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DRM_IOCTL_MODE_CREATE_DUMB failed: Cannot allocate memory

  • administrators

    Can also confirm similar results when I upped my gpu split to 256

  • Tested for a bit on a 4GB Pi 4B. More to test, but for now, some results.

    Removing cma=384 from cmdline and adding gpu_mem=256 to config.txt actually destabilized the system. Re-adding cma=384 and retaining gpu_mem=256 destabilized even faster. This surprised me with a 4GB Pi. Perhaps only the 1st GB is utilized. Had constant game freezes and ES crashes after launching and exiting 3-5 beefy games (MAME 0.209 & flycast). Not catching anything in logs that would shed light on what led to freezing or crashing. Even the screensaver (set for random video) was freezing in between videos without warning.

    So I commented-out the gpu increase and re-added the cma line... Rebooted. Stable again.

    In parallel, I increased the ES VRAM Limit to 200Mb (guessed value). This improved the overall ES navigation experience. I'm no longer seeing jumpy emulator system images when scrolling left/right. Change did not yield perceivable negative side effects.

    Summarizing that Pi4B 4GB seems VERY stable with:

    • No memory split in boot/config.txt
    • No change to default GPU in boot/config.txt
    • Add cma=384M to boot/cmdline.txt
    • ES VRAM increased to 200Mb to support art-intensive theme
      (system may be even MORE stable with this ES change)
    • Wholly running in HD (4K forced off in boot/config.txt)

    To force HD, and prevent/ rule-out 4K memory drain, I added these lines:


    Now, I'm on hour 3 of launching/exiting games and letting the video screensaver run in between... Launched Kodi and watched a few videos in HD. Stable. Other than a few expected moments of framerate hiccups during intro sequences (eg. Skies of Arcadia), stable.

    All of this is anecdotal, of course, so will try to learn more. A few hours of testing isn't enough. But this has been been bugging me for weeks and thrilled I can finally run stable. I'm not technical enough to understand why the cma change (allocating a large contiguous block of memory for GPU) is working, but it seems key here.

    Next, I'll try to repro the "OP" description issue and try to learn what is making the gpu starve.

  • In testing, I found significant memory growth (leak?) in ES. Probably core to my troubles. Basically, I'm able to rapidly and reliably repro a freeze or forced exit of EmulationStation by simply navigating/watching videos in a memory-intensive theme. No game launch is required. I'm not getting the "DRM_IOCTL..." error, rather EmulationStation eventually either freezes or crashes. I would have thought others would have seen this by now, but... maybe I'm more active in ES.


    • Tested with both ES v2.10.0RP-DEV and ES v2.9.0RP
    • Issue occurs regardless of setting cma=384, or boosting ES RAM
    • Install and Set Hursty's "Magazine Madness" theme (although any theme will demonstrate memory bloating over time)
    • Ensure videos exist in the various systems and that they play when selecting them
    • Use the top command to watch memory (constantly)


    • Enter a system. When a video plays memory dramatically increases. After existing, memory isn't fully restored
    • Exit/enter the same system and watch any video (including the same video) and memory will incease, but after existing, won't fully be restored.
    • Repeat until VIRT/RES memory fills

    Eventually, EmulationStation will become unstable and either freeze or exit.

    Interesting to note that the Video Screen Saver (displaying random videos) also grows memory constantly.

    Running ps axeuf shows this specific command is growing, while all other commands are stable:

    \_ /opt/retropie/supplementary/emulationstation-dev/emulationstation MAIL=/var/mail/pi LANGUAGE=en_US.UTF-8 USER=pi TTY=1 XDG_SEAT=seat0 XDG_SESSION_TYPE=tty SHLVL=3 HOME=/home/pi HUSHLOGIN=FALSE DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS=unix:path=/run/user/1000/bus LOGNAME=pi _=/opt/retropie/supplementary/emulationstation-dev/ XDG_SESSION_CLASS=user TERM=linux XDG_SESSION_ID=c1 PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/local/games:/usr/games XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=/run/user/1000 LANG=en_US.UTF-8 SHELL=/bin/bash XDG_VTNR=1 PWD=/home/pi LC_ALL=en_US.UTF-8

    I hope this information is helpful. Happy to provide more information if desired.

  • Global Moderator

    Is this issue occuring withe the omxplayer used as video player (the HW accelerated player) or with the built in video player (VLC) ?

  • @mitu the setting for "Use OMX Player (HW Accelerated)" is off.
    Is there any other setting I should be looking at to confirm?

  • Global Moderator

    @roslof said in DRM_IOCTL_MODE_CREATE_DUMB failed: Cannot allocate memory:

    Is there any other setting I should be looking at to confirm?

    No, that's the only one - On = using omxplayer, Off = using libvlc.

  • @mitu okay. Will run additional checks with OMX turned on.

  • That didn't take long... ES memory is completely stable with the OMX Player enabled. omxplayer.bin is releasing memory as expected. Safe to say that libvlc is leaking memory?

  • I'm a bit too junior to know if this is the same issue:

  • Global Moderator

    @roslof said in DRM_IOCTL_MODE_CREATE_DUMB failed: Cannot allocate memory:

    Safe to say that libvlc is leaking memory?

    Hard to say, but my guess it's not libvlc, the error you're reporting comes from the DRM layer, libvlc is used just to decode the video and not to render the video.

  • I let my system "soak" for 5 hours and it eventually froze on a black screen. I looked into it and learned that the video screensaver has a separate option for using OMX. Since it was using libVLC, memory was maxed in ES -- thus the freeze.

    I set the screensaver to use OMX for videos, then started a new soak test. I noted the screensaver videos don't render w/OMX enabled. Perhaps I'm missing something in configuration.

    Not clear is this a known issue and if there is a work-around...

  • Ah... Looks like if OMX is set, and "Show Game Info On Screensaver" is set to anything other than Never, the videos won't render. So for now, I've disabled overlaying game info.

    Re-running soak test with OMX enabled...

  • Global Moderator

    @roslof on the Pi4, omxplayer can't render the subtitles - it's not supported. Maybe we need that taken care of in EmulationStation.

    I've set the EmulationStation screensaver since my last reply, so it's been running for about 7 hours, but there's no crash and the memory has stayed the same (from what top tells me).

    I'll see if using the theme and doing the switch as you mention would make EmulationStation crash.

  • @mitu for me without omx, memory creeps regardless of theme. Even Carbon. Maybe there is something out of date with my setup. Can't imagine what. Will keep looking.

  • Global Moderator

    Can you try to reproduce the crash again, then attach the dmesg output on ? Just redirect to a text file, then upload the file there:

    dmesg > ~/roms/dmes.txt

    Preferably after a reboot, just fiddle with EmulationStation 'till crashes, then get the log.

  • @mitu no trouble.

    Here is the output (omx off, reboot, navigating ES w/Hursty's Magazine Madness theme - no game launching)

  • Global Moderator

    Yep, it's the OOM killer alright, indicative of a memory leak or an over-commit situation.
    What's your allocated VRAM in EmulationStation ?

  • @mitu I've played with 200-250MB. Happy to ramp it further if it prolongs the crash.

  • Hi all, I found out that the problem occurs when the RPi4 is configured to display 4K. If you change the /boot/config.txt and force 1080p, the problem goes away.

  • Hey im having the same here any ideas ?

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