Hardware

A cure for NVidia drivers in Ubuntu


Over the weekend I finally upgraded my main machine. This was not just an upgrade but also a migration to another distro. After about ten years with Red Hat/Fedora I finally jumped over to Ubuntu. There's a reason: NVidia.

I figured that jumping from Fedora Core 6 to Fedora 8 would be a simple migration. It would have been but for my on-board NVidia graphics cards. Because of this card, Fedora 8 wouldn't give me the resolution that I wanted. And I remember well having to jump through the joyous hoops with the livna repositories in FC 6. Every time I updated the kernel, I also had to update the NVidia drivers (and a few other pieces of that puzzle) in order to get the NVidia card playing well with the OS. And on top of that, every time I had to hand-edit my xorg.conf file and re-add the "Option" "HWCursor" "off" line. EVERY-STINKIN-TIME!

Sure, I could have compiled the driver myself and not got caught up in the livna nightmare - but there were so many other rpms from livna that I needed. So it was always a catch-22.

But then, in my scouring of the Web, I came across a little tool called Envy. This tool promised to be my salvation from the nightmare often brought about by NVidia cards. Only problem - it wasn't available for Fedora. In order to take advantage of this "salvation" I was going to have to migrate over to Ubuntu.

And so I did. And as soon as the installation was complete, I clicked on the Get Envy Legacy button (on the main page of the site) and let the GDebi Package Installer install the software. There were a few questions to answer but the installation went smooth.

Once the package was installed, I ran the software, chose to install the NVidia driver, and let Envy do it's thing. When the set up was done, I restarted X and, to my sheer relief, E17 looked gorgeous!!!!

So - here's something I wonder - if someone can create a nice python script to do this, why is it the packagers of the distros can't add this to their default installations? NVidia graphics cards are pretty prevalent - especially with on-board cards! Maybe it's something they should think about in the future.

In the mean time, if you have an NVidia graphics card, and you're wondering which distro will support it, don't worry about it...just install Ubuntu (or Debian) and use Envy. You won't regret the results.

Oh - and over the weekend (after getting this over and done), I did a nice gallery of E17 for everyone. It will be in the Geekend blog soon enough (so check back now and then to see E17 in all its glory.)

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

20 comments
tomthumb99
tomthumb99

You spend hours looking at nvnews, and they do not openly admit errors or bugs are theirs. I think 30% of Nvidia staff should run on Open source Linux, skip Redhat ( ie: corporate user base). Thar will debug bad drivers early or force an improved install process.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

Perhaps it's because I have newer hardware, but Ubuntu recognized my Nvidia card and offered to install the restricted driver. I only had to restart and then it was there. I'll have to see if Envy will get me a better driver. With SuSE I added an Nvidia repository, stop X, run yast to install the driver and kernel update, run sax to update xorg.conf, and then restart X. PCLinuxOS and FC8 had me run a shar (also with X stopped), which compiled the kernel (or tried to), and that told me I'd have to do that every time the kernel was updated. And when it worked I had some very strange results using Compiz (all white screen and a mouse). Sorry, but even though PCLOS was pretty slick I don't thik I want to mess with that rigamarole every time the kernel is updated. I'm familiar with SuSE but am considering switching to Ubuntu as long as I can do all the same things (as Envy demonstrates, not everything runs on all platforms).

Jaqui
Jaqui

the proprietary NVidia drivers? Sorry, but the NVidia developers have made the open source nv driver included with xorg function at 95% of the proprietary version for most of the NVidia chipsets. 85% for the rest. There really isn't any requirment for the proprietary drivers any more.

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

Mandriva 2007 located and loaded NVidia drivers flawlessly. They changed their base system quite drastically with 2008 and have had some problems with numerous drivers, wifi and video especially. I see the spring 2008.1 release is fixing a lot of this, and they should ave their new model worked out quite well by the time 2009 comes out. So for the time being I'd say stay away from NVidea with Mandriva, but in a couple weeks they'll have 08.1 officially released and we'll be back to NVidia bliss.

miksuh
miksuh

"Every time I updated the kernel, I also had to update the NVidia drivers (and a few other pieces of that puzzle) in order to get the NVidia card playing well with the OS. And on top of that, every time I had to hand-edit my xorg.conf" If you use Debian you don't need to do that, and you don't need tools like Envy either. Nvidia drivers are in the Debian contrib and non-free repository. You need to install drivers once and when Debian packaged kernel gets updated, Nvidia driver-packages will automatically be updated for that kernel too. Here is how you can install Nvidia drivers in Debian. In this example I use stable Debian Etch, but same works with Debian testing and unstable too. 1) you need to activate Debian non-free and contrib repositories first, because those are not in use by default. Open terminal window and enter this command, enter root password when asked: $ su Now you need to edit dile /etc/apt/sources.list using text editor. You can use eg. nano or gedit: # gedit /etc/apt/sources.list Make sure there is something like this in your /etc/apt/sources.list file: deb http://ftp.fi.debian.org/debian/ etch main non-free contrib deb-src http://ftp.fi.debian.org/debian/ etch main non-free contrib deb http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main non-free contrib deb-src http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main non-free contrib What matters are keywords 'non-free' and 'contrib' at the end of lines. When you are finished save the file and close texteditor. 2) Next you need to update the package database: # apt-get update 3) Next you need to check which kernel version and cpu-type you have: # uname -r The result from uname -r should be something like this: 2.6.18-6-k7 What matters is that last part of line, in this example it's k7. That's your cpu type. 4) Now you can install Nvidia drivers, replace k7 in the first command with cpu type you got using uname -r: # apt-get install nvidia-kernel-2.6-k7 # apt-get install nvidia-glx # apt-get install nvidia-settings Now you have installed the Nvidia drivers and you don't need to worry it anymore. When kernel gets updated driver kernel modules will get uopdated and installed too. 5) Next you need to make sure that Xorg is configured correctly. You ned to do that only once. There is two ways to configure X. You can edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf using text editor. Make sure that device driver is set correctly: Section "Device" Driver "nvidia" EndSection When you are finished save the file and close text editor. Another way to configure X is to use command # dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg Finally you need to restart X.

