nVidia Drivers and Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid

14 May

I just completed finally correcting the mess that my upgrade to Lucid from Jaunty left. Essentially, I didn’t notice any issues for a few weeks but then a recent update resulted in my nVidia drivers failing to load and me being left in “low graphics” mode. I spent the past few days trying to figure out what the hell actually caused my graphics card driver of all things to fail randomly. On my laptop, I have a nVidia Quadro NVS 160 card and the laptop itself is pretty new. Also, considering my netbook had no issues with any recent updates, I was further puzzled. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers, trying legacy drivers, even attempting to re-compile the drivers myself after downloading the kernel source (after leaving it on for about 15 minutes and have both proc cores report temperatures of around 89 deg C, I decided to stop it..).

Then I realized something. The problem had nothing to do with nVidia at all. In fact it had nothing to do with anything graphically related either. The problem stemmed from my actual upgrade to Lucid several weeks ago. What happened is that during the upgrade process, I was asked if I would like to keep my current menu.lst file. Since Lucid uses GRUB2 and no longer actually uses the menu.lst file, and considering I had modified that file quite long ago, I decided to keep it. The installation went on smoothly and I didn’t notice any major errors. The only very strange message I noticed was that every time I booted into Ubuntu, I got a message like the following:

mount: mounting none on /dev failed No such device

In my actual boot sequence, I got some numbers after /dev and I couldn’t figure out where this error was coming from.  It didn’t show up in any log files either! Finally, I realized that running uname -r returned 2.6.31-14-generic… which was completely wrong considering the kernel was updated in the latest release! Then, I realized that the kernel I was booting into was not actually the latest kernel at all! From this I realized that I needed to modify my menu.lst file manually and then update grub manually in order for it to work.

Before running the chance of completely destroying my machine, I decided to do it ad-hoc, during the boot sequence itself. That way, the actual file wouldn’t be modified/destroyed/corrupted. So, I restarted and at GRUB, i hit “e” and manually changed the numbers to reflect the latest kernel. Success! It booted but my drivers still weren’t working. So, with this confidence, I went back to menu.lst and modified the kernel numbers. Another reboot resulted in a successful load and no mount errors!

At this stage, I knew that the drivers issue had to be related. So, I went to System->Administration->Hardware Drivers and saw that I had a 173 version (my attempt at a legacy installation) and the nvidia-current drivers, with the nvidia-current driver “activated”. Clearly, this was a lie, considering I was running on vesa drivers! And not even trying the nouveau drivers made a difference either. So, I figured that I would save myself the possibility of screwing up the re-installation and let Hardware Drivers do it for me. I “removed” the drivers and then “activated” them again. Then, I rebooted.

To my surprise, everything worked! No errors on boot, a clean shutdown too! And, my system load monitors displayed my GPU temperature too! Checking nvidia-settings ensured that the true proprietary drivers were loaded. Finally, I wanted to check if the GLX module had successfully loaded, so I ran compiz --replace and even that worked without a hitch. Awesome. So it seems like I got this thing to work finally. The final solution was a lot simpler than most approaches. But what this does show is that there are serious issues with “custom” upgrades – the upgrade successfully and silently completed and gave no indication at all that there were any issues! I’ll be submitting a bug report when I get a chance.

I hope other people can read this and save themselves the hours I wasted looking in all the obvious places for the error.

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Posted by on May 14, 2010 in Uncategorized


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