If the Internet had a pantheon of deities, Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds would surely be among them, with a big white beard and a laurel wreath. Torvalds has been a vocal detractor of corporations that don't offer support for Linux, including an especially expressive denouncement of NVIDIA back in 2012. But yesterday, Torvalds gave NVIDIA a thumbs-up - which is two whole fingers away from his previous gesture - for posting an early open-source driver for the Tegra K1.
Hey, this time I'm raising a thumb for nvidia. Good times.
The K1, if you'll recall, is NVIDIA's next-generation system-on-a-chip platform, which should start reaching consumer products later this year. The K1 is big news for Android, but it will also probably be marketed towards Windows machines, integrated electronics (especially in car entertainment and navigation systems), and more generic hardware. Alexandre Courbot, a software engineer for NVIDIA's Japanese division, posted a work-in-progress driver for the K1 to the Nouveau project on FreeDesktop.org on Friday evening. Nouveau is a series of community-created drivers for NVIDIA graphics cards - needless to say, getting an official contribution from an NVIDIA engineer is a big deal. Courbot takes particular care to highlight the fact that this is a very early release, and many advanced functions still aren't working with open source display software.
Here's Torvalds' original insult to NVIDIA from a Finnish conference in 2012. (Mildly NSFW)
It makes sense for NVIDIA to embrace Linux and other systems, especially as Windows' long-term status as king of the desktop world becomes less and less of a sure thing. With ARM-based hardware making its way into laptops and desktops, Linux is expanding in several directions at once. NVIDIA's previous dismissive waves of other operating systems could cost it customers (and not just in terms of end-users), so it's probably best that they learn to broaden their support. NVIDIA still gets a lot of grief in the desktop Linux world, but maybe this is the first sign of some lasting change.