Nvidia Double GeForce Performance For Linux Drivers

By John Walker on November 7th, 2012 at 9:30 am.

With the announcement of Steam’s expansion to the Linux platform, lots of aspects have been highlighted as possibly significant. It could be a strike against Microsoft and their desktop-unfriendly Windows 8. It could be a movement away from closed source systems. It could be a strike against DRM. Or it could be the infestation of GNU/Linux with DRM. But one thing you don’t see often mentioned is the matter of drivers. Because, well, they’re boring – right? But it seems Nvidia have made a big improvement to the ones they offer hungry penguins today.

It’s looking like Valve’s move might mean Linux users finally get some of the attention they’ve desperately been lacking from graphics card creators. And the first step of this appears to be Nvidia releasing some new drivers for Linux that they claim should make a significant difference. Nvidia is widely derided by the Free Software community, not least by the Linux kernel creator, Linus Torvalds, who made it personal a few months back. They, and ATI, aren’t exactly renowned for the care they put into the drivers they create for Linux users. And worse, they refuse to make those drivers open so Free Software hackers could fix them for themselves. But what Nvidia call the R310 drivers might be different.

As we hoped in August, such a big force as Valve announcing they want to take Linux seriously as a gaming platform inadvertently puts a lot of pressure on the GFX companies. So Nvidia’s announcement that the 304.64 release can “double the performance and dramatically reduce game loading times for those gaming on the Linux operating system,” seems like one that could be in reaction. Nvidia say the GeForce drivers are “the result of almost a year of development”, describing the OS as “the world’s biggest open-source operating system”.

They explain in the accompanying puff-chested press release that they’ve “thoroughly tested with Steam for Linux”, which surely can’t be coincidentally put out on the day Valve announce that the Steam for Linux beta is open. And the more cynical reader may wonder why it was their previous drivers were getting 50% less performance out of the same graphics cards – it might suggest that they were indeed not putting the effort in for that operating system. But hey, they have now.

If you’re a Linux user who’s updated, have you seen a significant improvement?

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51 Comments »

  1. Firez0r says:

    Nvidia is an utter disappointment. Their laptop “optimus” cards are not supported at all. It’s not that the driver performs poorly, it simply doesn’t work. The main reason why Linus “made it personal” a while ago.

    • bad guy says:

      I think nvidias mobile drivers get updated after the desktop cards. I remember when GTAIV came out for the PC laptop users had to wait a week for their GTAIV driver which made the game playable, while the desktop users had GTAIV optimized drivers on day one.

      • Firez0r says:

        I’ve been waiting for well over a year. There “is” an official download, but it’s well known it doesn’t work. So people had to resort to community patches which didn’t actually fix the card, it merely disabled it so at least X Window System doesn’t get messed up anymore. They’ve recently announced they are going to officially support Optimus on Linux, I suppose partly due to Valve’s recent interest in the platform.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      If it weren’t for Alan Cox, you would have had Optimus support by now.

      http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTIwOTI

      This is what happens when you let personal beliefs get in the way of platform advancement.

      • Premium User Badge Llewyn says:

        It’s also what happens when major corporations want personal exemptions from licensing requirements.

        • Solidstate89 says:

          Except when it comes to the GPL, all it does is drive away companies from doing stuff like this. nVidia doesn’t have this issue when it comes to making their drivers for Windows. Whatever APIs they want, they get.

          • Premium User Badge Llewyn says:

            Indeed, but there are two inflexible sides here which could each resolve this, not just one. Let’s be clear here: Nvidia has no interest in “platform advancement”.

          • Kaira- says:

            At this point it is simply impossible for Linux-kernel to move away from GPLv2-licensing, as every contributor retains the copyright for their code, and each and every single one of them would have to agree to change the licensing to something more permissive.

            [E] Just read the article actually linked, I thought this referenced some other conflict. Disregard this.

      • who_me says:

        It’s not even about being a Open Source zealot. It’s more simple than that in the case of Mr. Alan Cox. AFAIK he is still an employee of Intel. These guys try really hard to push their graphics stack anywhere, even on Linux. If you follow the money, who stands to benefit most from the lack of optimus support on Linux distros? Intel, because their GPUs, while not being great performers, work well.

