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.