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AMD Publishes Open-Source "ATI Evergreen" Driver

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the still-watching-and-waiting dept.

AMD 159

Several readers have written to tell us that AMD has published their code to support the Radeon HD 5000 "Evergreen" graphics cards on Linux in an open-source driver. Unfortunately the driver isn't quite as complete as some might hope. The current offering doesn't promise 2D (EXA) acceleration or 3D support. "The DDX driver supports mode-setting on the Evergreen/R800 series GPUs with VGA and DVI connectors while the DisplayPort connectivity is still not working right, according to AMD's Alex Deucher who had written most of this code. These new AMD graphics cards have been around since September while there was no open-source support at that time. In December just before Christmas there was Evergreen Shader documentation that was made publicly available and around that time it was confirmed via our forums that initial VGA mode-setting was working with Evergreen internally on unreleased code. Since then the digital connector support has been added in and this code has finally cleared AMD's legal review. The revised target was to publish this code by FOSDEM, which is this weekend so AMD did hit the target this time."

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159 comments

Baby Steps (2, Insightful)

mystikkman (1487801) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989088)

Atleast they have released the specs out to OSS developers and are working towards a accelerated solution. There used to be a time when only Nvidia cards used to run at full power on Linux. Go AMD!

Re:Baby Steps (1)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989156)

There used to be a time when only Nvidia cards used to run at full power on Linux. Go AMD!

We still are in that time, as TFA states: "The current offering doesn't promise 2D (EXA) acceleration or 3D support." Well what IS the driver going to do, then?

Hopefully due to the profitable quarter they just had, AMD/ATI can hire some Linux devs to get the ball rolling faster.

Re:Baby Steps (4, Funny)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989232)

Well what IS the driver going to do, then?

Run Nethack at 120fps?

Re:Baby Steps (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989458)

A 16550 doesn't really count as a graphics card anymore...

Name Says It All (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989654)

this guys' name is Alex Deucher. that would explain the useless douchebag drivers.

when this multibillion-dollar company that obviously has the technical know-how to produce extremely complex hardware can produce one decent-quality open source software driver, let me know. until then, this is an instance of douchebaggery and that's the simple truth. i'm sure you'd like to believe that this half-assed and limp-wristed attempt is some kind of inspiring event, but it ain't. they got what they wanted out of it though, and that's the free press that you were only too happy to provide. you guys seem to hate truth when it's not what you wanted to hear, so mod me down and get it over with you censoring cowards.

Re:Name Says It All (5, Informative)

Daffy Duck (17350) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989882)

Wow, attack the guy's name. Nice. Maybe he should go by "Anonymous Coward" like all the cool kids.

In fact, Alex has been developing open source drivers for ATI cards for years on his own dime, and AMD only relatively recently hired him to do the same thing for money. Would a little gratitude to either of them kill you?

Alex, the only reason I could see anything from my Radeon card for the last six years was because of your work. Thank you!

Re:Name Says It All (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990224)

i am the troll. thank you so much for feeding me. trolling would be SO DAMNED BORING if no one did that. thanks again, by showing that they will get responded to you have inspired me to troll some more. i might have gotten discouraged without you!

Re:Name Says It All (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30991908)

here here! My name is Anonymous Coward, and I thank you for your work on the drivers Alex! My computer wouldn't work the same without you.

Re:Name Says It All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990160)

hey, dick, put up or shut up.

In other words, do better yourself.

Re:Name Says It All (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990676)

Stupid Slashdot moderators.

this guys' name is Alex Deucher. that would explain the useless douchebag drivers.

This is an actual flame, not flamebait. Remember, Slashdot does not have a -1 flame moderation, and no, troll, flamebait, and overrated are not substitutes.

Re:Baby Steps (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989306)

For the last decade (almost), it was always "free the specs and the community developers can do it". It's interesting that now it's "You've freed the specs, but now you need to hire the devs".

The community is no closer to having community maintained drivers. If the IHVs move out of supporting the drivers, where will that leave the community? The specs are there for Intel and AMD, but there doesn't seem to be a large non-vendor set of developers out there.

Sure there are a set of core developers (airlied, ajax, MostAwesomeDude, etc), but they will always be undermanned, no matter über their code-fu is.

Re:Baby Steps (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989750)

And if we do ever get the free drivers what about the free graphics adapters!
What good are free drivers without free graphics adapters!

I might as well buy invidius to vote with my wallet for the inevitable closed
electronic ecosystem that will shut down all these whinging free software
freeloaders once and for all.

Re:Baby Steps (4, Informative)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989650)

The driver is functional for your regular 2d needs. Browsing the web and moving windows around is fast enough. It doesn't crash all the time (only tried it for a few hours, and no problems so far), but it does lack video overlays, so it's not quite ready for media use just yet.

