LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

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LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:37 pm

I just downloaded LMDE 201403 Mate [release candidate - update pack 8] and ran live on two different PCs.

It ran perfectly and the real surprise was that it ran on a low performance nine year old PC with SIS graphics. Many Ubuntu based distributions have had serious problems with SIS graphics.

Does anyone know how LMDE supports SIS graphics? Has that support always been there or is it new?

Thanks for any input.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby wayne128 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 7:30 pm

perhaps it is the older kernel..
check what is the kernel version you are running..
compare with those ubuntu kernel that does not work with SIS..
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby Xironman on Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:18 am

The SiS driver was removed in update 8, as it is not supported by DRI2.

I am using Debian 7.4 on my old SiS laptop, which works nicely out of the box.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Sat Apr 26, 2014 3:29 pm

Thanks all for the help.

I'll check the Debian and Ubuntu kernel versions and see what that indicates. I hadn't realized that those two versions could be compared.

If SIS graphics support was removed in Update 8 then I wonder how I ran LMDE 201403 MATE with UP8. The other interesting thing is that I also tried LMDE 201403 Cinnamon and it ran also but with a warning about software rendering. That could be the result of no 3D drivers available for SIS graphics cards.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby DrHu on Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:13 pm

It's probably going to be old stuff..
http://w3.sis.com/support/linux_old.htm
http://www.winischhofer.net/linuxsispart1.shtml

Possibly need to compile a new kernel to includep
http://cateee.net/lkddb/web-lkddb/DRM_SIS.html
http://www.gentoo-wiki.info/Framebuffer
--you might be able to include it with some kernel building..
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Sat Apr 26, 2014 5:57 pm

DrHu - Thanks for the help. As someone new to Linux, working with the Kernel would be beyond my current ability.

I happen to have SIS 661FX graphics but I assume the different SIS part numbers use the same drivers. My understanding is that SIS graphics was very popular at one time but is probably slowly disappearing now.

In fact, I should simply move on to a newer computer or possibly add a video card to replace the SIS motherboard graphics. However, at the moment it is convenient to learn Linux on this nine year old computer that was formerly used with Windows XP.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby bobafetthotmail on Sat May 03, 2014 7:50 pm

any decent linux OS can operate more or less any card that is still technically operational, as long as it is only doing 2D work.

If you need to run 3D programs or use the hardware accelerators on the card, then you need a better driver. Afaik there is no 3D acceleration for that graphics anyway because the drivers for that are closed-source (and long dead).

Cinnamon needs a card that supports some version of OpenGl, I think 2.0, to do some eye candy stuff.

Since that graphics is wildly unlikely to even support OpenGl 1.4, even if you recompile a driver it will still complain and stay in "software rendering".

MATE always runs on the CPU ("software rendering"), so does not care of the card. So does XFCE and quite a few other light desktop environments (user interfaces).
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Sun May 04, 2014 12:29 am

bobafetthotmail wrote:Cinnamon needs a card that supports some version of OpenGl, I think 2.0, to do some eye candy stuff. Since that graphics is wildly unlikely to even support OpenGl 1.4, even if you recompile a driver it will still complain and stay in "software rendering".

MATE always runs on the CPU ("software rendering"), so does not care of the card. So does XFCE and quite a few other light desktop environments (user interfaces).

Thanks very much for that information. Your comments answer several questions that I've had for some time.

I suspected that the lightweight desktops might use the CPU for rendering but wasn't sure. My Linux computer has a single core Celeron processor that is well past its day. Running WinXP the CPU often ran at 50-100% utilization and was overloaded. I can sense the slowness running Linux as well.

I had wondered if adding a graphics card might help and if I understand your points it would have no impact on the lightweight Linux desktops. However, I assume it would help if running Cinnamon or any 3D desktop and the appropriate drivers were available.

Maybe the best bet for the lightweight distros would be to pull out the Celeron and replace it with a dual core Pentium processor designed for the same socket. I suspect that would speed things up considerably. Let me know if any of these conclusions are not correct.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby bobafetthotmail on Sun May 04, 2014 12:43 pm

Well, "software rendering" for Cinnamon means that it is trying to force the CPU to double as GPU too, and this causes slowdowns unless your CPU is (very) powerful.

For user interfaces that were never designed to use a GPU in the first place, "software rendering" is not slowing down the interface because everything was designed to be run on CPU. But some interfaces are heavier than others.

