The Steam for Linux closed beta has officially launched, and brings with it a surprise from Nvidia: new drivers that promise to significantly boost performance under the open-source operating system.
Nvidia and Linux haven't always got along well. The company's binary-blob drivers, provided as proprietary closed-source packages rather than the open source drivers available for much of Intel's graphics hardware, have sometimes lagged behind their Windows equivalent in features and performance. The company was also famously described by Linux Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, as 'the single worst company we have ever dealt with
' in a speech ending with one of Torvalds' trademark expletives.
Not letting a little public bad-mouthing put the company off getting a leg up on its rival AMD in what is looking increasingly like the next major gaming market, Nvidia has today taken the wraps off a new binary blob driver which is claimed to significantly boost performance under Linux. The GeForce R310 driver package, provided as is usual as a binary blob, is designed to optimise framerates under the company's GeForce GTX 600 GPU family. The result, it's claimed, is a doubling in performance under some games combined with a dramatic drop in loading times.
Performance improvements are also promised for older-generation cards from the GeForce GT 8800 and above, although these are believed to be less impressive than those enjoyed by gamers using the latest and greatest Nvida hardware.
'With this release, Nvidia has managed to increase the overall gaming performance under Linux,
' claimed Doug Lombardi, vice president of marketing at Valve, of the driver launch. 'Nvidia took an unquestioned leadership position developing R310 drivers with us and other studios to provide an absolutely unequalled solution for Linux gamers.
The driver release comes as Valve opens up its Steam for Linux beta to the first thousand applicants. Providing a native Linux client for the digital distribution platform for the first time, the beta comes bundled with 26 native Linux titles with the promise of more to come. It's also likely to be followed, in the tit-for-tat tradition of such things, by a similar announcement from Nvidia's bitter rival AMD.
The Nvidia GeForce R310 driver package is available to download now from the official site