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Always interested in offers/projects/new ideas. Eclectic experience in fields like: numerical computing; Python web; Java enterprise; functional languages; GPGPU; SQL databases; etc. Based in Santiago, Chile; telecommute worldwide. CV; email.

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© 2006-2015 Andrew Cooke (site) / post authors (content).

Headless NVidia GPU on Ubuntu 12.04

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2012 15:29:36 -0400

I just dug out my old desktop, which is full-size and so can take the headless
card we have for GPU work (it's a Tesla I think).  Since it's a year or so
since I last worked on it, I decided to update the OS to Ubuntu 12.04.

Problem is - it only has one slot for PCIE and the compute card has no display
output.  So I replaced it with a cheap Nvidia graphics card for the install.

Some time later, I had everything working.  I installed ssh and xrdp.  Once
the .xsession is modified, xrdp works quite well - I can connect from another
computer and open a full screen desktop.

Then I swapped back the computer card and rebooted.  The expected beeps as the
BIOS complains, and then nothing.  Switching back again, it appears not have
booted (no syslog).

After much messing around I finally found the solution:

 cd /etc/default
 emacs -nw grub
 # uncomment the GRUB_TERMINAL=console and GRUB_INIT_TUNE=...
 update-grub

with that, it boots!  And I can then connect from my normal desktop over RDP.

Now I only need NVidia to fix their site so that it has the latest drivers for
Ubuntu (it's been down for weeks after a hack and the temp pages only seem to
show previous drivers).

Andrew

PS One tip that saves some time when experimenting - simply unplugging the
"extra" power supply connections from the card was enough to disable it and
allow headless boot (Ubuntu will boot headless without the above fix - it
needs them to boot with the numerical card which, I guess, is confusing the
boot process in some way).

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