Being a Linux user lets you have a pretty cool choice – open source or proprietary software. While a lot of die-hard Linux users will scream at you if you use anything proprietary (and I recommend not using proprietary software unless absolutely necessary, but that’s still your choice), you can still install whatever the heck you want.
There are a good amount of proprietary products that are being made available for Linux, both free and paid, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. But because Linux allows the best of both worlds, you may also be curious about the proprietary drivers that are available.
Why Do You Possibly Need Proprietary Drivers?In virtually all distributions, only open source drivers that come with the Linux kernel are used out of the box. While this should be perfectly fine for simple use (and it should work on any graphics setup), AMD and nVidia users may still feel the need to use the more powerful proprietary drivers so that games, videos, and more all play as smoothly as possible.
Intel users shouldn’t feel left out. Intel doesn’t offer any proprietary drivers, but instead pushes all of its work directly to its only set of graphics drivers, which are open source and included with the kernel.
Ubuntu users have the easier route to getting these drivers installed. You’ll simply need to open your dash, menu, etc. and look for the Additional Drivers application. This little program will look to see if you have any hardware in your system that could be better supported through proprietary drivers. While it may also include wireless drivers, this is usually the place for the proprietary graphics drivers.
Simply click on which you’d like to install (I’d usually go with the latest), and apply.
If you like a more technical route, you can technically find the fglrx package for AMD cards and nvidia-glx-xxx for nVidia cards (where xxx is the version number, like 185), but I recommend using the Additional Drivers application as it takes care of everything, and I’ve run into problems just installing fglrx through the package manager instead of through Additional Drivers.
Fedora users have it a little more difficult, but it’s very manageable. First, you’ll need to head over to this site and install the free and non-free packages for your version of Fedora. These packages will add information about the repository which hosts the proprietary drivers, as the default repositories of Fedora are open-source only. Once that completes, you should now be able to search for kmod-catalyst for AMD cards or kmod-nvidia for nVidia cards.
This is a package that keeps track of dependencies and kernel modules, so whenever you install a new kernel it’ll update the drivers as well. Install, restart, and you’re up and running!
ConclusionWhile I’d love to see proprietary-quality open source drivers, I highly doubt that something like that will ever occur. For those who need to use all of the horsepower their cards provide (especially when you have a higher end card; weaker/older cards are usually 100% supported), using the proprietary drivers is still the best way to go.
Please note that using proprietary drivers should work fine unless you have an AMD card while running Gnome 3. Until the problem is fixed, your performance while running Gnome 3 will be quite sluggish even though it’ll still run. If you run into this problem or any other issue, you can always uninstall the proprietary drivers and revert back to the open source drivers.
Do you prefer open source or proprietary graphics drivers? Do you think proprietary drivers should be open sourced? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Forrestal_PL