NVIDIA and Ubuntu Don’t Play Nice
I’ve spent the last week setting up some new (to me) HP Z210 Workstations with Ubuntu and Debian. The machines themselves are in pretty good condition, I got lucky with the used units which were sent to me – the graphics card is another story.
NVIDIA graphics cards have a sordid history of doing nothing but create frustration for the open source world. They have never openly supported most of the Linux distributions I’ve used and always create some sort of a problem. These HP workstations came with NVIDIA Quadro FX380 cards which kept freezing the boot after installation. If you were to boot through the recovery mode then you would be able to bypass the NVIDIA driver during the boot process and it would only switch over to the proprietary driver once in the X window environment. Debian presented much more of a problem than Ubuntu did in this case.
I ran the machines this way for a few days to see if I could find a suitable workaround, I couldn’t. While everything in the desktop environment ran fine and and presented very few errors, the entire restart and reboot process was a nightmare. Now if you’re like me and you switch these machines on and forget about them, that’s not really a problem as you’ll reboot once every few weeks, if that. But I hate when things don’t work right, it stays in the back of my mind and slowly drives me insane… Even using the proprietary NVIDIA drivers and disabling the VGA driver in the BIOS didn’t work. I must have tried every combination known to man.
I removed the graphics cards from both the machines earlier today and reinstalled the respective operating systems – when things get messy in terms of drivers or patches I like do perform a clean install once I found a solution, it takes longer but you know, OCD.
Once the cards had been removed the machines went through the install and boot process without a hitch, and just to be sure it was only the graphics card causing a problem I restarted the machines several times.
If you’re planning on running Ubuntu or Debian on these machines make sure you use the on-board graphics card or anything that isn’t NVIDIA based. This is easy if you’re doing it on a desktop or workstation, unfortunately not possible if you’re using a laptop with NVIDIA built-in.
Here’s Linus Torvalds expressing my exact sentiments!