Friday, September 03, 2004

nVidia and Mandrake 10

My PC at home runs Mandrake 10.0 and has done for the last couple of months since I upgraded from Mandrake 9.1. In general I have been very pleased with the distribution. My first brush with Linux was nearly 10 years ago when I installed Slackware off 4 floppy disks on a 386 machine which had previously run Windows 3.1. I was amazed by the transformation in the previously feeble machine; whereas under Windows 3.1 it felt like the machine was constantly dragging itself through mud, with Slackware it just flew. However even I have to admit that that installation wasn't very user friendly. In comparison modern distributions such as Mandrake have made quantum leaps.

However since upgrading I have had a problem with periodic random freezes. There seemed to be no consistent cause, but the result was always the same: the screen froze and would not accept any input (not even ctrl-alt-f1) and I couldn't even log in remotely and restart X.

Recently this seems to have been happening more frequently, culminating this evening when it seemed to freeze within 5 minutes of booting. I was sufficiently frustrated to be bothered to do something about it. Given that the machine previously was stable, I guessed the problem was a driver. Experimentation revealed that disabling the onboard nVidia network card (I have an Asus A7N8X motherboard) fixed the problem. Further investigation revealed that Mandrake 10 had automatically installed the open-source forcedeth nVidia driver. I downloaded a driver from nVidia's website and sure enough that fixed the problem. I have at least been running for over half an hour now without a freeze, so fingers crossed!

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