Re:Baby Steps (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30991150)

Based on the AMD/ATI offerings in the past, it is probably best that they left all the heavy lifting to someone else, anyway. I mean, it's kinda like GM dumping a crate of parts in your driveway and calling it a car, but really, would your rather build it yourself, or have some wage-slashed government worker do it?

Re:Baby Steps (2, Interesting)

zill (1690130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991844)

I mean, it's kinda like GM dumping a crate of parts in your driveway and calling it a car, but really, would your rather build it yourself, or have some wage-slashed government worker do it?

I'd file a police report against GM for trespassing and then report them to the city hall for illegal dumping. Then I'd go and buy a real car.

Unfortunately that alternative does not exist in the graphics world because Nvidia's Fermi won't show up for a few more months. None of Nvidia's current offerings can stand up to the Radeon R800 series. Even if Fermi shows up it'll be useless for me personally because it will not support triple displays, just like all other Nvidia cards (not counting dual GPU cards).

Re:Baby Steps (1)

ak3ldama (554026) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989588)

Badly supported 5xxx series cards merely means people will utilize cheaper older cards for Linux. I have a 4670 card with Fedora 12 and the experimental open source drivers enabled. Linux overall, and the drivers work great. Super cheap systems with ATI graphics and AMD processors with Linux is a decent proposition. Not perfect on the desktop, but taken with a few salt shakers it's ok.

Re:Baby Steps (0, Flamebait)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991210)

...you can always add a cheap nvidia card to it later and have a remarkably better setup.

So what does it do? (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989192)

The current offering doesn't promise 2D (EXA) acceleration or 3D support.

So if it doesn't offer 2D acceleration or 3D support... what does it do? Framebuffer mode? Seriously why would ATI even release a driver in this pathetic of state, at least when I can buy an nVidia card for the same amount and have 100% of features work just fine.

Re:So what does it do? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989220)

Because to a freetard a turd sandwich is okay as long as it's "open sores".

Re:So what does it do? (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989254)

why would ATI even release a driver in this pathetic of state

To gather developer attention. At this stage, it's not about the features, it's about the mindshare.

Re:So what does it do? (4, Insightful)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989280)

More than that, it's about manipulation of the media. It's about image. It's about making stupid people like some of us believe that this actually is a great leap forward. Even if this ever goes somewhere, it will always have started with this objective and this purpose.

Re:So what does it do? (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989354)

It doesn't matter. Drivers should be -standard- unless I'm screwing with something seriously experimental, drivers should be expected. The 5000 series has been out since last year, so drivers should be standard on the day they ship.

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989512)

It will matter in 5 years when you want to use Linux on a computer and you discover that the proprietary driver hasn't been updated in two years. So then what do you do? Use a 2 year old version of Linux?

Re:So what does it do? (0, Flamebait)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989746)

It will matter in 5 years when you want to use Linux on a computer and you discover that the proprietary driver hasn't been updated in two years. So then what do you do? Use a 2 year old version of Linux?

This is a flaw in Linux/X.org.

Windows 7 manages to support the same graphics driver interface as did Windows 2000, which is nearly ten years old.

Re:So what does it do? (2, Interesting)

drizek (1481461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989864)

Then explain why my printer doesn't work on Windows 7, when it works in XP, VIsta, OSX and Ubuntu? Out of the box in two of those four(I'll let you guess which).

I would also like you to explain why my 4 year old Dell laptop doesn't let me pick the appropraite resolution in Windows 7, when it will in XP, Vista and Ubuntu.

Re:So what does it do? (0, Troll)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989912)

Then explain why my printer doesn't work on Windows 7, when it works in XP, VIsta, OSX and Ubuntu? Out of the box in two of those four(I'll let you guess which).

I said graphics, not printer.

I would also like you to explain why my 4 year old Dell laptop doesn't let me pick the appropraite resolution in Windows 7, when it will in XP, Vista and Ubuntu.

I'm not your tech support.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

drizek (1481461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990008)

No, the correct answer is that Intel discontinued support for it... and now it doesn't work. It is a DX9 capable chipst too. Runs Compiz just fine on ubuntu.

I have been tring to turn that old system into a media center, and it has been a disaster.

Re:So what does it do? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30991416)

Couldn't get the spellcheck working either, I see.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

Flammon (4726) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989942)

No it doesn't. Not in real world anyways.

Re:So what does it do? (2, Insightful)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989954)

No it doesn't. Not in real world anyways.

In "real world" you can just install an old graphics driver in Windows 7. You can even use the XP drivers for GPUs that have native Windows 7 drivers; of course you are then limited to the features of the old interface.

