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NVIDIA have released some GPU documentation on GitHub

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Someone check the weather in hell, as NVIDIA seem to be opening themselves up a bit more with the release of some additional GPU documentation.

Phoronix writes that NVIDIA notified them about the documentation now being available on GitHub along with it under an MIT license, which should hopefully help the Nouveau open source Linux driver. It was previously available here on their own website, although they stopped updating that in May. So not only is this more up to date with new and updated files, it's also far easier to look through.

The documentation covers all sorts of things like the BIOS, their custom "Falcon" architecture for security, memory tweaking and so on. This isn't just desktop GPU docs either, having a look over it myself there's information for notebook products as well.

According to what NVIDIA said, it's a work in progress and not everything is up yet. This has apparently been a "multi-year undertaking", which isn't really surprising given how it would all have to be run through different people to sign off on it. The legal spaghetti surrounding things like this is probably quite messy.

Pretty big surprise, nice to see NVIDIA make some more open steps. It's still nothing compared to the levels of AMD and Intel, since they have proper open source drivers but it's a good step in a nice direction for sure. You can find it all here on GitHub.

Hey NVIDIA, if you're reading—get in touch!

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55 comments
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WorMzy 7 August 2019 at 7:05 pm UTC
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We've seen this all before -- Nvidia make some rumblings about working with the nouveau devs, providing documentation and hints as to how things should work, maybe even contributing a few patches here and there.. then it all dries up, nvidia go back to their closed-source ways patting themselves on the back for being so generous, while the nouveau driver limps along barely even usable for anything other than 2D rendering (and even then, not being 100% reliable).

Forgive me if I don't get out the party poppers and celebratory bunting just yet.
ElectricPrism 7 August 2019 at 7:11 pm UTC
QuoteSomeone check the weather in hell, as NVIDIA seem to be opening themselves up a bit more with the release of some GPU documentation.

Indeed.

I used to be a full nvidia customer for at least 10+ years.

Then AMD did such an amazing job with their Open Source MESA Linux Driver. I switched. AMD earned my loyalty and in exchange I have built at least 6+ full AMD rigs in the last 2 years alone. Now I am looking to exclusively do AMD in laptops too because the Linux Drivers are so much better than Nvidia and more performant than Intel.

As it stands currently, AMD is a superior experience on Linux because the open source driver makes everything stable as software marches forward.

NVIDIA -- you are late to the race, AMD and Intel have already finished the open-source race. You have a lot of work to do before we are swayed to even consider your products again.

Edit:

QuoteIt goes back to at least 2012 when they said they would release more docs while now it appears they are living up to that promise for helping Nouveau. -- Phoronix

Jesus Christ! Am I to understand it took 7 years for them to even begin to deliver progress on this task? They're going to have to do better than that! I want to see current-gen documentation delivered in this Fiscal Quarter. Unacceptable, at this speed I will sooner see them dethroned.


Last edited by ElectricPrism at 7 August 2019 at 7:41 pm UTC
Shmerl 7 August 2019 at 7:12 pm UTC
Improvement, but far from enough to make Nouveau work properly. Nvidia are being their usual selves. Let them open stuff properly like AMD and Intel do, without all this fooling around.

Almost a decade long legal review is a poor excuse for their anti-competitive reasons for not opening things up.


Last edited by Shmerl at 7 August 2019 at 7:14 pm UTC
jordicoma 7 August 2019 at 7:14 pm UTC
I suppose that you still need the binary blobs to do anything and they are not providing.
Kohrias 7 August 2019 at 7:17 pm UTC
QuoteBefore anyone asks in the forums: unfortunately, no, at this stage it doesn't help with Nouveau's biggest challenge of re-clocking / signed firmware since GTX 900 series making it a real obstruction to be able to re-program the hardware to operate at its effective clock speeds rather than the lower boot clock speeds. When asking NVIDIA about it, they are aware of the situation but no solution to announce right now.

They don't even have anything to say to this most basic feature? Nice PR stunt, Nvida!

I think I have to agree with Linus Torvalds: "Fuck you, Nvidia!"
Shmerl 7 August 2019 at 7:21 pm UTC
KohriasThey don't even have anything to say to this most basic feature? Nice PR stunt, Nvida!

