Choosing best NVIDIA card for open source / Linux development workstation

I realize my current card, Quadro FX 1800, is not supported by the latest drivers and after the recent crashes (see my other thread) I’m contemplating a replacement.

I do a lot of software development work, mainly open source projects and this keeps me very busy. I’m not actively involved in any of the open source desktop (Xorg, GNOME, etc) projects though so I need my X desktop to be as stable as possible, I don’t have time to be updating those parts of the system, updating drivers, etc. My focus is more on server-side, monitoring, financial and real-time communications software, you can see some of my work here:


https://qa.debian.org/developer.php?login=daniel@pocock.pro

I’m running GNOME 3. Applications I use include Eclipse, a lot of terminal windows, Firefox and Chrome windows, VirtualBox and Blender.

My current hardware (HP Z800 workstation with HP branded Quadro FX 1800) was extremely stable with Debian 7 and GNOME classic. Over a period of a couple of years I don’t think it ever crashed.

With Debian 8 and GNOME 3, I’m having Xorg crashes, 3 this week.

So my questions are:

  • which combination of card and driver will be most stable, most supported by NVIDIA and most suitable for my work? For example, should I just get one of the newest Quadro series cards, such as the K420 or should I look at another type of card?

  • are there any other recommendations about how I can get more stability with the Quadro FX 1800 and the 340.76 driver? For example, should I just change to GNOME classic or Cinammon desktop? Or do I need to go back to an older kernel, such as the 3.2 kernel that is in Debian 7?

  • does NVIDIA offer any promotional pricing for open source / Linux developers?

  • does NVIDIA offer any trade-in for older cards?

Don’t you see your own pattern? Gnome 3 == crashes.

Use a more stable desktop, e.g. XFCE.

Good code should NEVER fail with a segmentation fault though.

In my case, all three segmentation faults have the NVIDIA driver code in the stack trace, not the GNOME code.

If the GNOME code is passing bad input (such as a NULL pointer) to some API then the driver should be logging an error message and the process should die more gracefully.

If you want the least troubles don’t buy any NVIDIA GPU, instead use Intel HD/Iris graphics. As far as I can see your workflow doesn’t imply any really powerful GPU.

Unfortunately that’s a myth that the Intel video driver is all roses.
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/xserver-xorg-video-intel

I have also seen some pretty nasty bug reports from people on the Arch forums with Intel HD graphics.

birdie, I agree that most of my applications don’t have a GPU requirement

Nonetheless, there are some reasons I use this type of card:

a) my spouse has a very similar workstation for CAD, and I try to have similar components in each box so we can swap them over in an emergency

b) the Quadro cards are being built for professional use and this means they have things like ECC RAM and higher build quality, hopefully reducing downtime

c) with many serious GPU users building Linux clusters, I was expecting that some of the money I shell out for one of these cards goes back into the quality of the Linux driver

With Intel graphics you have far more chances of bugs being fixed, vs. NVIDIA which prefers to deal with bugs from paying customers. At the end of the day if you want to have your work done, you shouldn’t choose Linux to begin with. Linux is a varying level of mess.

So my questions are:

- which combination of card and driver will be most stable, most supported by NVIDIA and most suitable for my work? For example, should I just get one of the newest Quadro series cards, such as the K420 or should I look at another type of card?

In most cases NVIDIA cards are either supported or not supported. Usually the most supported are the latest/current generation.

- are there any other recommendations about how I can get more stability with the Quadro FX 1800 and the 340.76 driver? For example, should I just change to GNOME classic or Cinammon desktop? Or do I need to go back to an older kernel, such as the 3.2 kernel that is in Debian 7?

The latest drivers are usually the most stable since they have the biggest number of bugs fixed. Also if you want the least troubles choose some LTS distro (RHEL/Ubuntu LTS).

- does NVIDIA offer any promotional pricing for open source / Linux developers?

No.

- does NVIDIA offer any trade-in for older cards?

No.

Ok, thanks for all the feedback.

I decided to update to a Quadro K420 for a few reasons:

  • low power (my PCI slots support up to 75W)
  • no heavy-duty GPU workload
  • having the latest driver
  • 4K UHD display support

I also added a 4K display at the same time.

Looking at the nvidia-settings utility, it tells me that I am using 77% of the 1GB video RAM and the GPU utilization wanders between 0% and 20% while I do normal desktop activities in GNOME shell.

HP says the K420 is for their newer Z840 workstation. I put it into a Z800.