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I'm running SuSE 8.1 and I'm somewhat confused what architecture I'm using. YaST2 Control Center says i386; however, in a console after using the "arch" command I'm told i686. This is my first time using linux.
You're using Intel architecture :-). Different programs can show different things, because it's imporant which options were used to compile a program (kernel etc..), not the machine you're using it on, in fact. The processor you're using is described in /proc/cpuinfo.
ok... the architecture you have doesn't change unless you change your processor. chances are you have a i686 architecture, unless your computer is pretty old. if you want to be safe, go with the i386 architecture. they'll work on anything. you'll probably be safe with just about any of them tho. the difference between them is the kernel optimization, which doesn't really come into effect unless you put some pretty heavy loads on your machine.
Well I installed the rpms above and my screen went black. I tried doing startx but the screen flickered and there were a bunch of errors. Since I didn't know what else to do, I reinstalled and looking for the other 3D drivers I got through YaST but no luck so far.
I haven't touched it. And yes I ran nv_check. I'm not going to mess with downloading graphics card drivers manually. I'll just let YaST2 install them from the SuSE server for updates until I gain further knowledge of linux.
You need to edit the correct XF86Config file for your system according to the instructions in the README file found on the nvidia download page before it will work, you can install the drivers a million times and you won't get anywhere untill you edit that file.