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openSUSE Graphic Card Practical Theory Guide for Users

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http://forums.opensuse.org – The purpose behind this "guide" is to provide some practical theory for new to average openSUSE users, explaning what graphic drivers are available for the more common ATI, nVidia and Intel Graphic hardware. ATI Graphic Hardware: This 1st post is on ATI hardware. A subsequent post will cover nVida and Intel. A brief explanation about drivers for ATI cards. ATI Graphic card practical theory There are various drivers available: fbdev - this is the frame buffer driver and it is compatible with many different graphic cards (ati, nvidia, intel ... ) . It has the slowest performance, but sometimes it will work when all else fails. It comes packaged with openSUSE as part of the xorg-x11-driver-video rpm. vesa - this is the vesa driver and it is compatible with many different graphic cards (ati, nvidia, intel ... ) . It is faster than the fbdev for performance, and it is pretty robust, but overall it still has slow performance. It comes packaged with openSUSE as part of xorg-x11-driver-video rpm. mach64 - ATI Mach64 - graphic driver specific for the old ATI Mach64 graphic hardware. It comes packaged with openSUSE as part of xorg-x11-driver-video rpm. r128 - ATI Rage 128 - graphic driver specific for the old ATI Rage 128 graphi hardware. It comes packaged with openSUSE as part of xorg-x11-driver-video rpm. ati - this is the free open source ATI driver for very old ATI hardware. For that hardware it should have better performance than the VESA driver. It comes packaged with openSUSE as part of xorg-x11-driver-video rpm. radeon - this is the free open source ATI "radeon" driver for moderately aged ATI hardware. For that hardware it should have better performance than the VESA driver. It comes packaged with openSUSE as part of the xorg-x11-driver-video rpm. radeonhd - this is the free opensourece ATI "radeonhd" driver for the latest ATI hardware. For that hardware it should have better performance than the VESA driver. It comes packaged with openSUSE in the file xorg-x11-driver-video-radeonhd rpm. fglrx - this is the proprietary free (as in free beer) ATI driver for the latest ATI hardware. For that hardware it should have better performance than all other graphic drivers, but it tends to be a fragile driver and many times a kernel or an xorg update will break it. In order to install it one must download it from the ATI web site (or from a special repository) and then do various hand tweaks to get it to work. It does NOT come with openSUSE. One can read about how to install this proprietary driver on the following link: ATI - openSUSE ATI dropping support for older cards Now ATI used to produce a propreitary "Catalyst" graphic driver for older ATI cards, but they no longer do that for the 2.6.31 kernel which comes in openSUSE-11.2 and comes in other Linux distributions. Hence for moderatorly aged ATI hardware, one can no longer get access to the very high performance proprietary ATI graphic driver. xorg.conf file in Linux In older openSUSE releases, it was necessary to have an /etc/xorg.conf file which defined the configuration needed for one's graphic card. As of openSUSE-11.2, the need to have an xorg.conf file was removed for many graphic cards. This was because "xorg" who code X window framework are moving away from requiring the xorg.conf file, but rather want to have the card configured automatically without that xorg.conf file. In such a case, the xorg software should automatically use the latest open source driver (either "radeon" or "radeonhd"). However the automatic recognition of graphic cards is still not reliable for all cards in openSUSE-11.2. In that case (where automatic graphic card recognition fails) one needs to create an xorg.conf file for the card to force a configuration, for if that xorg.conf file is available, then the xorg software will use it. Software to Create xorg.conf file There is software provided by ATI (comes with their driver) that can be used to configure the proprietary driver and create an /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. This package is called "aticonfig" . One should run that program from "run level 3" (more about "run level 3" later) with root permissions. There is also software provided by SuSE-GmbH in openSUSE that is used to generate the xorg.conf file for graphic drivers, which is called "sax2". One can run "sax2" with many options (but it must be run with root permissions). For example, to check what chip# one's graphic devices are, one can run: Code: sax2 -p pay attention to the chip, ... ie chip 0 (tpically if only one graphic device) or there may be a chip-0 and a chip-1 (if one has more than one graphic device). Run Level 3 Now typically, when reconfiguring a graphic card, it is best to do this NOT in X window, but rather in the full screen terminal run level 3. One boots to run level 3 by pressing "3" (no quotes) when the very first menu (the initial grub boot menu) appears. By pressing "3" one will see the "3" appear in the options line. Then boot normally. That brings one to a full screen text login. Login as a regular user. Then after logged in, type "su" (no quotes - enter root password) to switch users to the administrator/root. Creating the xorg.conf file If one wishes to force sax2 to create an xorg.conf file for the vesa driver, then one would type in run level 3 (NOT in X window): Code: sax2 -r -m 0=vesa or Code: sax2 -r -m 1=vesa where the 0 or 1 depends on what graphic chip one is trying to configure. The "-r" option tells sax2 to ignore any previous created xorg.conf file, and overwrite/replace it. Or, another example, if one wishes to force sax2 to create an xorg.conf file for the open source free radeonhd driver, then one would type in run level 3 (NOT in X window): Code: sax2 -r -m 0=radeonhd or Code: sax2 -r -m 1=radeonhd where the 0 or 1 depends on what graphic chip one is trying to configure. The "-r" option tells sax2 to ignore any previous created xorg.conf file, and overwrite/replace it. Instead of "vesa" or "radeonhd", dependant on ones hardware, one can try "fbdev", "ati", "mach64", "r128", "radeon" or "fglrx" (where fglrx requires extra rpms/packages installed). If one has the proprietary ATI driver installed (via the rpm) and one wished to use the ATI software (instead of sax2) to configure the proprietary nvidia driver and create the xorg.conf file, one would type something like (with root permissions): Code: aticonfig --initial ... there are also other input values one can use to tune the application of "aticonfig" for creation of the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. Once aticonfig or sax2 is complete, one can restart from run level 3 by typing "shutdown -r now" (with root permissions) and then let the reboot continue to see if the graphic card configuration worked. Hopefully that gives some practical theory so that users can understand the recommendations that have been given in various posts by our forum members. (Distributions)