[nSLUG] Re: Multi-distribution install problem

gnwiii at gmail.com gnwiii at gmail.com
Thu Apr 13 08:17:36 ADT 2006

On 4/13/06, Donald Teed <donald.teed at gmail.com> wrote:
> Well, it comes down to opinions based on experiences
>  and word of mouth I guess.
>  In mine, onboard video has more variance from one
>  system/maker to another than does dedicated video
>  device.  And yes, I've heard people using Windows have
>  seen that problem as well.

The difference is that the machines are usually shipped with a
"working" Windows install using drivers developed by the people who
make the hardware components.  Working is in quotes because these
systems often fail when used for demanding applications and it may not
be possible to find drivers when upgrading, e.g., from Win2k to XP or
XP to XPSP2.

>  On the theory end, it makes sense to me that a full PCI
>  device is going to be implemented in a more standard
>  way than an embedded device in a motherboard.

This is true if you stick with branded consumer packages.  Low-end OEM
(white box) PCI cards that use older ATI or nVidia chipsets tend to
skimp on other things, so the cards may work fine for MS Office with
the included drivers, but they won't handle demanding apps (Google
Earth, Photoshop, etc.) unless and until ATI or nVidia adds support in
their drivers.

Many linux X drivers have scads of configuration flags.  RTFM and you
may find the incantation needed to support a problematic card.  With a
big seller like Dell there will be enough machines out there that
someone will eventually figures things out, but if you end up with an
orphan machine you should go shopping for a name-brand card.

>  There are still other variances like BIOS, IRQ conflicts, etc.,
>  but the embedded or dedicated variance is a big one.

Yes.  You have to look closely at the revision nos. for ethernet,
sound, SCSI, etc.
And it isn't just PC's - SGI was one of the first vendors to ship
100-baseT in their Octanes.  They used the first rev. of a very widely
used chip that had unreliable autonegotiation, so can only be used
with switches fixed to 100-full.

When multiple distros fail to configure newer hardware, chances are that the
linux support didn't make it into the distros.  Get one of the
unstable distros (Fedora Core 5, debian unstable), install with text
mode, and then updating may work.  Another strategy is to try some of
the "live" distros.  If you can find one that works, you can probably
migrate the configuration to a regular distro.  Often you just need
one boot flag or xorg.conf entry to get things going, although it may
mean losing some performance until someone updates the driver.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia


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