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This package aggregates and abstracts Ubuntu specific logic and knowledge
about third-party driver packages, and provides APIs for installers and driver
configuration GUIs. It also contains some NVidia specific support code to find
the most appropriate driver version (as we usually ship several), as well as
setting up the alternatives symlinks that the proprietary NVidia and FGLRX
packages use.

Command line interface
The simplest frontend is the "ubuntu-drivers" command line tool. You can use
it to show the available driver packages which apply to the current system
(ubuntu-drivers list), or to install all drivers which are appropriate for
automatic installation (sudo ubuntu-drivers autoinstall), which is mostly
useful for integration into installers.

Please see "ubuntu-drivers --help" for details.

Python API
The UbuntuDrivers.detect Python module provides some functions to detect the
system's hardware, matching driver packages, and packages which are eligible
for automatic installation.

The three main functions are:

  "Which driver packages apply to this system?"

  packages = UbuntuDrivers.detect.system_driver_packages()

  "Which devices need drivers, and which packages do they need?"

  driver_info = UbuntuDrivers.detect.system_device_drivers()

  "Which driver package(s) applies to this piece of hardware?"

  import apt
  apt_cache = apt.Cache
  apt_packages = UbuntuDrivers.detect.packages_for_modalias(apt_cache, modalias)

These functions only use python-apt. They do not need any other dependencies,
root privileges, D-BUS calls, etc.

PackageKit API
If you want to integrate driver lookups in software which should not be
distribution specific, or is not written in Python, you should use the
PackageKit API instead of the UbuntuDrivers.detect Python module. In
particular, ubuntu-drivers-common ships PackageKit plugins for the
"WhatProvides" PackageKit query for the types "MODALIAS" (corresponding to
UbuntuDrivers.detect.packages_for_modalias()), and "HARDWARE_DRIVER"
(corresponding to UbuntuDrivers.detect.system_driver_packages()).
This also works with aptdaemon's PackageKit compatibility layer
(python-aptdaemon.pkcompat), which is the preferred PackageKit API
implementation in Ubuntu.

Please see

about the WhatProvides() API, and

for details about the various WhatProvides types.


From Python:

>>> from gi.repository import PackageKitGlib
>>> pk = PackageKitGlib.Client()

>>> res = pk.what_provides(PackageKitGlib.FilterEnum.NONE, PackageKitGlib.ProvidesEnum.MODALIAS, ["pci:v000010DEd000007E3sv00sd00bc03sc00i00"], None, lambda p, t, d: True, None)
>>> res.get_exit_code()
<enum PK_EXIT_ENUM_SUCCESS of type PkExitEnum>
>>> for p in res.get_package_array(): print p.get_id()
>>> res = pk.what_provides(PackageKitGlib.FilterEnum.NONE, PackageKitGlib.ProvidesEnum.HARDWARE_DRIVER, ["drivers_for_attached_hardware"], None, lambda p, t, d: True, None)
>>> res.get_exit_code()
<enum PK_EXIT_ENUM_SUCCESS of type PkExitEnum>
>>> for p in res.get_package_array(): print p.get_id()

Using the pkcon command line tool:

 $ pkcon what-provides "pci:v000010DEd000007E3sv00sd00bc03sc00i00"
 Available     nvidia-current-295.49-0ubuntu1.amd64        NVIDIA binary Xorg driver, kernel module and VDPAU library
 Available     nvidia-current-updates-295.49-0ubuntu1.amd64    NVIDIA binary Xorg driver, kernel module and VDPAU library

 $ pkcon what-provides "drivers_for_attached_hardware"
 Available      open-vm-dkms-2011.12.20-562307-0ubuntu1.all     Source for VMware guest systems driver (DKMS)

Detection logic
The principal method of mapping hardware to driver packages is to use modalias
patterns. Hardware devices export a "modalias" sysfs attribute, for example

  $ cat /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1b.0/modalias

Kernel modules declare which hardware they can handle with modalias patterns
(globs), e. g.:

  $ modinfo snd_hda_intel
  alias:          pci:v00008086d*sv*sd*bc04sc03i00*

Driver packages which are not installed by default (e. g. backports of drivers
from newer Linux packages, or the proprietary NVidia driver package
"nvidia-current") have a "Modaliases:" package header which includes all
modalias patterns from all kernel modules that they ship. It is recommended to
add these headers to the package with dh_modaliases(1).

ubuntu-drivers-common uses these package headers to map a particular piece of
hardware (identified by a modalias) to the driver packages which cover that

Custom detection plugins
For some kinds of drivers the modalias detection approach does not work. For
example, the "sl-modem-daemon" driver requires some checks in
/proc/asound/cards and "aplay -l" to decide whether or not it applies to the
system. These special cases can be put into a "detection plugin", by adding a
small piece of Python code to /usr/share/ubuntu-drivers-common/detect/
(shipped in ./detect-plugins/ in the ubuntu-drivers-common source). They need
to export a method

   def detect(apt_cache):
      # do detection logic here
      return ['driver_package', ...]

which can do any kind of detection and then return the resulting set of
packages that apply to the current system. Please note that this cannot rely on
having root privileges.