Re:So what does it do? (3, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989950)

Windows 7 manages to support the same graphics driver interface as did Windows 2000, which is nearly ten years old.

I don't think this is correct. While Windows Vista and 7 support Win2K drivers for many devices unchanged, video driver model in particular was completely rehashed in Vista. I'm not aware of any video drivers for XP, much less 2K, working in Vista or 7.

Re:So what does it do? (4, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989988)

I don't think this is correct. While Windows Vista and 7 support Win2K drivers for many devices unchanged, video driver model in particular was completely rehashed in Vista. I'm not aware of any video drivers for XP, much less 2K, working in Vista or 7.

Every GPU that doesn't have a WDDM [wikipedia.org] driver uses a 2000/XP driver. This includes chipsets like the GMA 900 (famous for not having Aero support).

Re:So what does it do? (1, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989952)

No it doesn't. Try using a WinXP video driver on 7. Won't work.

I've tried this with the i855 laptop-video driver, because 7 doesn't even include a driver, even one that's limited to 2D accel.

I guarantee you it wouldn't work with an ATI or Nvidia driver either.

Now, I /have/ gotten a 3Com 3C905B to work on 7 with a WinXP driver (out of necessity), but only in the 32-bit version.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990054)

No it doesn't. Try using a WinXP video driver on 7. Won't work.

Of course it will work - this is how non-Aero capable GPUs work on WIndows 7.

Re:So what does it do? (0, Troll)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990254)

O RLY?

Explain why my non-Aero i855 laptop doesn't work, or why a 915 won't either.

I submit that you're full of shit.

Re:So what does it do? (0, Troll)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990314)

Explain why my non-Aero i855 laptop doesn't work, or why a 915 won't either.

I am not your tech support.

It sucks that you can't get your hardware working, but your anecdote does not change that Windows 7 supports drivers using the 2000/XP interface.

Re:So what does it do? (-1, Troll)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990322)

Except it doesn't, and whoever modded you up is an idiot.

Re:So what does it do? (3, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990350)

Except it doesn't

Yes, Windows Vista/7 do support 2000/XP (XPDM) drivers.

whoever modded you up is an idiot.

It's unfortunate that you can't get your hardware working in Windows 7, but that's no reason to insult anonymous people on the Internet.

Hurrrrr Durrrrr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990800)

I am not your tech support.

Then quit posting in this thread, you dumbfuck Jew piece of shit bitchass nigger.

Re:So what does it do? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990578)

O RLY?

Explain why my non-Aero i855 laptop doesn't work, or why a 915 won't either.

I submit that you're full of shit.

This is the difference between a programmer and a user. A programmer runs into a problem and says "eh, must be a quirk with my hardware." A user goes "OMG! Windows is teh broke! M$/Vista sux!!one"

Please do everyone a favor and remove yourself from this site.

P.S.: Since you can't be bothered to research your own claim, here is a relevant quote from Microsoft (unfortunately it applies to Vista, but 7 didn't change in this regard IIRC):
MSDN - Graphics APIs in Windows [microsoft.com]

While new systems shipping with Windows Vista will include video cards with WDDM drivers, and new drivers for a number of popular video cards are included in the box, Windows Vista continues to support the ability to use older XPDM drivers for upgrades and corporate editions. On systems using the old driver model, Direct3D 9 and older interfaces must be used, and the operation of the graphics system is very similar to that of Windows XP (Figure 1). WDDM is required for applications to use Direct3D 9Ex, Direct3D 10, and later versions.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991172)

The text you quoted says "Windows Vista continues to support the ability to use older XPDM drivers for upgrades and corporate editions" (emphasis mine). So if you bought a retail (non-upgrade) copy of Vista or 7 and did a clean install, you wouldn't be able to use the XP drivers?

Re:So what does it do? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991212)

So if you bought a retail (non-upgrade) copy of Vista or 7 and did a clean install, you wouldn't be able to use the XP drivers?

No, the implication is that new versions will be used with GPUs having WDDM drivers. XPDM drivers work with any version.

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989992)

Windows 7 manages to support the same graphics driver interface as did Windows 2000, which is nearly ten years old.

ummm.... not quite. In Vista the graphics card driver interfaces changed to support Vista Display Driver Model Architecture.. They effectively embedded a DirectX graphics subsystem into the kernel (Dxgkrnl.sys) which includes a display port driver, video memory manager, and CPU scheduler.

Why do you think NVidia had such struggles getting a stable driver at Vista release time?

