Nvidia open-sources Linux kernel GPU modules. Repeat, open-source GPU modules

A Turing point for the graphics chip giant, perhaps?


Nvidia on Wednesday published the R515 driver release of its Linux GPU kernel modules under an open source, dual GPL/MIT license.

The chip biz has made the source code available via the Nvidia Open GPU Kernel Modules repo on GitHub, a move that suggests the need to respond to AMD's long-standing open-source driver initiative.

"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," claimed Ram Cherukuri, senior product manager, Shirish Baskaran, senior system software manager, Andy Ritger, Linux OpenGL driver engineer, and Fred Oh, senior product marketing manager, in a blog post. "For Linux distribution providers, the open-source modules increase ease of use."

The availability of the GPU kernel module source code should make life easier for Linux distributors like Canonical and SUSE by allowing them to sign and distribute Nvidia GPU drivers and package their code with less effort, the four Nvidians suggest. And those developing customized Linux kernels should find driver integration more pleasant.

The free and open-source software community is none too keen on closed-source, proprietary code. Back in 2006, for example, OpenBSD lead developer Theo de Raadt criticized blobs – "vendor-compiled binary drivers without any source code" because "they hide bugs and workarounds for bugs." And Linux kernel supremo Linus Torvalds has similarly voiced his disdain for binary-only modules.

Proprietary drivers have also concealed backdoors, which are seldom appreciated.

Nvidia's quartet of co-authors contends that open-sourcing the GPU kernel modules will enhance driver quality and security through the involvement of the Linux community.

Caveats

There are limits to that involvement, however: only Turing (September 20, 2018) and newer GPUs can use the open-sourced drivers; pre-Turing models require existing proprietary code, or the Nouveau driver. The user-space components of Nvidia's driver software will also remain closed-source binaries, for now at least; it's the kernel code that is being published as open source.

Some of the kernel-level drivers being opened up may benefit more from the quality checks than others. The source code associated with Nvidia's Turing and Ampere datacenter GPUs is already considered production ready. The source code for GeForce and Workstation GPUs is only considered alpha quality, and so may benefit sooner from community ministrations.

"The new Nvidia open-source GPU kernel modules will simplify installs and increase security for Ubuntu users, whether they’re AI/ML developers, gamers, or cloud users," said Cindy Goldberg, VP of Silicon alliances at Canonical, in a statement.

Ubuntu, she said, will now be able to provide better support to developers working on AI and ML applications by tightening integration with Nvidia GPUs.

Spokespeople for SUSE and Red Hat said more or less the same thing using slightly different words.

On Twitter, technically-inclined folk expressed surprise and enthusiasm.

"Congratulations to Nvidia for finally open sourcing their kernel drivers," said Keno Fischer, co-founder and CTO of Julia Computing. "Long time coming, but absolutely the right move. Looking forward to sending some [pull requests] :)" And a colleague subsequently did so.

On the other hand, some saw it as a bit of a licensing hack: the open-source driver code relies on tons of closed-source functions in the card firmware, and the user-space is still closed, after all. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022