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Old 04-04-05, 09:18 AM   #1
cconvey
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Default Hassles with non-free nVidia drivers

Dear nVidia guys,

Thanks very much for supporting Linux with your drivers. I prefer nVidia over ATI specifically for reasons the quality of the Linux support for graphics cards.

However, the fact that the drivers can't be included with free distributions such as Debian are causing me a lot of hassles. For instance, with Debian's "net-install" installer, I have a chicken and egg problem. The boostrap install CD can't ship with a an nVidia-written network driver, but the installation CD needs to bring up the network to download most of the distribution's packages.

I feel similar pain with getting X up and running. My workstation installations have three phases: (1) Get the system up and running enough so that I have a console, (2) copy the nVidia driver from a CD-R that I've previously prepared, and (3) install and configure the driver.

There are two real shortcomings with this approach to installing the X driver:
  • I have to prepare a CD-R ahead of time to contain the nVidia driver. This is because it's hard to navigate nVidia's website except in a truly graphical web browser. Lynx isn't easy to use for nvidia.com
  • People writing installation software for free Linux distributions can't make setting up the graphics card be seemless and easy,

I urge you to find some way to get your drivers, or at least the parts needed for basic functionality, released under a certified free license. It would make my experience with your products much better.

Best regards,
Christian Convey
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Old 04-04-05, 11:22 AM   #2
silentplummet
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Default Re: Hassles with non-free nVidia drivers

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Old 04-04-05, 12:30 PM   #3
Thunderbird
 
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Default Re: Hassles with non-free nVidia drivers

First various linux distributions ship the nvidia drivers. Nvidia doesn't disallow distributions from shipping the drivers in case of debian it is just their policy of not including non-free stuff in the base. Further regarding X, the 2d nv driver supports all nvidia cards. I agree the version in debian stable is quite old now but recent versions of X (4.4 and xorg) have no issues. Further there's also a opensource nforce network driver called forcedeth which is included with 2.6x kernels so there's not really an issue as both network and 2d can work.
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Old 04-04-05, 01:40 PM   #4
cconvey
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Default Re: Hassles with non-free nVidia drivers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunderbird
First various linux distributions ship the nvidia drivers. Nvidia doesn't disallow distributions from shipping the drivers in case of debian it is just their policy of not including non-free stuff in the base. Further regarding X, the 2d nv driver supports all nvidia cards. I agree the version in debian stable is quite old now but recent versions of X (4.4 and xorg) have no issues. Further there's also a opensource nforce network driver called forcedeth which is included with 2.6x kernels so there's not really an issue as both network and 2d can work.
Thanks for the tip about 'forcedeth', I didn't know about that. Sarge's net-installer didn't select it, but now that I know to use it maybe I can do that manually during the install process.

Regarding the non-free issue with Debian: It's still the case that Debian is a popular distro, and that nVidia's licensing program for this software causes a stumbling block that I wouldn't otherwise need to deal with. I'm not trying to be whiny here; rather I'm encouraging for nVidia to be great in this area rather than merely good.

Regarding the 'nv' driver: IIRC, at least with XFree86, there's a different set of XF86Config-4 parameters needed for 'nv' than for 'nvidia'. In my experience I've needed to specify a lot of details about the monitor for the sake of the 'nv' driver, before X will come up. If the 'nvidia' driver had simply been part of Debian from the start, then I could avoid that extra step of getting 'nv' working.

Another issue that I forgot to mention earlier was the fact that every time I install a new kernel, I have to reinstall the nVidia driver, and X won't work until I do. If 'nvidia' source code were simply included in the kernel source trees, I don't believe I'd have this problem.

Finally, we'd avoid having messes like we had some months ago, where there was a big delay between the availability of a new kernel version, and the availability of an nVidia driver that worked with it. IIRC, the issue was waiting for an nvidia driver that worked with the 2.6 line of kernels.

Anyway, thanks for the hint on 'forcedeth' - I didn't know about that.

Best regards,
Christian
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Old 04-04-05, 01:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Hassles with non-free nVidia drivers

The nvidia driver can autodetect some settings but a normal XF86Config file shouldn't be hard else let the debian xfree86 config tools or the old xf86config do it. You only need to know the refresh rate ranges and you are done.
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