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Old 12-26-07, 03:15 AM   #1
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Default What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

I know the correct PR statement would be "beacause we care for all our costumers".
But let's face it, companies are there to make money, and I guess Linux binary drivers consume a considerable amount of resourses. Estimating the % of desktop users that use linux, it's hard to see how that pays back.

Don't get me wrong. I use Linux only, because I feel is just plain better that any OS out there. I'm glad I've got a Nvidia card, because drivers are excellent, not far behind their windows counterparts. Congratulations to Nvidia.

But why does Nvidia even cares to do it? PR? - "We are so good that we can even code drivers for an obscure OS that 1-2% of desktops use?" Do they think there is a trend into linux being more and more adopted by desktops, and when it happens, the are more ready than competition? Or another reason that I fail to see?

Again, don't get me wrong. It's great Nvidia provides this level of support for Linux users. It's so great that I can't help wondering why...?
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Old 12-26-07, 04:28 AM   #2
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

For the excact same reason that there are Quadro cards.
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Old 12-26-07, 06:20 AM   #3
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

if 0.5% performance advantage count, 2% of the potential userbase does count too.

Also, what Lith said: Qadro cards. People using them spent a lot more moeny then the average desktop guy.

And in some quadro-card using parts of 'the industry' the amount of linux/solaris/freebsd using systems is a lot higher than '1-2%'.
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Old 12-26-07, 09:06 AM   #4
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

..also they heard about the "World Domination" linux plans.. I guess they just wanted to join the team
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Old 12-26-07, 01:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

Originally Posted by rev_b
Estimating the % of desktop users that use linux, it's hard to see how that pays back.
There may not be many Linux users around, but we tend to be techies. The kind of people that other people come to for help with their own computers.

The kind of people they ask for advice on what to buy.

See where this is leading?
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Old 12-27-07, 12:58 AM   #6
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

Originally Posted by devrandom
There may not be many Linux users around, but we tend to be techies. The kind of people that other people come to for help with their own computers.

The kind of people they ask for advice on what to buy.

See where this is leading?
This was also what came to my mind. I know that I generally lean towards nvidia when I'm making purchasing decisions at work, just because they support linux. I only replace maybe 15-20 systems a year, but it only takes 5% of the market at a rate like that to make a HUGE difference.
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Old 12-27-07, 01:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

Same here... only NVIDIA cards for my customers... even if they are not using Linux...
And I do not even think this cost NViDIA a big deal of money or resources - it is just money well spent...
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Old 12-27-07, 05:17 PM   #8
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

Linux is used in movie studios. Most of them were using unix in the past so migrating to Linux is natural, easy and cheap way to be up to date with hardware upgrades. Also other companies chooses Linux to replace their older Unix software.
0. Security - the most important parts of system are open source. If you discover security bug or it is advertised on net your internal team can fix it fast. You can also download patch from net - bug reporter usually also provides patch or it is made by someone else. Commercial companies are slow and weak when it comes to security: patches are released slowly or never. In Linux security patch made in less than 1 hour is nothing unusual.
In Security area time is critical part and most dangerous enemy.
1. It is easier and faster = cheaper to port old unix software to Linux than to Windows because of architecture design
2. Linux is 'controllable' part 1 - you can in small steps update parts of system without the need of major upgrades which usually break something in several areas. If you do not like some of updates you can easily ignore them.
3. Linux is 'controllable' part 2 = open source. If something you do not like you hire or have c++ programmer who will rewrite app you do not like.
4. Community is very active. If you run in some problems just google and discover there is another person with exactly the same problem and below there are minimum 5 answers how to solve this.
5. Paid help. There are many companies ready to sell you distro with tech support. If they do not know something they will use point 4 for you :-)

If you say the Linux community is small you have to remember Linux is used by 'silent big users' who use Linux but never will told it aloud. For example intelligence agencies, army, gov, big companies which can't be dependent on other companies. Also Linux is present inside black boxes like mobiles, digital TV tuners and other more advanced digital equipment. Believe or not but there are areas where Microsoft software will never be present.

