Published in Graphics

Nvidia and AMD upgrade Linux support

by on26 September 2013

Give me Steam

It looks like Valve’s announcement about its SteamOS has poked Nvidia and AMD to spruce up their Linux support. A day after Valve announced penguin flavoured SteamOS, AMD and Nvidia announced improvements to their driver support for the Linux. One of the things which prevented Linux from taking off in the gaming world, other than a lack of decent games, was a lack of drivers.

AMD is active in the Linux community, but its open-source Linux drivers are not as good as its Windows drivers. It has been making efforts. It recently released 165 kernel patches that enabled some key features in Linux Radeon drivers, such as dynamic power management and initial support for the "Sea Islands" family of GPUs. Steam for Linux has been available since February and offers around 200 games. Yesterday AMD announced 'Mantle,' which is a new low-level programming API/GPU driver combo which it says can squeeze extreme performance out of Radeon graphics cards built with the GCN architecture.

Mantle is optimised for specific hardware, and can issue nine times as many draw calls per second as Microsoft's DirectX. It should be a doddle to port across all Radeon-powered platforms, including the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 4, and both Windows PCs and Steam Boxes using AMD APUs or GPUs. This is great news for SteamOS, if AMD can convince developers to use Mantle.

Nvidia's hasn't traditionally offered open source drivers or documentation, which doesn't sit well with Linux fans. Earlier this week Nvidia's Andy Ritger messaged members of Noveau, which is the group that reverse-engineers Nvidia's closed-source Linux drivers to create an open-source alternative.

He said Nvidia developers working on the closed-sourced Linux GPU drivers will start paying attention to the Noveau mailing group, offering assistance when possible. Additionally, Ritger said Nvidia will provide more official help. Linus Torvalds, who has been previously been critical of Nvidia said he was cautiously optimistic that this is a real shift in how Nvidia perceives Linux. What appears to have happened is that the SteamOS is already making an impact on Linux gaming, and AMD and Nvidia's driver support is set to improve if the Steam Box concept takes off in the living room.

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