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Nvidia responds to Torvalds by citing Linux ARM kernel contributions

Optimus is not on the same level as Tegra
Wed Jun 20 2012, 12:41
Nvidia Tegra 3 processor

CHIP DESIGNER Nvidia has replied to Linux founder Linus Torvalds' stinging criticism over the firm's lack of Linux video driver support by saying that it is one of the biggest contributors to the Linux kernel for ARM architectures.

Nvidia got some harsh criticism earlier in the week when Torvalds said the firm is "the single worst company" he's ever had to deal with while working with Linux. Torvalds' criticism centred around Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching technology, which has at best had patchy Linux support, something Nvidia said has recently been changed to improve its usability.

The firm said, "Recently, there have been some questions raised about our lack of support for our Optimus notebook technology. When we launched our Optimus notebook technology, 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."

Nvidia's statement also included an admission that by using "Nvidia common code" rather than the Linux driver infrastructure, the firm would not please everyone. However Nvidia claimed that the move allows it to "provide the most consistent GPU experience to our customers, regardless of platform or operating system", a statement that long-term Linux users might find hard to believe.

Eventually Nvidia tried to quash the notion that it doesn't do much for the Linux community by talking up its work in the ARM Linux kernel, which of course is used by Android and runs on Tegra devices. The company said, "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 organizations."

Nvidia has every right to work on improving the ARM Linux kernel for its own benefit, that is a tactic used by many companies including AMD, Intel, Qualcomm and even Microsoft. However it should also realise that laptop users have very little choice about the graphics cards shipped on laptops, meaning that iffy Linux support can make a machine all but useless. The problem for users is that AMD's Linux support is arguably even worse than that of Nvidia and neither firm looks set to release open source graphics drivers, for whatever reasons.

Even if Torvalds' comments have shamed Nvidia into issuing a statement, thanks in part to AMD it might not shame the Green Goblin into improving Optimus support in Linux. µ


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