Time and Memory

Brain dump of a forgetful programmer

Sorting Out Apt-get Dist-upgrade and Nvidia Kernel Modules on Ubuntu

I ran into some trouble with my Ubuntu 12.10 machine yesterday when running a few updates; I noticed that after a normal apt-get update/upgrade a few packages had been “kept back.” Turns out apt-get upgrade will refuse to remove or install new packages by default. If you want everything fully updated, along with new transitive dependencies of existing packages, you need apt-get dist-upgrade instead (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Unfortunately, when I ran apt-get dist-upgrade it upgraded my system’s kernel but didn’t recompile existing kernel modules to work with it. The nvidia driver / kernel module failed to load on reboot, causing the display manager and X to enter some awful video mode. Looks like others have run into this issue before (6, 7). To get things back in order, I followed roughly these steps:

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# Get to a shell on the machine
ssh yourbrokenbox

# Ensure `jockey-text` is available so you can control proprietary drivers (e.g. `nvidia-current`)
# from the command line. If you don't have it, try installing one of jockey's graphical front end
# packages, for example:
sudo apt-get install jockey-gtk

# Turn off the display manager (and X)
sudo stop lightdm

# Turn off the nvidia module
sudo dkms remove nvidia

# Completely remove the nvidia driver package (in my case `nvidia-current`)
sudo apt-get remove --purge nvidia-current

# Make sure you have the latest headers with which to rebuild the driver
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-generic

# Reinstall and rebuild the driver with current kernel
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current

# Check to see if the driver was enabled during install
sudo jockey-text -l

# If necessary, enable the driver
sudo jockey-text -e kmod:nvidia-current

# Reboot and check `/var/logs/Xorg.0.log` and friends for errors
sudo shutdown -r now

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