Thinkpad W510, Fedora 15 and unusable Gnome Shell.

I was really impressed with the live environment of Fedora Core 15 recently so I went ahead and installed it (as a partition) on my W510.  Here are some issues you might face if you do the same and solutions.  Some of this may be blatantly obvious to a Fedora user but I’ve been a Debian user for a long time.

First update issues
The first issue was that the large system update session crashed for some reason.  This seemed to be purely UI / graphics based so I did some searching and found out that you can do the same thing on the terminal with:

sudo -i
yum update

This first update will take some time so treat yourself to the caffeinated beverage of your choice.

Nvidia graphics update
Fedora ships with Nouveau out of the box and their drivers work really well considering those guys have to reverse the binary Nvidia driver.  The power management and 3D acceleration is still a work in progress for the W510’s graphics chipset so I decided to give the binary ones a shot.

This installation guide worked perfectly for me.  I used the akmod method and it also updated my grub configuration to blacklist Nouveau (more on that later!).  Please note that you’ll be wanting the “GeForce 6/7/8/9/200/300/400/500 series” driver for the FX880M chipset.

After the machine restarted I got the Gnome login prompt and I duly logged in.  After this the machine appeared to freeze and was displaying only the wallpaper; there was no top bar, no way of using my system.

Incidentally I got it into my head (after further searching) that this was happening because the Nouveau driver was still being loaded in addition to Nvidia’s binary one.  I dropped to a terminal with ctrl+alt+f2 and confirmed by doing a quick:

lsmod | grep nouveau

Akmod had correctly blacklisted the module but it was still loaded so I had to do the following to update the initramfs image to exclude the module.

dracut --force

I restarted the machine and awaited success.  It did not come, which brings me to:

Gnome shell bug
After much searching I found this bug and this build of Gnome Shell (thanks Kevin!) which solved the issue for me.  In short grab the 64-bit version or the 32-bit version and install with:

rpm -Uvh <filename>.rpm

That fix has been pushed to the Fedora repositories so you might never go through the same problem.  If you are all up to date and have the Nvidia driver and don’t see this issue then the fix has probably been made official.

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