Configuring drivers (Was: Re: Support NTFS)

From: Arthur Hagen (
Date: 08/09/04

Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 09:39:19 -0400

Peter <> wrote:
> Sory for not includind previous messages, but I think that both Peter
> and Brian made their point. Let me add a few notes.
> Linux distribution (especially Suse) trying VERY HARD to make Linux
> Installation as easy as possible. A small example.
> A few weeks ago I changed my mobo, VGA and Sound card. The new mobo
> was based on nforce chipset. It tookme only 5 minutes before
> everything was running as good as with my previous configuration.
> Yast found the NEW hardware, installed the appropriate modules
> (=drivers) and finished.
> On the same machine, I re-installed Win 2000...
> Do I have to say more?

A sample of one isn't significant. Yesterday, I spent more than 5 hours
trying to fix issues after moving a graphics card from one Linux box to
The machine I removed it from had i845G built-in graphics, which Grub (at
least SuSE's implementation) doesn't like one bit. After trying for a while
with video=i810fb:vmem=4:depth... entries, I gave up, and went to LILO, even
though that meant abandoning LVM for the root drive. Oh, forget using
SuSE's graphical install/repair on an i845G box, as it will use incompatible
graphics modes. Anyhow, SaX2 then had mangled XF86Config, with entries
that's not supported by the i810 drivers (no, it doesn't support 15-bit
graphics), modelines not compatible with the graphics card, and overwriting
the monitor info with incorrect data. Luckily, I had previous experience
rewriting XF86Config, so that I could fix. System 1 was now usable,
although no matter what I've tried so far, I can't get the boot console to
reliably display anything except standard 80x24 DOS text -- all vga=NNN
entries either aren't recognised, or cause text that is halfway overwritten
by the next line.

On to system 2, which received a Radeon 7500 PCI card. This was a much
easier job, but only because I had previously put said radeon card into
system 1, and thus remembered most of the problems and how to work around
them. SaX, of course, botched XF86Config. No, the radeon doesn't support
15 bit graphics either. Fixing the worst mistakes, I tried starting X. Big
mistake. /var/log/XFree86.0.log and /var/log/warn filled up with more than
a GIGABYTE per minute of messages (note to XFree86 developers: don't log
one error on two lines, no matter whether you use two sentences to report
it, as it prevents syslog from collecting repeating error messages in "Last
entry repeated NNNN times" lines). Of course, SaX had forgot the important
"ForcePCIMode on" entry, or rather was to stupid to deal with PCI cards.
Would an average newbie know that "ForcePCIMode on" should be added to the
XF86Config "Device" section? Or dare to do it, considering that the top of
this file tells you NOT to edit the file, on pain of severe pain?
Fixing this required a reboot, as agpgart couldn't be unloaded. So much for
never rebooting. Now everything worked, kind of, except that enabling dri
causes X as well as the console to freeze up, and the monitor to go into
power save mode. Since I don't really need 3d on this box, I'm going to
look into this problem later, but my guess is that it has to do with the old
graphics card on this system, and its drivers overwriting the XF86 drivers.

All this did was free up a Radeon 9600XT that previously sat in a linux box,
so I could use it in a Windows 2000 box (yes, games ;-). I popped in the
card, and restarted the system, and logged in. When prompted, I inserted
the CD, and the ATI drivers installed, and I rebooted the system again. I
then got prompts for setting up dual head, resolutions, gamma and everything
else, and it all went very smoothly. Upgrading to the latest Catalyst
drivers likewise -- download, double-click, reboot, and everything was nice.
It retained my settings (unlike SaX, which will zap your settings, and even
rewrite your mouse, font, monitor and keyboard entries).

Yes, this is statistically insignificant as well. YMMV.

However, don't dismiss that there are things in Linux that's not yet ready
for prime time, and which is going to frustrate and alienate users. Grub,
when it's not working, is one of these things. SaX2, when it's not working,
is another.
With Windows, unless the driver installation is *100%* sure that it has the
right drivers and configuration, at least it won't try to second-guess you
and mess up the system. And the boot routines won't try to use video modes
that your system doesn't support, based on incorrect assumptions. Only if a
user has chosen a video mode will it be used.
If you're reading this here in alt.os.linux.suse, it's probably because you
either now how to deal with these things (unlike the average user), or
happen to have a system that the SuSE utilities configure correctly.

(And no, don't recommend looking up the hardware compatibility database
either -- cause you didn't do so yourself. It's *impossible* to set up a
system based on that -- there's no supported keyboard, only one supported
mouse which you can't buy anywhere, and the graphics cards listed are no
longer for sale, and even if they were, SaX2 no longer handles PCI cards
correctly (see above).)

I love Linux, but I hate Linux zealotry. There's situations where Linux is
a lot better than Windows, but taking an arbitrary system and installing
drivers is not one of them. At least Windows won't screw things up badly
without the consent of the user (which it gets way too readily).

Especially SaX2 is evil, and must be destroyed. I hope that now that Novell
has bought Linux, they will see reason and kill their babies. Something
that works 80% of the time and causes severe harm 20% of the time isn't a
viable solution in the software market. Even if it means the user has to
answer 20 questions, or even ends up without the bells and whistles.