A Nouveau experience

If you read my last post you know I’ve been using Arch to give new life to an old PC. My experience with Arch has been rather positive but it’s not without issues. To be fair, I’m not sure if it’s Arch fault or nVidia’s. That’s right, I’m talking about graphic driver issues. It’s no big news that graphic drivers support in Linux are reasonable at best. The problem lies with closed-source drivers that are always playing catch-up with other OS versions. Nvidia in particular is not the worst and recent devices seem to have reasonably good drivers. But with older cards it’s a different story. I have a Nvidia GeForce2 MX 400, wich is quite old. Nevertheless I don’t see why I need to buy a new one, if I’m not planning to use any special 3D software. The problem is that even 2D rendering is too slow to be usable. And why ?
I don’t know all the details of the story but basically Nvidia doesn’t spend much time supporting old drivers. In my case, I cannot use the most recent drivers with my card, because it’s not supported. I have to use the old 96-xx version. The problem is that with every Xorg update, things change and drivers need to be updated too. Because Nvidia doesn’t spend much time updating 96-xx version, I’m having poorer performance now than I was 2 years ago….with the same card!!
I’m not going to bash Nvidia about this, as I still have hope that it’s a configuration problem (I think I tried every xorg parameter combination).
Nevertheless I had to quit using the Nvidia driver. Simply dragging a window across the screen was too slow. I’m now using Nouveau, the open source initiative to create an open driver for nvidia cards. It’s perfectely stable to me and it works a lot faster than nvidia’s driver. Now, I have aceptable performance (not perfect). I’m pretty sure 2 years ago I had better performance than today with nouveau. But, better nouveau than nothing. I just hope nouveau continues to improve and that nouveau’s developers don’t forget old nvidia cards.

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