Information Technology

Mint 18 – Don’t Install Kernel Updates

Even when you have your updater preferences set to “don’t break my system” it appears things get broken horribly. After being rather pleasantly surprised by Mint 18 KDE 64-bit performance and how things worked well with BOINC I decided to apply the kernel updates it kept nagging me about. BIG MISTAKE!

Once you install the updates the NVIDIA driver is horribly busted. Screen still works but you and BOINC have no GPU access. Nope! You cannot fix this by backing out the kernel update. The update appears to tweak something which the backout forgets to untweak. I tried every combination of known working kernel version + driver combination (yes, it took a while and required many reboots) with no love.

I pulled down the latest driver .run file from NVIDIA because the warnings for the NVIDIA PPA were a little too stark. The warning about needing to be very familiar with packaging before diving into the PPA is what scared me off. I’ve done packaging for ISO and .DEB before. It is easy to hose. If script kiddies are cutting their teeth in that PPA I don’t want the stuff on my main desktop system. The sacrificial machines along the wall, sure, but not my primary desktop.

Attempting to run the NVIDIA driver installation program told me what I needed to know. The newest kernels have incompatible kernel driver. It’s going to be a long sad winter where cancer does not get cured, Ebola does not get defeated and ET does not get found.

screenshot_20161206_085422

2016-12-09 update

I was contacted by Mr. Scott Dorsey and he spent quite a bit of time sending emails trying to unwind this fiasco. Everything which was tried made the problem worse and worse. I spent half a day booting to command line because the desktop would no longer load.

The long and short of it is that this is a most vicious and nasty bug. Once you install any video driver other than the default nouveau you can never, under any circumstances, install a kernel update. The kernel update has the bug. It completely disregards any and all video driver dependencies. It does not first back out the installed video driver before installing itself. Rather it just forces nouveau back in without undoing any other video changes. This leaves you with a crippled system where nvidia can never cleanly install or uninstall.

Once you install a video driver other than the default NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES INSTALL A KERNEL UPDATE FOR MINT 18 as the kernel update is untested with alternate video drivers.