Chip maker NVIDIA has a long history of making sure there are Linux drivers for its graphics cards. But they’re usually closed-source drivers which means they’re not easy for OS developers and open source enthusiasts to work with. Linux founder Linus Torvalds was not amused by this approach.
But it looks like NVIDIA is taking its first steps to work with open source developers on support for the upcoming NVIDIA K1 chip. An NVIDIA developer contributed some initial support for the chip to Nouveau open source graphics driver project.
Up until now the Nouveau project was basically an effort to reverse-engineer NVIDIA”s proprietary graphics drivers for Linux so that developers could have free and open source software to modify and improve. While the new contributions to the project from NVIDIA aren’t enough to ensure full support for the K1 chip (or any other NVIDIA processors), it’s the first time NVIDIA has contributed directly to the open source Nouveau project.
The NVIDIA Tegra K1 chip is an upcoming processor that features NVIDIA’s Kepler graphics architecture. It has the potential to be one of the most powerful ARM-based processors around: especially in terms of graphics performance, since it’ll use graphics technology that had previously only been available in NVIDIA’s graphics cards for laptop and desktop computers.
NVIDIA will offer two types of K1 chips. One will feature a quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 32-bit CPU and 192 graphics cores, while the other will have a dual-core 64-bit CPU and similar graphics technology.
While it’s likely that some of the first devices to feature K1 chips will be Android-based tablets, the processor should be powerful enough to run desktop operating systems such as Ubuntu and Fedora… and thanks to NVIDIA’s initial commitment to open source drivers, Linux Torvalds is giving the company a thumbs up this time.