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NVIDIA open source driver to use NVK + Zink for OpenGL on newer GPUs

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A recent merge request on the Mesa Git repository added the initial support for allowing drivers to chose Zink as the translation layer for handling OpenGL. This basically does an OpenGL-on-Vulkan implementation making it easier for newer cards to support OpenGL through a generic implementation, reducing duplicate code and making it easier to keep OpenGL around since while not yet deprecated it is being less used on modern games.

The merge allows owners of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20xx series GPUs and newer to opt to use Zink instead of relying on the default NVC0 Gallium3D implementation to handle OpenGL requests. Those who want to give it a try, it should be as simple as setting the NOUVEAU_USE_ZINK=1 environment variable after updating Mesa 24.1 when your distribution receives the update that is currently only on the main branch of Mesa repository.

Since the merge from branch airlied/zink-driver-choice to main was merged 2 days ago, most distros might not be distributing those patches yet. For those who use source-based distros or any source-base package building system like AUR, the package mesa-git is available as a means of tracking the main branch and testing these bleeding-edge features.

While NVK as a technology is still in-development with plenty left to do, there has been lots of improvements being implemented on the last year. Related articles:

Additionally, developer Mike Blumenkrantz recently put up another blog post about NVK work and thanks to some recent changes mentioned that "As a result, all GL games now work on NVK. No hyperbole. They just work".

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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About the author -
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I'm and enthusiast of Linux on Laptops and Secure Boot related stuff. Playing exclusively on Linux since 2013. Played on Wine on dates that trace back to 2008(Diablo 2, Lineage 2...). A troubleshooter that used to work with strace and it is now working with Kubernetes...
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9 comments

Minux Feb 23
I'm glad this is evolving at this rate. I'm tired of doing QA stuff for NVIDIA without choice nor getting paid.

Their proprietary drivers are getting worse with each new release, more bugs, more problems... I feel ashamed of not having payed for AMD instead.

I'd wish I could already use open-source drivers.
nwildner Feb 23
While I'm using mesa-git here, but I didn't switched back to nouveau yet. I also don't know if there are any specifics(caveats) for prime rendering so, not changing from nvidia-dkms yet.
WYW Feb 23
Sounds good, I'm hoping this also includes the GTX 16xx Turing cards since technically they are newer than the RTX 20xx Turing cards.

"In February 2019, Nvidia released the GeForce 16 series of GPUs, which utilizes the new Turing design but lacks the RT and Tensor cores. "
Sparhawk Feb 23
Having a new gaming laptop arriving really soon. It has NVIDIA in it...so, am quite happy to hear things are evolving! Could not find a decent deal with AMD GPUs. A bit of a shame.
I was expecting OpenGL per se to start getting deprecated in favour of Zink + Vulkan, but not so soon.
nwildner Feb 23
Quoting: Purple Library GuyI was expecting OpenGL per se to start getting deprecated in favour of Zink + Vulkan, but not so soon.

The advantage here is that Zink implements some of the multithreaded goodies from Vulkan making it naturally faster than any OpenGL implementation on nouveau - https://www.collabora.com/news-and-blog/news-and-events/nvk-holiday-update.html

If it reduces maintenance in OpenGL implementations and ends up adding performance, it's a win-win situation :)
Now that their stock has exploded and market cap has broken 200 billion, they can finally afford to make a open source driver right guys?

Maybe if we beg harder and white knight more sempai will notice us and finally respect us.

I may still be paying off my home loan to buy a Novidia GPU but they're gonna finally give us a fully open source driver that respects us real soon right guys?
jens Feb 24
  • Supporter
Quoting: nwildnerIf it reduces maintenance in OpenGL implementations and ends up adding performance, it's a win-win situation :)

Yes, and even if there is a slight decrease in OpenGL performance, reducing the landscape and having more manpower available for the critical parts is a (very) big win in itself imho.
STiAT Feb 27
Good, I hoped that this would happen at some point and hope that will free up resources (generic implementations usually do). Now we only need NVK to perform well enough for gaming and we don't need the proprietary driver anymore only the GSP.

Some time down the road, but hey - there is a road!
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