Linux graphics cards: Nvidia opens its driver to open source for the first time

Photo: Nvidia

Nvidia marks a turning point for its graphics cards support in Linux and is opening its driver to open source for the first time. With the 515 series, which will succeed the 510 Special Edition, the manufacturer is also engaging the Linux community and free software developers for the first time.

Hard to imagine until yesterday

Until recently, it was unlikely that Nvidia would make its graphics driver for Linux, Solaris, and FreeBSD available under the GPL/MIT free software license via the GitHub developer platform as open source. But unexpectedly for many, the manufacturer demonstrated exactly the behavior that was previously considered impossible.

Nvidia is using open source for the first time

After successful download, the so-called “Open-Source GPU Kernel Module”, also called “Nvidia Linux Open GPU Kernel Module” can be downloaded with the help of build And install to be placed in position.

This is the source version for the NVIDIA Linux Open GPU kernel modules, version 515.43.04.

to construct:

make modules -j`nproc`

To install, first uninstall any existing modules from the NVIDIA kernel. Then, as root:

make modules_install -j`nproc`

Note that the kernels created here must be used with the gsp.bin firmware and user space NVIDIA GPU driver components of the corresponding driver version 515.43.04. This can be achieved by installing the NVIDIA GPU driver from the .run file with the . extension --no-kernel-modules to choose. for example

sh ./NVIDIA-Linux-[...].run --no-kernel-modules

Nvidia open source GPU cores

While the so-called “user space software” remains proprietary, GPUs and drivers are now open to everyone and can finally be developed further with and through the open source community. Nvidia comments on this as follows.

This release is an important step towards improving the experience of using NVIDIA GPUs in Linux, for stronger integration with the operating system and for developers to debug, integrate and contribute again.

For Linux distribution providers, open source modules increase ease of use.

It also improves the user experience that is ready to sign and distribute the NVIDIA GPU driver. Canonical and SUSE are able to immediately package open kernels with Ubuntu and SUSE Linux Enterprise distributions.


Accordingly, Canonical and SUSE should be the first to install the free Nvidia GPUs in their Ubuntu and SUSE Linux Enterprise Linux distributions.

The open source graphics driver is not yet mature

The current status of the “Open Source GPU Kernel” shows that Nvidia is still in its infancy with open source GPUs and graphics drivers. While GPUs that are free for use in data centers are already rated as “mature,” use of GeForce, RTX, and Quadro series graphics processors is still declared alpha.

Open source for Turing and Ampere only

Graphics drivers based on the Open Source GPU Kernel require a graphics card based on Turing or Ampere architectures. Older Nvidia GPU generations must use the proprietary driver or the open source Nouveau driver.

Version 515.43.04 provides open source via subscription
Release 515.43.04 provides open source via opt-in (Image: Nvidia)

From the latest version 515.43.04, the Nvidia graphics driver is available to the user for the first time as a proprietary version and optional as an open source version. Nvidia developers have summarized more information about the technical blog. The project page on the developer platform GitHub provides more details about the new release. Well-known YouTuber Jeff Geerling provides more information about the open source driver.

The editors would like to thank community member ShadowDragon for reporting this message.

Leave a Comment