        Alan Cox is in a conflict of interest.

    • rockman29 says:

      I still need Optimus driver support for Linux too…

  2. foop says:

    Huzzah! I use nVidia cards with 3D Vision cards on linux boxes for work and their linux support has always been decidedly lacklustre. Now that they sniff money, they might finally pull their fingers out.

    What would be really great is if they could add USB support for 3D Vision in their linux drivers. At the moment you have to buy a insanely expensive Quadro card with a 3-pin DIN stereo connector to get stereo working under linux, whilst Windows users can use pretty much any shitty old card and a USB connector.

    BRB, updating drivers.

    • Valvarexart says:

      THIS. One of the things that pained me when wiping my Windows partition last month was no 3D vision content. It’s retarded that it doesn’t work on Linux, as it is clearly very possible and probably easily so. If you google around a bit you’ll find an article with a tutorial on how to get the basic 3D effect working, which someone managed to reverse engineer from the drivers.

      Oh, and the new drivers seem to be better, but I can’t really tell as the performance has always been fairly good in Wine.

  3. Astatine says:

    I think this is really good news and a step towards that Steam Box I’m hoping for.

    It’s sad that Nvidia seem to represent the state of the art of drivers for high performance GPUs on Linux. Or has the AMD driver situation gotten any better in the last year? Last time I tried, in 2011, the open source AMD driver was very slow and lacked support for recent cards, and the “fglrx” binary blob was very unstable, with graphics corruption all over the desktop. The Nvidia blob on the other hand might be a horrible proprietary thing, and might not support Optimus (argh), but it’s stable, fast and seems to keep pace with the Windows version well feature wise.

    (Intel don’t count because their hardware isn’t fast enough).

  4. ribobura osserotto says:

    Unless they provide free & open-source drivers once and for all, they might as well burn in hell. It seems that NVIDIA privileges keeping competition at bay, over providing customers with a quality product. Unfortunately this is the kind of ass-retarded mentality that plagues the industry these days, with both hardware and software vendors managing their companies the same way you manage a 19th century assembly line.

    • darmwand says:

      Indeed, I actually prefer having an extra partition with Windows & stuff in it rather than installing proprietary drivers all over my file system. I really hope that the free Radeon driver is going to perform decently with Steam…

    • Theory says:

      Hi, normal people here. We’re now taking an interest in your platform and we don’t care about your ideological restrictions. By the way, there are lots of us and we have lots of money.

      What I’m trying to say here is that it’s pretty obvious which way the wind is blowing.

      • ribobura osserotto says:

        I find it amusing how people like you proceed to discriminate anyone who defends open-source/free software and their beliefs, for the sake of “the majority”, and yet fail to understand that people who do so, do it precisely for the same reasons. You even had the nerve of speaking on behalf of “normal people”, like if having an ideal immediately made someone become a special case. We, on the other hand, chose to believe everyone deserves to be treated with the same respect. We believe in empowering user rights, and changing the current paradigm and business model to something that would not only greatly boost technological advancement, it would also contribute for a larger interest and education of the general population on the matters of technology and digital rights. If we seem persistent and firm in our convictions, it is because we also happen to believe that even asses such yourself deserve to know and do whatever they want with the software they acquire, rather than being restricted and even sometimes exploited through it. So excuse us for trying to make the world a better place for you while asking nothing in return, but at least allow us to express our ideals even if you don’t care about them, or ignore them altogether. Besides, even without considering the whole ideological matter, there’s still the point that both AMD and NVIDIA proprietary drivers are poorly coded pieces of crap, and the sole reason both companies don’t release their code, is because they’re afraid it will disclose hardware secrets, which is something most investors wouldn’t be pleased with, because they’re still stuck in a 1950′s industrialist mentality and actually have no idea how modern technology works whatsoever. Open-source drivers practically troubleshoot themselves via community contributions, which could save companies a lot of money in tech support, bug fixing, and R&D, not to mention it would also contribute for optimal hardware performance, and general compatibility with any operating system. But who needs that, right?

