Using 3-D Cards in Ubuntu

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In the past, one of the weaknesses of the Linux environment was its support for advanced video games. Many games popular in the Microsoft Windows world use advanced graphics that require specialized 3-D video cards, which Linux systems couldn’t support. In the past, specialized 3-D video cards were notorious for not working in the Linux environment because video card vendors never took the fledgling Linux market seriously. However, things are slowly starting to change. Two major 3-D video card vendors, ATI and NVIDIA, have released Linux drivers for their advanced products, allowing game developers to enter the Linux world. There’s a catch, though. Both ATI and NVIDIA released Linux binary drivers but not the source code for their 3-D video cards. A true open-source project must include source code for the binary drivers. This has caused a dilemma for Linux distributions. A Linux distribution that includes ATI or NVIDIA binary drivers violates the true spirit of open-source software. However, if a Linux distribution doesn’t provide these drivers, it risks falling behind in the Linux distribution wars and losing market share.


Ubuntu 3-D Support
Ubuntu has decided to solve this problem by splitting the difference. Ubuntu can detect
ATI and NVIDIA video cards during the installation process and can install the proprietary binary drivers to support them. Ubuntu calls these restricted hardware drivers. Although Ubuntu supplies restricted hardware drivers, it doesn’t support them in any way. When you first log into the desktop after installation, Ubuntu displays a warning dialog telling you that restricted drivers have been installed. After the installation, an icon appears on the top panel, indicating that a restricted hardware driver has been installed and offering the option of removing the restricted drivers and replacing them with lesserquality open-source drivers.


As with all things in the open-source programming world, there are current efforts to create open-source versions of many restricted hardware drivers. The Nouveau project is attempting to create a high-quality, open-source driver for operating NVIDIA cards in 3-D mode. At the time of this writing they’ve completed drivers for operating NVIDIA video cards in 2-D mode but haven’t finished the 3-D features. As Ubuntu progresses through new versions, it’s possible that a video card that once required a restricted driver will have an open-source driver in a newer distribution.

As with all things in the open-source programming world, there are current efforts to create open-source versions of many restricted hardware drivers. The Nouveau project is attempting to create a high-quality, open-source driver for operating NVIDIA cards in 3-D mode. At the time of this writing they’ve completed drivers for operating NVIDIA video cards in 2-D mode but haven’t finished the 3-D features. As Ubuntu progresses through new versions, it’s possible that a video card that once required a restricted driver will have an open-source driver in a newer distribution.

Source of Information : Wiley Ubuntu Linux Secrets

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