## I’ve finally installed the proprietary nVidia graphics drivers.

In this earlier posting, I had written about the fact that the project was risky, to switch from the open-source ‘Nouveau’ graphics drivers, which are provided by a set of packages under Debian / Linux that contain the word ‘Mesa’, to the proprietary ‘nVidia’ drivers. So risky, that for a long time I faltered at doing this.

Well just this evening I made the switch. Under Debian / Stretch – aka Debian 9, this switch is relatively straightforward to accomplish. What we do is to switch to a text-session, using <Ctrl>+<Alt>+F1, and then kill the X-server. From there, we essentially just need to give the command (as root):

apt-get install nvidia-driver nvidia-settings nvidia-xconfig

Giving this command essentially allows the Debian package-managers to perform all the post-install steps, such as black-listing the Nouveau drivers. One should expect that this command has much work as its side-effects, as it pulls in quite a few dependencies.

(Edit 04/30/2018 :

In addition, the user must have up-to-date kernel / Linux -headers installed, because to install the graphics driver, also requires to build DKMS kernel modules. But, it’s always my assumption that I’d have kernel headers installed myself. )

When I gave this command the first time, apt-get suggested additional packages to me, which I wrote down on a sheet of paper. And then I answered ‘No’ to the question of whether or not to proceed (without those), so that I could add all the suggested packages onto a new command-line.

(Update 05/05/2018 :

The additional, suggested packages which I mentioned above, offer the ‘GLVND’ version of GLX. With nVidia, there are actually two ways to deliver GLX, one of which is an nVidia-centered way, and the other of which is a generic way. ‘GLVND’ provides the generic way. It’s also potentially more-useful, if later-on, we might  want to install the 32-bit versions as well.

However, if we fail to add any other packages to the command-line, then, the graphics-driver will load, but we won’t have any OpenGL capabilities at all. Some version of GLX must also be installed, and my package manager just happened to suggest the ‘GLVND’ packages.

Without OpenGL at all, the reader will be very disappointed, especially since even his desktop-compositing will not be running – at first.

The all-nVidia packages, which are not the ‘GLVND’ packages, offer certain primitive inputs from user-space applications, which ‘GLVND’ does not implement, because those instructions are not generically a part of OpenGL. Yet, certain applications do exist, which require the non-‘GLVND’ versions of GLX to be installed, and I leave it up to the reader to find out which packages do that – if the reader needs them – and to write their names on a sheet of paper, prior to switching drivers.

It should be noted, that once we’ve decided to switch to either ‘GLVND’- or the other- version of GLX, trying to change our minds, and to switch to the other version, is yet another nightmare, which I have not even contemplated so far. I’m content with the ‘GLVND’- GLX version. )

(Edited 04/30/2018 :

There is one aspect to installing up-to-date nVidia drivers which I should mention. The GeForce GTX460 graphics card does not support 3rd-party frame-buffers. These 3rd-party frame-buffer drivers would normally allow, <Ctrl>+<Alt>+F1, to show us not only a text-session, but one with decent resolution. Well, with the older, legacy graphics-chips, what I’d normally do is to use the ‘uvesafb’ frame-buffer drivers, just to obtain that. With modern nVidia hardware and drivers, this frame-buffer driver is incompatible. It even causes crashes, because with it, essentially, two drivers are trying to control the same hardware.

Just this evening, I tried to get ‘uvesafb’ working one more time, to no avail, just as it does work on the computer I name ‘Phoenix’. )

So the way it looks now for me, the text-sessions are available, but only in very low resolution. They only exist for emergencies now.

But this is the net result I obtained, after I had disabled the ‘uvesafb’ kernel module again:


dirk@Plato:~$infobash -v Host/Kernel/OS "Plato" running Linux 4.9.0-6-amd64 x86_64 [ Kanotix steelfire-nightly Steelfire64 171013a LXDE ] CPU Info 8x Intel Core i7 950 @ clocked at Min:1600.000Mhz Max:2667.000Mhz Videocard NVIDIA GF104 [GeForce GTX 460] X.Org 1.19.2 [ 1920x1080 ] Processes 262 | Uptime 1:16 | Memory 3003.9/12009.6MB | HDD Size 2000GB (6%used) | GLX Renderer GeForce GTX 460/PCIe/SSE2 | GLX Version 4.5.0 NVIDIA 375.82 | Client Shell | Infobash v2.67.2 dirk@Plato:~$

dirk@Plato:~$clinfo | grep units Max compute units 7 dirk@Plato:~$ clinfo | grep multiple
Preferred work group size multiple              32
dirk@Plato:~$clinfo | grep Warp Warp size (NV) 32 dirk@Plato:~$




So what this means in practice, is that I have OpenGL 4.5 on the computer named ‘Plato’ now, as well as having a fully-functional install of ‘OpenCL‘ and ‘CUDA‘, contrarily to what I had according to this earlier posting.

Therefore, GPU-computing will not just exist in theory for me now, but also in practice.

And this displays, that the graphics card on that machine ‘only’ possesses 224 cores after all, not the 7×48 which I had expected earlier, according to a Windows-based tool – no longer installed.

(Updated 04/29/2018 … )

## A clarification about (Linux) Mesa / Nouveau Drivers

Two of the subjects which I like to blog about, are direct-rendering and Linux graphics drivers.