        • Theory says:

          I’m feeling a little guilty now, so I’ll make two confessions:

          - I’m not “normal people”. I am actively maintaining two GPLed tools of my own and have made contributions to Blender trunk (and hope to do so again).
          - I wrote my post in a deliberate attempt to troll you. Sorry.

          Nevertheless, I made a serious point. GPL is a license which restricts programmers’ rights in preference of those of users. In the Linux ecosystem today the users are programmers, so this makes sense. The time is fast approaching when users start being these so-called “normal people” who don’t care about source access.

          The programmers who serve these new users have no reason to put up with the restrictions of GPL, and won’t, and that’s fine. Accept it. The balance of power is shifting. That happens. PC gamers have already been through something similar with the rise of consoles.

          You aren’t the first person in history to wish newcomers who don’t share your beliefs to “burn in hell”. The GNU community (of which I singled you out for being the most inflammatory poster in this comments thread) need to adapt or you’ll squander your first big opportunity to shape cultures beyond your own.

          • frenchy2k1 says:

            The problem is that most users are awfully short sighted. People want something that work NOW and never consider the future dangers and trade offs that this desire entails. RMS, for all his rhetoric, was a visionary in freedom and how letting closed companies shape the future would lead to restrictions. He wrote predictions 10+ years ago about the current state of the industry, with mutually destructive patents, DRM restrictions and copyrights enforcement. He has seen the path, fought at every corner he could while being derided, lost and now people are complaining about what they allowed to happen, but still refuse to listen.

            People are now starting to complain about the close ecosystems of the phones, carrier control, DRM abuse and platform dependency, but you still argue that the Free systems should change to match the close ones, just to speed up its adoption, while doing so would negate its only advantage in a short term.

  5. D3xter says:

    “They, and ATI, aren’t exactly renowned for the care they put into the drivers they create for Linux users.”

    To be fair, ATI/AMD/WhateverTheyCallThemselvesNow aren’t exactly renowned for the care they put into the drivers of any other Operating Systems either.

    • tormeh says:

      Where does this come from? Last I checked AMD cards work great on Windows and AMD’s CF actually scales better than SLI. So there. The AMD hate on Windows is totally unjustified. Haven’t run an AMD card in Linux so can’t comment on that, but in general I find that people whine too much.

      The Linux community is also heavily biased towards open-source to the point where it’s basically a reality distortion field. How do you manage to hate on NVIDIA without going batshit crazy on the X server?

      Mandatory: http://xkcd.com/963/

      • Aaarrrggghhh says:

        Well I think most people agree now that X has to go at some point, but none of the alternatives are in a widespread productive state yet. At least not in a state where you could get completely rid of X.

      • Premium User Badge Naum says:

        What does X.org have to do with nVidia’s drivers? Genuine question, I really don’t get the comparison.

        • varangian says:

          Not a lot, the comparison is not really relevant. I don’t think the X server gets as hard a time as Nvidia due to its history. Although less than ideal it’s that way because of its origins. X servers (I used to do a bit of programming for them back in the day) were basically graphics terminals + mouse with enough smarts to render X windows. They would, for Unix systems, do all the graphical trickery with windows etc. that were just starting to become available in MS Windows (and had been in Macs/Atari/Amiga etc. before) but all the programming to drive what they displayed happened on a Unix server somewhere which sent the relevent display instructions across the network. When Linux got going and needed a graphics layer creating an open source X system was presumably the quickest way to go but of course it’s rather clunky as both sides of what were once separate things are now sitting on the same system.

          So yeah, it’s not great but it’s drawbacks are due to the inherent limitations of the original 80′s concept translated into the modern world. Nvidia’s drawbacks and limitations in Linux are mainly due to them not being arsed to the job properly themselves or, even on a confidential basis, opening up the API to allow those willing to do the job for free have a crack at it. Hence Linus’s ‘Nvida, fuck you’ remark. Maybe he’ll take it back now Nvidia seem to have got off their finger out.