Re:So what does it do? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990032)

ummm.... not quite. In Vista the graphics card driver interfaces changed to support Vista Display Driver Model Architecture.. They effectively embedded a DirectX graphics subsystem into the kernel (Dxgkrnl.sys) which includes a display port driver, video memory manager, and CPU scheduler.

A new graphics driver interface was added to enable Aero, but the old "XPDM" interface still works. This is why non-Aero compatible GPUs like the GMA 900 continue to work with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Why do you think NVidia had such struggles getting a stable driver at Vista release time?

Intel certainly didn't have as many struggles compared to ATI or NVIDIA. In August 2006 (four months before Vista's retail release), Intel WDDM Aero-capable drivers had better performance than ATI's drivers at the time, even though all of the ATI GPUs were faster...

Re:So what does it do? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990188)

A new graphics driver interface was added to enable Aero, but the old "XPDM" interface still works. This is why non-Aero compatible GPUs like the GMA 900 continue to work with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

True enough... the old interfaces are still there for now. I may have misinterpreted your point as "the driver interfaces have not changed since Windows 2000"... which is different.

Microsoft does have a vested interest in compatibility. This is both a blessing and a boon at times

Why do you think NVidia had such struggles getting a stable driver at Vista release time?

Intel certainly didn't have as many struggles compared to ATI or NVIDIA. In August 2006 (four months before Vista's retail release), Intel WDDM Aero-capable drivers had better performance than ATI's drivers at the time, even though all of the ATI GPUs were faster...

This may just mean that Intel has better access to information than ATI or NVIDIA... or better developers, or much less complex graphics cards. In fact, I suspect it is a combination of the three.

My point was that the new driver interfaces were not necessarily simple to get right... but it doesn't refute your first point.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

schobes (750303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990876)

The flaw is neither company will release their specs to the open source community, but they will release it to anyone who pays. All they have to do is tell us how the damn parts work and we'll write the driver. Instead they hide behind the need to protect their company from the competitor. What do you think ATI and NVidia do all day. Not reverse engineer each others cards? Right.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991066)

The flaw is neither company will release their specs to the open source community, but they will release it to anyone who pays

Microsoft doesn't pay ATI or NVIDIA for hardware specifications; the vendors write their own drivers. And then vendors pay Microsoft [wikipedia.org] to have their drivers tested.

All they have to do is tell us how the damn parts work and we'll write the driver.

Will you personally take the time to write a driver?
The vendors probably make more money from working closed-source drivers than they would from assisting third party volunteers create open-source drivers. No one is going to buy a brand new expensive GPU for use in Linux if they have to wait for the community to create a stable driver for it (and potentially wait for their distributor to upgrade packages that include the new driver...)

Re:So what does it do? (2, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991264)

I'd say the relevant section is here:

... and this code has finally cleared AMD's legal review.


If they released open drivers the same as they release closed source drivers, they would get their asses sued to oblivion. Everything else flows from that.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

schobes (750303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991410)

You think ATI and NVIDIA write the code for DirectX. Even if they do they are source sharing with Microsoft. Send some the other way. I may not write the drivers, but I guarantee the ones that have been reversed engineered by the FOSS guys will work a hell of a lot better. FYI your link doesn't say that NVIDIA or ATI give Microsoft money, but it wouldn't surprise me, everyone does in some way.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991510)

You think ATI and NVIDIA write the code for DirectX.

Of course they do.

Even if they do they are source sharing with Microsoft.

Do you have evidence for this?

I may not write the drivers, but I guarantee the ones that have been reversed engineered by the FOSS guys will work a hell of a lot better

Why would community written drivers be any better? How are you so confident? Do you personally write drivers for other companies' hardware?

More importantly, when would they be better? Drivers written by the vendor will typically:

  • be released at the same time as the hardware
  • be tested before release on many hardware combinations
  • share code with the vendor's drivers for other platforms
  • be written by an organization with a financial interest in further hardware sales
  • be written by those who can communicate with hardware engineers and teams working on drivers for other platforms

It is entirely possible that a FOSS team might create a better driver than the vendor, and this does occur. But given the resource advantages, a vendor can create a better driver in less man-hours given competent people.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991518)

You think ATI and NVIDIA write the code for DirectX.

Clarification: ATI and NVIDIA (and other graphics driver authors) write the code to implement Direct3D rendering on their hardware.

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30991898)

but I guarantee the ones that have been reversed engineered by the FOSS guys will work a hell of a lot better.

Unfortunately your guarantee means all of dick in real life as the FOSS drivers suck dick compared to nVidia's closed-source drivers. Hell even ATI's shitastic proprietary drivers kick the FOSS driver's ass.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

WeatherGod (1726770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989758)

What do you mean by "standard"? If you mean "standard across devices of similar type", then different companies have different expectation for what the OS is responsible for and what the device is responsible for.

