitor handling, and many other enhancements.
Only 11 code commits have been made to the xf86-video-nv driver (that only touch about 100 lines of code) since the 2.1.15 driver update back in September, but coming out this afternoon is xf86-video-nv 2.1.16.
Last week after many DRM improvements went into the Linux 2.6.33 kernel Linus Torvalds got a bit upset and wanted Nouveau merged into the mainline kernel. After all, it's been in development for a few years and offers a vast feature-set compared to the xf86-video-nv DDX driver even if this driver is still somewhat experimental. Red Hat has been shipping Nouveau in their Fedora distribution for some time and others (such as Ubuntu) are jumping onto the Nouveau bandwagon too.
For those not interested in the Nouveau driver, head on over to NVIDIA's FTP server as a new 190.xx driver is available. Late last month NVIDIA released the 195.22 beta Linux driver as the first in this new driver series, and while there are new features and advancements going on there, NVIDIA is still maintaining the current 190.xx stable driver series. Released last night was the NVIDIA 190.53 pre-release driver.
Thanks to the surprise push this morning of the Nouveau driver for the Linux 2.6.33 kernel, this free software, reverse-engineered NVIDIA driver stack is on its way to being used in a lot more Linux systems and distributions. The xf86-video-nouveau X.Org driver will still need to have a release in the coming months, but in 2010 it looks like this driver stack will be working its way into many more Linux distributions. Fedora was the first to ship Nouveau by default, Ubuntu has plans to use Nouveau in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, and with the mainlining of the Nouveau DRM the flood gates have essentially been broken open for the other vendors to pickup these latest bits once this kernel has been formally released.
This morning the first DRM pull request went in for the Linux 2.6.33 kernel that brings many nice graphics changes for Intel, ATI/AMD, and VMware users. Anything for NVIDIA hardware through Novueau was not mentioned as there is no readied support, but as we stated in our article this morning, its unlikely to see Nouveau's DRM in the mainline kernel before the Linux 2.6.34 kernel. This is even though Fedora has been shipping Nouveau support for a few releases now and even Canonical is pulling in Nouveau KMS support for Ubuntu 10.04.
After talking about NVIDIA's forthcoming 64-bit FreeBSD driver we were alerted to the fact that the first 195.xx public beta driver is now available. Earlier this month we first talked about the NVIDIA Linux 195.xx driver series as Fermi GT 300 support was being worked on, but now a Fermi-less (or at least from their official change-log) driver has arrived. This driver is at version 195.22 and brings several changes to the Linux front.
In hopes of pushing VDPAU beyond just being a NVIDIA Unix driver technology and to make it an open standard for Linux video driver developers wishing to provide HD video acceleration on Linux via the GPU, NVIDIA released a standalone VDPAU library back in September and have been trying to push some VDPAU bits for DRI2.
While many of the distributions arriving this autumn and winter are shipping with an X Server 1.6 build rather than the new X Server 1.7, if you are using Fedora 12 or another distribution shipping with the latest X.Org 7.5 packages, there is good news if you are a customer of NVIDIA's older graphics hardware.
564 NVIDIA news articles published on Phoronix.