      • Gargenville says:

        Have you opened the AMD graphics settings menu lately? Whenever I’m deciding on a new GPU I mentally add $75 to the price of any AMD product to offset the grief caused by having to deal with that mess on a semi -daily basis.

    • Bremze says:

      Which is ironic, because that reputation is mostly grounded on around a decade old experiences. Even though Nvidia has had their own share of driver woes, that seems to be glazed over more often than not.

      • D3xter says:

        That reputation comes from me seeing ATI users whine at around every second or third new game release that needs some sort of QuickFix or them waiting for new ATI drivers to work while nVidia users seem to have barely any problems at all. (for instance RAGE, Arkham City, The Old Republic, Battlefield 3 etc.)
        The funny thing is, this even happens to games “partnered” with ATI/AMD and their logo displayed on StartUp.

        For me it also comes from personal experience with two ATI-based cards I had with nothing but driver trouble throughout. (although that was somewhat longer ago)

        • Snargelfargen says:

          I’ve never seen anything but anecdotal evidence for AMD ‘s drivers being significantly worse, at least not in the past 6 years or so.

          An impartial survey would be pretty interesting. It’s worth noting that AMD isn’t partnered with nearly as many games as Nvidia. Whether that has an effect on the scheduling of driver releases, or how games are coded, I don’t know.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        No, it’s pretty much based in reality. Even their FirePro drivers (you know, the ones that are supposed to ISV-certified with their ~800 dollar graphics cards) are complete and utter shite.

  6. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    Yes my graphics are much faster nowOh wait I have Intel HD graphics.

  7. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    The article image looks familiar for some reason…

  8. Solidstate89 says:

    “GNU/Linux”

    And yet another falls for the RMS rhetoric.

    • darmwand says:

      Not big on giving credit, are we?

      • Solidstate89 says:

        Why stop there? Let’s call it KDE/GNU/Linux. Or if you’re a Gnome fan, GNOME/GNU/Linux

        Let’s give credit to Red Hat as well, afterall they’re the largest corporate sponsor of The Linux foundation and contribute more code than any company out there. Instead of calling it Fedora, it should be called Red Hat/GNOME/GNU/LINUX.

        Ahh, but then we’re leaving out all of the personal contributors. Surely there must be some system ranking we can go by to include only the most prolific of contributors.

        It’s just Linux. Regardless of what RMS believes it should be called.

        • John Walker says:

          You don’t appear to understand what most of your “Linux” is made of.

          • Solidstate89 says:

            I’m well aware of the GNU coreutils. But if so desired they are just as replaceable as anything else in your typical Linux distro set-up.

            That doesn’t mean they deserve to get first-string when talking about Linux as a platform. It’s called The Linux Foundation afterall, not the GNU/Linux Foundation.

          • Mu says:

            He has a valid point. You could replace bash, dd, df, glibc, etc with your own equivalents, and the system would work just fine (as long as you don’t change the ABI). You may make the argument that GNU has had significant influence on the development of Linux, but according to Wikipedia, originally the name GNU/Linux meant “Linux kernel with GNU components”.

            In a modern Linux distribution, most people wouldn’t care if you replaced the GNU utilities with utilities made by some other party. However, if you left out the Xorg server, most people would not want to use your distribution, because the binary graphics card drivers wouldn’t work on that system. Why not then call the operating system Xorg/Linux?

            Also, if you’re saying that most of “Linux” is GNU code, then I would like to have some evidence on that. Even the kernel itself has 15M lines of code, and 75% of it is drivers, architecture-specific code and file system code. If you want a proper desktop distribution, you easily get tens of millions of lines of code.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yeah. On a desktop system, GNOME has been steading growing outward rewriting and replacing everything Not Invented Here. And when Wayland hits, X will go too.

            Even Xubuntu ends up with half of GNOME installed, so deep is its spread, and FreeDesktop-isms like *Kit and dbus are finding their way all the way into headless servers.

            The GNU coreutils are rapidly becoming a bit player, and have very little to do with the “Linuxness” of the environment.

