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Nvidia Working With Valve, Linux Community For SteamOS

Nvidia‘s history of Linux support has been – to put it very, very lightly – rocky at best, but apparently that’s all about to change. The hardware manufacturer is now throwing its considerable weight behind both SteamOS and Linux as a whole, even going so far as to promise it’ll release documentation on its GPUs to the Linux community so as to help ease compatibility issues. Meanwhile, the meaner, greener side of the graphicsability wars boasts of engineers “embedded at Valve” to hammer SteamOS into rip-roaring, console-busting shape. Which, I suppose, makes sense, given that AMD is supplying innards for both Microsoft and Sony.

On the Linux side of things, Nvidia’s Andy Ritger offered the company’s services to open source driver developer Nouveau. Now, this is quite an about-face for the company Linux creator Linus Torvalds recently called “the single worst company we have ever dealt with” – perhaps nearly too good to be true – but here it is nonetheless:

“NVIDIA is releasing public documentation on certain aspects of our GPUs, with the intent to address areas that impact the out-of-the-box usability of NVIDIA GPUs with Nouveau. We intend to provide more documentation over time, and guidance in additional areas as we are able. A few of us who work on NVIDIA’s proprietary Linux GPU driver will pay attention to nouveau at lists.freedesktop.org and try to chime in when we can.”

Usage of some fairly non-committal language aside, it’s an encouraging shift (or whiplash-inducing, fire-spurting 180) in attitude. But why? Well, odds are, Nvidia’s partnership with Valve to get SteamOS up to speed has something to do with it. Nvidia’s Mark Smith explained in a blog post:

“Engineers from Valve and NVIDIA have spent a lot of time collaborating on a common goal for SteamOS: to deliver an open-platform gaming experience with superior performance and uncompromising visuals directly on the big screen.  NVIDIA engineers embedded at Valve collaborated on improving driver performance for OpenGL; optimizing performance on NVIDIA GPUs; and helping to port Valve’s award-winning content library to SteamOS; and tuning SteamOS to lower latency, or lag, between the controller and onscreen action.”

All of which sound like very good things! Only time will tell if the big N is on board for the long haul, but – worst-case scenario – some support is still absolutely better than none. So yeah, Valve’s vision of a Linux-based future for Steam is looking less and less like a bunch of hot air. But is this what you, average PC gamer with a home and multiple rooms and 0.90 children, want?

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Nathan Grayson

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