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.
It was just last week that NVIDIA had finally released a stable 190.xx Linux driver after this driver series had been in beta for months. The 190.xx driver series brought new hardware support, OpenGL 3.2 support, VDPAU improvements, and a fair amount of other changes. However, NVIDIA is now in the process of readying the 195.xx Linux driver series.
A week after the NVIDIA Linux engineering team released the 190.42 driver release candidate, this driver is now deemed stable and has been officially released on NVIDIA's web-site. The NVIDIA 190.42 driver is the first official release in the 190.xx Linux driver series, which has been in beta for a number of months and undergone numerous releases.
NVIDIA's Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix -- or more commonly known as VDPAU -- has had phenomenal success since this video playback/decoding API was published last year and implemented within their proprietary graphics driver on Linux. VDPAU on NVIDIA hardware utilizes the PureVideo engine and is able to provide very impressive video playback capabilities even when running a very low-end CPU and GPU. VDPAU has been adopted in a variety of Linux multimedia applications from FFmpeg to XBMC to MythTV.
While there have been NVIDIA 190.xx Linux driver releases on the Internet going back to June, a stable driver release in this series that supports OpenCL, brings new VDPAU features, provides OpenGL 3.2, and supports new hardware has yet to take place. In fact, the last stable update was NVIDIA 185.18.36 back in August. The 190.xx driver series though is slowly getting ready to be officially supported by this Santa Clara company.
It's been no secret that NVIDIA has been working on an OpenCL Linux driver for their graphics processors just as AMD has been doing, but up until now their beta drivers were only available to registered NVIDIA developers. Today though -- on the same day as NVIDIA's OpenCL driver launch for Windows -- they have made their OpenCL support publicly available.
After releasing a standalone VDPAU library, NVIDIA's Aaron Plattner shared an interesting tid-bit on the X.Org mailing list in response to questions raised by Red Hat's David Airlie. The Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix will have its own protocol, similar to that of XvMC and DRI. This VDPAU protocol will be used for telling the client (multimedia) applications what driver is to be used for the VDPAU acceleration and Aaron also has plans for adding indirect rendering support to this NVIDIA HD video playback API.
While NVIDIA developed VDPAU (the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix, one awesome way of accelerating HD video playback with great results) for use in their proprietary graphics driver, the API itself is open and has been well adopted by multimedia applications.
The NVIDIA 190.xx driver series already delivers on OpenGL 3.2 support and other new features, but continuing on with beta releases, NVIDIA's Linux engineers have released a new beta (v190.32) that brings a few more features.
If you have any (non-tech support) questions about NVIDIA and Linux, ask away! Phoronix will be hosting a question and answer session with NVIDIA regarding their Linux graphics driver. If you have any questions to ask, click on the "Comments and Discussion" button below and ask away in our forums. After a few days we will be narrowing down the list of questions before NVIDIA begins answering them.
NVIDIA hasn't been updating their binary Linux drivers as frequently as they were earlier this year when it would be hard to go even just a week without seeing a new beta, an official update, or changes to either of their legacy drivers. However, there are some new NVIDIA Linux drivers to start off this week. For those sticking with the official NVIDIA driver releases there is now the 185.18.36 release while those willing to try out a beta driver there is the 190.25 build.
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