There are lighter interfaces like XFCE or LXDE, designed to be used on weak hardware. I like XFCE and it's my interface of choice even in modern (kinda) hardware. It has Wisker menu plugin that does the same as standard Cinnamon menu, but without any lag whatsoever.
Either is in official repositories so it's easy to pull down with Synaptic Package Manager, then on reboot you can choose to use the new interface by clicking on the gear icon in the white login window. Check that it does not try to delete anything else you have installed, especially cinnamon or Mate stuff.

XFCE is lighter but does not mean it will look like crap. You can get it to look like this without much effort http://linuxlibrary.org/linux-mint-16-x ... op-review/


If you manage to find the full CPU model name we can get a better idea of its actual power by looking up benchmarks of it or similar CPUs. From a quick glance, it seems most celerons are at around the same power level of the processor in my netbook (an Atom n455), which is running fine LMDE with XFCE (technically it can run Cinnamon too because it has an integrated graphics that is MUCH more modern than the SIS you have) CPU model is usually listed in the BIOS screens, otherwise writing a
Code: Select all
sudo lshw
(and writing your root password) will give a list of the hardware in that box. After a little while, as it needs to scan a bit.

Post the results, and use the Code button to keep the text tidy and readable.


You can probably get a card that has decent hardware accelerators for movies and flash player for VERY cheap, so that those tasks are no more handled by the weak processor, but apart from that, it's not going to matter much.

Any Pentium dual core (Pentium D and newer) will probably be better. Heck, I have my old rig with a Pentium D at 3.4 ghz and 2 GB of ram that runs Windows 7 much much better than it ever ran on XP. With a Geforce 6200 anyway. It's integrated VIA Unichrome runs only in XP and (2D-only) in linux.

Changing processors is easy but you must be sure that the motherboard supports the cpu you want. Having the same socket (I assume it's the 775 because you mention Pentium dual cores) does not mean it will run all those processors. Check the motherboard manufacturer's site to see the cpu compatibility list, and if you need to upgrade your motherboard's bios to support the new cpu.


I'm going to drop these general pieces of advice here, generic but always good.

Having a SATA hard drive spinning at 7200 rpm and having more than 512 MB of RAM helps tremendously.
SATA drives are faster than IDE ones (IDE is the wide ribbon cable) so the load times for most things are noticeably shorter, and the system seems more quick and responsive. SSD are the best in this field, but of course it's beyond overkill for that rig's current purpose.
I've seen pretty decent rigs (first generation quad cores) perform VERY bad just because of a crappy slow IDE hard drive, once swapped with a faster one (SATA) they were flying.

Having more than 512 MB of RAM means that the system has space to load most of its stuff into ram (ram caching), so that when you open menus and move around in the interface you don't need to wait for the assets to be loaded from a hard drive (which is much much slower than ram). If that is needed by a program, this cache is dumped. If the system has not enough ram, it starts using swap space (hard drive partition) to store stuff that can't fit in ram, but when this is happening the system lags a lot because hard drives are much slower than ram. Better than crashing, but not good.
Same story as with hard drives. Once the rig has a decent amount of RAM (around 1 GB for linux and 2 GB for Windows 7 and later), performance improves A LOT. XP is a piece of trash. Even with 4 GB of ram it still manages to use its swap and bog down performance for no real reason.

Since we are talking of ram caching, preload is a daemon (program that autostarts and runs in background) that preloads in ram most-used programs, according to a list it determines on its own, this helps improving perceived system responsiveness. You can find it in the official repos too, so Synaptic can install it too.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Sun May 04, 2014 2:37 pm

bobafetthotmail wrote:Post the results, and use the Code button to keep the text tidy and readable.

Thanks once again for all the helpful comments. I'm on a different system right now so will post information from the Motherboard Manual.

The CPU is the Celeron D 330J 2.66 Ghz with 16K L1 cache and 256K L2 cache. Motherboard is Gigabyte GA-8S661FXM-775. RAM is currently 1.5 GB.

The Motherboard will accept the Pentium 4 LGA775 CPU. Front Side Bus is 800/533 Mhz. These processors appear to be available at fairly low cost. However, I believe these processors are single core and not dual core as I thought yesterday. Larger L2 cache and higher clock rate on the Front Side Bus may still result in significant improvement. It looks like the BIOS specified CPU clock rate changes from 133 Mhz for the Celeron to 200 Mhz for the Pentium 4 assuming it supports the 800 Mhz FSB.

One limitation on any graphics card is that my only options are AGP Slot or Conventional PCI slot. However, there are a few AGP cards still available at reasonable prices.

