NVIDIA 3D Under Linux


Well, this is the first review that I ever dedicated to Linux. I guess that there's hardly any excuse why I neglected this OS in the 4.5 years of Tom's Hardware's existence. Still I hope that the Linux community could get something out of this article. All the ones of you who don't really know Linux yet and who thought it's only for crazy cracks might want to reconsider. I do admit that Linux is not by far as comfortable as Windows yet, but it is much more flexible, it is reliable, it's fast, it's safe and it certainly can easily force you into a 'closer relationship' with you computer.

One thing is a fact, NVIDIA's new Linux driver philosophy has finally opened up Linux as an operating system for serious 3D-gamers as well. It is certainly true that Linux doesn't support DirectX games, but there are quite a few Linux ports of OpenGL-based 3D-games available. Those OpenGL 3D games happen to be amongst the most popular 3D action games around. With a GeForce 256 and up you can most certainly play any of those games at high resolutions and high frame rates under Linux as well. The unified driver architecture of NVIDIA's Linux drivers makes it rather easy to get the right driver for your card and it was surprising enough that one installation ran on almost each platform I tested.

However, there are a quite few hurdles as well. Installing the drivers is far from simple and NVIDIA as well as the Linux developers will have to work on that, unless they want to scare the less technical people off this OS. The same is valid for XFree86. Fighting with 'modelines' for you monitor and fiddling around with your mouse installation should be a thing of the past by now. The tools supplied by the Linux distributions, as e.g. SuSE's new SAX2 left a rather immature impression with me. It also doesn't help if there is a wonderful new Linux installation tool, which shows you a scrambled screen if you've got a new graphics card. It's e.g. impossible to install SuSE 6.4 with the comfortable YAST2 if you've got a GeForce2 card in your system. Not everyone is able to grab an older GeForce256 card and start all over again. Forcing people into installing Linux the 'traditionally' hard way will not exactly make it more popular.

I like Linux, but despite my degree as a medical doctor I have a long software developer background. That's why I don't only have no problems with Linux, but why I like it so much. The chance to look into the source code of the software you are using is very appealing. I hope that the big bucks that are rolling all around Linux lately won't destroy Linus Torvalds very idea behind this OS. It's open source, it's free and everybody can participate in its development. This stands in direct opposition to Microsoft's offerings.

This was my first Linux hardware review and it will certainly not be my last. The first time is always supposed to be the hardest, but the most rewarding as well. Please let me know how I performed here. Was I babbling too much about Linux? Weren't there enough facts in the review? Don't you care about 3D stuff in your Linux-box? Please give me feed back under tomslinux@tomshardware.com . I will try to live up to the expectations of the Linux community, but first I need to know what they are.

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