OK, this problem seems awfully strange, at least to me. But then, I'm fairly new to Linux, so who knows? Anyway, here's the deal. First, I'm using Debian Sarge (XF86 4.2), but I was having the same problem with Debian Woody (stable) on a Athlon XP 1800 with a Soyo Dragon Plus (KT266A) and a PNY GeForce3 Ti 200. If I use the nv driver that ships with XFree86, everything works fine. If I use the nvidia driver, everything works fine... eventually. The problem is that it takes four minutes (not kidding, I timed it... I get up and go watch TV while I wait) for the X server to start or "redisplay" (I don't know the correct term... like if you do Ctrl+Alt+F1 to get a virtual console then Alt+F7 to go back to X). Once X starts, my DE or DM (depending on how I started X) starts fine and everything works great from there. I think I might even be getting a few more FPS in Q3A than I did with Win2K. ;-} The first driver version I tried was 4191, but the problem occurs with 4363 as well (used the automatic installer). I've tried it with kernels 2.4.18 and 2.4.20... same problem.
One thing to note. When I first tried the installer for 4363, it was immediately after compiling my 2.4.20 kernel. It gave me an error about the kernel headers not matching the running kernel (this was after I rebooted into 2.4.20). I had made the kernel with Debian's make-kpkg utility:
# make-kpkg kernel_image && dpkg -i ../kernel_image*
After rereading the manpage, I noted that this doesn't install the headers, so I did
# make-kpkg kernel_headers && dpkg -i ../kernel_headers*
And then the installer worked. The 2.4.18 kernel, though, I compiled and installed by hand (used make bzImage, make modules, etc instead of make-kpkg).
I suppose the first questions people will ask are what my config and log files are, so I'll make them available online: XF86Config-4
I don't really know what to try, other than reinstalling my system. But I don't want to do that, and I wouldn't really learn anything that way. :-} So does anyone have any ideas or any suggestions that might enable me to at least determine what's going wrong?
Oh, one other thing. For some reason, the module can't figure out that it's supposed to load itself. Before starting X, I have to
# insmod nvidia
to load the driver.