Last week I bought a new video card. For those who care about such things, it’s a Sapphire Radeon 9600 Atlantis 256MB, which is actually a 9600 Pro chip even though they don’t seem to mention it. This was a good (but not great) card a year ago. There are certainly much faster cards out there nowadays, but this is still a respectable card capable of handling all but the very most demanding sorts of games (which I don’t play anyway) at decent speeds, and the price is right.

The interesting part, though, is how well the upgrade went. The first part was just getting the card physically into vilya, which is kind of small and was already pretty full. I got through that with only the usual amount of wrestling, though, and moved on to software. Windows XP came first, and didn’t disappoint. The first time it came up at low resolution, and wouldn’t switch to a higher one (though it thought it did) until I rebooted, but other than that it was fine. Then I hunkered down to get the card working under Linux. I’ve commented before on how much of a pain it can be to configure video under Linux, but I was pleasantly surprised there too. I made what seemed to be the most obvious changes to XF86Config, based on knowing the driver name and looking in /proc/pci, and it worked first time…maybe even a little easier than in Windows (no rebooting necessary). Total elapsed time was about an hour and a half, which is far less time than I expected.

I’ve noticed two other things since the upgrade. The latest XFree86 driver update for the built-in Savage video introduced a problem that caused the left edge of the screen to go all jittery whenever I did anything that generated a lot of interrupts or bus activity (e.g. moving a window around, downloading a large file). I had tried a couple of things to see if I could make it go away, but then I just started spending more time in Windows where the problem didn’t exist. That problem is obviously gone. The other thing is that operations I wouldn’t expect to be affected seem to be faster. I wouldn’t expect web browsing to be different, for example, but it definitely seems snappier than before (especially under Windows). Overall, this upgrade – unlike so many others – has been a very positive experience.