Home Users:
e-banking users uses Linux boot CDs to keep their banking data secret and immune to VISTA (viruses, intruders, spying, trojans, adaware).
The e-bank I use has web forum for users free talk. To my surprise many of average users use Linux boot CDs for home banking.

All these people need fast rock solid data processing and presentation.
Nvidia just catch the high quality presentation need and provides good driver.
With recent cuda Linux library Nvidia enters also into processing part.
In turn people buy Nvidia Quadro/Geforce and then nForce to have good supported platform.

Remember that Nvidia is present on stock exchange. People only invest in companies which are in development and increase market shares/expand to other markets. Windows market is full, stagnated and Linux is biting some parts of it. Linux desktops are developing. Linux community is rapidly growing. People need fast desktops on Linux too. Open driver are not very much feature full so there is place for Nvidia binary drivers. Nowadays only 3 desktops count: Windows/MacOS/Linux.

AMD/ATI realized this very late (after Intel). Their Radeon Linux support is very infamous. Nvidia and Intel consumes big parts of Linux display cake by pushing out AMD and are very appreciated as hardware providers. Intel and AMD can not fight with Nvidia in terms of features richness yet so decided to open drivers/documentation to gain community appreciation.

Year 2008 will be very hot for Linux display drivers because Intel driver is going to be mature and new features may appear. AMD made serious progress this year (much improved, new, rewritten fglrx driver, open documentation). Nvidia will have to add new features, help improving open geforce driver (or both) to protect against Linux market share decline.
Windows market is stagnated and the only improvements are new video codecs and another version of shaders to keep market share. MacOS looks similar, it gains popularity but not so fast as Linux and drivers look complete.

Linux display drivers are good but there are no advanced features like hardware h.264/vc-1 or video improving technologies purevideo/UVD. 2D speed needs improvement. Recent Nvidia 169.04/07 driver has shown there is big place in 2D for improvements. None of proprietary drivers seems to accelerate console framebuffer. We are left with slow vesa.

Another part of these puzzle is China and other developing countries where people can not afford to have legal Windows. Software companies just say they are thieves because steal pirated software instead of buying expensive original software. In such countries live few people who prefer to use free legal Linux instead of pirated Windows. In terms of China few people may be counted in millions. :-)

In Europe popular are dual boot machines. People use Linux just to see 'different world'. How do you think what they will choose for GPU? Nvidia Geforce for sure. Some of them like Linux and continue to use it. Like me. I use Linux since few years and still complete my list of Windows replacements. 2 months ago I removed whole nero (which I got with my combo in box) in favor of k3b burning application.

The last thing is the fun you can have participating in distro development you use.

I'm considered as a geek in computers so people asks me what hardware is good to buy.
Because I only talk about hardware I use or know it works good then all boxes I recommend have Nvidia hardware in it. I'm sure computer geeks use Linux and behaves similar so Nvidia earns money thanks to Linux even if destination hardware will run Windows.
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Old 12-27-07, 06:23 PM   #9
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

Good points made...
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Old 12-28-07, 02:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

One other point. I don't know why Linux users still say/write things like "..1-2% of desktops..." when this is completely untrue and has been untrue for many years now. The non-server (IE. desktop and laptop) Linux installed base surpassed the Mac installed based in Dec. 2004 at 2.8% of the world wide installed base of end user machines. At that time it was projected to reach 6% by the end to 2007 and 10% by 2010. From my reading it appears that these projections were wrong and actually significantly under estimated what has happened. So the Linux market is NOT a 1% kind of thing but is actually on the order of 6 to 8 times that size and growing rapidly.

