If It Ain’t Broke…


This is my basement desktop unit that I built a couple of years ago. It’s fast and works pretty well. It was cheap to build because it uses AMD components – the processor actually is an APU – combines video and general computing on the same chip. And the operating system cost nothing.

It runs Linux – an operating system that powers a great number of Internet servers and companies like Amazon and Facebook. Linux was also the basis of Android – you may have heard of Android if you have a non-Apple smartphone or tablet.

You can also download and install a desktop version of Linux that looks a lot like Windows 7, works great for email, web surfing, office tasks, is safe and secure, fast, and above all is free. I saved at least $100 by using Linux on my homebuilt system. What’s not to like?

One problem you might run into is when you upgrade a piece of hardware in the box. 90% of the folks who run PCs are using Windows, so most hardware is designed for that. Some of it works with Linux and some does not – you have to research ahead of time.

My grandson uses the box to play video games in a browser and sometimes the games are a bit slow –  I decided I should maybe upgrade the video. The old video in the APU dates back to 2012 and wasn’t that powerful to begin with.

I carefully chose a new video card – mature technology that should work, although it has been upgraded with larger video memory and faster speed. It is AMD designed just like the APU, but faster and more powerful.

Linux has two kinds of video drivers – one that is developed by the community and called “open source” and the other that the video card manufacturer provides called “proprietary.” The open source driver is your first choice and in general the AMD based one is very good. I have used it for years.

So I plugged in the card, started the machine and – zero. I had no 3D acceleration from the card at all although the system recognized the new video card. As far as I can determine, the open source driver has not been updated to “see” this new card’s ID. Maybe it will in a future update to the software, but it doesn’t now.

So what to do? I installed the proprietary video card manufacturer’s driver and – instant Karma. 3D worked and the tests I did with 3D in the browser were much faster. I am sure my grandson will be pleased. All’s well that ends well.

So even after a careful search and choice of appropriate compatible technology I still ran into a glitch with Linux. Such is the life of a Linux user – in many cases the Linux motto should be: “If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.”

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