Hardware folly

This is just a dull Linux hardware post so I’ll cut to the chase: if you use Linux, never buy an ATI graphics card. I don’t know what I was thinking – normally I research this stuff pretty thoroughly, but it seems that 95% of Linux users have suffered the same fate. Having most stuff “just work” under Ubuntu has lulled me into a false sense of security.

I spent 2 days trying to get DRI working with the proprietary fglrx driver (Envy is a big help here). I then discover that (a) it gives a glxgears frame rate of about 350, some 6 times lower than the open-source radeon driver and (b) it has no composite extension. I messed around some more trying to run fglrx, xgl and beryl – slow as hell and consumed 100% CPU. I installed driconfig to fix my broken Google Earth. I went back to the radeon driver (hint: the so-called “ati” driver in xorg.conf is just a wrapper – it loads radeon if your card is radeon) – good speeds, good beryl but no s-video.

Eventually I put my old nvidia FX 5200 back in, ran “nvidia-xconfig” followed by “nvidia-settings” – and it just works. Good speeds given its age, beryl desktop, TV-OUT, the lot.

7 thoughts on “Hardware folly

  1. Deepak

    Having had formal meetings a couple of years ago with ATI on their support, or lack thereof, of good Linux graphics drivers, I am not surprised one bit. NVidia on the other hand does just fine. There was a good reason the software I managed at the time specified using NVidia cards and drivers, especially for 3D graphics.

  2. Matthew

    What hardware did you use? There is some information missing in your post that possibly hides where your problem is or was.

  3. nsaunders Post author

    Yeah, there’s a bunch of information missing in the post. I’m not going there – wasted too much of my life already.

    Radeon 9600XT if you really want to know and believe me, I’ve read and tried every single guide that’s on the web. No suggestions please.

  4. chris

    Hmmm – good to know. I’ve tried playing round with atiout for a couple of hours to take advantage of my coolio TV, but no luck. No real time to futz around for more than that. I think setting up a generic media box is the way to go on this one. There’s a few posts around on setting up an Ubuntu-based “media server”, which I’ve been meaning to do.

  5. NicoR

    I recently faced the same issue, but with my sound card. I bought a SoundBlaster XFi, and realized few days after that Soundblaster didn’t give the Linux driver for this card. They were supposed to deliver it in 2nd quarter of 2007, and at the beginning of May postponed it to “maybe” late 2007. They pretended they had problems with Vista integration (how to make Linux people feel good? Blame Microsoft!).

    Anyway, nice blog, nice thoughts about comp. bio.

  6. nsaunders Post author

    In general, Linux hardware support is amazingly good these days. Especially when you consider that it’s all a volunteer effort by a global network of amateurs. The open-source ATI radeon driver is just fine, apart from s-video functionality. The proprietary fglrx driver works up to a point, but is pretty rubbish. Given that the latter is the “official” driver developed by ATI, a large company with resources, I think we have a right to be annoyed – particularly when you compare their effort with the superior offering from NVidia.

  7. Keith

    I Suffered a similar fate when I upgraded to Feisty. Beryl had been working wonderfully with my X800 GTO, but it did not play so nicely with the new xorg version. ATI actually announced not too long ago that they would be opening up their drivers, and making an effort to improve their linux drivers as well (not sure where link to that one is anymore). I Just hope they follow through with it :)

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