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


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.

( Anika Kehrer)

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