The ramblings of a Linux geek

Aug 17, 2009 - 5 minute read - Comments - Linux

New Computer, On the way!

Welcome Back

So for a few weeks now I have been trying to get the wife to let me get a new gaming desktop :).  When I first started looking at them newegg had an awesome motherboard/cpu combo that ended up with essentially a free motherboard.  Unfortunately, by the time I was able to purchase my new computer that combo deal was gone so I ended up paying more than I had hoped.. but I still think I did good for the computer I will be getting.

The Specs

MSI 770-C45 AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard – Retail $79.99
AMD Phenom II X4 945 Deneb 3.0GHz Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Processor Model HDX945WFGIBOX – Retail $169.99
SAPPHIRE VAPOR-X 100269VXL Radeon HD 4890 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card – Retail $199.99
Reaper HPC 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ3RPR16004GK – Retail $89.99
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive – OEM $56.99
COOLER MASTER Storm Scout SGC-2000-KKN1-GP Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case – Retail $89.99
COOLER MASTER UCP RS700-AAAAA3 700W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Power Supply – Retail $99.99
Total: $786.93 $741.93

Where possible, I linked to an external review of each item for your reading pleasure.  Using Newegg’s combo deals and promotions I saved only $45 off the total price, not as good as it could have been considering that MSI C45 was $70 off when bought with either the 945 or 955 CPU just 2 or 3 weeks ago.  Still, I think this is a pretty decent configuration for less than $750 shipped.

The first thing most people will notice is this is an AMD/ATI build.  For many, many years now I have been a die-hard Intel/Nvidia guy.  The older AMD’s were just too hot and we (father and I) had seen more than our share overheat and burn up on us.  Nvidia has pretty much held the only place in Linux 3D graphics drivers, and since I am a fan of Linux – ATI was never an option.

That leads me to the one big question mark on my new “Gaming” build – will this run in Linux?  Looking around the net now-a-days for ATI’s latest Linux developments lead me to this very promising review.  That does look very promising, especially considering that ATI has now released a good portion of their specs and 3D information, as well as some code, to the public and open source communities.  It was probably more of a dare than anything, since for years people screamed if they just openend their specs then magically perfect 3D drivers would be developed by the community.  Well, so far ATI is winning: That hasn’t happened.  But the fact that ATI is actively working on their proprietary drivers and helping the open source community bring theirs up to snuff gets a nod from me.  The problem, however, is that if you search any further you will come across several forum discussion relating to drivers even up to the newest catalyst 9.7 with complaints that range from artifacting, inability to work with desktop effects, complaints that ATI doesn’t support Fedora or Arch (some people just like to complain I think), and the biggest one: possible problems running the cards with Wine/Cedega/CXGames.

I personally do not use Desktop Effects, as in my opinion that is the biggest waste of CPU/GPU power in the world, so those problems should not be an issue for me.  I use Ubuntu Jaunty, which is officially supported by ATI, so if these will work I have the best possible chance.  The most concerning one is that nobody does reviews or benchmarks on GPU’s running non-native games.  That review above was impressive; but used all native applications for testing, which is great – but doesn’t show me what I need.  Like most people, I want to be able to game on my Linux system, and for most games this is only possible using a third party application – and as such I have a (legal) copy of both the cost (Cedega/CXGames) and the free Wine.  So, that is what I will do.  I expect the system (barring any problems with newegg) in 2-3 days, and will have it built the day I get it I am sure.  I do not currently have access to any of the good benchmark games that I’d like to run through (left 4 dead, crysis: warhead, fallout 3) and will need to find me a copy to test.  Left 4 Dead should return results, as at least with Cedega – it is officially certified to work.  Fallout 3 and Crysis: Warhead both have a mixed bag from cedega, cxgames, to wine with known not to work, or works with issues.

So keep me bookmarked, I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks to have a better look at my new system. Which will also give a picture of what the gaming scene looks like with both Linux, and ATI. I am hopeful I will get this to work, but I am realistic and suspicious on whether it will work “well”.

Quick Update – New System

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