In addition Linux users as a rule tend to buy higher end hardware and to be more technically savvy than your average Windows user. As a result a larger subset of Linux users have high end video cards than do Windows users where 98% of them never purchase an after market video card (IE. they use the chip set built into the motherboard). Because Nvidia is producing reasonably good X11 drivers they DOMINATE this growing and increasingly important market segment. They are not doing this because they want to be nice to us. They are doing this because THEY MAKE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MONEY doing it and they expect this to increase over time.

Both Intel and AMD now consider the Linux market to be very important. For example AMD talks openly about how important the Linux market was to the success of the ADM64 processor line. After all many Linux users have been running 64 bit systems (including all or most of the apps they run) for several years now but Microsoft and the vendors that write software for Windows have not yet made it possible for Windows users to run a full 64 bit system and this will not likely happen for several more years. Both of these vendors consider the Linux market so important that they are providing hardware documentation to allow the development of open source video drivers and are also providing both manpower and monetary support for this work. Neither of these two companies would do this if they didn't expect to see a return on this investment as a result of increased hardware sales.

So as Linux users we need to stop say things like the 1% of users number. It is a disservice to the Linux community as well as hardware vendors like Nvidia to not use numbers that actually reflect the current state of the market.
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Old 12-29-07, 03:04 AM   #11
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

Nice thread. Linux is foretold to gain good shares again next year by two big names around:


"Pundits agree: neither Microsoft nor Apple can compete at the new price points being plumbed by companies looking to cut costs. With open-source software maturing fast, Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox, MySQL, Evolution, Pidgin and some 23,000 other Linux applications available for free seem more than ready to fill that gap. By some reckonings, Linux fans will soon outnumber Macintosh addicts. Linus Torvalds should be rightly proud."


"As Vista continues to limp toward wider adoption, Linux will make major inroads into the enterprise, as well as in government IT. At the same time, the leaner OS will become a more attractive option for home users and in consumer electronics, spurred by the Open Handset Alliance and the advent of Google's Android mobile platform, which will be built on the Linux kernel. Jim Zemlin, the president of the Linux Foundation, sees 2008 as a "really interesting, breakthrough year for Linux," and we think he's right about that. Expect assorted open-source applications to follow along."
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Old 12-29-07, 09:27 AM   #12
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Default Re: What's the real reason behind great Nvidia Linux support?

Not to rain on the parade too much, but Nvidia's linux support never was really great.

It was okay up until six months ago or so, but then AMD decided to open source their 3D driver gradually (with complete documentation).

It is true that Intel have opened their drivers long before AMD, but those weren't the high performance cards.

To put it simply: open source/ free (as in libre) drivers are much more superior than the binary blob, for a few reasons:

- distributions can package them and integrate the drivers into the environment. No more messing with configuration files in the console
- the distributions can also patch them if the upstream is not quick enough: case in point the latest 169.07 driver has a bug which makes the fan go at 100% for certain models. Nvidia has said they found the regression (I think this was before xmas), but we have to wait for a new driver until next year. If the driver would be open source nvidia wouldn't have to call in engineers in the holiday season to fix things, because the problem could be identified by volunteers and patched until an upstream release becomes available.

A lot of the times the nvidia releases feel like they are just cvs snapshots or something, in a lot of the cases free software has more stable svn snapshots than nvidia has releases.

It feels like two step forward one step back when looking at driver performance over releases, instead of consistent improvements. In an open source environment fixes would be quicker to come because it's somebody's itch to scratch if something is broken.

In open source, you have the advantage of the following:

1. You can look at the code and fix the driver, it costs you your time.
2. You can hire someone to fix parts of the code for you, it costs you your money.
3. You can ask the company providing the device to improve upon the code, it costs the company money and therefor has to consider their own financial interests.

With closed source drivers you only have the third option.

This is the reason why my and my companies purchases will be from AMD's cards starting from 2008, because they provide me the freedom to use the hardware the way I want. This stands regardless of performance, because if I'm planning to buy 50 or more cards, I'd rather buy the one that has an open source driver and performs worse and spend some money on hiring someone writing faster drivers.
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