If you mean "standard for a particular hardware", the driver still has to interface with the OS, and OSs change over time. Drivers need to be recompiled and modified over time to allow them to continue functioning.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

santiagodraco (1254708) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989838)

Why should drivers be standard for Linux? Considering that it represents a pretty minuscule percentage of their market it seems to me they are going above and beyond by supporting it at all. On top of that they have "standard" drivers for previous cards.

Seems to me they are doing the right thing.

Re:So what does it do? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990220)

Why should drivers be standard for Linux? Considering that it represents a pretty minuscule percentage of their market it seems to me they are going above and beyond by supporting it at all. On top of that they have "standard" drivers for previous cards.

Seems to me they are doing the right thing.

Well, I work in a public organization (no, not in the USA) and when all we buy is specified according to the national laws and internal standards.
As standard, any computer bought _must_ be supported by Linux (GNU/Linux if you prefer) with FOSS drivers or, if there's no such hardware, by closed source drivers. It doesn't matter which OS will be used, it must support Linux so the hardware won't be an obstacle when the migration occurs.

Most of the machines run Windows XP currently (the migration has been slow-paced), but the spent money went to the ones that support Linux.

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990354)

They of course don't have to. This is why I only buy nVidia hardware for myself and for the rest of the company I work for. There is no choice between ATI/nVidia. It's nVidia all the way, even with AMD processors.

Intel and other graphic chips are OK for servers, but desktops, Intel is a little slow compared to embedded nVidia offerings.

Graphic chip companies don't only produce hardware. They produce solutions. Solutions to enable me to view stuff. If I can't view stuff with one company's solution, then why would I pay for it?

Finally, "Open Source" is NOT the panacea of ideal hardware support. I have reasonably recent hardware (only 4-6 years old?) that seems to require either older kernel or it can't use the onboard network chip without stalling once in a while. But I guess "it compiles, ship it" strategy doesn't always work...

Re:So what does it do? (1)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991744)

Agreed. This is why I also only buy nVidia. Plus, as a programmer who does scientific computing, I'm far more interested in CUDA or whatever ATI's CUDA-like offering is called than in gaming.

If ATI isn't going to have drivers for me to use that capability comfortably in Linux, screw them. There is another company with a similar offering who does support the OS I do my development in.

I understand that I represent a small market, but nVidia seems to still recognize that market, where ATI just barely pays lip service. So I know who my money is going to.

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989282)

Why? To find new talent among the Linux coders and then offer them a nice job at ATI. That way the main developers will be employed there, so ATI will have better control over the drivers and any future drivers will be of great quality and they will get the seal of approval from the Linux communities, so this is clearly a strategic move by ATI.

Slashdot: where people don't even read the summary (3, Informative)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989284)

FTFS:

The DDX driver supports mode-setting on the Evergreen/R800 series GPUs with VGA and DVI connectors

Re:Slashdot: where people don't even read the summ (3, Insightful)

TJamieson (218336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989948)

Also important: it supports userland mode-setting, *not* kernel-based mode-setting yet.

Re:So what does it do? (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989290)

Well they have a working proprietary driver. This is just the OSS one. ATi is attempting to make nice with the "OSS only" crowd. The problem is they can't just open up their normal driver, it contains licensed, patented code from other companies they can't hand out. As such you get a very different, stripped down, driver for the OSS community to work on. How useful this is is something up for debate.

nVidia's approach is that they only want to release the proprietary, fully working driver. They aren't interested in releasing a semi-broken driver just to be OSS. As such you only get their binary download.

Now in either case, the nVidia drivers are superior quality wise. They've always been good at drivers on Windows, and it translates over to Linux it seems. However ATi does have an open option that nVidia doesn't. For some people, this is important as they won't run closed code at all, even if it means a better experience.

Re:So what does it do? (4, Insightful)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989648)

Well they have a working proprietary driver.

For varying definitions of "working". As an ATI user I must say, the propietary driver is the single worst piece of software I've ever had the displeasure to run on my Linux system, and the only thing besides faulty RAM and a dying HDD to ever cause Linux (yes, the kernel, not just X) lock up on me. It sucks so badly that ArchLinux even removed it [archlinux.org] from their repositories, prefering to not give it as even an option rather than deal with the support nightmares it causes.

