Ubuntu 12.10 with Nvidia - No, no, no, no, no, NO!


Updated: November 17, 2012

Depending on your understanding of the time-space continuum, several days or several minutes ago, I reviewed Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal on my SSD-ed laptop. For the lack of a better word, the distro sucked. There were too many issues, and it's hardly the worthy successor to Pangolin. The only question remaining is, can it redeem itself on some proper high-end hardware, not that a dual-core, 2GB, Intel graphics, SSD laptop is a weakling either.

I will not repeat most of what you've already seen in the first piece. I mean, multimedia, printing, all that, fairly trivial. What I will be focusing is the graphics stack, which is where things get really interesting. If you have an expensive Nvidia card in your Linux box, then you might want to pay attention in the coming minutes, as this article might be seriously worth your time, money and mental health.

Teaser

Live session - good news, Nouveau works

Wow, for the first time ever, the kernel driver for Nvidia card is usable. It is still not as good and robust as the close-source proprietary binary, but I was actually able to utilize the distribution fairly seamlessly. Moreover, the heating and memory consumption were cut down dramatically.

Live desktop

As I'm quick to lambast so am I to praise when it's due, and in kernel 3.5, the developers seem to have done an exceptionally good work, given the constraints of their project. But let's not spoil all the surprises just yet.

Nouveau

Setup

Now, let me give you a brief overview of the operational setup. The machine has two operating system installed internally, Windows 7 and Lucid Lynx, which will probably be upgraded to either Pangolin or a flavor of Mint soon. Then, there's an external disk, a 640GB Western Digital My Passport, with some seven operating system installed.

I decided to wipe the slate clean and erase the external disk, then start fresh and load a bunch of new distros there, including Quetzal. I also plan to install SUSE soon, but that's a separate topic. Anyhow, that explains the multitude of partitions, both internal and external cramming the Launcher.

Disks

So what I did is the following:

GParted

New setup

Installation

The same problem that occurred in the earlier distro review happened here, namely the installer wanted me to format the selected partitions immediately, due to some weird size change, although there was none, at least not on my behalf. The language was properly set to English rather than a localized flavor. The installation was extremely long, just as I've observed in my original Quetzal article.

Installing

After the installation - where it all goes wrong

What is the first thing someone with an Nvidia-powered laptop wants to do? That's right, install the drivers. Now, unlike previous versions of Ubuntu, Quetzal does not come with the Additional Drivers utility installed anymore, so you won't get that sweet popup.

You will have to manually grab Jockey, only it's called Jockey-KDE for some reason. No problem, install it, and then it will not show up in your Dash, or the list of installed applications.

Installing Jockey

No Jockey in the menu

I had to fire it from the command line. And then, try to install the Nvidia drivers.

Install drivers

Only this operation failed! Welcome to 2006. Regression galore.

Nvidia setup failed

However, according to Software Manager, the driver was installed:

Nvidia driver supposedly installed

No problem. Only after the reboot, there was no more GUI. So the installer removed Nouveau, but it did not install Nvidia, and it sure did not revert back after botching things up. And since Ubuntu no longer has any fallback session, there was no more desktop for me after the reboot.

Eventually, I sorted out a problem by going to console, Ctrl + Alt + F1, downloading the build-essential utilities, downloading kernel sources and headers separately, because they are no longer included in the meta package, downloading the Nvidia current driver, manually inserting it into memory, and restarting lightdm.

We will have a dedicated article on the driver setup coming soon. But this is crap. How do you expect normal people to solve this problem? How do you expect people who want their expensive hardware to work to handle this? WTF? Are you mental? After six years of solid experience with Jockey giving users what they need, you pull this nonsense?

But you included Amazon searches in your Dash, that's the important one, right. Who cares about people with Nvidia drivers, right? And not even a failsafe session. This is utter and total crap, a turd made of solid gold and diarrhea. Well, I will help you dear Ubuntu + Nvidia users, a tutorial coming soon. In the end, it should work, although you might ask yourselves: why bother.

Nvidia loaded

Resources, Nouveau vs. Nvidia

Here's a comparison between the two, the hungrier one being Nouveau. You really can't compare the two, but Nouveau works relatively well. In general, Nouveau took some 800MB of RAM and the CPU was always loaded at about 25%, which means one full core on a quad-core system. On the other hand, Nvidia took 600MB of RAM and the processor usage revolved around only 1% or so, no more. The differences are huge.

Nouveau resources

Nvidia resources

Other things?

Well, the rest was more or less like the other review. Whatever worked, worked, whatever did not, kept its nasty behavior here, too. The major difference is in the graphics stack, and as you can see, it's a significant one. In the end, Unity behaved well with Nvidia drivers, but you still might want to tweak some of the settings, as I have shown you in the Pangolin article to get an even better experience.

Final desktop

One week later, update

Approx. a week after writing this tutorial, I discovered a few new things. One, the additional drivers functionality has been moved into the Software Sources section of the Ubuntu Software Center. But the idea remains the same.

Additional drivers

Nvidia updates go wrong

Second, I did get some updates, including the nvidia-common package. I let the system run these upgrades and whatnot, and lo and behold, after the upgrade was complete, and following the next reboot, the desktop was unusable. I was forced to remove the driver by hand, download the sources and kernel headers AGAIN, install the nvidia driver, and then the Nvidia module only loaded with the count reference of 40 rather than 44, as you would normally expect, and guess what, the top panel, the Dash and the Launcher were not available, making the desktop completely and utterly borked. I do not know what went wrong, but this is pure shit. An image comes to mind.

Meanwhile, Pangolin works awesomely with the new 310 driver:

Install Nvidia 310 driver, Pangolin

Nvidia 310 driver installed

And even the resource usage is much lower, at about 490MB. This could be partly due to the improvements in the driver, which I will be testing soon, including trying to evaluate the Steam beta client, but also because Pangolin is superior to this new release.

Resource usage on Pangolin, driver 310

Conclusion

Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal on a machine with Nvidia drivers sucks so much that it actually sux. Completely. A failure of unprecedented magnitude. How could they release a distro with such a badly botched kernel stack. It's just a matter of sorting out dependencies, but no.

This release of Ubuntu should be called Quantum Quagmire. I seriously advise you to stay away from it. If you have expensive graphics hardware you want to use, and you do not wish to go about downloading programs and playing on the command line as if that's your job, then this release will disappoint you, and you should stick with the previous one, or maybe hold until something else is out there, like Mint perhaps. Bottom line, Ubuntu Quetzal, Nvidia drivers, a big no. Final grade: 1/10. Use Pangolin. Or Kubuntu, but more about that soon. Bonus points: How many references to Hot Tub Time Machine did you spot in the review? Mail me, and you might actually get a reply.

Finally, Linux Mint guys, I'm watching you, do not screw this one up!

Cheers.

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