Fan failure is a common life-ending event for electronic hardware, and so did I send my three years old HIS Radeon 9800 Pro IceQ to the retirement drawer when overheat crashes helped me discover it was not pushing much air anymore since the fan motor seized.

This was an excellent pretext to acquire a faster graphical adapter. I chose a Sapphire HD 2600 XT AGP 512 DDR3 (reference 100229L) because it is currently an excellent performance for money at €85, and also because that is one of the few remaining choices for upgrading my aging AGP system significantly. It is such a rarity that I can’t even find a decent review to link to and the picture shows the 256 MB version which nevertheless looks exactly the same.

With Linux, all is mostly well : the RadeonHD driver provided me with the basic functionality I need, and I was hopeful it would make me forget the lacking Xorg 3D support with my former card. But alas for now RadeonHD does not support 3D for graphic adapters with a PCIE to AGP bridge – and that includes the Sapphire HD 2600 XT AGP. Users are ranting about the lack support for ATI HD 2600 AGP support so at least I am not the only one. In that conversation, someone with apparent insider information noted that “Linux support for AGP HD2xxx cards has not yet been released, but is being worked on”. So maybe I’ll have Linux 3D some day…

I then executed ATI Catalyst installer to upgrade my dusty Windows XP drivers in case we manage to throw a LAN party for the first time in months since we all let family and professional duties creep on our schedule, I was faced with this message : “setup did not recognize compatible drivers”. And the installation process would abort.

The Wikipedia entry for the Radeon R600 series mentions this issue :

Note that Catalyst drivers 7.10, 7.11 and 7.12 do not yet support the AGP versions of Radeon HD 2000 series cards with RIALTO bridge. Installing Catalyst drivers 7.10, 7.11 or 7.12 on those cards will yield the following error message: “setup did not find a driver compatible with your current hardware or operating system.” The cards, which are yet to be supported, with their PCI vendor ID are listed below:[46]

GPU core Product PCI device ID
RV610 Radeon HD 2400 Pro 94C4
RV630 Radeon HD 2600 Pro 9587
RV630 Radeon HD 2600 XT 9586

Niiice ! ATI lets manufacturers produce hardware it does not provide drivers for… At least this teaches me that they can even do worse than their proprietary binary drivers.

The solution is to head to Sapphire’s archive of old drivers which contains the 10th March 2008 release of the “Hotfix Driver for AGP version of ATI RADEON HD 2400Pro/2600Pro/2600XT/HD3850 Windows XP(32-bit)” which contains the old AGP support I needed.

On installation, the system complains about that driver not being “Windows certified”. The lack of that fairy dust does not hinder normal operation the slightest bit, but it does hint that this driver was rushed as a stop-gap.

I was competent enough to sort it out, but this is the sort of problem I would expect from cutting edge hardware, not from a mass market product designed to appeal to the value-for-money segment which is less technically aware than the free spending enthusiast segment. I can imagine many better ways for ATI to show respect toward its users.