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GPL'ed Drivers For NVIDIA nForce Ethernet Devices

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the makes-sff-even-more-attractive dept.

Graphics 33

An anonymous reader writes "Manfred Spraul has released a GPLed driver for the ethernet device found in motherboards based on the Nvidia Nforce/Nforce2/Nforce3 chipsets. Drivers provided by Nvidia on the other hand, are closed. Andrew Morton has integrated this driver in the 2.6.9-mm2 release of his mm tree. And if you are using a 2.4x kernel, you may want to check out this post."

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Thats nice! (3, Interesting)

pagercam2 (533686) | more than 10 years ago | (#7398574)

Its great that drivers are available for this new chipset, but is this really worth being a /. topic???

Re:Thats nice! (5, Insightful)

schapman (703722) | more than 10 years ago | (#7398651)

yes... im picking up an nForce2 board shortly, and its nice to know that when i install linux, I'll have an option. I have found in the past that certain manufacturers make crappy drivers (Creative + SBlive platinum + winxp) and its nice to see that the people out there w/ the skills are willing to contribute. Also, a pro-open source and pro-linux site like slashdot is a great place for these people to be recognized for their work.

Re:Thats nice! (3, Interesting)

Cecil (37810) | more than 10 years ago | (#7401346)

Yes. Yes it is.

Perhaps you don't understand the magnitude of not having ethernet drivers available on any Linux install, and having to download them from the Internet, which is difficult, since you have no ethernet connection.

Until now, I have considered my nForce boards impossible to install Linux on because I am not willing to spend days downloading, burning, and installing ISOs and installing all the development tools that I don't need, downloading the drivers, rebuilding the kernel to finally tweak the thing into working and then uninstalling all the development tools when I have a debian packages mirror sitting on my fileserver.

This is good news.

Re:Thats nice! (1)

firewrought (36952) | more than 10 years ago | (#7413622)

I have considered my nForce boards impossible to install Linux on because I am not willing to spend days downloading, burning, and installing ISOs...

Installation was a pain, but it was manageable. I can't quite remember how I did it though. :-( I think I (1) cross-compiled a patched kernel on another machine; (2) installed bare-bones Debian and Windows, both from CD; (3) transferred the Debianized kernel to the Windows partition; (4) mounted the partition under Linux; (5) installed the new kernel; (6) finish installation using ethernet [which went pretty fast because apt-proxy caches all the Debian packages I download].

If I hadn't been able to install Windows, I could have gotten away with a null modem cable to transfer the kernel...

Re:Thats nice! (1)

domninus.DDR (582538) | more than 10 years ago | (#7415033)

WTF? Gentoo 1.4 livecd works (as of August 15th) with my nforce2 ethernet port. I can book livecd and ping out just fine...

Re:Thats nice! (1)

peter (3389) | more than 10 years ago | (#7416755)

You could use a spare NIC in a PCI slot until you get the proprietary crap to set up the NVidia NIC.

BTW, if you already have a debian mirror locally, why can't you use jigdo against it to build a CD image quickly. (and burn it to a CDRW, since Sarge is coming soon :) apt-get install jigdo-file. Not that that makes it much easier, since you still have to get the proprietary NV crap onto the system somehow.

Re:Thats nice! (1)

CaptnMArk (9003) | more than 10 years ago | (#7406269)

It is. This was a complete showstopper for me buying an nforce2 motherboard which is the best Athlon XP motherboard right now.

Thanks to the authors!

Re:Thats nice! (1)

ratpack91 (698171) | more than 10 years ago | (#7406431)

I've got and nforce2 and if you only need one ethernet port then you are sorted anyway because one of the ports is a 3com NIC which works out of the box. It's nice to have both working though.

Re:Thats nice! (1)

Hooded One (684008) | more than 10 years ago | (#7407319)

That's on the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe board [] (which I'm planning on picking up this weekend, actually) and possibly others, but not necessarily all nForce boards, even other [] ASUS [] boards [] .

In my case even if I don't get one with the dual ethernet, I've still got my PCI card that I can use to get the drivers, but is still not as good a solution as full open-source drivers in the distro.

2.6.9? (5, Funny)

jamessan (244547) | more than 10 years ago | (#7398613)

Wow, I didn't know the kernel left -test status and increased 9 versions since yesterday. Andrew Morton must be on top of things to get a -mm patch out that quick, too.

Good job editors. ;)

Re:2.6.9? (1)

wed128 (722152) | more than 10 years ago | (#7411203)

that sounds like more of a /. topic than GPL drivers!

Woo-Hoo (3, Interesting)

eriksson (4162) | more than 10 years ago | (#7398622)

This is great - now I just need to get the XFree86 nv driver to play nice with my nForce2 w/ integrated video, and I'll be able to run a non-tainted kernel.

