I’ve decided to put together a guide with some screenshots answering the newbie’s questions on how to install graphics card drivers under openSUSE 10.3. For those unfamilar with openSUSE, it is one of the better known distributions of linux… because there are many distributions what is contained in this guide may not work if you have another distribution like Ubuntu or Fedora.

This guide will focus on installing using YaST because it is in my opinion the best way to install the drivers and to familiarize the users with how YaST works. There are other ways to install graphics drivers including one-click install and manual driver command-line installations. I believe the one-click install works for most people but some people simply have to suffer through the manual installation and after having done a few myself … I can testify it is painful and frustrating.

Also, the screenshots provided below are specific to my hardware but the main steps you must follow should be the same as I’ve described in the text. The screenshots are only included to help guide you through the process.

Quick review of openSUSE:

One of the biggest advantages of openSUSE over other distributions is the fact it is mainly developed by a very dedicated company (Novell) and is in my opinion the best and most integrated open source linux distribution. Open source means you can download all the code for the entire operating system and applications which come on the default DVD. However, graphics drivers are NOT open source and must be downloaded and installed subsequently by the user if they choose to do this. For most things like browsing the internet, emailing or writing office documents you don’t need the proprietary drivers, but if you plan on doing any gaming or installing a fancy 3D desktop you must get this done.

Also, in my experience openSUSE seems to have better hardware support as I’ve hit snags installing other distributions on very new hardware in the past while SUSE never complained. Out of the box (right after a new install) openSUSE will shock you with just how much software it comes with especially in terms of regular office productivity. The default KDE openSUSE install comes with OpenOffice and a choice of two elite web browsers: Konqueror and Firefox. The Konqueror browser is also used for system-file browsing similar to how internet explorer is used under Windows.

I’m a big fan of the KDE environment but there is a custom Gnome desktop which can also be used under openSUSE. Both KDE and Gnome are fully functional desktop environments similar to what regular Microsoft Windows users are familiar with. Anyone familiar with Windows will have little problems getting around either of these two desktop environments – I use both KDE and Gnome on different systems and really don’t have a preference but for this guide all screenshots were taken under KDE though I doubt this will be a problem.

Having said this I understand for the linux newbie openSUSE may not be ideal distribution (most user friendly) until they find out where things are! I first tried openSUSE 10.1 over a year ago (not sure when) and attempting to install the graphics drivers caused me to dump the project for a while. In this regard the newest version of Ubuntu is much better – with just a couple of button clicks you’ll get the drivers installed and never have to google anything… the fact you’re here means you probably googled “install linux graphics drivers” right? Doing manual driver installs and having to troubleshoot error messages or crashed X-server is simply a daunting task for anyone not familiar with linux.

Graphics driver install:

The recommended way to install anything under openSUSE is to use the YAST Control Center. Under the openSUSE menus this is accessible through Applications > System > YaST (Administrator Settings)

After entering your root password you’ll be greeted by the following menu:

YaST Control Center

I recommend adding YaST to your favorites/desktop or “quick launch” menu because I’ve found myself using it almost daily once I figured out what it’s for… to do this right click on the icon before launching it and select “Add to Favorites.” Now that this is done you can access it quickly without having to do the full navigation path of Applications > Systems blah blah blah…

Because openSUSE is one of the biggest linux distributions and Novell tests and integrates applications into openSUSE it is very important to use the distribution specific repositories. A repository is similar to a website/ftp location from which you can download software to your computer and install it. If you carefully read the instructions from both nVIDIA and ATI websites when attempting to install drivers you’ll probably find a link to the SUSE repositories, but there is an even easier way through YaST!

You’ll notice immediately after launching YaST that the first option on the top left is “Software.” You can navigate the other options later but everything we need to install graphics drivers is under the Software tab. First you must set up the repository from which you’ll download the graphics driver and install it. If you have the info you can manually configure it using the properly labeled option… or you can select “Community Repositories” and wait a few seconds while the various repos are downloaded.

List of Community Repos for openSUSE

You’ll notice in the screenshot above there are repositories for both ATI and Nvidia so select the one you need. I have an Nvidia card so that’s the driver I’ll install. Make sure the check-mark is visible, simply selecting the repository and highlighting it in blue as shown in the screenshot above for the Packman repo is not good enough to tell openSUSE you want this repository available. By the way, while you’re here I suggest selecting the Pacman, Openoffice and X11 repositories too but we only need the ATI/Nvidia repo to continue right now, once you’ve made your selections click “Finish” on the bottom right and wait until everything is set up.

Next in YaST select Software Managment and you’ll get this window after a short wait while openSUSE figures out everything you have installed and checks all the repositories it has set up:

Software Managment Screen

Ok, the first time you see this you’ll probably be a bit confused… in time you’ll know this screen and love it a lot more than the Windows Installer. At the top left of the screen right under “File” you’ll see a dropdown selection menu by the “Filter:” label. Click and select “Repositories” from the drop-down and then select the Nvidia Repository – from here you’ll need to select the correct driver for your graphics card. If you don’t know which one you need you should consult the Nvidia driver download website and notes, it is not hard to figure out. You’ll also need to select the correct X11 version to work with the Nvidia driver as shown here:

Software Managment Screen

Once this is done select “Accept” on the bottom right and let openSUSE configure itself.

You can use YaST to install new softwre and also to update your old software or hardware drivers. Keep in mind it takes a few days/weeks after Nvidia releases a new generic driver for the updated openSUSE version to show up in the repository. Unless you have a very pressing need I recommend waiting until the driver in the repository shows up and don’t fight the manual install.

Once you’ve installed your graphics drivers you might have to set up your resolution and enable 3D though most likely after the install/reboot the hardware will come up with optimum settings if you’re using an LCD. Either way you can configure through YaST once again but choosing Hardware > Graphics Card & Monitor

SaX2

Make sure if you have to manually set refresh rates you don’t break your monitor, consult the monitor manufacturer’s website and look for a user manual which will show you the horizontal and vertical frequencies for your hardware. This should be rare as Nvidia is very thorough with updating monitor definitions in their drivers and by default after the install everything should work correctly.

Extra Setup After Installation:

Now even though the installation was successful your system must be “told” to use the Nvidia driver properly. This requires the sending of a few commands. Open up a terminal window and log in as a su, after entering your password type “Init 3” which will pop you into a command line interface. You’ll once again have to log in and come up to su, once this is done use the following sequence of commands:

The above sequence of commands modifies your xorg.conf file and allows you to use 3d acceleration and Compiz Fusion. You’ll have to take some more steps to completely enable Compiz Fusion later on of course.

Troubleshooting:

If everything worked as it was supposed to there would be no need for me to write this guide. With any version of Linux it is simply inevitable you’ll run into problems even by following procedures such as the one above. Unfortunately I might not be able to help in case you do have problems, but others may be much more capable. So if you do run into problems using the method outlined above or a manual install I suggest visiting the nVIDIA Linux Forum and dropping a question there.

Please let me know if this was a useful guide for you by leaving a comment below. I’m considering doing more of these in the future so hopefully some people find it useful. No comments means nobody cares… If you’re brand new to Linux and this was helpful to you, welcome to the world of open source, cheers!

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