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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A problem enabling the hardware acceleration of an NVIDIA card on a Sun Ultra 20 M2 led me to Solaris Express Developer Edition

I want to point out a problem which I experienced on a Sun workstation: it's not a blocking problem, but no evidence is given to the user, just an error and some warnings in Xorg log files.

As soon as my new Sun Ultra 20 M2 was delivered to me, I started playing with it and soon discovered that 3D hardware acceleration was not enabled. I bought from Sun an addition NVIDIA graphic adapter for this machine, and even if I expected that this feature was enabled by default, I picked up my favorite editor to apply some modification to xorg.conf. I had no luck. Even if the workstation is shipped with Solaris 10 (11/06) preinstalled and even if the latest Tools and driver CD had been applied (and re-applied), an unknown problem prevented 3D hardware acceleration to be enabled.

The next thing I did was looking for errors in Xorg log and a quick

$ cat /var/log/Xorg.0.log | grep ^\(EE\)

pointed the finger at libGL. Some library links was indeed screwed up and after some quick experiment I came out updating the following soft links:

/usr/X11/lib/amd64/ -> ../NVIDIA/amd64/
/usr/X11/lib/amd64/ -> ../NVIDIA/amd64/
/usr/X11/lib/ -> NVIDIA/
/usr/X11/lib/ -> NVIDIA/
/usr/X11/lib/mesa/amd64/ ->*
/usr/X11/lib/mesa/ ->*
/usr/X11/lib/NVIDIA/amd64/ ->
/usr/X11/lib/NVIDIA/ ->
/usr/X11/lib/modules/extensions/ -> NVIDIA/
/usr/X11/lib/modules/extensions/NVIDIA/ ->

This problem was clearly not Xorg's: when the correct links were in place, it detected everything fine, even with no xorg.conf at all, which is what I expect at least in this workstation, where every piece of the hardware is supported by the operating system.

After a short time I had another problem: the pdf reader shipped with Solaris 10 had trouble with some fonts. Even Sun documentation was unreadable and, since another Solaris installation was affected by the same problem, I decided to give my first try to Solaris Express Developer Edition. At the first reboot after installation I gladly discovered that all the hardware was functioning properly. No Tools and drivers CD was even required! Furthermore, since I use this machine as a Java development platform, I could immediately enjoy Netbeans 5.5, Sun Java System Application Server 9 and Sun Studio 12.

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