DaveLG526
DaveLG526

I have used Envy on two different Ubuntu versions and have always has a pleasant install. It just works. It is a great solution for newbies--like me -- to Linux/Ubuntu.

Penguin_me
Penguin_me

Except for if you want to use the card fully - composite is crappy in the NV driver, try running a 3D desktop (like Beryl) with the NV drivers, it's poor to unusable (it broke my X for a while, I *never* use the NV drivers now, for the last... 5 years or so).

Endoscopy
Endoscopy

Doing this is why Linux is not ready to compete with windows. I have worked with computers for over 35 years and I have no problem with this. The average guy installing an operating system wants the Windows experience. Everything automatic or put in another CD for the card and go. I agree with Jack Wallen, why can't they put a script to do these things. OS point to a package and just click.

m61
m61

i have a nvidia go 7600 in my laptop, and i've just ever used the nvidia drivers in the restricted repository [via the restricted driver manager] and never had any problems. now my question is, is the nvidia driver [provided via envy] different from the driver in the restricted driver manager? and would i see any performance gain from using the driver provided by envy?

Neil Higgins
Neil Higgins

I came across Envy,last year.Previously my monitor resolution looked dreadful,and I scoured various forums to try and find a solution.Then I was told about Envy.It installs fine for my Nvidia card.

j-mart
j-mart

All it takes is to be able to follow well laid out, step by step instructions, how the hell does that require anyone to be an expert computer user and a geek?. As I see it all thats required is a level of literacy that was once taken for granted. The clever geeky bit was reading up, learning the process, translating the process into the well organized step by step instructions which anyone with with half a brain should be able to follow. I should no be surprised, as dumbing things down and being barely literate seems to be the path most tech professions seem to be taking. Using your brain, learning to follow simple instructions, heaven forbid, anyone working with technology, having to think, everyone knows these day intelligence is no longer a requirement for a career in IT, it's much more important to have your hair in a pony tail, have the right fashionable cell phone, laptop etc. literacy, and being able to understand simple instructions thats the old way, no place for that rubbish in the 21st century in IT.

john3347
john3347

I call Endoscopy's "Windows experience" by another name. I call it "using my computer FOR a project rather than AS a project". When the open source development community figures out that this is what the masses want for their computers, Microsoft will, overnight, become just another software company. Wake-up developers!!!!

yschoo1
yschoo1

My experience with installing RealPlayer was a great pain. With much helps from the Linux communities I did finally get it going. I don't think much could be gained by going through the process other than my ego. Working on a terminal could give you something you don't want and render your machine refusing to update. I had to re-install Ubuntu twice to get back to the state I wanted. Fortunately Ubuntu installation is a fairly easy process. This was on my Dell Dimension Lr800. I have a faster HP Pavillion with a PCI ATi older 32 Mb single channel video card on it which I would like to have Ubuntu installed. I don't have problem using the live disk, however when I installed the distros on the hard disk, it would only boot up to certain point and it would go blank. That's a shock to me. I still haven't found a solution yet. What gives? Any suggestion?

jlwallen
jlwallen

the good thing about envy is that it will download the appropriate driver for your card without any help from the user. as far as envy vs restricted...in my case the envy driver was far better than the restricted driver. but that is my experience. the good thing is you should be able to give envy a try and, unless it totally borks X, you can totally uninstall it if you don't like it. it shouldn't bork X though. but that's just my experience.

Penguin_me
Penguin_me

"however when I installed the distros on the hard disk, it would only boot up to certain point and it would go blank." -- Could you be a bit more descriptive ? What is the "certain point" ? Does it give any error messages ? As another post asked, did the install all go OK, no errors ? We need a bit more to work on if you want some help...

jlwallen
jlwallen

i'm assuming the installation went okay? it was when you rebooted that it went blank?

a_fairb
a_fairb

I like the uninstall option very much. I have a swine of an MSI GEforce 5200 which is prepared to run anything slowly in any OS you care to try. I have used several methods to get the proprietary nvidia drivers working. The result is always borked X with no such output device messages. As an enthusiastic know-nothing my solution has been to boot Knoppix and delete all config data from the home partition then reinstall with the defaults. Envy can't find a working driver either but at least the uninstall function put me back where I started with a minimum of fuss. Thank you Alberto!

m61
m61

...and i'm using 7.10 i know it was really weird, i've had a bunch of weirdness on my desktop, and i'm thinking it's attributed to the video card [the ati x700] but i'm not 100% sure on that i had to used the envy removale proceedure in order to get X back up and working note: these other weird issues are "off topic" of this thread/forum post/response

jlwallen
jlwallen

or was it just ugly? that's really interesting. which release of Ubuntu are you using? 7.10?

m61
m61

swedish chef from the muppets? i used envy on my desktop [which has an ati x700 card] and it borked X, i had to remove it and revert back to the restricted driver for the ati card which is why i'm hesetant to use it on my laptop [which has an nvidia card] oh well, nothing gained, nothing learned, maybe tonight i'll attempt it on my laptop