Nvidia extend olive branch to Linux developers


That’s Linus Torvalds up there – the ‘Linu’ in ‘Linux’ – swearing in the general direction of Nvidia. He last year labelled the GPU specialists the “single worst company” the Linux kernal has ever worked with.

This week, by contrast, he’s “cautiously optimistic” about Nvidia’s future relationship with Linux developers, after the company pledged to help improve “out-of-the-box usability” with open source drivers.

Nvidia’s Andy Ritger yesterday emailed developers of Nouveau, an open source driver built to accommodate Nvidia cards on Linux PCs.

“Nvidia is releasing public documentation on certain aspects of our GPUs, with the intent to address areas that impact the out-of-the-box usability of Nvidia GPUs with Nouveau,” he wrote. “We intend to provide more documentation over time, and guidance in additional areas as we are able.”

That’s a small thing, that will help Nouveau’s team counter uncommon issues they haven’t yet come across. But it’s just the peak of an iceberg of Linux-friendly intent from Nvidia.

“More BIOS-related information is in the pipeline,” the company’s Andy Ritger told Ars Technica. “Our goal is for the Nouveau driver to give NVIDIA users a reasonable out-of-the-box experience. This entails things like successful GPU initialization, display configuration, and basic 2D and 3D rendering.”

Precisely what information Nvidia releases will be “largely based on feedback from the Nouveau community”. “So far, feedback from Nouveau guys has been that the DCB spec is actually more useful than I expected it to be, which is great news,” finished Ritger.

Torvalds, for his part, seemed receptive to Nvidia’s change of heart. “We’ll see,” he told Ars Technica. “I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a real shift in how Nvidia perceives Linux. The actual docs released so far are fairly limited, and in themselves they wouldn’t be a big thing, but if Nvidia really does follow up and start opening up more, that would certainly be great.

“They’ve already been much better in the ARM SoC space than they were on the more traditional GPU side, and I really hope that some day I can just apologize for ever giving them the finger.”

How’ve you lot fared with Nvidia cards on Linux? Or have you steered well clear before now? The compatibility of graphics cards with Linux systems seems newly important now SteamOS is a thing.