Nouveau is an alternative Open Source driver for NVIDIA GPUs created by reverse engineering. Although his intentions are good and are less ambitious than that of the official controller, the truth is that he is not reaching a minimum, to the extent of ending up in the Chromium and Chrome blacklist.
Added to this is the lack of collaboration on the part of the manufacturer with the Nouveau developers, making this driver not capable of fully supporting Pascal today and not covering Turing. Although this is not a tragedy for NVIDIA users, who are used to pulling the official driver even to perform basic tasks, possibly those who have an unsupported old graphics will see that Nouveau does not meet their needs, forcing them to change the GPU. This becomes much more dramatic in the case of notebooks, since few models allow to change the graphics.
However, it appears that NVIDIA has decided to at least partially rectify its attitude and has started to publish more documentation on the hardware of its graphics, which will obviously serve to boost Nouevau. Michael Larabel, head of Phoronix and lead developer of the benchmark test suite distributed under the same name, has personally received an email with the following announcement:
While it is a step in the right direction, published documentation mainly covers the Maxwell, Pascal, Volta and Kepler generations, so holders of a Turing chart will still have to wait for Nouveau to offer support. NVIDIA published covers BIOS tables, device control block, device initialization, security around the company’s Falcon engine, clock / settings memory, shader program headers, power states , etc. Although the documentation is not very exhaustive, at least it represents an improvement compared to what has existed until now, this being the first time that it has been concentrated in a single space.
Despite the advances, aspects such as the need for a firmware signed from the GTX 900 series make it difficult to reprogram with Nouveau to make the GPUs work at the effective frequencies instead of the lower ones established at boot, and NVIDIA does not seem be very willing to collaborate much more on this front. Will the company be afraid that Nouveau will compete? It does not have to match the power of the exclusive official driver, if you put obsolescence against the ropes it can end up being a severe blow to the company’s commercial interests.
Documentation recently released by NVIDIA certainly will help boost Nouveau, but it also points to being insufficient to cover many fronts, so GPU users of the Santa Clara giant quite possibly they will have to keep pulling the proprietary driver even for basic tasks, since the company is still obsessed with control over its own products.
Finally, the movement that concerns us in this post does not help to alleviate the problems derived from the lack of compliance with the standards established for the GNU / Linux graphical stack (compatibility problems beyond GNOME, use EGLSteams instead of GBM, etc) by the official driver, and although Nouveau in theory does respect these standards, it ends up becoming useless when it is not able to offer minimums.