Newly Minted NVidia Fan

Yesterday, I finally achieved a goal I’d been working on for a long time: getting MythTV to display on our family room TV.

So what changed that made the impossible possible? One thing changed: the video card in the computer by the TV. It’s now a cheapo NVidia GeForce 4 MX card, instead of a super-expensive (at the time) ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon.

Windows users aren’t used to the troubles Linux users often endure getting hardware to work. When it works, it usually works very well, better even than in Windows. When it doesn’t just work, it’s usually a huge effort to get working, and sometimes there’s just nothing you can do except dump the hardware on EBay and get something else.

When I bought the ATI card, I had been reading some enthusiastic reviews of the card. ATI was, at the time, the most Linux-cooperative graphics card company, and while no support existed yet for the card’s cool TV recording and TV-out features, everyone assumed it would be just a matter of time.

Well, it’s been several years since then, and ATI was in the process of changing the way they did Linux support. The documentation they normally released to open-source driver writers never came. There were efforts to reverse-engineer the card, with varying success. Soon after, ATI announced that they would be providing their own proprietary driver for newer cards, making their Linux support worse than NVidia’s. (NVidia also does proprietary drivers, but the drivers are at least decent and support all of the card’s functionality; with the ATI drivers, for example, you can’t have both accelerated 3D and accelerated video support at the same time.) Video capture was not, and still isn’t available; ATI actually sends people to the reverse-engineering project above for that. And my card was too old to be supported by the proprietary driver.

To get an idea of the impact of ATI’s new Linux support policies, check out this page, which documents video input for ATI cards based on the older Mach64 and Rage chips, with this page, which documents video input for ATI cards based on the newer Radeon chips. The process for older chips is simple, as Linux driver support goes: download the module, build it, load it, use it. By contrast, the Radeon process has sections for “conservative”, “advanced”, and “adventurous”, where “adventurous” means “using TV-out”, and everything depends on using their special program for doing video input. Forget about using MythTV with this.

So, after months of very frustrating episodes of trying to get TV-out working on my ATI card (never mind video input), I finally broke down and bought the NVidia card. Total time to get TV-out working on the NVidia: about three hours, most of which was occupied in getting my thick S-Video cable past a metal bar in my case.

Lessons learned: avoid “do-everything” integrated hardware in favor of single-purpose hardware; never, ever, buy hardware without knowing that it will work that day; and stay away from ATI, at least for now.

2 thoughts on “Newly Minted NVidia Fan

  1. Wow! ATI is great! I use ATI video! I\’ve never had any problems. Maybe, you problem is not in hardware? Maybe, in you?

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