[blfs-support] nouveau driver Trials and Tribulations

alex lupu alupu01 at gmail.com
Wed Dec 4 10:36:56 PST 2013

This narrative might be of interest to somebody who
- runs an NVidia card on the nouveau driver and
- exhibits a high tolerance for my technical writing abilities.

I received an NVidia card (a "Fermi", no less) for my Bar Mitzvah.
Later, for Christmas, my parents bought me a nice and shiny monitor with
built-in speakers and HDMI input to go with the card.

I was as happy as an audiophile can be: HDMI sound!  A lifelong dream come

Unfortunately, at kernel 3.8, disaster struck.  My HDMI sound was lost.
Since the situation didn't improve with later releases, at 3.10.1 I
opened a ticket, Bug 67051, on 2013-07-18 (at bugs.freedesktop.org):
 "No nouveau HDMI sound on NVIDIA GT430"

Here I digress a little bit to answer the reader's obvious question:
"That's a long, long time (in Linux years) from 3.8 to 3.10.1.
How come nobody else complained?
Is there something wrong with _your_ system?"

- SHORT answer:
At 3.10.1, I just said enough is enough.

- LONG answer:
I'm ashamed to admit that my parents happen to belong to that exclusive club
called the "one-percenters" (NOT the bikers, please!) so let's face it, all
the expenditure on my HDMI sound didn't exactly send them to the poorhouse.
However, in all fairness to the 99-percenter parents of the typical Linux
how would one expect them to afford the transition to digital sound for
A 6-ft HDMI cable can run you as high as $10 these days.
A $200+ monitor with internal speakers and HDMI input?!  Fuhgeddaboudit.

So nobody else complained because there was nothing for them to complain
Karl Marx used to say, "Analog sound is the opium of the people."
(translation:  give'em plenty of those little 3.5mm green connections and
you'll never have to worry about a bloody Revolution in the streets
for better sound conditions).  So there you are.

OK, let's get back to the main trial.
As a result of my Bug submission, the nouveau specialists issued a few
to restore my HDMI sound.
I was on cloud nine again.

Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived.
At kernel 3.11, the computer started to crash on any attempt to go graphic.
I desperately went out to open another ticket, Bug 69203, on 2013-09-11
(at bugs.freedesktop.org):
 "[NVC1] Kernel 3.11 - Xorg hangs immediately after invocation"

Here I digress a little bit to answer the reader's obvious question:
"How come nobody else complained?  Is there something wrong with you?"

- SHORT answer
Many people complained this time.
HDMI or no HDMI, as the old saying goes, "hell hath no fury like a Linux
with his graphics scorned".
It's just that here I happened to beat all complainers to the punch;
BTW, I had first opened a ticket, Bug 60844, with the main kernel site
(bugzilla.kernel.org) but by a strange premonition (later confirmed) that it
would go nowhere, I shifted my troubles to the tried and true nouveau site.
There, similar complaints were later merged into mine.
Coincidentally, at the bug 60844 I left in limbo at the main kernel site, a
wrote something very ominous like,
"... as 3.11 has hit fedora there's a huge problem with nouveau and gpu
lockups ..."

- LONG answer
People did complain.

OK, let's get back to the main tribulation.
With the computer down, the status of the HDMI sound becomes obviously moot;
this would sound eerily similar to the age-old philosophical question:
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make
analog or a digital sound?"

So this nouveau nouveau problem took on a higher priority.
A few more patches were issued by the nouveau specialists which fixed the
problem (and restored my beloved HDMI sound in the process.)
BTW, they were great, professional, especially Ilia Mirkin (an MIT guy, no

For the record, the "stable" release (as opposed to the temporary patches)
the first bug (67051) fix is in 3.10.21 (Nov 29), commit bcb97394, and of
second bug (69203) in 3.12.2 (Nov 29), commit 13d2b35a.

As a result, I'm now stable myself and at peace for Christmas while
looking forward to new and exciting adventures.

frohe Weihnachten (I suspect, this post will end up in Germany, somewhere)
-- Alex
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