-nvidia upgrade issues

Bryce Harrington bryce at canonical.com
Wed Nov 4 22:26:56 GMT 2009

I've been looking into some problems people have been reporting
upgrading to Karmic with -nvidia installed.

One thing I've noticed is aside from whatever issue is occuring with
nvidia, there are bugs elsewhere which are compounding the problems and
leading to some poor user experiences.  A common scenario occurs if for
whatever reason the -nvidia kernel module fails to build in DKMS:

438398 - If DKMS fails to build the kernel module, the package upgrade
does not kick out.  It shows package upgrade as successful.  So this
leads directly to...

451305 - Jockey misses that the driver failed to build, and so is not
letting users know about the potential problem.  It goes ahead and
updates xorg.conf as if the driver was there.  X tries to obey the
configuration settings, but of course they won't work, so it exits on
startup with an error message.  *Normally* bulletproof-X would kick in
at this point, display the error to the user, and give them some tools
to diagnose and/or debug the situation.  Unfortunately...

474806 - The new gdm no longer supports the FailsafeXServer option, so
the diagnostic session no longer can be triggered to come up.  Instead,
gdm tries several times, then gives up, but then...

441638 - The gdm upstart job notices gdm has failed and so restarts it.
X of course continues to fail, gdm tries a few times and continues to
fail, repeat ad infinitum, and the user is just left looking at a
flashing screen.  Ick.

The above appears to be a pretty common scenario that we're getting a
rash of bug reports about.  It's hard to be certain because many of the
bug reports are only including information about the failed boot, not on
the failed build.  So I'm not sure if it is just one reason why the
build fails, or several.  However if we can solve the above bugs it
should give much better visibility into things.

Btw, workaround for anyone experiencing this issue is to purge your
nvidia (and fglrx) packages, remove /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and reinstall
nvidia (or fglrx).  It appears that in most of the bug reports this gets
the system functioning again.  Doing a full reinstall of Ubuntu rather
than an upgrade also appears to work around the issues.


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