[SOLVED] Can't get nvidia drivers to work after HD crash

Screen resolution, 3D Acceleration, nVidia, ATI
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[SOLVED] Can't get nvidia drivers to work after HD crash

Postby mykec on Sat Jan 19, 2013 5:01 pm

Hi. I've used the same PC since 2005 with several Linux distros and Linux Mint since version 3 with great success until today. My video card is an Nvidia GeForce 5200. It's not "ancient" but "older" falling into the "legacy / 173" group with regard to the proprietary drivers Mint provides. Last spring my old CRT monitor finally bit the dust bunny. I replaced it with a new Sansui wide/flat screen from Wal-Mart. After a small amount of poking around the 'net, I learned to install and configure the Nvidia "173 (recommended)" video driver and then run "nvidia-settings" as root with no trouble and excellent results.

I configured my display for the max I could get, 1440x900@60Hz - not quite HD but close enough for now - and ran some awesome Compiz Fusion 3D effects with great success. This was actually the most fun visual experience I'd ever had with Linux - until my hard drive began to occasionally "knock" and start acting flaky yesterday.

I quickly began backing up the contents of my /home/mykec, /var/www, /var/lib/mysql, /usr/local/bin, and /etc directories. All seemed to go quite well as far as that's concerned.

I thought it would be a great time to also upgrade from Mint 11 to Mint 14 and finally see what all the fuss is about where Cinnamon is concerned. I installed a used but healthy 300GB drive and put Mint 14 Cinnamon on that - only to see bizarre visuals on my desktop - not during installation from the live CD but definitely after booting the OS from my hard drive. The "Home", "Network", "Trash", and mounted volume icons were not icons but ugly yellow and green squares. The mint menu contains garbage and white text on a transparent background. All apps and windows have completely worthless window manager displays with no text and only rough visual clues where the buttons and other controls should appear. Absolute junk!

I borrowed an even older video card from a friend - a Tungsten Graphics / Mesa card from 2003 and it works fine - except my only resolution option is the default, 1024x768. No "additional drivers" appear to be available for that card. So I reinstalled my previous Nvideo GeForce 5200 card and reinstalled Mint 11 over Mint 14 - because I've *known* it to work with this hardware beautifully for the past 8 months with my new monitor.

After reinstalling Mint 11, I decided to also reinstall Mint 14 alongside of it in a pair of 160GB partitions so I could at least use Firefox (in 11) to get help for getting Mint 14 to work. But now that I'm back to using Mint 11, I can no longer get the proprietary nvidia accelerated graphics driver to work the way it was with my previous install just yesterday. Without the proprietary driver, I'm at the default 1024x768. With the proprietary driver my only resolution options are 640x480 and 320x240! I have read up on this and found people recommending that I "blacklist nouveau" so I've created /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-nouveau.conf containing the words "blacklist nouveau" in it. No change at all.

nvidia-settings gives me nothing greater than 640x480 possible with card - however I have a backup of the previous xorg.conf file it created with my previous Mint 11 install that *did* work perfectly. When I copied it to my /etc/X11 directory I was no longer able to get to the login screen. Had to fire up the live DVD in order to get back in and remove that file.

Between the loss of my awesome Mint 11 installation and the pathetic/worthless Mint 14 desktop icons and windows, I'm not having a very good time to put it mildly.

