[techtalk] video cards

mezanin at chno2.com mezanin at chno2.com
Fri Jan 19 01:46:39 EST 2001

> I asked around, though, and a LOT of people had experience with nVidia
> cards. I have a big problem with nVidia cards, despite my non-rmsian
> tendencies: the binary kernel module. I don't think I have the patience to
> wait around for nVidia to decide they're ready to support a new kernel,
> new version of X, etc... I had this experience with windows. I know for
> sure nVidia is already behind with X 4.0.2 and kernel 2.4.0. What does
> this mean for the future? WHY is there a binary kernel module to begin
> with (someone mentioned NDAs with SGI on debian-user) when there have been
> open-source drivers before (utah GLX, I believe)? In some ways, I can't
> explain the binary kernel module problem with myself. I know my system is
> not 100% free (I do apt-get from non-free) but the idea of a binary kernel
> module like that makes me feel... dirty, in some way.

I have worked with a variety of Nvidia based cards and I have always found
that they have been top performers.  And yes, there has been problems with
them keeping up to date with the releases of Xfree, case in point with the
release of version 4.0.1, they did get it right a week later.  As for the
open source of their kernel drivers, they did release the source for a 2D
version, I believe, of their drivers with the 3.3.6 version.  This leads
into the development for the latest updates for XFree but not for
the newest Nvidia cards and the 3D enhancements, you'll need their
version.  These versions are updated in cooperation with SGI and VA Linux
as well.

The reason for the closed source because of certain technologies they have
incorporated into the cards that they license from other companies.  So
it's not their right to give that source away even if they wanted to give
it away.  SGI is one of the companies -- next paragraph explains a little
bit.   Besides the close source, nvidia has always been good to its
developers.  At least from my standpoint, they have given graphics
developers every opportunity, with the technical specifications and demo
(including source code), to create great visualizations.

As for the OpenGL/GLX stuff -- Most open source implementations of OpenGL 
are not licensed versions from SGI.  They conform to the specifications of
OpenGL.  It's SGI's whole authorization and protection of its intellectual
property.  They are one of the defacto companies for graphics and

Anyhow, since the beginning of this month, with the announcment of
the latest 2.4 kernels not working with current Nvidia drivers there has
been an unofficial patch to it.  Although, today, nvidia did release a new
update, version 0.9.6 ... I don't think they mentioned about fixing it to
work with 2.4 though...

> I know radeon support is lacking, but ATI is supporting open source driver
> development (afaik). I think it will be much like running the g400 right
> after it came out, beta drivers, incomplete support, bleeding edge, etc.

I have no experience with the Radeon.  Sorry. =)

> Does anyone have experience with the radeon or other non-nVidia cards? Are
> the nVidia cards worth the binary kernel module?

Diamond also manufactures cards... I think they've been focusing on high
end graphics though.  They're latest technologies are FireGL2 and 3.

Matrox has other cards besides the G400 -- the latest is the G450.

Both companies are struggling to keep up with Nvidia and ATi.  At least
from what I have read about it.  I remember Diamond was great about 2
years ago and the FireGL cards I saw in action last summer were pretty

> I am not expecting it to "just work", I know I will have to do some work
> on my own to get the sucker to work no matter what it is (if it's fairly
> new, anyway), just like a million other things in linux. 

true true true... =)


beverly at chno2.com                                      http://www.chno2.com

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