New Nvidia Beta driver: KDE4 flies, but has stability issues.

Last night Nvidia released a new beta version of their binary driver. This one has some new features, where especially a couple of RENDER pathes are now hardware accelerated. I’ve installed the driver on my desktop machine on a rather clean OpenSuse 11 and a 7600GS and tweaked it to enable to new feature that aren’t on by default in this release (but are planned to switch on for the real deal). The performance problems I’ve had with switching desktop and apps are totally gone and KDE4 is flying like I’ve never seen it before. Switching tabs in Firefox is still slow, Konqi does it swiftly. I’ve set the following options in my xorg.conf. My Device section now looks like this:

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "Device[0]"
    Driver         "nvidia"
    VendorName     "NVidia"
    BoardName      "GeForec 7600GS"
    Option         "RenderAccel" "true"
    Option         "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "true"
    Option         "AllowSHMPixmaps" "0"

And the Screens section:

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Screen[0]"
    Device         "Device[0]"
    Monitor        "Monitor[0]"
    Option "PixmapCacheSize" "20000000"
    Option "AllowSHMPixmaps" "0"
    SubSection     "Display"
        Modes      "default"

(AllowSHMPixmap probably only has to go into one of those, but it doesn’t seem to hurt as other issues are more pressing right now. When I resize a konsole window too quickly, the machine locks up. I’m not sure if this is a driver problem indeed, or a hardware problem (I’ve not used the machine much lately, and lockups happened with earlier versions of that driver as well.)
Something which I find rather strange is that I cannot run nvidia-settings:

ERROR: The control display is undefined;
please run `nvidia-settings --help` for usage information.

So assumably I’m getting only part of the performance improvements. I’m asked if anybody knows why, up until now to no avail.
Overall I’m very positive about this release. It finally seems that we can deliver a really swift KDE4 experience also to those users with insanely fast graphics cards (insanely fast at least for the graphics features we use in KDE). I’d suggest those that have been suffering from performance problems (and anyone else using 7xxx or above Nvidia series graphics cards to try this driver. Don’t forget to change your xorg.conf and enable the Gyphcache and PixmapPlacement hacks. I’ve also updated the techbase page with this information to make it easier to find.

Update: After some fiddling, I’ve got everything to work. The nvidia-settings issue was a local config problem, the lockups are only present when I forget to run
nvidia-settings -a InitialPixmapPlacement=2 -a GlyphCache=1. I’m a happy camper now. :-)

Update: There’s an even newer version of the beta driver available, try this one instead of the .68 or .69 version of the driver as it fixes a couple of problems with the beta driver and it’s just more likely to work.

that demo machine…

Wade brought me a new Mini-ITX motherboard for a demo machine we used to have in the boothbox (but which had one minor issue: No X, not even after lots of driverfoo.). So I’ve replaced the VIA Epia board with an Intel Atom one with integrated 945 graphics chip. KWin’s compositing now works nicely on this machine, it’s swift and I see no graphical glitches. The machine has a 1.6 GHz Atom CPU. One problem now is that the slot-in DVD drive doesn’t fit nicely. I can squeeze it in, but as soon as I screw the cover onto the small desktop case, the DVD doesn’t eject the disc anymore, caused by a slightly squeezed top of the drive. So I’ll need to find a way to gain a couple of millimeters of space in that box (or stick a note under the case that you need to open the case to use optical discs ;-)). Also left to do is testing multimedia. I might need to install a couple of plugins there, and I didn’t check yet if sound works at all. I’ll see if I can bring it to Froscon this coming weekend (depends if the boothbox will be there, or someone to take it to the KDE office in Frankfurt. (Drop me a note in that case :).)

Otherwise, we have a nicely working demo machine, with KDE 4.1 and exampla data on it that should also be easy to maintain for some time. I’ve installed all the interesting things from KDE4, so we don’t end up with not finding all kinds of applications and need to install them on slow fairground connections.

Yesterday, I tried to reinstall my desktop machine, a rather nice dualcore with lots of RAM and fast disks. It’s got two 17″ displays connected. Lately, Nvidia’s drivers have caused me some headache there, making it just no fun to work on that machine. So I’ve been mostly using the laptop lately. I do miss the comfort of a good desk and chair though, so I’ve hooked up the laptop with one of the TFTs. I need to try the latest nvidia beta drivers, a posting on the NVNews board sounds promising, at least. Can’t wait to try …

People on #suse have been rather helpful in getting me better acquainted with the system. I found out that’s it’s apparently quite helpful to people guiding you to tell them in how far you need guidance (“I’m an advanced linux user, but just don’t know the distro very well”) helps to avoid a couple of unnecessary questions (“did you restart X after trying the driver?”).
Ereslibre has apparently fixed the Konqueror toolbar issue, I’ve been seeing for some time, I’m rebuilding everything as we speak.

Akademy Runners.

Browser History in KRunner
On the train back home from Sint Katelijne Waver, I’ve got the kate session plugin working, which I wanted to have still during Akademy. I’ve missed that personal goal by three hours (or I pinned it down by 20 minutes, depending on how you view it). I had written part of that plugin earlier in the week

and made it basically usable short before I arrived in Nijmegen. I use kate a lot, and have several sessions, as sets of documents that I’m editing often. Now I can just type the name of the session into KRunner (that ALT+F2 thing) and hit enter to open the session — so with 5 keystrokes, I can now start hacking on plasma (and pretty much anything else I work on, it happens to be mostly plain text). The kate session runner is now in playground. The Runner actually does two things: It matches document sessions from kate, and also offers kate’s sessions as options when you just type “kate” (screenshot). This runner will probably go into kate itself, where there’s already the session applet written by Laurent.

The new Browserhistory plugin I had written earlier, currently only searches the immediate history from Konqi’s combobox. I’ve discusses this with David on the boat, and we might be able to use the full history if we expose the relevant bits in Konqueror’s API and ship this Runner with Konqueror. Right now, this runner is in kdeplasma-addons.
On the other hand, for Firefox users it should also be possible to have such a thing. If you want to add support for Firefox to this plugin (or maybe make it its own one), I’d welcome a patch :)

How to survive Akademy.

  • The beer in the small bowls is around 8% – 9%, don’t drink more than 20 of those.
  • Have a water once in a while (you can drink the tapwater in the university building)
  • Get foodtickets before you queue up for sandwiches, saves you a lot of time
  • Writing a music manager / player doesn’t save you from having mediocre taste in music
  • When hung over, don’t even try to play ping pong with Seb
  • Lunchbreaks feel a lot like the Ministry of silly Talks
  • Don’t write long blog entries when there’s a keynote coming up shortly
  • Marble.

By the way, if anyone found my badge after yesterday’s piss-off, I’ll get you a candybar in return…

Take a peek at Akademy.

Keving when taking a peek at taking a peek at Akademy
Not much time to write long reports right now (attending the Plasma Frenzy talk, heading off to the social event in a bit), still managed to get some photos up. Feel free to use those in your coverage, if you need special permission or a larger version (I’ve got them in 12MP on my box), drop me an email at sebas kde org.