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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Damn you NVidia

23 March 2020

I've been struggling with my linux box of late.

Last time I had to reboot it (protracted power outage), it came up with a blank (black) screen after the login with only the mouse-pointer visible. Obviously the rest of the system was working and the pointer even changed as you moved it over (invisible) borders and other parts of the desktop that should have been there.

Hmmm... it looked as if the damned NVidia drivers were messing up again.

No worries, drop to the shell, purge all the proprietary driver files and allow it to revert back to the default ones. These drivers (part of the Kernel I think) are slow as a wet week but have always been reliable.

Sure enough... reboot and the desktop re-appears with a warning that it's running in "software mode" without any hardware acceleration.

No worries... I'm busy, I'll sort out the driver situation later.

Work proceeds. I create some videos on my other computer, transfer them across to the linux box on a USB stick and all is well.

Then, yesterday, something even stranger started to happen.

When I plugged in the USB drive, the graphical desktop crashed and took me back to the login screen.

Eh? What's going on here? A corrupted or faulty USB stick perhaps?

Sure enough, another brand new stick didn't produce this problem. I plugged it in, it auto-mounted and up came a file-manager window on the desktop. Great, I'll just use the new stick and throw the old one away.

So I copied the video file onto the stick using my Windows machine and then plugged it into the linux box.

Instant desktop crash, just like before.

Huh... that can't be right. Maybe there's a fault in the USB drivers or perhaps even a hardware problem with the USB ports.

So I set up a samba share on a directory so I could simply write the files onto the linux machine direct from the Windows box.

Bang... as soon as the file appeared on the linix machine -- instant desktop crash again.

I deleted the offending file, restarted the Cinamon desktop and this time I copied a different (non-video) file onto the linux drive. No problem. I could see the file, copy, rename and delete it from the linux file manager.

Hmmm... so it looked as if it was only video files that were triggering this crash, even though I wasn't opening them in linux their mere presence in a directory that was opened by the file manager would smack Cinamon so hard its lights went out.

No problems, I'll simply re-install the proprietory NVidia drivers.

I did that... and I was back to the black screen with just a mouse pointer. I tried all the available versions of driver... same result.

I googled away for over half an hour, trying all the tips and tricks that others claimed would fix this problem... but to no effect.

What the hell?

Having ruled out all else, I could only assume that the 12-month-old GT1030 card had suffered some kind of very subtle failure that allowed it to operate perfectly well, until it encountered some type of video file.

To prove this, I pulled the card and reverted back to the GPU built into the Intel processor on the motherboard.

BINGO!

All good now. Videos play, USB drives don't bring the system down and, to be honest, the performance of the onboard Intel graphics is actually *better* than that lousy GT1030 card ever delivered, even when the proprietory drivers were working.

What a way to waste the best part of a day!

Ah well, at least it gave me a chance to vacuum the case out and give the fans a wipe. It's amazing how much dust these things accumulate in a few short months.

Now I just have to sort out why the files from this new Panasonic HC-X1500 video camera I'm reviewing, have a tendency to throw Davinci Resolve into a state where it chews up all the available physical memory (32GB) in just a couple of seconds, before going on to also consume all the available virtual memory and then crash. Both Windows and linux have given me grief this weekend but it's now one-down, one to go!

Don't ya just love technology?

Update: fixed the Davinci Resolve problem too... seems to have been caused by a subtle corruption of the project database. New database... no worries!!

Life is good (again).

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