Nouveau Moves out of Staging, Releases Same-Day Driver for the First Time

The Nouveau project made two awesome announcements recently. While the first one was related to the latest Kepler chipset released by NVIDIA, the second one was about a long-term change in the project that will be appreciated by the entire FOSS and Linux community.

Recently, NVIDIA has released the GeForce GTX 680, the first NVIDIA GPU with the all-new Kepler architecture. As always, it was released with the official binary drivers.

Nouveau is a software project aiming to develop free software drivers for NVIDIA graphics cards, by reverse engineering NVIDIA’s current proprietary drivers for Linux.

Usually, work on Nouveau drivers starts once the binary drivers are out and available for update. This involves months of reverse engineering the binary drivers. However, to everyone’s surprise, Ben Skeggs from RedHat has managed to reverse engineer the binary driver and commit the reverse engineered code to the Nouveau DRM repository, hours after the launch of the official GPU. Effectively, this made Nouveau drivers available on the same day as the official GPU release.

Although the driver is a bit bland, it does the job nonetheless. This was a major breakthrough for the Nouveau project. Although NVIDIA does not officially support the Nouveau project, it allows this reverse engineering and the project has thrived on this very fact. However, this quick release has raised many questions and we cannot overlook the possibility of NVIDIA’s involvement in this release.

The second breakthrough is the state of the project. The Nouveau driver was a staging driver until now. It was considered stand-alone and was not merged with the mainline Linux kernel because of some technical reasons. Finally, the driver has moved out of staging. It has found a place in the mainline Linux kernel, and it will be available from Kernel version 3.4.