Friday, August 11, 2006

Suse 10.0 ATI Graphics Driver - ATI Incorporated

Note: This is not a music review. Just so's you know.

Historically, NVidia was always the company that a Linux fanboy would rely on to get a graphics card that worked with Linux. Not that they worked really well (they didn't), or that all the features were ported (they weren't), or that they came with a reasonably open license (not so!), but at least you could plug in your card, rebuild your kernel, and be on your way. Of course when you needed to update your kernel there was a good chance you'd be screwed, but we were all used to that.

Hell, for the official distros there was often a script in place to make this a lot easier. All in all, not a bad way to live.

ATI is a relative newcomer to the Linux scene, and here at work I've been forced to use a PC with an ATI graphics card in it. I was pleased to find an install tool on ATI's web site that was supposed to make the driver installation a one-click affair. Unfortunately it didn't really live up to my expectations.

None of the features have been ported, it seems, except for OpenGL acceleration at depths up to and including 16 bits per pixel. The install process, which varies depending on what minor version of what distribution you're using, involves dropping to runlevel 3 and running two different command-line tools to reconfigure your X server. At least, that's what you have to do on SuSE 10.0. But that's fine, I can live with all of that.

What I just can't get over is the limitation that OpenGL acceleration is only available on display :0.0. WTF? I am reasonably certain that NVidia's driver will give you hardware acceleration on all local displays. This may seem like a small beef, but it's really ridiculous. I like to have one login session active for my root user, and one active for myself. I can switch between them by hitting ctrl-alt-, which sort of puts a barrier to me doing stupid things as root when I don't mean to. But now I have to make sure that I log in as myself first, or else I get no OpenGL direct rendering goodness. Piece of crap. If you're from the Windows world, think of this like only the first person who logs in gets to play Halflife.

What I'm trying to say here is that Linux fanboys should still stick with NVidia. ATI gets nothing but a big "fuck you!" from me. (For this, plus the fact that they haven't got a V4L driver for their capture cards, but that's a whole 'nother story)

Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

No picture because Blogger is fuxx0red

This album is catchy like you wouldn't believe. I was a little hesitant about it at first, it struck me as a bunch of airy-fairy fluff, but I got past that and now I'm really enjoying it. It's obvious that Stevens put a lot of effort into producing this work, with the many and varied instruments he plays. Apparently he's on a quest to write an album for each of the 50 states. It's an ambitious project and I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes with it.

There are a lot of really moving songs on this album. Casimir Pulaski Day, for instance, is a beautiful song about... well, I suppose it's about God and death. I'm not sure what The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is about, but it's another great song. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. is a chilling track that I just can't bring myself to listen to very often: being creeped out is not something I look forward to in a piece of music, but it's definitely powerful.

Overall an excellent album. It kind of falls apart for me towards the end (after They Are Night Zombies!!!, really) but even the tracks I'm not as fond of, I can still respect them on one level because it's all just good music. 4 starts / 5 endings.

P.S. I tried to get tickets to Stevens' concert here in Vancouver on 10/14, by way of compensating him for the music I stole, but it was sold out. Oh, well.

P.P.S. Man, talk about disillusionment. Apparently Stevens referenced some Woody Guthrie lyrics on one of his songs, and the Guthrie estate made him pay royalties. Jesus. Stick a fork in folk music, 'cause it's done. I mean, here's a guy, strongly religious, writing songs about America, could practically be Woody Guthrie raised from the dead, and he has to pay to sing "This Land is Your Land".

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Beastie Boys - Ill Communication

Ill Communication is an excellent album with a couple of low spots. In fact, if I could take two or three tracks off this disc, I think it'd be the first album I've reviewed here to get 5 stars. Sure Shot, Sabotage and Futterman's Rule are probably the highlights for me, Tough Guy and Heart Attack Man are the low points. Futterman's Rule in particular is one of those songs that I just never would've heard if I hadn't listened to the whole disc, and I still don't know how to classify it. It's good though. Sabotage was one of the first songs I ever had on MP3, I remember listening to it on the long, long weekend shifts at Dowco Internet.

I have a bit of a problem with Get it Together... maybe I'm just a square but it seems to me that white guys probably shouldn't go around dropping the n-bomb. All social implications aside, you just can't pull it off.

Anyways, this disc is just chok-a-blok full of phat beats and mad rhythms (that is what the kids are saying these days, isn't it?) and I strongly recommend it. 4 chicken fingers / 5 french fries.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The National - Alligator

I don't know what it is about this album that caused me not to like it too much. I think it was a bunch of little things, any of which I could tolerate on their own, but in combination they just ... well, they add up to an album that doesn't really do anything for me. For one thing, the lead singer sounds like he's got a belly full of valium and a mouth full of cotton balls. If you're trying to convince me that you're "lit up", maybe you'd better not do it in a monotone that would make Brad Roberts proud.

I found the lyrics to be a bit repetitive on a lot of these songs, Abel and Looking for Astronauts and Mr. November in particular. Again, a minor gripe, but it grates on me after a while.

Secret Meeting, the first track on the Album, was probably the high point for me. There's something appealing about a secret meeting in the basement of my brain. Dunno why. Anyways I will probably break with tradition and keep that track, but the rest of the album's gonna go. 2 beans / 5 anthills.

Update: Yeah, OK, Secret Meeting is staying for sure... it's been bouncing around my head for the last 24 hours.

Update: How depressing was it, Russ? It was SO depressing, I had to listen to Sea Change to cheer myself up! Ho-ho! Burn!