Monday, June 9, 2008

Hardy Heron Nvidia Driver Problem and Fix

Seems there are some problems with Ubuntu Hardy Heron and certain Nvidia video cards.
Especially the AGP 8X interface cards.

3 Ubuntu users I know have installed Hardy on their systems.
All of them have the GeForce 5200 FX video cards.
2 were unsuccessful with the install of the Nvidia driver and were stuck with 2 resolution options.
They were 800 x 600 and 640 x 480.

The final user installed the Nvidia driver and had full screen resolution and full access to Compiz.

So what were the differences that caused 2 failures and 1 success?
It was the way they installed the driver. The first 2 users installed the Nvidia driver like any user would. They downloaded it and installed it using the restricted driver manager.

The third user installed the driver using a program called Envy.

So why did the Nvidia driver fail to detect the proper resolution for the 5200 when installed via the restricted driver manager?

It's kind of hard to pinpoint but I have some thoughts after doing lot's of research.

The only real difference between all 3 systems is the monitor. I believe that if the monitor is of an older variety it doesn't have the ability to report back it's frequency or resolution settings to the x server and this causes the x server to default to the basic low resolution settings.

But why did Envy work?
Envy is a script written to download the driver (Either ATI or Nvidia) configure the driver based on a standard set of resolution settings then tells x server to use these resolution settings once the driver is installed.

So should you use Envy?
The jury's out on this one. I've read plenty of pro's and con's on using it.
I do know that if you do use Envy you will have to remove the driver you installed with Envy before upgrading Debian or Ubuntu to a newer release.

This however is not required anymore if you use the EnvyNG available for Hardy.

You will have to keep Envy installed if you want upgraded drivers. And even using Envy is not a 100% sure thing.

You can grab Envy through the repositories if you have Universe and Multiverse reositories enabled.
Or go here to their web site;


So are there any other options?

Another way to install the Nvidia driver which seems to work most of the time is to go to Nvidia's web page, download the driver and install it yourself.
Installing the driver requires that you kill the x window (Your Desktop), navigate to the driver through a command line style of interface, run the Nvidia installer then restart the x window.

If you want the gory details on how to install the driver yourself you can get the directions from this Ubuntu forum post;

Install Nvidia Driver

You can try either method. I would suggest taking the long road and install it on you own but that is my choice. If Envy works for you then Great!
But if it doesn't, follow the directions on how to remove the installed drivers then reinstall them on your own.

What really bothers me about this whole driver fiasco is that Hardy is a LTS release.
It's supposed to make things easier for the novice and lure potential users away from Windowz and to the wonderful world of Linux.
But they dropped the ball big time. If anything, this problem will frustrate new users and drive them away.
Hardy should never have been released with this problem present. Damn the release schedule.
Make a solid release with no bugs or very few minor bugs and people won't care if it's a few weeks late.
These 6 month release schedules are a great marketing tool but in reality it's allowing more bugs to be running rampant and causing users many hours, days or weeks of grief!

I hope this post will help Hardy users with Nvidia driver issues get them fixed.