NVIDIA Responds to Linus Torvalds’ Rant

Subject: General Tech | June 21, 2012 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: rant, optimus, open source, nvidia, linux, linus, drivers

Last week, the founder of Linux – Linus Torvalds – gave a speech at the Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship. The aspect that most people picked up on was a certain disparaging statement towards NVIDIA. Since then, the video has spread rapidly around the Internet with critics for and against the statement. Linus does not believe that NVIDIA is easy to work with regarding Linux support, in short. NVIDIA PR recently responded to his statement in stating that the company is in fact heavily involved with Linux development, albeit mobile kernels.

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NVIDIA stated in its PR release that supporting Linux is important to the company and they understand how important a positive Linux experience using NVIDIA hardware is. I don’t think anyone is surprised by that statement, but that was not all they said. The company stated that they are big supporters of the ARM Linux kernel with a claimed second most total lines changed and fourth highest number of changesets in the kernel.

The company uses proprietary drivers, but it does support GeForce, Quadro, and Tesla graphics cards under the Linux operating system. By using a common, proprietary driver, NVIDIA claims same-day support for new graphics cards and OpenGL versions for both Windows and Linux operating systems.

Linus’ rant started when an audience member asked about Optimus support under Linux. On that front, NVIDIA did not have a direct answer – only that when it launched laptops with Optimus, it was only supported on Windows 7. Allegedly, the company is working to make interaction between its drivers and the Bumblebee Open Source Project. The Bumblebee project is working to make Optimus-powered laptops work with Linux operating systems.

What do you think of the two statements by Linus and NVIDIA? Should NVIDIA be held accountable for Optimus support under Linux? Is the company doing enough to support the OS? Or is Linus wrong? Let us know in the comments below!

Personally, as much as I like Linux, I don’t think NVIDIA should have to go out of its way to support Optimus on Linux. At least, not until the Linux OS is the operating system that comes pre-installed on an Optimus notebook. At that point, it would be on NVIDIA to provide support. Until then, they don’t have to support it on aftermarket / third part operating systems. With that said, better Linux support couldn't hurt PR-wise. As far as Linux and NVIDIA working together in a more general sense, I think that the company could certainly do more for Linux on the desktop, especially being a Linux Foundation member, but I don't think they will until it is more financially viable to do so.

The full PR statement is available after the break.

Supporting Linux is important to NVIDIA, and we understand that there are people who are as passionate about Linux as an open source platform as we are passionate about delivering an awesome GPU experience.

Recently, there have been some questions raised about our lack of support for our Optimus notebook technology. When we launched our Optimus notebook technology, it was with support for Windows 7 only. The open source community rallied to work around this with support from the Bumblebee Open Source Project http://bumblebee-project.org/. And as a result, we've recently made Installer and readme changes in our R295 drivers that were designed to make interaction with Bumblebee easier.

While we understand that some people would prefer us to provide detailed documentation on all of our GPU internals, or be more active in Linux kernel community development discussions, we have made a decision to support Linux on our GPUs by leveraging NVIDIA common code, rather than the Linux common infrastructure. While this may not please everyone, it does allow us to provide the most consistent GPU experience to our customers, regardless of platform or operating system.

As a result:

1) Linux end users benefit from same-day support for new GPUs , OpenGL version and extension parity between NVIDIA Windows and NVIDIA Linux support, and OpenGL performance parity between NVIDIA Windows and NVIDIA Linux.

2) We support a wide variety of GPUs on Linux, including our latest GeForce, Quadro, and Tesla-class GPUs, for both desktop and notebook platforms. Our drivers for these platforms are updated regularly, with seven updates released so far this year for Linux alone. The latest Linux drivers can be downloaded from www.nvidia.com/object/unix.html.

3) We are a very active participant in the ARM Linux kernel. For the latest 3.4 ARM kernel – the next-gen kernel to be used on future Linux, Android, and Chrome distributions – NVIDIA ranks second in terms of total lines changed and fourth in terms of number of changesets for all employers or organizations.

At the end of the day, providing a consistent GPU experience across multiple platforms for all of our customers continues to be one of our key goals.


Source: Phoronix

June 21, 2012 | 03:43 PM - Posted by Zanthis

You said it best. Until Linux is the primary OS for a laptop with Nvidia graphics, Nvidia doesn't have to support them.

June 21, 2012 | 03:55 PM - Posted by Eric (not verified)

As a regular user of Arch Linux and Linux Mint, I'll be the first to tell you that the Nvidia proprietary driver is the best graphic driver on the entire operating system for general stability and for graphic-intensive applications. Maybe the open-source people should step up and make a better driver.

June 22, 2012 | 10:44 AM - Posted by genomad (not verified)

Its almost impossible for anyone but nvidia to write a driver for their cards. Unlike amd/ati/intel they have not released any technical specs.

Modern graphics cards are complex enough that it takes major time a resources to reverse engineer.

August 3, 2012 | 05:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That is exactly the point!
Most open-source Linux drivers are just as good and reliable as the nVidia proprietary driver: they just work. We'd all love to have an open-source alternative to nVidia's own driver. There are plenty of people willing to put in the hours, but without nVidia's specs, it can't happen.

_That_ is what Linus was ranting about. No-one expects nVidia to develop a Linux driver, just provide some documentation so volunteers can get work.

June 21, 2012 | 05:00 PM - Posted by Nilbog

I dont personally use Linux, but i do think that Nvidia should have Linux support.
If not, they should at least work with developers that are trying to make proper drivers for a card that they own.

Nvidia cards are the fastest in the world at this point, they should have full support on all Operating systems.
If someone buys ur product, you should support them. Regardless of what Operating System they choose to use.
AMD does it, they even have drivers for Win 8
Nvidia is only alienating customers, and preventing more people from buying their products.
If you were building a desktop for Linux, what card would you buy, knowing this?

As far as Optimus, they should support that too. They should have known that people primarily like to install Linux on laptops. Of course somebody will be upset.

Also, Steam is now available on Linux, so this is only going to come up more and more

June 23, 2012 | 11:58 AM - Posted by MHazell (not verified)

I hope Linux gains more desktop market share, as it is a great OS. It is just that Microsoft and Apple were first to get to the desktop space, Linux was in the 90s.

June 21, 2012 | 11:10 PM - Posted by mac.heretic (not verified)

+1 to Tim, Zanthis, & Eric.
Though as an AMD gotta hit on what Nilbog said: I hope nvidia keeps crumby Linux driver support going. :P

June 22, 2012 | 02:24 PM - Posted by Hemlige Arne (not verified)

NVIDIA drivers are good and bad at the same time.
For desktops with static configurations they are good. But for laptops they are bad, they do not interoperate well with Xorg. Just try to boot a laptop with the lid closed and connected to an external monitor, all is fine until X starts, then it switches to the built in closed screen. Try to use the standard tools for X setup, it wont work properly. Intel drivers are a dream compared to Nvidia, but then Intel hardware are not much to write home about.

The tin foil hat version of me thinks nvidias bad behaviour is due to pressure from a big os vendor to not make proper drivers, just to make them barely functional ;)

June 23, 2012 | 12:02 PM - Posted by MHazell (not verified)

Intel Graphics 4000 is perfectly capable of handling minor to basic 3D. It can play games of yesteryear, and even today's Diablo III, but on low settings. That is good for Intel, and Integrated Graphics in general.

Integrated Graphics on laptops have a few advantages over a discrete graphics card. For one it takes up less space, uses less power, and most important - it produces less heat. Heat is the enemy for laptops. They have to be so compact that the cooling systems have to be powerful to get heat out to prevent overheating and damage.