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PyTorch, fastai, CUDA, and WSL

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Ziyun
·Sep 22, 2022·

Lately, I have been working on the deep learning course from fast.ai. In the course, it's recommended to use cloud-hosted Jupyter notebooks, such as Kaggle and Colab. They are fine and the easiest way to get started, but I do miss my editor with all my favorite extensions that won't be available in a browser-based editor. At first, I wanted to set up it on my M1 laptop, but it seems like the fastai library doesn't supports macOS yet.

But then on last weekend, I suddenly remembered I do have a Windows PC sitting around! It's a Dell G5 (please don't judge) which I got during the pandemic lock down to play some League of Legends with friends, but I haven't been using it a lot since this year. It comes with an NVIDIA GeForce 1660 Super. Not the most powerful GPU, but should be better than using CPU. It also looks like I can just use WSL2 to create a Linux-based development environment while still keep my Windows around for video games. This really sounds like the best of both worlds!

After two days of mucking around, I finally got it working. It is longer than I expected, and I definite forgot getting a development environment set up with Windows and Python can be quite tricky sometimes!

Here I put down the final steps to get PyTorch and fastai working with CUDA support in WSL2. It's mostly following the NVIDIA guide. But if there is only one thing I can suggest: make sure your environment is using the same CUDA version everywhere. Consistency turns out to be the key here!

Install WSL

This part is easy, especially if you are on Windows 11 where WSL 2 no longer requires enrolling into the Insider program.

Microsoft has a good official guide. Make sure you use WSL 2 which is a lot nicer than WSL 1. Use wsl --list --online to list all available Linux distributions, and wsl --install -d Ubuntu-20.04. Do not use the 22.04 version from the Windows store because it has some issues with installing the CUDA Toolkit.

Install NVIDIA driver

Use the Advanced Driver Search to search for the NVIDIA Driver. You want to find one that apparently should support your graphic card, and match the CUDA version that PyTorch/fastai depend on.

For example, as of now (2022/09/21), I am on fastai==2.7.9 and pytorch==1.12.1. On Conda you can find builds py3.10_cuda11.6_cudnn8.3.2_0.tar.bz2. So, when I picked the driver, I deliberately went for the one that is on CUDA 11.6 (for the record, I used 512.95).

You would imagine that newer drivers (e.g. on CUDA 11.7) should also be compatible, but for some reason it's not. I was at first on the latest NVIDIA driver because I used it for gaming, so I kept it up-to-date. And I just couldn't get CUDA to work with PyTorch in WSL2. Eventually, I had to uninstall the latest driver and install the older version and the issue went away. 🤷‍♂️

Install CUDA in WSL2

It's mostly following the official guide, except for one catch: do not use the exact version in the instructions. For example, as of now the instructions use CUDA 11.7, but I should be using the older version that matches my drive that I install in the previous step.

You can find older CUDA Toolkit at the CUDA Toolkit Archive. Make sure you select WSL-Ubuntu as the Distribution. I went for the CUDA 11.6.1 version, and installed with the following instructions.

sudo apt-key del 7fa2af80

wget https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/repos/wsl-ubuntu/x86_64/cuda-wsl-ubuntu.pin
sudo mv cuda-wsl-ubuntu.pin /etc/apt/preferences.d/cuda-repository-pin-600
wget https://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/11.6.1/local_installers/cuda-repo-wsl-ubuntu-11-6-local_11.6.1-1_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i cuda-repo-wsl-ubuntu-11-6-local_11.6.1-1_amd64.deb
sudo apt-key add /var/cuda-repo-wsl-ubuntu-11-6-local/7fa2af80.pub
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y install cuda

Install PyTorch and fastai.

I used Miniconda and Mamba to manage my Python environment. Once you have them installed, create a new environment for fastai.

conda create -n fastai
conda activate fastai

I installed PyTorch first to quickly test if CUDA is working correctly.

mamba install pytorch torchvision torchaudio cudatoolkit=11.6 -c pytorch -c conda-forge

Once PyTorch is installed, open a Python console and run the following.

% python                                                                                                        
Python 3.10.6 | packaged by conda-forge | (main, Aug 22 2022, 20:35:26) [GCC 10.4.0] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import torch
>>> torch.cuda.is_available()
True
>>>

It looks like it's working! Then I proceeded to install fastai.

 mamba install -c fastchan fastai
 
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