I'm surprised that the SATA drives outperform EIDE by as much as you mentioned. I suspect that higher performance is for small and medium sized read and write operations perhaps helped by better disk caching and higher burst rates on the bus. Raw throughput for large transfers is probably very similar throttled by the raw transfer rate at the magnetic media. I'm assuming similar disk technology in both cases. On the other hand, maybe you are talking about more advanced technology at the media in the SATA drives.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby bobafetthotmail on Sun May 04, 2014 7:48 pm

Very well, this is enough. No need to post the result of that command. Can find specs easily with that info you just posted.

Ok, so the processor's score is around 300 points here http://www.passmark.com/cpubenchmark/cp ... GHz&id=642

which means that it's as powerful as my netbook's Atom N455 (score 280-ish), with the marked difference of consuming something like ten times as much power (or twice as much as my whole netbook). I say it's not going so bad here on my netbook with LMDE and XFCE, it's of course weak but does not lag when doing office stuff and internet browsing (can't play flash videos beyond 360p, but can play non-HD videos fine if in the hard drive). But I'm using a decent sata drive and 2 GB of ram.

Your motherboard seems to be available in two revisions in the manufacturer's site, 1.something and 2.0. Check the numbers printed on the board to see what revision it is and also look at what bios version it has. Depending on what revision it is, you can get an actual pentium D or just Pentium 4 with hyperthreading (a trick to disguise themselves as dual cores, better performance than being single core, worse than being actually dual cores).

In any case, look up the cpu you are looking to get in that site I linked above to get a rough estimate at how much better it is than what you have now. In most cases, performance should increase noticeably.
Also, make sure that the new cpu supports 64-bit operating systems (for future-proofing and to try out 64-bit linux distros), and that the TDP (thermal design power, or how much heat it generates) is close or the same as the cpu you have already otherwise you may need to upgrade the cooler too. For example the Pentium 4 661 is ok, any Pentium D is close enough, the pentium 4 670 is too high.

I modded a bit the cooler on my old Pentium D to be able to cool it with the air pushed by a 20cm-diameter (thus very silent) ducted fan I had around, although now I cannot close the side of the case lol. Just to say that if you don't mind ghetto solutions, it's doable to run the PC in near silence or upgrade the cooling system without buying an actual high-end cooler.

However, there are a few AGP cards still available at reasonable prices.
ATI abandoned AGP interface a bit later than Nvidia, so you can find more powerful cards with OpenGL 2.0 and even native HDMI ports. Also ATI card opensource linux driver (the driver integrated in kernel, see here https://wiki.debian.org/AtiHowTo ) is better than the one for Nvidia cards (that are supported better by the official nvidia legacy driver).

Now, there are companies that do weird things like making PCI cards with relatively new nvidia entry-level chips, but none I've seen can be said to be cheap.

I'm surprised that the SATA drives outperform EIDE by as much as you mentioned.
Well, it's not because of sata per-se, that's just an interface. It's because the hard drive machinery of a drive with sata interface is more modern, and has better performance. Also having a dedicated port and cable tends to help when both drives are accessed at the same time.

What matters most for system responsiveness is, like you said, small-medium file write/read and also seek times/latency.
All these things are mostly dependent on the actual hardware inside the drive. The newer it is, the better. They stopped making IDE drives long ago, so they are worse only because they are older, not because of IDE.

The sata ports on that motherboard are sata1, so the bandwith is more or less the same as an IDE port (max 133 mb/s). Point is, this will bottleneck newer hard drives only when moving very large files. And even then, not by much. IDE drives rarely reach 50-60 mb/s of large file transfer rate.
The random read/write speed of small-medium files on a sata drive will be MUCH higher than any IDE drive you can find, but still not anywhere near the max speed of the sata1 interface so you get a responsiveness improvement without bottlenecking.

Sata2 has twice as that much bandwith, Sata3 has four times as that. But a conventional hard drive is already more or less maxed out on a Sata2 interface. Sata3 exists mostly for SSDs that can actually use so much bandwith.

Sata2 hard drives can be installed on a Sata1 motherboard and either adjust automatically or have a jumper to set them to Sata1 interface, Sata3 hard drives should do the same but I never tried personally.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Sun May 04, 2014 11:17 pm

bobafetthotmail wrote:The processor's score is around 300 points.

Many thanks once again for a very thorough analysis. I looked at the Motherboard and only see GA-8S661FXM-775 with no revision number unless it is under a sticker with serial number just under the part number. The BIOS is revision F3.

It does look like a Pentium 4 would speed things up noticeably per your number and the chart. I also found a few articles on the Internet talking about a significant benefit. I think that comes from a 4X larger L2 cache, faster Front Side Bus, and the hyper-threading. The Motherboard manual does not mention the Pentium D so it is not clear if that processor would be supported.