        • darmwand says:

          Sorry but that’s just not correct, “Linux” is only the name of the kernel. That’s how something like Android (which uses Linux but AFAIK doesn’t have the GNU stuff on it) differs from your typical desktop distribution. Feel free to add your desktop envoironment, distribution or whatever to the name if it’s relevant, it’s just that in most cases it’s not.

          • Solidstate89 says:

            So you’re saying if I were to replace all of the GNU Coreutils with BusyBoxy I should then call it BusyBbox/Linux? No, that’s insane. I think I’ll side with Linus on this over the zealots at the FSF.

            “Well, I think it’s justified, but it’s justified if you actually make a GNU distribution of Linux … the same way that I think that “Red Hat Linux” is fine, or “SuSE Linux” or “Debian Linux”, because if you actually make your own distribution of Linux, you get to name the thing, but calling Linux in general “GNU Linux” I think is just ridiculous” – Linus Torvalds

          • ribobura osserotto says:

            GNU predates the Linux kernel which was merely pieced into it as a last missing component. If anything, the whole thing should only be called GNU, but it just so happens that for some reason, the kernel name became more popular than the actual OS that started it all. So, calling it GNU/Linux sounds pretty fair, if you ask me, as it acknowledges both parts as equals. And on a sidenote, I know at least the Debian Foundation names their distro “Debian GNU/Linux”. Not sure about RedHat though, but it’s likely they do it as well.

          • Solidstate89 says:

            Except the GNU coreutils are by no means essential to using a Linux distro. There are alternatives to basically every single one of them. And many of the most ESSENTIAL parts of using a modern Linux distro have absolutely nothing to do with GNU. Even GNOME (despite being the official GNU DE) is getting quite marginalized due to the advancement of GTK. Qt is become more and more popular. And if you care to, BusyBox pretty much replaces all of the GNU coreutils.

            Hell, you can even run a BSD userland instead of the GNU coreutils if you feel like fucking around for a few days.

            Point is, no, it doesn’t deserve to be called GNU/LInux.

    • Premium User Badge Hodge says:

      Hey Jude (Lennon/McCartney)

      See, I can be a propagandist too!

  9. Licaon_Kter says:

    Oh, ffs, restrain yourselves to Doritos+Dew or something:
    1. You copy some PR shizzle that states you get “double the performance” for drivers that where already ON PAR with the Windows ones?
    2. They announce on Nov 6 ( link you did not post: http://is.gd/fhsreB ) the new 310 driver launched as beta on Oct 15: http://www.geforce.com/drivers/results/50148 , yeah read it, fixes only.
    3. And NOT 304.46 as your text falsely says.
    4. The performance note talks about the Source engine ONLY, an engine that was just optimized for Linux so that performance might be more an effect of Valves’ work than nVidias’ since the performance was mostly on par when run under WINE anyway ?

    Let’s see on that performance boost, on my plain GTX460@700/3600, tested in Unigine Heaven 3.0:
    -1920×1080 fullscreen
    -no AA
    -16x aniso.
    -shaders: high
    -tess: extreme
    -Linux 310.14 / Windows 310.33

    Linux: 23.4 / 589 / 12.1 / 59.3
    WindowsOGL: 23.4 / 588 / 11.9 / 61.2
    WindowsDX11: 24.6 / 619 / 12.5 / 66.6

    That’s just ~5% difference… and that’s on the DX11 side, yeah double the what? And to avoid stupid question, no, older drivers have exactly the same performance as the *new* ones on both Windows and Linux.

    Also, the other company is not called ATI anymore for like years… it’s AMD.

    • Herabek says:

      As usual, all they did was fix something that was broken, then take the performance gains from that one features fix and call it a “x percet increase” making it sound like it applies across the board.

      Typical marketing flair!

    • Licaon_Kter says:

      Challenge accepted! :D

      /LE: nope, no boost for me 304.43 and 310.14 have the same scores in 1280×720, 1280×1024 and (to keep my puny X3 450 out of the discussion) 1920×1080. meh, too bad one needs >200$ CPU to get a driver improvement or something.