Graphics cards with Linux: Nvidia opens its driver for Open Source for the first time


Nvidia marks a turning point for the support of its own graphics cards under Linux and opens its driver for open source for the first time. With the 515 series, which will succeed the proprietary 510 release, the manufacturer is also involving the Linux community and free software developers for the first time “>Hard to imagine until yesterday

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

Nvidia is setting on open source for the first time< /h2>

After a successful download, the so-called “Open-Source GPU Kernel Module”, which is also called “Nvidia Linux Open GPU Kernel Module”, can be positioned using build and install.

This is the source release of the NVIDIA Linux open GPU kernel modules, version 515.43.04.

To build:

make modules -j`nproc`

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

make modules_install -j`nproc`

Note that the kernel modules built here must be used with gsp.bin firmware and user-space NVIDIA GPU driver components from a corresponding 515.43.04 driver release. This can be achieved by installing the NVIDIA GPU driver from the .run file using the –no-kernel-modules option. E.g.

sh ./NVIDIA-Linux-[…].run –no-kernel-modules Nvidia Open-Source GPU Kernel Modules

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

This release is a significant step toward improving the experience of using NVIDIA GPUs in Linux, for tighter integration with the OS and for developers to debug, integrate, and contribute back.

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

They also improve the out-of-the-box user experience to sign and distribute the NVIDIA GPU driver. Canonical and SUSE are able to immediately package the open kernel modules with Ubuntu and SUSE Linux Enterprise Distributions.


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

Open-source graphics driver still needs to mature

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

Open source only for Turing and Ampere

Graphics drivers based on the “Open-Source GPU Kernel Module” set a graphics card based on the Architectures Turing or Ampere Ahead. Older GPU generations from Nvidia have to use the proprietary driver or the open source Nouveau driver.

Version 515.43.04 offers 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 both as a proprietary version and optionally as an open source version. The Nvidia developers have summarized further information on the Technical Blog. The project page on the GitHub developer platform provides even more details about the new release. Well-known YouTube user Jeff Geerling provides further insight into the open source driver.

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

Update 05/12/2022 11:33 am

Canonical , Red Hat and SUSE are preparing packages

As part of the announcement, Nvidia has already indicated that the likes of Canonical, Red Hat and SUSE already have appropriate packages for their distributions Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) Prepare the respective server (SLES).

In this way, the “Open-Source GPU Kernel Module” should also quickly find its way into other distributions. Starting with the R515 development branch, the installation routine will give users the choice between the proprietary and the open driver.

Open Source relies on proprietary firmware

However, the open-source graphics driver still works with the same proprietary firmware and the same user-space libraries and graphics stacks as CUDA , OpenGL, OpenCL and Vulkan, together.

Nvidia announced that it will also accept community contributions and changes to the open source driver's code if they make sense or Fix errors, but then requires a so-called Contributor License Agreement (CLA) to avoid any license disputes.

More details on installing the “Open-Source GPU Kernel Module “ Nvidia has mi in a corresponding readme t titled “Installation and Configuration Instructions”.