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?