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.
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.