So far it looks like they are ready to open anything, but the features that are blocking Nouveau to become fully functional. I.e. all that doesn't change the status quo. And surely they won't comment on continuing messing things up.
RussianNeuroMancer 7 August 2019 at 7:22 pm UTC
ShmerlImprovement, but far from enough to make Nouveau work properly.
They don't need Nouveau to work properly, they need Nouveau to work enough to justify keeping certain kernel interfaces in place, to prevent cases like this one.
Shmerl 7 August 2019 at 7:25 pm UTC
RussianNeuroMancerThey don't need Nouveau to work properly, they need Nouveau to work enough to justify keeping certain kernel interfaces in place, to prevent cases like this one.

Good attitude towards the blob. Kernel developers should have strong push against any special treatment for Nvidia. Either Nvidia works with upstream, or they should get lost.


Last edited by Shmerl at 7 August 2019 at 7:25 pm UTC
ElectricPrism 7 August 2019 at 7:29 pm UTC
RussianNeuroMancer
ShmerlImprovement, but far from enough to make Nouveau work properly.
They don't need Nouveau to work properly, they need Nouveau to work enough to justify keeping certain kernel interfaces in place, to prevent cases like this one.

QuoteIBM developer Alexey Kardashevskiy did warn that this particular code is "heavily" used by NVIDIA's graphics driver. Hellwig responded though that "Not by the [driver / code] that actually exists in the kernel tree, so it simply doesn't matter."

That's fucking hilarious! So because Nvidia insisted on having a closed binary blob in their backyard Sandbox and not coming to the Community Sandbox, the community saw no reason to shoulder the burden of maintaining old code that Nvidia's sandbox depends on.

This is yet another reason why you develop such critical low level critical components in the open. I had a shitty experience on GTX 970 (My last Nvidia GPU) and it looks like more users are about to have a shitty time on Nvidia due to their poor foresight.

edit: Reading this whole fiasco makes me want to upgrade my AMD VEGA 64 to a AMD Radeon VII or Navi 5700 XT


Last edited by ElectricPrism at 7 August 2019 at 7:30 pm UTC
mirv 7 August 2019 at 7:42 pm UTC
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ElectricPrism
RussianNeuroMancer
ShmerlImprovement, but far from enough to make Nouveau work properly.
They don't need Nouveau to work properly, they need Nouveau to work enough to justify keeping certain kernel interfaces in place, to prevent cases like this one.

QuoteIBM developer Alexey Kardashevskiy did warn that this particular code is "heavily" used by NVIDIA's graphics driver. Hellwig responded though that "Not by the [driver / code] that actually exists in the kernel tree, so it simply doesn't matter."

That's fucking hilarious! So because Nvidia insisted on having a closed binary blob in their backyard Sandbox and not coming to the Community Sandbox, the community saw no reason to shoulder the burden of maintaining old code that Nvidia's sandbox depends on.

This is yet another reason why you develop such critical low level critical components in the open. I had a shitty experience on GTX 970 (My last Nvidia GPU) and it looks like more users are about to have a shitty time on Nvidia due to their poor foresight.

edit: Reading this whole fiasco makes me want to upgrade my AMD VEGA 64 to a AMD Radeon VII or Navi 5700 XT

So just to take a step back for some perspective, the sandboxing and binary blob did end up working rather well for nvidia for quite some time. I'm not going to say it was right for the community, but it worked for nvidia. It quite possibly made internal maintenance a good deal easier as well, for a long time.

Times change. Obviously nvidia didn't have AMD's long term vision (the latter having an open source kernel driver, and possible closed source blob in userspace). AMD were also in a better position to pull it off (it's not like they were really going to lose anything by trying, not with fglrx a bit of a joke back then).

So while I can disagree with what nvidia did, I'm not going to get heated about it. They were, in my opinion, wrong - and I say that from a political perspective rather than a technical one. Increasingly now, however, because of the foundations that such a political view from others have created (aka, an open source ecosystem that is a technical force to be reckoned with), one can only hope that nvidia have a change of tune. I honestly doubt it. I doubt these documents will be enough. I suspect these are minimalist documents that are just moving to github from nvidia's own domain. Perhaps it's more in the public eye now, but I truly wonder what's actually new here (no way to go back through nvidia's domain history to find out).
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