Coordinating work around newer upstream Nvidia drivers for users

Jason Gerard DeRose jason at
Tue Aug 18 23:08:37 UTC 2015

Hello everyone,

I work for System76 and (when needed) have back-ported and maintained
newer versions of the Nvidia driver in our PPA[1].

I think this is a great idea and am happy to help.  I'd love to see the
Nvidia driver packaging get more attention, plus when System76 is
shipping hardware newer than what is supported by the Nvidia driver in
the in the official archive, this is work I'm already doing.  So might
as well have it more broadly useful, coordinate the effort with others.

I think it might be most helpful to share some of my experiences doing
this for System76 over the past few years.

When we've needed a backport, System76 has stuck to the "long-lived
branch" releases when possible (which is currently 346). In my
experience, these are very low-risk releases.  Thus far, I've never
encountered regressions in the Nvidia driver itself when moving from a
"short-lived branch" release to the long-lived release, nor when moving
from one long-lived point release to the next (for example, the 346.59
to 346.82 transition we recently made).

When absolutely needed, we've backported a short-lived release (for
example, when the 900 series GPUs came out, we had to use 343 as there
were no other options).  As far as I can tell, Nvidia uses the
short-lived releases as a pre-beta leading up to the next long-lived
release.  Understandably, the short-lived releases can sometimes be a
bit shaky when it comes to the very latest Nvidia hardware.  But I've
also experienced some minor regressions now and then with the
short-lived releases on the earlier generation hardware (for example, at
one point there were some issues with 343 on certain 800 series GPUs).

That said, my general approach has been to trust driver releases from
Nvidia, both because in my experience Nvidia does a very good job with
the quality of their Linux driver, and because you kinda have to.  The
driver is proprietary, you can't patch it.  Whether because of needing
to support for newer hardware, fixing stability issues, or fixing
security issues like CVE-2014-8298[2], you rather need to just take what
Nvidia gives us and roll forward.  Of course, that doesn't mean I don't
test it :P

So most of my effort has been on the packaging itself, making sure all
the install/upgrade/downgrade/remove paths work correctly.  I've tried
to work closely with Alberto Milone on this, who has always been very
helpful and has steadily incorporated my fixes into the official Ubuntu

When it comes testing the packaging itself, most of the issues I've
found could have be caught by automated install/upgrade/downgrade/remove
testing in VM, and I'll love to see that happen.  Seems like this
blessed PPA would be a great place to start experimenting with that.

Note that nvidia-persistenced is one thing that can't really be tested
in a VM in a realistic way, especially now that it's started via udev
rather than Upstart.  And I have encountered one specific packaging
problem related to nvidia-persistenced[3].

Anyway, I'm excited to see where this goes!



On Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 8:58 AM, Edwin Smith 
<esmith at> wrote:
> Hi All,
> My name is Edwin and I am the head of production at Feral 
> Interactive. We are the Mac development and publishing company 
> responsible for Shadow of Mordor and other AAA games on Linux. I 
> spoke with Jorge on reddit and he suggested I post in this mailing 
> list with some thoughts.
> Firstly the addition of an easier way of updating drivers is very 
> welcome, so thanks for doing this. I think it should really help our 
> users update without worrying about upgrading issues.
> With games like Shadow Of Mordor and others we have in development 
> right now we're pushing the latest OpenGL features to the limit. This 
> means we are hitting driver and performance issues that you might not 
> see when using the desktop or older simpler games that only use 
> OpenGL3.x.
> For example if you play Mordor on Nvidia using the default (closed 
> source) drivers on Ubuntu the game runs in "Smurf mode" due to a 
> driver bug, the performance is also lower than later drivers.
> We usually attempt to support all three graphics card vendors if 
> possible (AMD, Nvidia and Intel) so having a good selection of 
> drivers for all three vendors would be very advantageous. We can help 
> by providing you with driver versions that upcoming games will be 
> needing before they launch so the drivers are listed in time for the 
> games launch day.
> We try to always try and avoid recommending the very latest drivers 
> unless they are completely required due to driver bugs. The reasoning 
> is the very latest drivers might have issues that have not been 
> uncovered so being able to recommend drivers that are a few months 
> old increases the probability they work well with the OS and other 
> products not just our game(s).
> Adding the latest drivers when they are released so people can try 
> them out if they want would be useful for users as we have found 
> sometimes a brand new driver update can add extra performance 
> especially shortly after a new card has been supported for the first 
> time.
> Below are the drivers we recommend users to install for Mordor and 
> also the Intel driver version we plan on recommending for the next 
> Intel supported title we have in development.
> Nvidia 352.21 or later
> Intel 10.5.2 - (default 
> driver for 15.04)
> AMD Catalyst 15.7 - 
> If I can add anything to the conversation at this stage or help out 
> please let me know.
> Best Regards,
> Edwin
> --
> Edwin Smith
> Feral Interactive Limited
> 64 Kimber Road
> London, SW18 4PP
> England
> tel: 44-(0)208-875-1375
> fax: 44-(0)208-875-1846
> **** Make Your Play ****

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