Nvidia’s Ginormous Gift to Linux Gamers

What a difference a year makes.

It used to be that gaming was Linux’s “Achilles’ heel” of sorts, cited by more than a few enthusiasts as justification for their reluctance to switch away from Windows.

Fast forward to today, and gaming may well be the focus of more Linux-centered excitement than any other area.

How did we get from point A to point B, you may ask?

Doubled Performance

Well, it all started when Valve announced back in April that it was bringing its popular Steam gaming platform to Linux.

Soon afterward, Valve cofounder Gabe Newell declared Windows 8 a “catastrophe” that’s driving his own company to Linux.

The latest news? None other than Nvidia’s announcement last week that its latest R310 Nvidia GeForce drivers “double the performance and dramatically reduce game loading times for those gaming on the Linux operating system,” in the company’s own words.

‘Music to My Ears, Baby!’

Hear that sound in the distance? It’s the Linux masses, whooping and hollering with delight.

“Hardcore video games have traditionally been one of the sticking points against getting PC users to adopt GNU/Linux,” enthused tepples on Slashdot, for example. “But with big companies (Valve and Nvidia) committed to bringing hardcore video games to the GNU/Linux platform, what else is in the way of making 2013 the year of the Linux desktop?”

Even more so: “Hear that, Microsoft?” wrote Type44Q. “That’s the sound [of] one big motherf****** railroad spike being driven into your soft, worm-eaten coffin. Music to my ears, baby! :)”

Fans down at the blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge had similar sentiments to express.

‘It Could Be the First Domino’

“Better performance from Nvidia drivers is fantastic,” exclaimed Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland. “People have long said that 3D performance on Linux is sub-par to other operating systems.

“Nvidia is working with Steam to change that — Linux will become a full-fledged gaming platform if Steam has their way,” Hoogland added.

Indeed, “this is a really great sign,” Google+ blogger Linux Rants agreed. “It could be the first domino.”

‘Where Go the Games Go the Users’

Combine this latest news with the fact that “Valve has been able to get better gaming performance out of Linux than out of Windows, and you have a combination that could sway some of your high-end gamers to, at the bare minimum, dual boot their gaming rigs,” Linux Rants explained.

“This could sway game companies to make more games for Linux, meaning that gamers would have to boot into Windows less and less, eventually maybe not at all,” he added.

Meanwhile, “where go the games go the users,” Linux Rants concluded. “Other applications follow. If played correctly on the market, this could be the first step for Linux to more global acceptance on the desktop.

“We should send Linus a list of other companies to flip off and see if they’ll improve their Linux support too,” he quipped.

‘Open Keeps Winning’

“Valve has been pushing for better performance in all Linux graphics drivers, not just Nvidia,” noted consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.

“I am definitely happy with the work done so far, and will probably buy a game or three when everything comes out of beta,” he added.

“Nvidia is discovering that it needs to work with the free software community whether it wants to or not,” suggested Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien.

“They recently lost a (US)$500 million contract in China rather than go open,” he pointed out. “Now I think they are trying to find a way to be acceptable to the community without opening up. I don’t know if they can manage that. Open keeps winning.”

‘It’s About Time’

Similarly, “Nvidia is finally catching up with better support for GNU/Linux,” blogger Robert Pogson agreed. “It’s about time. Most of the issues I have had with drivers over the years were with Nvidia. I have even used Vesa drivers to get around the obstacles Nvidia placed on the market.

“I hope Nvidia has finally realized it is in Nvidia’s best interest to be more helpful to FLOSS OS, which soon will dominate IT everywhere,” Pogson added.

Nvidia used to be “‘the’ video-card maker,” observed Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. “Then, it fell a little, and other companies improved. Leaving Linux ‘drivers’ aside was a bad move, and now they are taking care of the lost time. Welcome back!”

Meanwhile, “ATI and others look somehow stagnated, so Nvidia can get back to the top position in users’ preference rankings,” he predicted. “But watch out, Intel coming!”

‘Like Shifting Sand’

Last but not least, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet was less optimistic.

“If the product is poor, doubling ‘awful’ gets you into ‘okay,’ not ‘great’,” hairyfeet said.

“There have been too many fundamental changes to the subsystems in the past few years,” he explained. “It seems like every time we turn around some major part is getting gutted and replaced, from the sound to the DEs, so I have no doubt Nvidia simply gutted most of it, tossed it over their shoulder, and built their own.”

The problem now is going to be “keeping it working, because again everything from the kernel on up is like shifting sand,” hairyfeet concluded. “So congrats, Nvidia, let’s see if you can build a system usable by Joe Average out of it.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


  • I believe that this is a survival action. With Windows 8, Microsoft is moving into the hardware arena (following Apple’s actions). In the hardware arena, MS will commission its own graphics chips, its own architecture for mother boards, bios, etc., and Nvidia will be locked out. If Nvidia is not locked out, it will be an invisible supplier to Microsoft. As a MS invisible vendor, it will see sales drop dramatically.

    Better to now go with Linux, than the lockin to MS.

    • Because there is ONE simple fact that NONE of you will be able to wish away, and it is this: You will HAVE to allow both proprietary programs and DRM if you are gonna have a fighting chance, and the simple fact is there is too many in Linux that hold RMS up like Moses and the GPL as the ten commandments for that to ever work.

      Why do you have NO choice? Simple, because there are parts to the graphics that you will HAVE to have to get decent performance that will never ever be FOSS (such as the HDMI video decoders baked into each chip) and no way is the gaming companies gonna put a 100 million dollar AAA game title up DRM free and try to sell services or hold out a tin cup, and lets be honest folks there are only three proven ways to make money in Linux, the services model (Red hat), selling hardware (routers, phones) or volunteers holding out a tin cup and none of those will work in this case.

      At the end of the day this is why Steam on Linux will fail, and why Nvidia and valve should have picked BSD where open and proprietary can live together. Because otherwise what you get is the half baked gimped solution like you have with AMD now, where you have ZERO access to the UVD decoders in the FOSS drivers so you have video performance like a 6 year old card with the latest model and without the DRM the gaming and media companies simply won’t allow their products anywhere near you…see any netflix on ubuntu? didn’t think so.

      So you all need to think LONG AND HARD about what you want…do you want a shot at the title? or do you want to be a niche also ran? because if you want a shot at knocking MSFT off their throne you have to be easier, nicer to use and BETTER in every way, and nooo, "free as in beer/freedom" isn’t in any way, shape, or form "better" as far as the public is concerned. until they can watch their netflix and Blu rays, until they can get equal or better game and video performance out of their laptops WITHOUT the devs breaking the proprietary drivers every 6 months when they scratch an itch? Then you simply have no chance, Microsoft could put out "Windows Middle Finger Edition" and still get more share than you.

      For evidence simply look at Vista, which even while flopping years ago currently has more than 5 TIMES the users of Linux. If people would rather take the lame duck of the competitor than take your product for free? Well then you simply aren’t giving them what they want and what they want is their videos and games, they could not care less about your little war against proprietary software.

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