Saturday, January 27, 2007


I've finally made some progress installing Debian on my PowerBook. I took the laptop to campus last week and ran a net install of Debian Etch. Everything went well until the installation was complete, when I discovered the X server wouldn't start. Aïe! Luckily it turned out to be nothing serious.

After delivering a proper barrage of expletives, I decided to tweak the configuration a bit. Among the errors in the X server were one line about DRI and a couple of lines about the Synaptics touchpad driver. The latter was simple enough to fix. I opened the X server configuration file and commented out the sections that mentioned Synaptics.

nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf

So that took care of the errors about the Synaptics driver. I later removed those lines altogether, once I was sure they weren't needed. The DRI error proved to be more frustrating to remedy. I'll skip the gory details and just say that I had to disable the framebuffer device. Here's how my config file looks now.
Section "Files"
FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/X11/misc"
FontPath "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc"
FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/X11/cyrillic"
FontPath "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/cyrillic"
FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/X11/100dpi/:unscaled"
FontPath "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi/:unscaled"
FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/X11/75dpi/:unscaled"
FontPath "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi/:unscaled"
FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/X11/Type1"
FontPath "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/Type1"
FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/X11/100dpi"
FontPath "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi"
FontPath "/usr/share/fonts/X11/75dpi"
FontPath "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi"
# path to defoma fonts
FontPath "/var/lib/defoma/x-ttcidfont-conf.d/dirs/TrueType"

Section "Module"
Load "i2c"
Load "bitmap"
Load "ddc"
Load "dri"
Load "extmod"
Load "freetype"
Load "glx"
Load "int10"
Load "vbe"

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Generic Keyboard"
Driver "kbd"
Option "CoreKeyboard"
Option "XkbRules" "xorg"
Option "XkbModel" "pc104"
Option "XkbLayout" "us"

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Configured Mouse"
Driver "mouse"
Option "CorePointer"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
Option "Protocol" "ImPS/2"
Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"

Section "Device"
Identifier "nVidia Corporation NV34M [GeForce FX Go5200]"
Driver "nv"
BusID "PCI:0:16:0"
Option "UseFBDev" "false"

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Color LCD"
Option "DPMS"
HorizSync 28-51
VertRefresh 43-60

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Device "nVidia Corporation NV34M [GeForce FX Go5200]"
Monitor "Color LCD"
DefaultDepth 16
SubSection "Display"
Depth 1
Modes "1024x768"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 4
Modes "1024x768"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 8
Modes "1024x768"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 15
Modes "1024x768"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 16
Modes "1024x768"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1024x768"

Section "ServerLayout"
Identifier "Default Layout"
Screen "Default Screen"
InputDevice "Generic Keyboard"
InputDevice "Configured Mouse"

Section "DRI"
Mode 0666
Those two changes got me a working X server. As usual, there are some lingering issues to be resolved but not as many as I expected.

Matthias Schmidt reported that an older 2.4 kernel, courtesy of Benjamin Herrenschmidt, didn't correctly recognize the CPU clock frequency. That doesn't seem to be a problem with the 2.6.17-2-powerpc kernel in Etch. You can enter the following command to see your clock frequency.

cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep clock

For me, this outputs 1333.333000MHz, which my limited mental math skills tell me equals 1.33GHz and is therefore accurate. However, the problems with power management haven't been remedied yet.

The source of all the difficulty is the GeForce FX Go5200. NVIDIA hasn't released open source drivers for the PowerPC and probably never will. I can't say I blame them. To the best of my knowledge, Apple didn't start using NVIDIA chips in their machines until the advent of OS X. At this point, no sane user of Apple hardware would run GNU/Linux when Tiger "just works" to a degree that its free counterpart has yet to achieve. Thus I return to OS X on my PowerBook G4.

I offer my apologies to those who were hoping for more information on this topic. You may find these resources useful.

1 comment:

faisal said...

Thank you very much for the tips! It saves me much grief and curses. My xserver now works like a charm.

Thanks again!