resolving video problems with K-L-Ubuntu and XFX Radeon 6850

I’ve been having all kinds of video issues since I purchased my new hardware, the strangest is with the video card… Worst part is that I don’t have time to deal with this right now, I have a baby on the way (as in less than 15 days, and need everything working!).

Part of my new hardware purchase was an XFX Radeon 6850 cooler, quieter, lower power usage, and 20% performance increase, an upgrade from my XFX Radeon 4890 monster. I first installed windows 7 with my new hardware and had lots of problems. After I gave up on that, I moved to Linux (I used windows 7 first, because Ubuntu 11.10 was due out in 7 days and I did not feel like spending a week setting up my computer, just to upgrade it) and decided that I have always liked XFCE and LXDE as my default window manager in other linux distros and so I would give them a shot now. I downloaded the Beta 2 release of both versions of Ubuntu and tested them via the live CD. I decided on LXDE as my WM of choice and went with it. 13 or so days later I went to download LUbuntu.

Well, to start it was not available at 5am on the release day (eastern time, GMT -5), nor was it available at 11am. so I stopped checking and just decided to wait until later. about 7pm I decided to check again, and Ubuntu 11.10 was available, and after hunting repositories, and it took 5 or 6, I finally found LUbuntu 11.10 non-beta on one of them. I of course chose the torrent file, and while it was still a bit slow (I’ve seen downloads on my computer hit 1.84Mb/s and this even via torrent was crawling along at 287Kb/s) it was going along well enough. I also started Kubuntu at the same time as you never know, and I used KUbuntu for years before I switched from Windows.

The installation went fine, other than the fact that my network adapter was not working (I expected this from the live CD and was prepared with a driver from the chipset vendor. After installation I put the NIC driver on the system, still no internet… I did a lot of searching and spent several hours trying to get the internal adapter working, no dice (even found other users who had the same motherboard and were not having issues after downloading the driver…) finally I got tired of it, I have not had a completely working computer in almost 2 weeks, and work (personal work) was starting to back up to enormous quantities and you could no longer see the top of my desk! So, I grabbed an old 1GB NiC out of the closet in my box ‘o parts, and slapped it in the computer, rebooted, disabled the on-board NiC and boom everything worked. (just a note, I did have the exact same issues in Windows, except the MB CD has Win7 drivers, and they worked). I downloaded the new AMD Radeon drivers and they installed fine, had my two monitors running, even got VMWare workstation working with only 2-3 days worth of research and troubleshooting.

Now I was happily installing my applications and setting everything up, that is when I noticed the lack of GUI system settings applications. Sure there are plenty out there, but most wanted me to install Gnome2 or nearly all of KDE to get them working. All I wanted was:

  1. To be able to see in real time the CPU usage of all 6 cores at the same time, with or without a graph.
  2. To customize my power settings so the monitor stopped cutting off every 15 minutes (I set the default time out to 180, in case I am watching a movie, as not all players stop the screen saver).
  3. To be able to change alternatives without installing half of Gnome2.
  4. To have the settings I changed in AMDCCLE actually save! and to be able to use them!
  5. There were some other things, but I can’t think of them now, I’ll add them if/when I remember.

I know most of what I want can be done from the command line, and I was doing some of it from there, but some of the things I wanted to make changes to, without using a GUI app, I did not know where all the setting are located, as they are not always in the same directory. (try editing Grub settings if you don’t believe me, they are located in 4 different places!) and I always miss something… So I decided to install KDE over top of LUbuntu, that way I could use LXDE when I wanted to, but I already knew where the settings and plasmoids were that I needed to do the other things I wanted. Not to mention at this point I was going on 3 weeks without a working computer. (as of when I was writing this, it has been 25 days since my new hardware was ordered and I had 2 day shipping on that!). Installation went well, although it missed a few things from just running : sudo apt-get install kde-desktop but I was able to resolve those with a sudo apt-get -f install and all seemed good.

Then about 3 days later something happened. I was working on setting up an application, I cannot remember what, and I was watching a pre-recorded TV show at the same time. suddenly my screen froze, mouse worked, but no response from the Keyboard. Since then I have not had a working display, and that was 6 days ago. Nothing has worked, I’ve even reinstalled KUbuntu from the KUbunutu install disk. I still cannot get my video working, I get video from one screen, a little less than half the time, the rest of the time the desktop fails to load, or I get a blinking blue or flashing white display. I’ve done a LOT trying to get it working, in fact I have not spent less than 6 hours a day trying to get it working, for 6 days! I’ve tried reinstalling LUbuntu, KUbuntu (the installer keeps crashing during partitioning, so I’ve given up on that one), and when I started writing this I was installing Ubuntu, even though I am not a fan of Unity. I’ve even gone so far as to unplug one of my monitors, thinking having two was causing the issues (during every attempt to reinstall the AMD drivers in the last 3 days I have been getting a message “configuration has more monitor than detected” and this was after using the auto configure to setup the configuration…). I’ve followed the sticky display issues during upgrade post on the Ubuntu Forums, not much there of use after spending 4 days googling the issue already. Nothing seems to fix it, not even copying my old, “working” xorg.conf file. part of the problem is that Ubuntu no longer requires an xorg.conf file, part of the problem is that the AMDCCCLE only saves in the home folder of the user who ran it (if you run it with root privileges, which are needed to make changes, it saves it in Root’s home folder!), but Ubuntu uses the file (if it exists) from /etc/X11! no wonder nothing was working… (any settings changes did not take affect when I made them from the GUI, and if I closed the AMDCCLE and relaunched it, they were reset to the defaults; however using the command line worked fine… the first time.).

Right now, with a clean installation (several posters on the Ubuntu forums have reported this resolved their issues, and nothing else), I am giving it a go, I only have 1 monitor connected right now, and still have to get most of my applications working again, but at least I have a desktop running, internet access, video drivers installed, and it has not crashed yet. I have not completely ruled out a crappy (but quite expensive) motherboard. A bit upset, I spent more on the upgrades for my computer, than I spent on my computer (which I built from parts, like always, in my life I’ve only ever bought 1 pre-assembled computer, and that was because my wife wanted it. and it lasted 5 years without upgrades and cost more than twice what I spent building this one, before my new upgrades anyway), and when I bought it everything was top of the line (except the video card and it was not too far down the list) and it almost all worked right away, but i never had any problems like I do now.

So, back to trying to get things running again. I’ll comment on the current status later if all is well, else I’ll post more headaches.


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