January 15, 2008
After a bit of frustration with my Nvidia GeForce4 video card, I broke down and spent $26 on a ATI Radeon 9800 AGP card. After getting the correct driver for the ATI card, the video problem I was having with Ubuntu has been solved. No more locking up or freezing during 3D video games. At this point, I don't know if the problem was with Ubuntu, or with the Nvidia card itself, but knowing that the video card's cooling fan was malfunctioning, I suspect that the video card may have been to blame.
Having the correct driver for the ATI card was necessary -- when first installing Ubuntu 7.10 with the ATI card installed, the screen was... weird. The colors were off, and the screen seemed to extend a good 20% beyond the left side, but unlike the situation where you simply have an oversided desktop, moving the mouse beyond the edge would not cause the screen to follow. Fortunately, the "Restricted Driver Module" icon shows up on the right side of the screen, allowing me to install the necessary driver. As a side note, I have the habit of turning off the restricted driver module (using the Synaptic Package Manager and uninstalling everything that says "restricted" in it), and then installing the video driver manually.
For about a year, I've owned Battlefield 2, which is a 3D first-person shooter game based on military battles. I've owned it, but I haven't been able to play it, as my old video card wasn't compatible with the game. With the new card, the game is now available to me... except that the game won't play on Ubuntu. In order to play it, I have to have Windows XP.
The solution: Dual Boot.
It's no secret that you can install both Windows XP and Ubuntu on a single machine, and boot into one or the other when you reboot the computer. It is, however, a little tricky. It requires a bit of hackery and lots of steps, which I found on this handy site.
The only problem with dual booting is that my primary hard drive is tiny. At 10 GB, it's about big enough to hold a single operating system. Most guides recommend having a minimum of 30 GB for dual booting, but before I dropped another $30 or so on a larger hard drive, I wanted to first make sure that I could successfully install both Windows XP and Ubuntu on my computer.
The installation went out without a hitch. It took a while, since I decided to upgrade (again) to Ubuntu 7.10, so I had to sit around for the installation of two operating systems. Booting into both was a breeze, but I discovered a significant problem with XP: no drivers for my audio card and network card. My ASUS motherboard comes with a driver CD that I've long since thrown away, and since I've been using Ubuntu, I'd forgotten about it. Ubuntu loads the audio and network devices without asking for extra software. XP, on the other hand, has no clue what to do with the devices without the appropriate driver CD, and since XP couldn't use the network card, I couldn't get online to download the what I needed. Frustrating. Fortunately, having both XP and Ubuntu on my system allowed me to reboot into Ubuntu, which let me get online to download the XP drivers.
After downloading the drivers and saving them to a secondary hard drive, I was able to boot back into XP, install the drivers, and get online.
Of course, I'll have to do all this over again once I get a larger hard drive... but at least I know that I can do it, and that it isn't too terribly difficult. And now that I have access to XP in addition to Ubuntu, I can do several other things that Ubuntu can't -- I can view online movies through Netflix, and I can use Costco's online photo-book creator software. Both Netflix and Costco (plus hundreds of other sites) require Windows to access their some of their content.