[Discuss] Does somebody here have available an older low-end Linux-compatible PCIe graphics card?

Alan W. Irwin Alan.W.Irwin1234 at gmail.com
Fri May 25 11:29:03 PDT 2018

The reason I ask about the availability of older, low-end Linux
graphics cards is I have having lock-up trouble (three lock ups
yesterday) with the AMD RX 550 graphics card on my new computer.  So I
would be willing to pay a reasonable price to acquire a used
Linux-compatible PCIe-based graphics card to see if that change
stabilizes my new computer.

The AMD RX 550 was released for sale last year and almost immediately
got an excellent Linux review at Phoronix.  So I assumed it would be
OK for my new system since generally although that site is focussed on
performance, they do go out of their way to mention any lock ups that
occur during their extensive testing and apparently there were none.
But in retrospect the Linux environment Phoronix was using was cutting
edge a year ago, and Debian is fairly conservative about how quickly
they propagate cutting-edge stuff to even the Debian Testing rolling
release I am using at the moment.  So I assume it will be a matter of
several months or more before Debian Testing is fully ready to support
this one-year old graphics card.

By the way, when it is working the card fully justifies the write-up
at Phoronix because I have never seen such good looking computer videos before
(e.g., the volcanic eruption videos you can currently see on The
Weather Network).  But despite those good-looking videos I am pretty
sure it is the card that is the source of the lock ups that are
occurring on the new computer because those always (so far at least)
only occur in X (as opposed to the legacy console mode also supported
by the card and which uses much less card functionality than X).  All
the lock ups require at least a system reset to regain control of the
graphics.  Sometimes before the reset the system is completely dead
(cannot even ping to it).  Other times, I can ssh into the new
computer from my old one and shutdown before the required reset.  But
on one occasion after such a reset the computer could not even display
to my monitor during the POST phase, and I had to power down for
several minutes (as opposed to the extremely short power down you get
with a system reset) before the POST phase would display to my
monitor.  So an obvious concern that crossed my mind after that
last-chance total power down finally made the card work again, is
whatever is wrong with the Debian testing support of the RX 550 might
accidentally turn that graphics card into a brick..

Of course, it is possible that some non-graphics hardware issue on my
new system is the source of the lock ups.  But some extensive file
transfers (with the rsync --checksum option used for a second rsync to
confirm all was well with the first rsync) indicate good overall (cpu,
memory, and motherboard) reliability.

Also, after the 3 lock ups yesterday, I have decided to test the new
system for a while by continuing to do all my work on it but with the X
display being done remotely using my old computer.  So in this mode,
the only strain on the RX 550 is whatever functionality it needs to
display the login prompt in console mode after the latest boot.  The
longest the computer has been up while doing its own X display is 2
days.  So if I can keep the new computer up (while doing all my work
on it other than X display) for a week or so, I think that will be
pretty clear evidence that it is either the RX 550 hardware for this
particular card (i.e., I was sold a card with a manufacturing defect)
or more likely the kernel and X software for Debian testing that
currently drives that card that is the issue.

Alan W. Irwin

Astronomical research affiliation with Department of Physics and Astronomy,
University of Victoria (astrowww.phys.uvic.ca).

Programming affiliations with the FreeEOS equation-of-state
implementation for stellar interiors (freeeos.sf.net); the Time
Ephemerides project (timeephem.sf.net); PLplot scientific plotting
software package (plplot.sf.net); the libLASi project
(unifont.org/lasi); the Loads of Linux Links project (loll.sf.net);
and the Linux Brochure Project (lbproject.sf.net).

Linux-powered Science

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