Lessons learned – ASUS M4A79XTD EVO

I built this thing a few months ago, and would like to give back to the internet what I have learned along the way.  So that’s a quad-core AMD/ATI 5850 rig that clocks in under 850$ after rebates.  Stock cooling, stock clocks, and 1 Radeon 5850 until they drop under the 200$ mark.  Now if only Nvidia could get their bananas in a circle so that ATI starts a price war.
Problem 1:  No internet.  I was sharing internet with my neighbor and running CAT 5 between our houses would have given my block a certain Eua de FOB that I try to avoid so much.

Eua de FOB

Solution1:  Bought me my {02:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR5001 Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01)}  Plugged it in below my video card, and Ubuntu immediately had it up and running with its ATH5K module. It still doesn’t work in Windows 7.  It never will either, because Atheros has stopped releasing drivers for this chip.  Having put that out there, do not buy the Abit WLP-01 WLAN card. It’s on Newegg for pennies and I bought it at a local hardware shop for under 10$. You will get no Windows support for it.

Problem 2:  GRUB update killed Windows 7.

Upgraded Ubuntu from 9.04 to 10.04.  Grub inched up a version, and I was not paying attention to the differences between the packages.  Somehow I told dpkg to install GRUB to every partition. Yep. Blindly clicking OK through GUIs.  2 physical hard drives; the windows boot loader got killed.  I couldn’t fix the Win7 boot partition, and neither could Windows nor the FIXMBR application.  I couldn’t make GRUB or LILO boot Win7, because it needs that special windows sauce.

Solution 2:  Reimage with Windows.  Pay attention when performing OS upgrades, especially when the bootloader gets upgraded.   Know how to configure GRUB and Lilo.

Problem 3:  Windows 7 x64 cannot find a working driver for the motherboard’s (M4A79XTD) onboard ethernet.   That’d be the {Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller}.  No solution yet, only problems with windows.  ASUS support sucks, Realtek drivers suck, and Windows sucks.  I’ve been through all the forum, release notes, and manual installs you could shake a fist at.  Yet it works flawlessly under a variant of Debian x64 with the r8169 module.  Windows 7 is now 0/2 on driving NICs.

Evening Update:  Solution 3:  It works with no explanation.  A few reboot cycles and it started working with the latest v18 driver from Realtek’s support site.

Problem 4:  FGLRX module horrors.

A lot of people accuse ATI of having bad linux drivers.  This is horseshit.  Their shit works.  If you’re smart enough to install it correctly.  There are a few ways to do this.  A vanilla install of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, combined with updates, and then activation restricted drivers should now do the trick.  Of course that’s not the way I did it.  I had manually installed the ATI drivers on the initial install.  Upgrades mean new kernels, and the new kernel didn’t play with the old, manually installed modules well.  As in no video output.  Not only that, I could uninstall the drivers, and the control panel (amdcccle) easily, but not the base of all of it, FGLRX.  I couldn’t even force the uninstall with dpkg.

Solution 4:  Use ATI’s automated driver building package to force install ATI drivers, reboot, then rerun the installation to cleanly remove fglrx. Reboot. After that use Ubuntu’s front-end for proprietary drivers to install fglrx and amdcccle. After this kernel upgrades will not kill graphics output.

Problem 5:  No HDMI audio output.

I have a 50″ HDTV as my main monitor.  It’s plugged in via HDMI cable.  I could not get the freaking sound to go out via the video card to my monitor, and was looking into all sorts of stuff, like making sure ATI’s linux drivers supported audio over HDMI.  They do.

Solution 5: Open the volume control panel you n00b.  Set the output device.

It really was this simple. ATI's drivers worked from the get go. No reading of release notes was necessary.

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