In hindsight, saving a little money with the Celeron was not a good choice. Your discussion has me wanting to just buy a current Motherboard along with memory and the faster disk drives available today. Maybe that would be a better investment that a new CPU and added Graphics card for a nine year old Motherboard. I can see the benefits of the SATA interface and had also forgotten about the higher RPM option and faster seek times.

I forgot to mention that I am currently using a brand new Seagate External USB 3 drive on the Linux system. The USB 2 ports on that old computer seem to be a little slower than USB 2 in newer computers so I may have a penalty there as well.

This afternoon I tried two versions of Puppy Linux running Live as an experiment as it is recommended for older hardware. It certainly is fast with all code in RamDisk at the same time. I ran into one problem where the latest version would not boot with the Flash Drive formatted FAT32. A change to FAT did the trick for unknown reasons.

You've been a great help and it is much appreciated.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby bobafetthotmail on Mon May 05, 2014 3:36 am

Well, bios version F3 then means the board is probably a rev 1.something, as the rev2.0 board uses FA, FB and so on as bios version numbers.
Thankfully the bios has q-flash feature so you only need a floppy or maybe small usb drive with the newer bios version, and then you can navigate in bios options to begin update procedure.

Yep, it's worth upgrading so old devices only with very cheap or outright scavenged parts (mostly for fun, at least for me).

More often than not, a good choice is usually just to turn an old PC into some kind of media server by keeping the OS in a USB drive and using the sata ports to connect big drives for the data. (Being a server and staying always on means that even if USB is slower it does not matter that much) They can then run your own private dropbox clone, keep your backups, serve movies to your media center or tablet, download stuff, host your own website, and can still run as an emergency PC.

If you use a bit the benchmarking site above when shopping for a new pc, you can find easily good bargains around with relatively old hardware with much better features than that rig. You don't need to buy latest and best unless you want to show off.

If you want to buy something newer but still on the real cheap side, the cheaper intel NUCs might be interesting. http://www.legitreviews.com/intel-nuc-d ... iew_135053
For 120-ish bucks or less you are buying a tiny device with a relatively powerful processor (yeah still a celeron, but this has around 1000 points so it's good for a media center or office rig) and the integrated intel graphics features hardware acceleration for HD movies (in linux too, it can run XBMC media center program without issues), and at least one USB 3.0 port. Although it does not come with its own ram nor with an hard drive, so the final price might be higher.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Mon May 05, 2014 4:28 pm

bobafetthotmail wrote:If you want to buy something newer but still on the real cheap side, the cheaper intel NUCs might be interesting.

That looks like a very nice project with many possibilities.

One of those units could be my next Linux system and it should solve my graphics problems and allow me to run both 2D and 3D desktops. Hopefully an inexpensive converter could drive a VGA display using the HDMI port.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby bobafetthotmail on Mon May 05, 2014 5:58 pm

VGA is analog, HDMI is digital. Must use an active converter (active means powered, it's using power to convert, its not just a cable that re-routes the same pins). My experience with active converters is limited, but I tend to avoid them.

A better option is checking if the screen has a DVI-D port (afaik most lcd screens have them)
DVI-D is digital and is exactly the same as HDMI but with a different physical interface (and without audio pins), so you can find simple and cheap passive DVI-D to HDMI converters (with or without additional audio jack) that just re-route pins to mate different physical interfaces.

Or simply attach the thing behind a decently recent TV (has mounting brackets to do so) and use a last-gen multimedia keyboard/mouse like the Airmouse or its countless competitors to control it.
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Re: LMDE 201403 Supports SIS Graphics?

Postby ken75 on Tue May 06, 2014 12:51 am

I hadn't known that DVI-D is the same interface type as the video portion of HDMI. That was an excellent decision and a great help for all. My monitor does have VGA and DVI-D ports so those inexpensive converter cables would be an excellent solution.

Speaking of monitors, I had an interesting experience today when I decided to connect a nice 15" CRT display that had not been used in seven years. It worked perfectly and both Linux and Windows were fine with it. My only problem was that Windows had been set up for a resolution not supported by the CRT, so you get into a Catch-22 situation and can't do anything except boot Windows Safe Mode or VGA Mode or go back to the higher resolution monitor.

VGA apparently includes a two wire I2C serial interface that reports the monitor information to the computer. One surprise was than Lubuntu Linux selected a screen resolution of 960x600 rather than the 1024x768 maximum provided by the CRT.

Those CRT Monitors are heavier than I remembered and it was an effort to just move it around!
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