I bought a new machine recently; for the flat at present with the aim of it becoming an upgrade for the media box once my lease is up. Nothing spectacular; E5200 Dual Core Pentium at 2.5Ghz, MSI G41M-FIDP mobo and 4G of OCZ DDR2 800. I don't need that much, but for £30 how could I resist? Total price, including the extra postage tax to NI and a small case, £200 from eBuyer. I had an existing HD I could use and also managed to find a spare DVD writer too.

I did a 64 bit lenny install from the multiarch netinst CD. There was a slight issue with partman getting confused at one point but I couldn't reproduce it so it might well have been user error. Network, graphics, sound all detected fine out of the box.

Anyway. Part of the reason for a G41 based board is that it's a fairly recent Intel chipset but slightly cheaper than the cutting edge G45. And Intel have been pretty good about getting decent support for their chipsets, both in X for 2D and Mesa for 3D. Unfortunately the X support in lenny isn't great; the driver (2.3.2) works, but I found I needed to disable acceleration for it to be reliable. And I wanted to take advantage of what the chipset could offer.

Helpfully there was a push of various shiny new bits of X into unstable last week, including libdrm 2.4.5 and xserver-xorg-video-intel 2.6.3. So I thought I'd give that a try. I don't want to track unstable on this box as it'll have pretty dire connectivity (Orange 3G at best). Testing may be a possibility but I'd need to sort out a way of pulling the updates via a USB stick on a better connected box - pretty sure I've seen things about doing this in the past so will have to investigate. For the moment I added an entry for unstable, set pinning to prefer lenny and told aptitude to install xserver-xorg-video-intel and mesa from unstable. While I can't possibly recommend this unless you're confident about being able to repair any resulting mess yourself I found it went quite smoothly and didn't pull in nearly as much new stuff as I feared.

The newer X/Mesa packages alone weren't enough. The PCI IDs for the G41 aren't yet in mainline kernels, let alone the 2.6.26 variant in stable. So I compiled up with this patch and figured I'd enable Kernel Mode Setting at the same time. 2 reboots later (when setting KMS you don't want to enable the intelfb driver, but you do still need to enable the "Console on Framebuffer" option. Ooops.) and I had a shiny X install proclaiming OpenGL 2 hardware acceleration support and Xv. Plus switching between X and a text console was pretty damn smooth. Rockin'

On the whole I'm quite impressed, though I am seeing occasional freezes with Xine and Xv output - not sure what it's tickling as mplayer seems to be ok and I can't actually get any error output when it happens. Will try and hook it up to the network and see if I can still login that way at some point. For the moment it's still perfectly usable aside from that.