MaW's Musings

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Welcome to another edition of MaW's Musings, the first of 2002! Firstly, a very happy new year to you all. Since last week, we've entered another year and my new graphics card has arrived. Because it's so great, I'll talk about it first.

The Delights of Owning a GeForce3 Ti200...

...don't compare in the slightest to the delights of owning a GeForce3 Ti500, but they come pretty close and far outweigh the delights of owning a 3df/x Voodoo4 4500AGP like I did before.

Installing the card was incredibly simple - swap them over and Windows XP changed drivers all by itself to standard VGA - so therefore there's no need to do that before taking the old card out like there used to be. Linux didn't care because my system boots in plain old text mode and thus requires no fancy drivers or knowledge of the graphics card before entering interactive mode - after which things can be changed.

With the new card in (just - it's bigger than my old one and some IDE cables had to be shunted around to get it in), I booted into Windows XP first and installed the drivers I'd downloaded from nVidia's website the previous day. People are always saying that using the latest nVidia drivers is generally better than using the ones that come with the card, and since the CD doesn't have XP drivers on it anyway, I went for that option first. With the new drivers in and a reboot later things were running just as well as with the old card. Then I started Emperor: Battle for Dune and admired the frame rate.

Then I turned up the detail and resolution, and continued to admire the frame rate.

The one drawback with that particular game is that it doesn't know how to use the GeForce3's ability to calculate shadows, so having high shadow detail taxes my CPU a bit too much to play the game well, which is a shame because it looks so cool. Oh well.

So, feeling very happy, I booted Linux and installed the nVidia drivers for that, also downloaded from their website. It is at this point that one encounters a moral conflict - nVidia's drivers are closed-source, but far, far better than the Open Source nv driver which comes with XFree86. I'm not really all that bothered by the closed-source nVidia drivers since they're available for free and, to put it frankly, they're available at all1. Installing them was a sinch - untar the GLX and kernel tarballs in /usr/src (as root), and follow the instructions. The GLX module made sure all my OpenGL libraries pointed to the new nVidia hardware-accelerated ones it provides, then dumped the GLX driver into the right place for X to use it. The kernel module installed itself happily, and all I have to remember to do is to re-run the installer every time I change kernel versions, or the module will be in the wrong place2. All that was needed then was to edit /etc/X11/XF86Config to use the new card with the nvidia driver and to start X.

I'll say no more about the 3D acceleration speed, I've never seen anything like it in anything that's not Windows before.

I purchased Return to Castle Wolfenstein using my Christmas money, and was seriously, seriously impressed by the visuals made possible by the new card. And the scary thing is, it's not even using the fanciest parts of the GPU because the game's too old. It'll be up to Unreal II to do that. I can't wait.

Oh yes, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is also to be recommended for its gameplay, which is most compelling. Plus the cool sniper rifles... gotta love those.

Everything Else

Despite some help on my Space from Mina and Croz, no name has yet been found that my duck likes (see last week and my journal). Ideas are still welcome - he'll be coming to the meetup on the 26th of January, so let's make him feel welcome shall we?

That's it. Sorry, I'm just too excited about my graphics card. Except to mention that this morning I learned a lot about references in Perl. They're okay, but mildly obscure in syntax while learning them. Got the hang of it now though!

Until next week, when I might not talk about so much techy stuff (if you're lucky...)


03.01.02. Front Page

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1Of course, if nVidia released the source code for their drivers, they could be ported to FreeBSD...2Did that this morning - Linux booted fine, but X wouldn't start, so it was quite an easy error to recover from.

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