Has anybody else had problems with X on such a board? There's apparantly a bug somewhere in the rendering code that crops up because the nv driver doesn't use hardware acceleration as much as the nvidia driver. I filed bug #811 on bugzilla, but no resolution yet :(

Re:Woo-Hoo (1)

Apreche (239272) | more than 10 years ago | (#7399265)

I have an nforce2, but it's not integrated video. It's the abit NF7-S and I have a geforce FX5900 in it. The nvidia driver I'm running on gentoo works fine. 3d things work, just not fast. The nvidia logo pops up when X starts and X works just fine. So all fingers point to the driver being correctly installed and running. But I can't tell if the fact that 3d works is due to my fast cpu or due to hardware accelleration from the video card. My frame rates are definitely much slower than in windows, so I'm unsure.

As for the ethernet driver, mine works fine. I emerged nv-net or whatever it's called and it goes. I'll be upgrading to 2.6 when final comes out anyway because I desperately need Serial ATA support, and if this new GPL driver is a better choice than the current one I'm using then I'll go with it. I really don't care if it's from nvidia or if it's GPL because I'm never ever going to modify the driver for my NIC. So whichever is the better performer I will use.

Re:Woo-Hoo (1)

duggy_92127 (165859) | more than 10 years ago | (#7399776)

But I can't tell if the fact that 3d works is due to my fast cpu or due to hardware accelleration from the video card. My frame rates are definitely much slower than in windows, so I'm unsure.

Do you have nvidia-glx also emerged? The program 'glxgears' will give you framerate info on pure 3D drawing instructions, and there's another program that starts with 'glx' that dumps info; there's a line that tells you if you're using hardware acceleration or not. 'glxinfo', maybe?

I have a mere geForce2 GTS, and my glxgears framerate went from 90fps to like 1500fps after putting in the nvidia-glx emerge.

On my other machine, with a geForce3, I get better framerates in Everquest running on Winex than I do running it on Windows. So, I'm guessing that you don't have hardware acceleration going on if you're seeing a large difference in the two.


Re:Woo-Hoo (2, Informative)

Crazy Eight (673088) | more than 10 years ago | (#7404573)

`glxinfo | grep direct'
If that shell command returns, "direct rendering: Yes" then you've got hardware GL.

Re:Woo-Hoo (2, Informative)

mickwd (196449) | more than 10 years ago | (#7412157)

If you desperately need Serial ATA support on an NF7-S, it's available in 2.4 kernels.

Mine works pretty well under Mandrake 9.1, perfectly under Mandrake 9.2, and perfectly under Gentoo if your use the Alan Cox kernel sources (not the "standard" Gentoo kernel, unless it's been updated since I last tried it).

My SATA transfer rates are actually quicker (timed using "hdparm -tT") under 2.4 than 2.6.

nvidia ethernet drivers aren't backwards compat? (1, Interesting)

zaqattack911 (532040) | more than 10 years ago | (#7398649)

I always thought most modern ethernet cards were compatible with some generic brands.. like ne2000.

Re:nvidia ethernet drivers aren't backwards compat (2, Interesting)

4of12 (97621) | more than 10 years ago | (#7398704)

If I understand correctly, the Ethernet is built right onto the mainboard, with the chipset.

Audio processing went down this route a while back. Old soundcards aren't needed when the functionality was built into the chipset.

For high speed networking (like GigE), avoiding the PCI bus can potentially be faster.

Re:nvidia ethernet drivers aren't backwards compat (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 10 years ago | (#7399020)

Not only is skipping the PCI bus important for speed, but even for slower things (like 10/100 ethernet) not being on the bus is good. It means that the chip can talk to memory or the CPU without waiting for the PCI bus to be free for it to use. Basically, it gets to skip the bus contention.

A good analogy would be there are 5 people all trying to call one guy, and Mr. Ethernet is one of the people. By being in the chipset and not on the bus, he doesn't have to keep trying to call and getting a busy signal, he can just say his message. This is because Mr. CPU could talk to 3 or 4 people at a time (he's that fast), but the phone (PCI bus) only has one line. He just skipps the problem.

OK, that's a bit simplified, but the fact is that not waiting on bus contention is good. The ethernet doesn't have to wait for/fight against the sound card, the tv tuner, and the add in raid controller.

On a side note, while NE2000 is a standard, it's for ISA, and as far as I know the NE2000 PCI standard never got big. I could be wrong. And even then, that's like using VESA to controll your GeForce FX video card. You can do it, but you could lose alot of the performance and features that you paid for because VESA doesn't know about 'em.

Built-in-chipset devices don't "skip" the PCI bus. (3, Informative)

Ayanami Rei (621112) | more than 10 years ago | (#7399323)

The transactions occur across a much faster interconnect (which can go by different names according to the chipset design), but it's still linear and you still access resources in a PCI-like manner. Just faster.

The only bus that was different was ISA.

Re:Built-in-chipset devices don't "skip" the PCI b (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7410769)

So you're saying that instead of going from the processor through an interconnect to the device via the PCI bus, they instead go from the processor through an interconnect to a device directly without going through the PCI bus, but this is somehow not "skipping" the PCI bus?

God, you suck.

