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So, rather than guessing just what the cause is (though my money's on the nvidia drivers), where do I start looking to pin down some facts?

I've been through /var/log on several occasions but there's a LOT of stuff in there and I can't (yet) spot the important bits.

Background: The Short Version

I moved from WinXP to Ubuntu Karmic just after it became available.

Since then I have had a series of seemingly random crashes that manifest as either:

  • a spontaneous reboot
  • a complete lockup with my USB keyboard and mouse becoming unresponsive (right down to he LEDs all turning off). Also I will typically be unable to ssh to the box when this happens.

I've done plenty of searching and Nvidia seems to be the prime suspect but I have no idea where to start looking to work out just what the real cause is.


Background: The Long Version

At times, I can go an entire week without a crash then have 5 in 2 days.

Motivated by the desire to eliminate possible suspects, I've made a few changes over time to no avail:

  • Originally I used KVM for virtualization, I now use VirtualBox OSE
  • I had NFS running in the kernel but now use Samba
  • I was using Compiz but have since turned that off
  • I've rolled from 64-bit Karmic to 32-bit (for other reasons as well)
  • I've tried Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu. Same trouble each time.
  • I rolled the Nvidia driver from version 185 back to version 96 (NVIDIA Linux x86 Kernel Module 96.43.13 Thu Jun 25 18:42:21 PDT 2009). This seems to have reduced the frequency of error.

In terms of what's running at the time, this can vary. The following are common but were not necessarily running for every crash:

  • Firefox 3.5
  • VirtualBox OSE with 1 or 2 Windows XP VMs
  • Skype
  • Rhythmbox or Exaile

My hardware is 2 - 3 years old:

  • Core 2 Duo 6300
  • 4GB RAM
  • some breed of Intel motherboard of that vintage
  • an Asus dual-head video card with Nvdia GeForce 7300 GS chipset
  • 2 x SATA HDDs
  • dual monitors (hence I rely on the proprietary nvidia drivers)

I've been keeping current with my system updates.

Hopefully the data above might prompt someone to suggest a specific type of log or config that would be worth investigating.

RAM seems fine
Per suggestion below will re-post on superuser

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It looks like a question for – alfplayer Jan 21 '10 at 18:04
reposted to superuser – LRE Feb 9 '10 at 5:04

Linux and other Unix like systems are more sensitive to flaky RAM than windows. I would run memtest86 and check the RAM

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This should definitely be your first step. Once this is assured, then move on to figuring out driver problems. – Michael Kohne Jan 20 '10 at 1:55
Great tip thanks. Unfortunately no luck - memTest86+ turned up nothing – LRE Jan 20 '10 at 19:13

Such problems can indeed be caused by faulty hardware (if you suspect the nvidia driver, maybe the graphics card has a hardware error?)

  • if you have temperature monitoring enabled (with sensors-applet / lm_sensors), are there any high readings?
  • did you do any overclocking?
  • did you have weird crashes/hangs/reboots under Windows as well?

If the system hangs, some things to check for:

  • are the keyboard LEDs blinking? AFAIK that would indicate a Kernel Panic (ie. Kernel crashed)
  • can you reach the system with Ping?
  • use the SysRq key combo (must be enabled beforehand) to see if you can get some response from system
    • see for details
    • you should check that the key is really enabled and working by pressing Alt+SysRq+h on the virtual terminal (switch there with Ctrl+Alt+F1; switch back with Ctrl+Alt+F7)
  • after reboot, check log files (/var/log/syslog, /var/log/Xorg.0.log) for last messages
share|improve this answer
no overclocking. Occasional issues with Windows but hard to read much into them - not as frequent was with Linux. Will look into the temperature monitoring. – LRE Feb 7 '10 at 22:50

Maybe it is a hardware problem? I have experience with broken video card that hanged the computer without leaving any traces on kernel log. To isolate the problem try some LiveCD that uses compositing, or better yet: play a 3D game ;-). See: related post on UL forum

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