Furthermore - with the borrowed Tungsten Graphics video card that Mint 14 *will* work with, the Gnome panel on my desktop is completely unconfigurable. When I add launchers to it, they go straight to the right and cannot be re-arranged. Right-clicking on the Gnome Panel gives me *no* context menu for modifying it and/or adding another panel at the top of my screen the way I like. When I am installing from the LiveDVD, the Mint 14 desktop looks correct and just like what I've seen in online tutorials. When I boot into Mint 14 from my hard drive, however, I can't configure a damn thing on my desktop. I have been using Gnome for nearly 13 years now and have *never* seen anything like this before. This whole adventure is costing me considerable amounts of time and all I can say is confused???
Last edited by mykec on Sat Feb 16, 2013 5:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
mykec
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Sat Jan 19, 2013 5:07 pm

I would also like to say that my wife's PC is also running Mint 14 Cinnamon and everything seems to work quite well - exactly as advertised. I've had no complaints from her about it - but installing it on my machine from the very same LiveDVD gives me the most nonsensical experience with Gnome I have ever had.
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:26 pm

I just uninstalled the "xserver-xorg-video-nouveau" package from my Mint 11 reinstallation and I *still* cannot meet with any success on getting the proprietary NVIDIA drivers to work with it the way it *was* working with my previous Mint 11 installation. Gosh, all this newly available screen real estate - and all my memories of using it at 1440x900 - gone with the wind. I suspect this thing called "nouveau" is to blame. I am beginning to realize the 3D acceleration requirement of Mint 14 Cinnamon is incompatible with my NVIDIA card and, therefore, to blame for my inability to use it at all. But Mint 11 is Gnome 2, not Gnome 3 - and it *did* work before. I am guessing that "nouveau" was *not* a "feature" of my previous, original 2011installation but has become one now with my new 2013 installation. And, if so, then I have been blessed with an experimental driver that doesn't work and completely prevents me from using a proprietary driver that is *known* to work very well because even when I uninstall it I can't make it go away. Niiiiiiiice!
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:41 pm

This is really making me sad. When before I *could* get a 1440x900 display on my flatscreen monitor with Mint 11 but now I'm hopelessly(?) stuck at 1024x768 with Mint 11 on the exact same hardware - thanks to nouveau - and I cannot even convince Mint 14 Cinnamon to give me a usable display at all... I am beginning to believe I can no longer use Linux Mint period with this PC - and right now I cannot afford to upgrade my hardware. Very depressing.
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:42 pm

I think the last time I used 1024x768 was 2004.
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:51 pm

I can't even get wobbly windows or the cube to work now. My kids *loved* those effects. This blows chunks.
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:19 am

Well, well, well... After more than 24 hours straight of scouring the web for clues, I was able to find two separate "tutorials" which, when combined, *almost* produced the solution to this problem for me and my NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 card running a fresh, practice install of Mint 11 / Gnome 2.x. I started with this configuration because it's the one I've been using with this "legacy" video card at 1440x900 resolution for the past nine months without difficulty.

I actually am logged on here and typing this message at 1440x900 res - so I now know it *can* be done. Problem is, I didn't have to do *anything* unusual last year to make this card work at this resolution with full 3D acceleration. This, year, however, it's been a real PITA and has robbed me of much sleep, hours and earning potential during the past 2 days solid. No one should *ever* have to muck around for as long as I have so far just to make their OS' video display work at a high res setting.

I say "almost" above because even after going through all the motions correctly, when I was finally able to run "nvidia-settings" that utility was *still* not able to get me beyond the same old 640x480 max resolution. Fortunately, I *did* backup my entire /etc directory before retiring that failing hard drive yesterday and because I did that I do have a copy of the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file from my previous install that *does* work. By simply dropping it into place, voila. Everything's as it was before. But because this xorg.conf file is unique to my install, I wouldn't have a clue how to tell anyone else what it takes to get this to work.

I do not understand why nvidia-settings was able to detect a long list of possible resolution options last year and this year it cannot - other than 640x480 and 320x240. The list of available settings from last year is how I was able to determine my max resolution for this card and this monitor is 1440x900. What gives?

Below, I've posted the content of my working xorg.conf file in case anyone else can make use of it as a template for their own configuration(s). I am going to practice this procedure a couple more times at least before I even attempt to post the instructions necessary to make it work.