The Open Source driver on the other hand is excellent, stable and completely hassle-free (something I can't quite say of NVidia's propietary driver, though it wasn't nearly as bad as ATI's), and even supports 3D acceleration on older chipsets. My guess is that it won't be long until 3D is also supported on the HD5x00 series as well, development is quite fast on it.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990358)

Last ATi card I had was a Radeion 8500. The Windows drivers came in two flavours, the Microsoft Certified ones that didn't support a recent version of DirectX, and couldn't actually run anything that used the GPU in a nontrivial way, or the ones from ATi which ran software reasonably well until you hit a bug in the driver and the kernel crashed. Sometimes the Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live drivers would crash the machine before the ATi ones had a chance to (same situation there; you could use the MS Certified one that didn't support surround sound or accelerated DirectSound 3D, or the ones that did but crashed the kernel periodically).

I dual booted the machine with FreeBSD, and both of these pieces of hardware came with open source drivers. Suddenly I could use it for weeks without it crashing. In my experience, ATi, Creative Labs, and nVidia are to blame for most crashes on any NT series operating systems (NT4 had a fun bug where a timer would overflow after 47 days and cause the system to crash, but if you had drivers from one of these manufacturers there was no chance of getting anything like 47 days of uptime).

Re:So what does it do? (1, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991126)

For varying definitions of "working". As an ATI user I must say, the propietary driver is the single worst piece of software I've ever had the displeasure to run on my Linux system, and the only thing besides faulty RAM and a dying HDD to ever cause Linux (yes, the kernel, not just X) lock up on me.

ATI drivers have been causing me crashes in various operating systems since they brought out the Mach32. Their subflavors of the Mach64 caused me crashes in Windows NT 3.51, and Solaris x86 2.5.1. The catalyst drivers were amazingly foul and had a footprint I would never have believed had I not installed many, many drivers trying to get their driver to stop cratering Windows XP. ATI has never been able to develop a worthy driver, and their donation of OSS drivers is worse than useless, as they can use it as an excuse not to release the full specifications necessary to develop full functionality without their "help".

I'd prefer to have a fully Open+Free Linux system, but until someone makes that feasible, I'll be sticking with nVidia.

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989686)

>nVidia's approach is that they only want to release the proprietary, fully working driver. They aren't interested in releasing a semi-broken driver just to be OSS. As such you only get their binary download.
That's not true. They also release the nv driver, a free crippled driver.
ATI release the free driver AND specifications which means that with work the free driver can get out of its crippled state.

Re:So what does it do? (2, Informative)

nadaou (535365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990050)

ATI release the free driver AND specifications which means that with work the free driver can get out of its crippled state.

i.e. with time the nVidia binary-only driver will only get worse (binary bit rot has a half-life of say 1.5 years), while the ATI OSS driver will only get better with time and is not locked to yesterday's Linux kernel or X11.

It is a choice of candy today, or no candy today but candy for the next month.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

ascendant (1116807) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991324)

Except that the situation with nVidia = good and ATi = bad has existed for more than 1.5 years in the past, and will likely continue.

The funny thing is that your analogy is irrelevant anyway because generally you replace video cards between 1 and 2 years anyway. You can pick nvidia now and have good drivers, and in 1.5 years if ATi has good drivers you can switch then. Candy now and forever.

Unless you don't use them for gaming, in which case both brands and driver variants (ATi, nVidia, binary and OSS) all work fine and it doesn't matter which one you pick.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991504)

The funny thing is that your analogy is irrelevant anyway because generally you replace video cards between 1 and 2 years anyway.

I tend to repurpose old hardware, so anything that's not on the motherboard tends to float around for ~ 3-5 years. Free drivers are important on that timescale.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

bdwlangm (1436151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991422)

[T]he nVidia binary-only driver will only get worse (binary bit rot has a half-life of say 1.5 years), while the ATI OSS driver will only get better with time and is not locked to yesterday's Linux kernel or X11.

And yet my old laptop with an ATI Xpress still can't handle compiz with the open source drivers. I'd love to support the FOSS solution, but it is not adequate for my needs. In other news, the Windows 7 ATI driver has worked flawlessly for me

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30991472)

i.e. with time the nVidia binary-only driver will only get worse (binary bit rot has a half-life of say 1.5 years), while the ATI OSS driver will only get better with time and is not locked to yesterday's Linux kernel or X11.

It is a choice of candy today, or no candy today but candy for the next month.

I've been hearing this since 2000. I even was stupid enough to BELIEVE this back then and spend money on ATI card. Never again. I now have used nVidia only and never had a problem. I actually have 2 displays driven by 2 nVidia chipsets (onboard and discrete graphic card) and they both work perfectly.

But I guess it is whatever you chose to believe.

Re:So what does it do? (3, Interesting)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991470)

I'll run closed code, but it's bloody well not going to be something as crucial as my video drivers. I've done it before, and I'll never do it again on my main computer.

