NVIDIA Drops Xf86-video-nv Support: No Open Source for New Cards

Mar 30, 2010

Andy Ritger, NVIDIA manager responsible for the Linux graphics cards, as announced on the X.org mailing list that the graphics chip company will no longer develop the open source 2D video drivers for its chips. He recommends using the VESA X driver instead.

Ritger reports that NVIDIA will continue to support the xf86-video-nv driver for existing GPUs and "within reason" on existing and future X server versions. However, the company will no longer support the driver for future GPUs as of Fermi. NVIDIA will also exclude Displayport in the driver.

The reason the chipmaker gives is that the capabilities of the NV driver are lagging behind X Window System development. According to Ritger, "NVIDIA developed and maintained the xf86-video-nv X driver primarily as a very minimal driver that works 'well enough' to give
users accelerated X rendering from the time they install their Linux distribution until the time they install the [proprietary] NVIDIA driver." "X rendering" in this sense means the X Rendering Extension upon which today's X Window Systems rely heavily.

The NV driver "does not offer much beyond what is provided by the stock VESA X driver." For added value, says Ritger on the xorg-announce mailing list, the NV driver would need a lot of work, which would divert essential NVIDIA resources away from developing their proprietary graphics driver.

He advises Linux users to use the VESA X driver until they can get the proprietary NVIDIA Linux driver. Ritger feels that concentrating on the NVIDIA driver development would be in Linux users' best interest so that NVIDIA graphics functionality is optimized under Linux.

Canonical's Ubuntu project has already taken the NV driver rejection in stride by replacing the driver with the Nouveau driver in Ubuntu 10.04. Other distros are also likely to seek other standard drivers for NVIDIA graphics. A common effort to establish a common driver can only help the free software community.

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  • Do NOT recommend ATI because of this...

    @Bob Jones - Cut the Stallmanist bullcrap. It convinces no one of anything and makes you look like a blithering idiot.

    Binary blobs and proprietary software are not evil. Certainly not because RMS said so.

    Linus himself has said many times he has no issues with proprietary software. Just that, in general, it sucks when held up to open source.

    And it's a cold splash of reality to learn nVidia card have the best support in Linux thanks in no small part to the proprietary driver nVidia makes at high quality. Would be nice to see KMS and framebuffer support, however...

    Let us also face facts that nv was never an award-winning driver *anyone* liked to use. nVidia described it well as a driver you'd wanna replace.

    Nouveau is exciting but years away from being at any level of production value.

    As for recommending ATI. No. Just... no. ATI's support for Linux is abysmal. It's probably provided the worst drivers ever developed for the Linux video stack. Even without Catalyst, the OSS drivers are so crappy its a wonder anyone can use an ATI card on Linux.
  • Re: advocacy

    In order to advocate Linux you need to present something useful to potential new users. In general noone care about what OS they run and often the apps neither. They want to do something and they want it to be cool. So for some wobbly windows really makes a difference - show them wobbly windows and spinning desktop cubes. Others couldn't care less. My personal reasons were 1) my laptop ran a lot faster with Linux (but who cares if the apps you need doesn't run at all) 2) It had an app I specifically wanted that didn't exist for windows.

    So show them interesting cool apps, show them it runs fast and probably show them that they can run windows apps too VM or wine.

    You may have to do some research to find exciting alternatives. And one thing I believe is important is that cool and useful is king not free (as in beer). Free sounds cheap so you need to explain why the world's largest cooperations contribute and give away such great things. I use R and when I promote it I always mention Facebook and Google as big corp users - it gives credit. IBM is a big contributor to OpenoOffice etc.

    Just my 2c.
  • Re: ATI

    As someone who recently purchased an ATI Video card for a Linux system, I wouldn't recommend that to anybody.
  • This is why we need advocacy, and why Linux needs more users!

    The problem is with a 1% to 2% home PC user base is it's hard for Nvidia to justify spending money on open source drivers in a recession. However, it seems like every time I go to a forum and talk about advocacy I usually get a few replies to the effect of: "new users, Linux doesn't need them". It's hard to have a serious discussion about promoting Linux with these people constantly disrupting things. To be clear when I say I'm looking to discuss ideas for advocacy I'm not talking about running down people in day to day life and talking gibberish at them. The last time I tried to discuss spreading Linux I was looking for more good ideas like advertising with flyer's to get users to come to the advocate and things to demonstrate or hand out. I had a few good ones like doing a slide show at your community college, handing out CD of open source for Windows with a reputable computer club especially one affiliated with a school, or doing a Linux demo at a community center or YMCA.
  • proprietary driver

    I'm not so much of a purist that I don't mind using the proprietary driver. So if they do what they say and concentrate their efforts on developing the driver it could be a good thing.
  • ATI

    The obvious thing to do now is to recommend ATI cards to everybody.
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