Well in This Earlier Posting, I had essentially written, that on the Debian 9 , Debian /Stretch computer I name ‘Plato’, I have the ‘Mesa’ Drivers installed, and that therefore, that computer cannot benefit from OpenCL, massively-parallel GPU-computing.

‘Mesa’, which I referred to, is a Debian set of meta-packages, that is all open-source. It installs several drivers, and selects the drivers based on which graphics hardware we may have. But, because ‘Plato’ does in fact have an nVidia graphics card, the Mesa package automatically selects the Nouveau drivers, which is one of the drivers it contains. Hence, when I wrote about using the Mesa Drivers, I was in fact writing about the Nouveau Drivers.

One of the reasons I have to keep using these Nouveau Drivers, is the fact that presently, ‘Plato’ is extremely stable. There would be some performance-improvements if I was to switch to the proprietary drivers, but making the transition can be a nightmare. It involves black-lists, etc..

Another reason for me to keep using the Nouveau Drivers, is the fact that unlike how it was years ago, today, those drivers support real OpenGL 3, hardware-rendering. Therefore, I’m already getting partial benefit from the hardware-rendering which the graphics card has, while using the open-source driver.

The only two things which I do not get, is OpenCL or CUDA computing capabilities, as Nouveau does not support that. Therefore, anything which I write about that subject, will have to remain theoretical for now.

I suppose that on my laptop ‘Klystron’, because I have the AMD chip-set more-correctly installed, I could be using OpenCL…

Also, ‘Plato’ is not fully a ‘Kanotix’ system. When I installed ‘Plato’, I borrowed a core system from Kanotix, before Kanotix was ready for Debian / Stretch. This means that certain features which Kanotix would normally have, which make it easier to switch between graphics drivers, are not installed on ‘Plato’. And that really makes the idea daunting, to try to switch…

Dirk

## I’m impressed with the Mesa drivers.

Before we install Linux on our computers, we usually try to make sure that we either have an NVIDIA or an AMD / Radeon  GPU  – the graphics chip-set – so that we can use either the proprietary NVIDIA drivers designed by their company to run under Linux, or so that we can use the proprietary ‘fglrx’ drivers provided by AMD, or so that we can use the ‘Mesa‘ drivers, which are open-source, and which are designed by Linux specialists. Because the proprietary drivers only cover one out of the available families of chip-sets, this means that after we have installed Linux, our choice boils down to a choice between either proprietary or Mesa drivers.

I think that the main advantage of the proprietary drivers remains, that they will offer our computers the highest version of OpenGL possible from the hardware – which could go up to 4.5 ! But obviously, there are also advantages to using Mesa , one of which is the fact that to install those doesn’t install a ‘blob’ – an opaque piece of binary code which nobody can analyze. Another is the fact that the Mesa drivers will provide ‘VDPAU‘, which the ‘fglrx’ drivers fail to implement. This last detail has to do with the hardware-accelerated playback of 2D video-streams, that have been compressed with one out of a very short list of Codecs.

But I would add to the possible reasons for choosing Mesa, the fact that its stated OpenGL version-number does not set a real limit, on what the graphics-chip-set can do. Officially, Mesa offers OpenGL 3.0 , and this could make it look at the surface, as though its implementation of OpenGL is somewhat lacking, as a trade-off against its other benefits.

One way in which ‘OpenGL’ seems to differ from its competitor in real-life: ‘DirectX’, is in the system by which certain DirectX drivers and hardware offer a numeric compute-level, and where if that compute-level has been achieved, the game-designer can count on a specific set of features being implemented. What seems to happen with OpenGL instead, is that 3.0 must first be satisfied. And if it is, the 3D application next checks individually, whether the OpenGL system available, offers specific OpenGL extensions by name. If the application is very-well-written, it will test for the existence of every extension it needs, before giving the command to load that extension. But in certain cases, a failure to test this can lead to the graphics card crashing, because the graphics card itself may not have the extension requested.

As an example of what I mean, my KDE / Plasma compositor settings, allow me to choose ‘OpenGL 3.1′ as an available back-end, and when I select it, it works, in spite of my Mesa drivers ‘only’ achieving 3.0 . I think that if the drivers had been stated to be 3.1 , then this could actually mean they lose backward-compatibility with 3.0 , while in fact they preserve that backward-compatibility as much as possible.

## Some GPU Stats about Two Of My Computers

I own a Windows 7 tower-computer I name ‘Mithral’, which has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX460 graphics card. That was state-of-the-art around 2011. I read that its GPU was identical to that of the GTX470, except that the GPU was supposed to possess 8 core-groups. In the factory, they tested the GPUs, and if they found that one of the core-groups was defective, they used a laser to deactivate that one, and sold the graphics card for a lower price, as a GTX460. According to the first screen-shot, which was obtained using “GPU-Z”, it has 7 * 48 = 336 cores.

I also own a Linux-based laptop named ‘Klystron’, with a nonspecific AMD / ATI chipset – both CPU and GPU – which was state-of-the-art around 2013. The second and third attachment seem to show that it possesses 6 * 64 = 384 cores. The second screen-shot was obtained using “KInfoCenter”, and the last text-quotation was obtained from the OpenCL toolkit installed on the same laptop.