How many years did it take for nVidia to add DRI support to their driver? Xinerama support? Not-corrupting-the-virtual-console-when-running-more-than-one-instance-of-X support? Do they support XRandR 1.3 yet? (That last question isn't rhetorical---I've stopped following the status of nVidia's proprietary drivers.)

The last time I used them, the nVidia drivers exhibited a severe case of Not-Invented-Here syndrome, and they weren't particularly stable.

I really don't know where all these people come from who say "nVidia's drivers just work". I suspect it's just a lack of experience with *actual* stable drivers. The best X driver experience I've had is with free drivers for hardware that's a few generations old. Super stable and everything *really* just works.

Re:So what does it do? (4, Insightful)

zyklone (8959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989304)

Please tell me where nVidia has an open source driver with 100% features working?
This is about the AMD open source driver, not about the AMD closed source drivers, which supports Evergreen just fine.

Re:So what does it do? (3, Insightful)

Yaa 101 (664725) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989364)

Please tell me where AMD has any good Linux driver? Their closed source driver is such a piece of crap.

Re:So what does it do? (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989656)

Good point. Let's take this opportunity of AMD doing something for the open source community to bitch about all the stuff they didn't do yet. Way to play right into nVidia's hands, smart guy.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989694)

Any direction towards providing working open source drivers to the community is a good one. But they've been promising lots of things for a long time and failing to deliver. My notebook has both intel and ati graphics, currently Intel's oss drivers are fantastic. Who'd a thunk it, slowest piece of crap in the windows world, performs quite well in the F/oss world (admittedly no gaming, but it handles compiz dual screen quite nicely).

Re:So what does it do? (1)

kregg (1619907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990774)

Yeah, I would be happy if the proprietary driver could play video without flickering.

Re:So what does it do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989406)

sorry, when have nvidia _ever_ released an open-source driver?

Re:So what does it do? (5, Insightful)

WeatherGod (1726770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989716)

It gives a basis for the community to work around. The entire issue with NVidia has been that developers have been asking for at least some sort of documentation so that they don't have to reverse-engineer everything. Companies have said that they don't want to support Linux or handle bugs, and we reply "you don't have to!". With documentation and a core set of code to work around, AMD has done exactly what we have asked for. Now, it is up to us to take that code and build it up to be a full-fledge graphic driver.

AMD/ATI has nothing but my fullest appreciation for what they have done.

Re:So what does it do? (4, Insightful)

ppanon (16583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989924)

Your post is either erroneous or misleading - ATI has closed source Catalyst drivers [lwn.net] that support Evergreen cards with 2D and 3D acceleration. What the Evergreen cards haven't had up until now is the open source driver support. However, the open source driver support for NVidia cards is much worse because the developers are having to reverse engineer functionality from NVidia's closed source drivers because NVidia hasn't made any open hardware specs available. When it comes to open source driver support for 2D and 3D acceleration, NVidia lags far behind AMD/ATI and Intel. As a post in the above link indicates, in the long run the shared open source code base eventually will be a significant competitive advantage for Intel and AMD and a disadvantage for NVidia.

I have switched over to the open source AMD R600 drivers because, even though the 3D support is not yet quite as good as the closed source drivers, it should catch up and it's already good enough for what I do. In the meantime I won't have to worry about waiting a number of months for the closed source drivers to become available when a new distro/kernel release requires new binary blobs from the vendor. That also means that my graphics hardware investment is protected and not dependent on the continued support of the hardware vendor if I want to continue to upgrade the O/S in the future.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990014)

Not exactly. You can not buy an nVidia card for the same amount and have 100% of the features work just fine using FOSS drivers.
However you can get closed drivers for both ATI and Vidia.
Just goes to prove that the myth that if you just release the specs great FOSS drivers will get written quickly and by the community.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990654)

>So if it doesn't offer 2D acceleration or 3D support... what does it do?
unaccelerated 2d

It is just like any other code push to upstream. You get a feature working on your local branch, you push it up. Then go on to the next feature. And this is not a standalone driver, it is just new code for the driver that currently handles r600 and r700.

Re:So what does it do? (1)

fdawg (22521) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990818)

Have you tried watching accelerated 1080p video on a relatively new nVidia card? You'll soon find the hardware AVC decoder (Xvmc does not equal decoder) available in Windows is not available in Linux. GL works grand, but watching videos at any high resolution (native, not some upscaled Xvid or the like) is totally CPU bound in Linux while HW accelerated in windows.

It seems only the newest cards support HW video decoding. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VDPAU [wikipedia.org]

Re:So what does it do? (2, Informative)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991278)

A relatively new nvidia card is going to have support for full video decode acceleration in Linux.

