Cap'n Arbyte's
Main page

FAQ
Biography
Contact
Essays
Zany stuff
Best blog articles
Technical articles
Blog archives

Advertisements


Blogroll


Non-blog sites
(coming soon)
Friends
(coming soon)

Computers are Too Complicated

In 2001 I built two nearly identical computers. Over the last year they've both failed in exactly the same way — dim video accompanied by lots of full-screen-width horizontal blurring. The image was legible but no fun to work with. One advantage of having two nearly identical machines is that it makes problem isolation pretty straightforward, and I quickly discovered that the video card was the component at fault.

I don't have any background in analog electronics (I studied computer science) but reliable sources inform me that this might be something easy like a grounding problem. Or it might be something worse. In either case, I didn't care to fix the video cards because (1) they weren't reliable in the first place so they'd likely fail again and (2) new ones are cheap anyway.

When the first video card went bad I just switched most of my work to the other computer — no problem. When the other machine's video card went bad I could still get all my work done remotely on my laptop, through VNC, although it's a bit slower than being on the console.

Laptops are fabulous (I can blog from the comfort of my bed!) but my computer room is ergonomically configured for working on a desktop. The keyboard tray is too small to hold my laptop, and that's the only surface at a comfortable height for typing. I decided to buy some new video cards.

Originally, both of the "broken" machines were running Red Hat Linux 7. When I brought the first machine back to life, I wiped the hard disk and installed OpenBSD 3.4. The installation was very easy and everything Just Worked™. Today I decided it was time to fix the second computer, my main workstation, where I do all my e-mail and blogging. It's still running Linux.

Not so easy.

I bought relatively old video cards (ATI Radeon 7000) on the specific hope that they would be old enough that the operating system would support them. My version of OpenBSD is recent, and it does support the card… but my version of Red Hat Linux is old, and it doesn't. I need to upgrade XFree86 to support the card, but I've been stymied.

I downloaded the latest XFree86 packages but now I'm in "DLL hell":

glibc-devel < 2.2.3 conflicts with glibc-2.3.2-27.9.7
rpmlib(PartialHardlinkSets) ≤ 4.0.4-1 is needed by glibc-common-2.3.2-27.9.7
Glide3 ≥ 20010520 is needed by XFree86-4.3.0-2.90.55
kernel-drm = 4.3.0 is needed by XFree86-4.3.0-2.90.55
libexpat.so.0   is needed by XFree86-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfontconfig.so.1   is needed by XFree86-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfreetype.so.6   is needed by XFree86-4.3.0-2.90.55
libpng12.so.0   is needed by XFree86-4.3.0-2.90.55
fontconfig-devel ≥ 2.1 is needed by XFree86-devel-4.3.0-2.90.55
pkgconfig is needed by XFree86-devel-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfreetype.so.6   is needed by XFree86-font-utils-4.3.0-2.90.55
freetype ≥ 2.1.3-4 is needed by XFree86-libs-4.3.0-2.90.55
libexpat.so.0   is needed by XFree86-libs-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfontconfig.so.1   is needed by XFree86-libs-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfreetype.so.6   is needed by XFree86-libs-4.3.0-2.90.55
libexpat.so.0   is needed by XFree86-tools-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfontconfig.so.1   is needed by XFree86-tools-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfreetype.so.6   is needed by XFree86-tools-4.3.0-2.90.55
xinitrc ≥ 3.13 is needed by XFree86-xdm-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfreetype.so.6   is needed by XFree86-Xnest-4.3.0-2.90.55
libfreetype.so.6   is needed by XFree86-Xvfb-4.3.0-2.90.55

It's not obvious to me where I'm supposed to get those packages, and I haven't found any kind of friendly script that'll just Do The Right Thing™ automatically. So tonight I'm still blogging through VNC — but from my other desktop at my ergonomically-friendly desk, not from my laptop.

Can anyone tell me how to upgrade XF86 so it'll recognize my new video card without upgrading the entire operating system? I want this to be as little work and as little disruption as possible.

Tiny Island