Switching video cards with Ubuntu/Xorg

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2009-08-13

Speaking of broken hardware, I tracked down the source of my most recent random lockups to a flaky old video card.

The card in question is an ATI Radeon 9200 (RV280) card that I bought, based on a friend's recommendation, when I built the system I'm using. It worked well enough—that is, I didn't have to think about it—until a couple of weeks ago, when playing video for any length of time began to freeze the system. Hassath's computer is having motherboard trouble, so she let me borrow her nVidia GeForce FX 5200 card to check if that made the lockups go away.

I swapped in the nVidia card and braced for a fight with Xorg, but to my surprise, all I needed to do was to install the "xserver-xorg-video-nv" package. X started up with no complaints whatsoever, and the system has been stable ever since. That's definitely not how my average adventure with hardware goes.

I remember having to hunt a long time in the Nehru Place market to find the Radeon card (the 9200 chipset was already quite old then). Replacing Hassath's nVidia card today was a similar adventure. Every video card in common use these days has a fan, and we had to look very hard to find a plain old AGP card with a heatsink instead.

But we found a suitable replacement in the end; and now our only remaining source of entertainment is the motherboard problem.

Update: Things have been stable since I started using the nVidia card, but it came with a curious side-effect. My system will no longer reboot cleanly. It pauses right before I would expect it to restart. I have to shut it down and restart it every time. I know it's the card's fault because Hassath's machine did (or rather, didn't do) the same thing, but works fine now with the new card. And she won't let me switch the cards around again.