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[Discuss] open source graphics drivers

Richard Pieri wrote:
> Open source drivers are hit or miss right now.
> I've had no end of problems with [radeon FOSS driver] ranging from poor 
> performance to systems that crash as soon as the X server starts. 

My experience with the nVidia open source driver has been similarly
mixed. The proprietary driver seemed to work fine for me, until one day
when hardware rendering stopped working for Cinnamon. I still don't know
whether this was due to a change on the nVidia side or with Cinnamon. In
that I got hardware acceleration back, performance improved when I
switched to the open source driver. But stability dropped. With some
regularity I see kernel caught exceptions in the driver. But it is
stable enough that I consider it usable.

> nVidia is finally opening things up which puts the whole thing in
> flux.

I heard that mentioned, but haven't been following the details. I'm
assuming that exposing that code will help fill in some of the
documentation gaps the open source driver developers had.

Plus, due to the way a big chunk of the acceleration functionality is
embedded in the driver (which is why vendors resisted open sourcing
them), I'm expecting algorithms and techniques will be carried over from
the formerly proprietary driver to the open source driver.

I haven't heard whether nVidia making their code open will take the
enthusiasm out of the open source driver, making it seem redundant. Will
the licensing be different? Will the open source driver offer other

> I expect to see big improvements on that front what with Valve
> expecting to ship nVidia-equpped Steam Machines and maybe ATI-equipped
> Steam Machines next year.

Good idea. Supposedly some of those Steam Machines will be quite
low-end, and thus very likely to be fanless, and they'll be motivated to
bundle drivers that get the most out of the low-end hardware.


Tom Metro
Venture Logic, Newton, MA, USA
"Enterprise solutions through open source."
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