Saturday, January 26, 2008

My attempt to install Linux on an Abit IP35-E motherboard

This is a bit of a deviation from my usual posting material, but seeing as how I spent a lot of (somewhat wasted) time on installing Linux on my machine, it may help others with a similar hardware configuration.

Bottom line, before I go into details: As of today, with the latest kernel (2.6.23) and video card drivers (ATI 8.01), it has some major problems that are stopping me from using Linux. Details after the break.

Strike 1: Video

I need my machine to play videos (anime). The latest ATI drivers, 8.01, for my pretty recent video card (ATI Radeon HD 2600XT), have two problems. First, the hardware video scaling frankly sucks; text (like subtitles) has very noticeable, jaggy edges. This is easily addressed with mplayer's software scaling, but it's a bit of a pain because then the window is stuck at one size. The second problem which doesn't seem to have a fix yet, is bad video tearing. This is noticeable during scenes with pans or fast motion (like what you'd typically see in an anime OP). Video tearing, for those that don't know, is an effect you might see that looks like a scene is rendered from two different frames, resulting in a line where they don't match up. Other people have noted the problem as well, so it's not just me :). Here's some pictures to illustrate my example:

In windows (Vista to be specific):

In Linux: (Note the brightness difference is due to the camera)

Somewhat of a lesser issue is that the ATI driver does not support compiz (or maybe it's compiz not supporting it) on the latest X.Org 7.4. Compiz is what's responsible for all the fancy effects you see in a lot of screenshots.

Strike 2: Networking

The Abit IP35-E has a Marvell Yukon 2 gigabit ethernet controller. This has a linux driver, sky2, which seems to work... but it doesn't. Some people have reported a lot of disconnects and reconnects, while I've personally experienced limited network performance (like 100K/sec, way, way below the limit of both my local network and my cable modem). I've tried different cables and ports in my switch, and the same cable and network card work just fine in Windows.

Strike 3: DVD drive (or lack thereof)

Intel removed IDE controllers from most of their latest chipsets, so motherboard manufacturers are forced to use 3rd party chips, like JMicron. This is all well and good except when the Linux driver is broken. The old JMicron driver, jmicron, is old and pretty much known to be broken; it's been replaced by the newer, hotter, pata_jmicron. Unfortunately, it's not a module in the amd64 kernel in Debian, possibly requiring compilation from scratch.

No comments: