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What bugs me the most are not the graphics drivers per se, but the audio drivers.
I have to, and far too often, kill X in order to restore the sound. And, logging out and logging in as another user often produce a mute computer.
I have still not understood the pattern but I think the graphics drivers are interlinked to tis issue, in some way. Maybe someone knows better.
I run Debain Sid/Experimental with KDE4 and the latest nvidia drivers on a 8800GT.
Could it be that pulseaudio has control of the sound card, which is preventing normal alsa applications from using it? On cards with hardware mixing (like the SoundBlaster Live-Audigy line), this isn't a problem, but with motherboard audio it is. Try killing pulseaudio, and if that works, disable the sound server in the GNOME settings.
I don't seem to have as many problems with fglrx as most people. The video tearing is annoying but I can live with it until the open driver supports 3D. The one problem that really bugs me is that logging out or trying to restart X in any way sends the card into a spasm. The display freezes, the graphics fan starts going full pelt and the only thing I can do is hit the power button, which at least shuts down the machine cleanly. If it was a hard lockup then the file corruption probably would have made me chuck my card by now.
It's of little surprise to me then that I run into installation problems with Debian (Pure) based distributions when the maintainer of the packages or scripts is working on a deliberate fork.
Now, maybe the Debian problems could be solved if Ubuntu developers focused on maintaining Debian compatibility.
However, I'm not sure bringing what amounts to be political and personal issues into a discussion involving whether or not an installed driver functions as expected in an installed enviroment.
Oh, you refer to Debian *based* distributions. Because on Debian unstable, I don't recall ever having problems installing fglrx drivers. I usually compile the modules with module-assistant if there's no matching package for my kernel at the moment in unstable repositories.
I really can't comment on the Ubuntu (not) maintaining Debian compatibility other than I'd like this doesn't stay our problem in future...
The 180.xx drivers were a lot faster with KDE4 than the 177s and earlier versions, but it was still a pretty slow experience trying to use KDE4 with my 8600GT. I'm sure KDE4(and/or its dependencies) is partly to blame, but Nvidia's blob surely is also.
QT 4.5 is much, much faster IMO. Might be interesting to see some benchmarks there, Michael.