Nvidia responds to Torvalds' Linux attack

June 20, 2012 // 10:34 a.m.

Tags: #amd #drivers #linus-torvalds #linux #nvidia #nvidia-optimus #open-source #optimus

Nvidia has moved to address the fallout of Linux creator Linus Torvald's comments regarding the company's failure to properly support the open-source operating system, in a speech during which he branded Nvidia the 'single worst company we have ever dealt with.'

The outburst, prompted by an audience question about Linux support for Nvidia's graphics products, ended with Torvalds raising his middle finger and sending a short, sharp message: 'Nvidia: F*** YOU.'

While Torvald's somewhat innovative approach to partner relations met with applause from the audience - aside from a poor Nvidia employee, who would go on to defend his company later in the speech - both Nvidia and Torvalds have come under fire in the aftermath. Nvidia is finding itself under attack by Linux enthusiasts, emboldened by their leader's speech, for failing to add support for its Optimus power-saving technology to its binary-blob closed-source Linux driver and its refusal to open up its platform for an open-source driver effort. Torvalds, meanwhile, has been accused of a lack of professionalism in his attack on Linux Foundation member Nvidia.

In response to Torvalds' comments, Nvidia's PR department has issued a statement in which the company claims - contrary to comments made by a PR staffer at the company's CeBIT meeting area last year, in which it was clearly stated that 'Linux is not a focus' - to view the open-source platform as important to its own success. Well it might, too: its Tegra family of ARM-based system-on-chip processors have proved popular thanks largely to their support for the Linux-based Android mobile platform from Google.

'Supporting Linux is important to Nvidia,' the statement begins, 'and we understand that there are people who are as passionate about Linux as an open source platform as we are passionate about delivering an awesome GPU experience. Recently, there have been some questions raised about our lack of support for our Optimus notebook technology. When we launched [Optimus], it was with support for Windows 7 only. The open source community rallied to work around this with support from the Bumblebee Open Source Project and, as a result, we've recently made Installer and readme changes in our R295 drivers that were designed to make interaction with Bumblebee easier.

'While we understand that some people would prefer us to provide detailed documentation on all of our GPU internals, or be more active in Linux kernel community development discussions, we have made a decision to support Linux on our GPUs by leveraging Nvidia common code, rather than the Linux common infrastructure,' the statement continues - scotching hopes that Torvalds' scathing attack would convince Nvidia to follow AMD in releasing open-source drivers for its graphics products. 'While this may not please everyone, it does allow us to provide the most consistent GPU experience to our customers, regardless of platform or operating system.'

In addition to addressing concerns regarding Optimus - support for which the company seems happy to leave to third-party backwards-engineered hacks - and the lack of an official open-source driver tree, Nvidia claimed that its support for Linux is not as bad as Torvalds had painted. 'Linux end users benefit from same-day support for new GPUs , OpenGL version and extension parity between Nvidia Windows and Nvidia Linux support, and OpenGL performance parity between NVIDIA Nvidia and Nvidia Linux,' the company claimed in the statement.

'We support a wide variety of GPUs on Linux, including our latest GeForce, Quadro, and Tesla-class GPUs, for both desktop and notebook platforms. Our drivers for these platforms are updated regularly, with seven updates released so far this year for Linux alone. We are a very active participant in the ARM Linux kernel. For the latest 3.4 ARM kernel – the next-gen kernel to be used on future Linux, Android, and Chrome distributions – Nvidia ranks second in terms of total lines changed and fourth in terms of number of changesets for all employers or organisations.'

Although Nvidia's statement - which can be read in full over on Linux news site Phoronix - is significantly better than silence, the company's critics in the open-source world will likely find little comfort in ARM kernel contributions until the official drivers receive Optimus support and Nvidia creates an open-source driver tree. Sadly, judging by Nvidia's official stance on the matter, neither seems likely.

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