With so poor a track record of success with so many older NVIDIA cards, "nouveau" should have *never* been included in the kernel by default - forcing people to learn how to remove it before they can install a true NVIDIA driver and xorg.conf file before they can return to being productive. This is the most asinine thing I have ever encountered while running Linux Mint since I began with back at "Bianca" in 2008. Sheesh!

Make it an *option* so that people with older cards can continue using Mint without all this hassle. Good grief. It's only common sense.

My /etc/X11/xorg.conf:

Code: Select all
# nvidia-settings: X configuration file generated by nvidia-settings
# nvidia-settings:  version 270.29  (buildd@roseapple)  Fri Feb 25 14:43:24 UTC 2011


Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     "Layout0"
    Screen      0  "Screen0" 0 0
    InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
    InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
    Option         "Xinerama" "0"
EndSection

Section "Files"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"

    # generated from default
    Identifier     "Mouse0"
    Driver         "mouse"
    Option         "Protocol" "auto"
    Option         "Device" "/dev/psaux"
    Option         "Emulate3Buttons" "no"
    Option         "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"

    # generated from default
    Identifier     "Keyboard0"
    Driver         "kbd"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"

    # HorizSync source: edid, VertRefresh source: edid
    Identifier     "Monitor0"
    VendorName     "Unknown"
    ModelName      "CRT-0"
    HorizSync       30.0 - 70.0
    VertRefresh     50.0 - 140.0
    Option         "DPMS"
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "Device0"
    Driver         "nvidia"
    VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
    BoardName      "GeForce FX 5200"
    Option "AddARGBVisuals" "True"
    Option "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "True"
EndSection

Section "Screen"

# Removed Option "metamodes" "1280x1024_60 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1280x960_60 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1280x1024_60 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1280x960_60 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1280x1024_60 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1280x1024_60 +0+0; 1280x960_60 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1024x768_60 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1440x900 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1920x1080 +0+0"
# Removed Option "metamodes" "1920x1080_60 +0+0"
    Identifier     "Screen0"
    Device         "Device0"
    Monitor        "Monitor0"
    DefaultDepth    24
    Option         "TwinView" "0"
    Option         "TwinViewXineramaInfoOrder" "CRT-0"
    Option         "metamodes" "1440x900_60 +0+0"
    SubSection     "Display"
        Depth       24
    EndSubSection
EndSection
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:23 am

Something I've wondered about lately...

When I initially installed Mint 11 in 2011 I was still using my old CRT monitor. My previous NVIDIA driver was correctly configured using nvidia-settings with that monitor. In spring 2012, however, that monitor died and I replaced it with a new, Sansui flatscreen monitor. So far I have only connected the new Sansui monitor to my PC using the same VGA connector I've always used. When I check my hardware specs, Linux Mint seems unable to detect this monitor. It can't "see" what make or model it is or anything.

I suspect my old CRT monitor "talked" back to my PC while I was running nvidia-settings which is how it "knew" what my valid resolution options were. And with that it was able to generate a working xorg.conf file.

This new monitor, however, obviously *doesn't* "talk" back to my PC which would explain why the best resolution I can get with the true, manually installed NVIDIA driver is 640x480 and 320x240 - yet when I drop my previous xorg.conf file into place - the one created when I was still using my old CRT monitor - I'm able to access the full 1440x900 resolution with this Sansui monitor I used to enjoy before my hard drive crashed.

So... Is this a reason to find a hang on to an old CRT monitor now? Or will using either a DVI or HDMI connector give my monitor the "mouth" it needs to "talk" back to my PC and tell Mint what it is and what resolutions it supports?
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Re: Can't get nvidia drivers to work anymore after HDD crash

Postby mykec on Sat Feb 16, 2013 5:22 am

Well, it's still a mystery to me whether or not using a cable other my current VGA one would enable this Sansui flatscreen monitor to "talk" to my PC but for now I am able to use it without problems so long as I have that working xorg.conf file on hand. I'll be marking this "SOLVED" now.
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