The non-evil graphics card

John McCabe-Dansted gmatht at
Wed Jun 25 10:43:33 UTC 2008

On Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 3:36 PM, Bryce Harrington <bryce at> wrote:
> On Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 05:07:05PM +1000, Christopher Halse Rogers wrote:
>> On 6/25/08, Markus Hitter <mah at> wrote:
>> >  probably some of you already read that statement of kernel developers
>> >  about the opening of graphics drivers: <https://
>> >>
>> >
>> >  Currently I'm using Intel's integrated graphics (G965, G31), but I'm
>> >  about to upgrade to a "real" graphics card.
>> >
>> >  Which vendor should I prefer (or stay with the G31) in order to
>> >  support proper open source graphics drivers? Is there a
>> >  contraindication if I want to use CUDA-like technologies (I'm doing
>> >  FEA, CFD) ?
>> >
>> For high-performance graphics cards you're pretty much limited to ATI
>> or nVidia.  This makes the choice nice and easy: ATI/AMD have released
>> specs, and employ at least one Xorg developer.  nVidia have done
>> neither, and (unsurprisingly) haven't responded to nouveau's
>> request(s) for documentation.
> As a slight correction, actually Aaron Plattner, the current maintainer
> of the open source -nv driver, has been employed by nVidia for a while
> now.  (I couldn't say whether he has other duties at nVidia besides
> maintain -nv or if it is his full time job.)
> But I would concur that -ati seems to be a good bit further along than
> -nv at present.

One caveat is that the OpenGL* performance of ATI cards has been quite
poor, although apparently the introduction of a programmable memory
controller since the X1800 XT has resulted in OpenGL competitive with
nVidia, see e.g.:

(*and even if you use "DirectX" in wine, you are still going to use
the OpenGL driver and will still get poor performance).

> In fact, while -ati still has a ways to go before it's a suitably
> complete replacement for -fglrx, it's been making such good progress
> that I think we can reasonably foresee a day when we start talking about
> moving -fglrx out of main over to multiverse or something.

Back in my day the nvidia drivers  just worked whereas the ATI drivers
(also closed source) just didn't. When I realized that an Intel GMA
simply wouldn't cut it even for casual use, I plugged in an old nVidia
6600GT.  Given that the drivers and support seems to have improved
dramatically, ATI seems like it may be a good choice when buying a new
card. :)

John C. McCabe-Dansted
PhD Student
University of Western Australia

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