[ubuntu-x] -nvidia upgrade issues

Bryce Harrington bryce at canonical.com
Wed Nov 11 02:06:44 GMT 2009

On Wed, Nov 04, 2009 at 02:26:56PM -0800, Bryce Harrington wrote:
> I've been looking into some problems people have been reporting
> upgrading to Karmic with -nvidia installed.

Thanks everyone for the feedback and assistance fixing the various
issues we've uncovered.  I've summarized the major findings after
analyzing recent nvidia bug reports here:


In this thread and side discussions, several ideas have come to light
about how we could improve the packaging of -nvidia (and -fglrx) to make
the user experience smoother.  I've registered a blueprint for
discussion at UDS next week:


Finally, I think one of the underlying reasons why this became such a
problem is that these drivers do not get adequate testing during
development.  In hopes that this lack of testing can be improved on,
I've drafted a couple test plans that could be used to guide testers:


The main reason testing is so poor on the proprietary drivers during
development is because we generally receive them only very late in our
development cycle.  Prior to that, they don't work, so testers are
forced to use only open source drivers.  By the time we do get the
updated proprietary drivers, the amount of time available is really
limited, and people are quite busy.  So I think this may be an area
where we just need more structured, routine testing and I hope the above
test plans are of use in achieving that.


> 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.
> Bryce
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