Torvalds slams Nvidia's Linux support

June 18, 2012 // 11:26 a.m.

Tags: #amd #binary-blob #linux #linux-kernel #nouveau #nvidia #open-source

Linus Torvalds, the man behind the Linux kernel, has called Nvidia 'the single worst company we have ever dealt with,' raising eyebrows - and his middle finger - during a presentation at the Aalto Centre for Entrepreneurship in Finland.

Attendees at the speech were given the chance to ask Torvalds, who created the Linux kernel which underpins the open-source operating system in his spare time just to see if it could be done, any question they liked. Around fifty minutes into the session, one audience member queried the lack of support given to Linux by graphics giant Nvidia - and was treated to a vitriolic rant by the penguin-loving coder.

Before we get on to the response itself, some background: Nvidia joined the Linux Foundation back in March, giving users of the operating system hope that it would take to heart the demand for an open source driver and enhanced platform support. Currently, Nvidia provides a 'binary blob' proprietary driver which enables the vast majority of functionality embedded in its GPUs, with one exception: the Optimus GPU-swapping technology designed to save power on laptops and other portable devices.

Using Windows, Optimus works as promised: 2D desktop work is carried out on the integrated graphics, with the Nvidia GPU powered off to save battery; load a 3D application and the discrete GPU is switched on, giving power where it's needed.

Under Linux, things aren't quite so simple. A third-party backwards-engineered hack is required to enable Optimus support, and then only for selected applications. It effectively hobbles high-end laptops when used with Linux, and it's something Nvidia has been slow to address - telling us at CeBIT last year that 'Linux is not a focus' for the company.

Nvidia's membership of the Linux Foundation promised to change all that, but Torvalds' response to the attendee's question reveals all is not going smoothly. '[Nvidia] has been one of the worst trouble spots we've had with hardware manufacturers,' Torvalds claimed, according to a partial transcript prepared by Phoronix. 'Nvidia has been the single worst company we have ever dealt with.'

Those are powerful words, but Torvalds clearly felt they didn't get his strength of feeling across - which is presumably why he decided to end his response with a raised middle finger and the message 'Nvidia: F*** YOU.'

Clearly, Nvidia needs to do some serious work on its reputation in the Linux community following Torvalds' outburst. Its rival AMD offers both a binary-blob driver and an open source version, while the only open source code available for Nvidia graphics cards comes from the community reverse-engineering Nouveau project.

If you want to see Torvalds' comments in context, here's the full video - the Nvidia-bashing begins at just over 49 minutes in.
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