It uses a PCI bus signaling and interface protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7412753)

but it isn't really a PCI bus since it's probably hooked up directly to the northbridge and nothing else, maybe through an chip that emulates an "empty" PCI bus.
The reason they do it that way is because the chip itself has pins that are designed to be wired directly to a PCI bus. They would use the same chip, and provide it the interface it needed, but it wouldn't be on the PCI bus that your add-on cards resides. And there'd be little to no overhead since it would always be the bus master.


Fail-safe mode. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7399409)

All true, however in the context of the story. Having GPL drivers means that people with ethernet connections to the internet i.e. Cable or DSL can connect and get the drivers they need from Nvidia's site. The VESA standard and the 'nv' drivers allows one to have the basic functionality to at least get the OS installed and get 'something' done.

When NVDIA's binary drivers are with every distribution, then the GPL driver will be of less concern.

Re:Fail-safe mode. (1)

jamessan (244547) | more than 10 years ago | (#7399878)

It's not just important for 'fail-safe mode.' There will probably never be a time when every distribution has NVIDIA's binary drivers included in their distribution, especially during the install. Also, there are people that won't use NVIDIA's drivers either because of stability problems or legal/moral grounds. This provides a welcome alternative.

Re:nvidia ethernet drivers aren't backwards compat (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7399686)

I know integrated sound cards sap a much larger portion of CPU time then PCI cards, making them a poor choice for gamers. I've avoided using integrated Ethernet on the same principle. Should I reconsider?

Re:nvidia ethernet drivers aren't backwards compat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7399812)

> Should I reconsider?


You will see no practical benefits from onboard ethernet, beyond the obvious one that you won't have to buy a seperate ethernet card. The poster to whom you were replying knows nothing and is talking out of his arse.

Re:nvidia ethernet drivers aren't backwards compat (1)

Drakon86 (695203) | more than 10 years ago | (#7408648)

No, you shouldn't.
The reason for this is that the vast majority of 'integrated sound cards' are not really dsp's, but are mere codecs. Thus they hog the CPU for many, if not all sound processing tasks.
On the other hand, integrated ethernet devices aren't codecs - they're just those ethernet chips planted onto the main motherboard PCB instead of a separate card. They can have a slight performance benefit because of a high-speed interconnection with the chipset, too.

And now, a chart. (5, Funny)

ActiveSX (301342) | more than 10 years ago | (#7401979)

How much I care on the Y, title index on the X.
/ |
/ |
1.0| / |
| / |
0.5| / |
| _________________/ |
0.0|/_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _|_ _
GPL'ed Drivers for NVIDIA nForce...

Way to get my hopes up, Slashdot. I guess my kernel will continue to be tainted.

First impressions (1)

dsd (681963) | more than 10 years ago | (#7405888)

Under 2.6.0-test9-mm2 this driver works good for me. I am managing to download from the net at full speeds (120kb/sec), and transfer large files over my lan at 11mb/sec (which is as good as I got with the nvidia binary driver).

For an alpha driver, I think thats pretty impressive. I wasn't even expecting it to work.

However, I did read someone saying that under heavy network load, the driver did not perform as well as the nvidia binary one (he was running a FTP server or something).

GPL'd nForce Audio Drivers would be good too... (1)

glawrie (663927) | more than 10 years ago | (#7407276)

Apart from the non-GPL'd status, I'm not aware of big problems with ethernet drivers for nForce boards - as noted elsewhere in this thread they seem to be functionally supported out of the box.

But getting the sound components of the nForce board to work is altogether more challenging - the nVidia drivers are very basic and don't always work. Various patches exist (e.g. this entry [] from the Gentoo Discussion Forum [] ) and some people report installing SBLive type cards to get around the problem.

Apparently one problem that is preventing GPL'd audio drivers is that nVidia won't release the technical specifications of the nForce audio components...

NVidia policy for making drivers (2, Insightful)

Drakon86 (695203) | more than 10 years ago | (#7407335)

Reverse engineering the binary driver for the ethernet chip and making a GPL'd source tree for anyone to review is great.
However, I don't think that it offers much except for hypothetical multiplatform portability. Without any specs it would be extremely hard to modify the driver and it's even harder to add new features.
Now I just hope someone has the time and skills to reverse engineer the NVidia video driver and GL libraries so that my 2.6.0-test9-mm2 kernel wouldn't give me pages of tracebacks every time I launch X using the nvidia driver. :-)

Re:NVidia policy for making drivers (1)

anti-NAT (709310) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427183)

This isn't just hypothetical, if the driver is GPL'ed, the kernel developers are able to fix problems, as they have the source code.

The traceback messages you mention are the ones that would be used to help fix the problems.

It's even better if the hardware specs are open, because they can make the driver work with the hardware correctly, rather than trying to make good guesses.

NVidia policy for making drivers-allyways. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7430812)

Well according to this guy [] OSS driver writers are incapable of writing one (look through his posting history first, then look at who's on the Xfree86 team).

I think some people simply have blind-spots that no amount of debate will fix.

The best would be if the OSS community came up with their own card in line with our principles.

Irony would be us doing that, and soon after all those "secrets we can't release" getting released.
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