It's the ANCIENT cards that aren't going to have that capability. Although the xvmc on the older
cards is actually quite helpful while not being a "complete" acceleration solution. Really, the
only thing xvmc can't help with is high bitrate 1080p h264 or VC1.

This is why the really ancient nvidia cards are even better than newer ATI cards on Linux.

Decent hardware + good driver trumps whatever + really crappy driver.

Nightmare (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989302)

There is some amount of ridiculousness here - perhaps I don't understand something but explain to me if you will, how this works - Every time a new GPU is released, a shit load of new driver code is required to just get it working. And then there a a truck load more of code required to get 2D acceleration working. And then the same for 3D. How come the GPU vendors do not have a freaking portion of their hardware always work the same way, with same driver code - it just does mode setting and sets up the GPU for decent level of 2D acceleration. The you write a per GPU, dynamically loadable module that will deal with that particular family of GPU. I mean there is not a whole lot you can do with modesetting and 2D - no one cares of 2D accel anymore - it should just work the same way with same driver code for all series of GPUs for a particular vendor. NVidia has to drop support for older chips, fork the driver and have it only support newer chips because of bloat that it becomes having to support different families of GPUs each requiring lots of code.

Re:Nightmare (1)

schobes (750303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990982)

Its because the nature of the beast. The cards can do whatever they need to basically fill a Width * Height * 32 (color scheme) chunk of memory with numbers. That is the part that never changes. Now how to tell the card to complete this is ever changing. First all you could do was tell the cards to draw lines and fill pixels (pixel shaders). Now you can tell them to do this on 100+ shaders at once. Also you have more and more 3D math occurring on the cards instead of on the processor. This may not seem like a lot, but people on slashdot are still debating 4 line chunks of code from the Quake http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/12/01/184205 [slashdot.org] engine. As much as anyone may want to assume about graphics programming, it is still be invented and ever more creative ways of solving problems are being discovered.

Re:Nightmare (5, Informative)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991252)

Actually, we're fortunate to be able to reuse most of our code on lots of GPUs -- there are some bits that apply from r100 to r700. The "fun" is in the sheer complexity of the hardware, the inability of the hardware to cope with incorrect programming, and the lack of documentation, manpower, and testing available to assist us.

Oh, and hardware bugs. You don't wanna know how many there are. Really. Try getting an RS480, or RC410, to do 3D. It ain't fun.

Previous series of cards has good acceleration... (1)

chammy (1096007) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989418)

The 4800 series of cards have excellent acceleration support with the radeon driver these days (the latest source releases). It's not quite fast enough to play Nexuiz at high settings but compositing runs great and the desktop is stable! I honestly can't remember a time when the proprietary driver wasn't locking up or corrupting the screen, so this makes me pretty happy as an AMD owner.

Hopefully it's only a matter of time until the 5000 series is supported -- the proprietary driver just isn't an option if it's going to be crashy and have poor image quality.

Re:Previous series of cards has good acceleration. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989488)

Dynamic power management still sucks for laptop users though. I have a laptop with a HD3650 GPU and it runs terribly hot with the default Fedora 12 and Ubuntu 10.04 Alpha drivers. If I use the "ForceLowPowerMode" it runs cooler, but the radeon driver will corrupt the cursor and radeonhd will slow down. With the Windows 7 driver it never runs hot.

Oh goodie, more Phoronix. (2, Informative)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989534)

Some reading between the lines is needed.

Any r600 acceleration code *should* work with only minor tweaks on Evergreen (r800). The biggest changes are supposedly in GPGPU-land; r800 supports a lot more shader instructions than r700 or r600.

I don't have one of these yet, but I'm sure Cooper and Richard, the AMD 3D devs, are furiously coding away to make stuff run.

Uhm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989552)

This was written by AMD's Alex who??

Legal Review? (3, Funny)

markdavis (642305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30989720)

>and this code has finally cleared AMD's legal review.

Has nothing in it that we feel might be secret or licensed....
Doesn't do 3D CHECK
Doesn't do 2D CHECK

Passes our legal review- let people enjoy it now!!!!

Re:Legal Review? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30989906)

Doesn't do XYZ? _Will_ do. And will keep doing it's job in a stable, secure manner long after nvidia has moved on and left your unprofitable "legacy" card behind with unfixed and unfixable security problems AND without any support for newer features that cannot be implemented without partial driver rewrites.

And before you try, no, reverse engineered hacked up drivers are no substitute for real drivers written from specs.

Intel (1)

johnny maxwell (1050822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30990074)

Thats why I stay with Intel graphics, they may not be the fastest graphics card in the world
but their Linux drivers never made any problems. Be it mode switching or dual-head, everything *just works*.

And that by using existing Xorg standards (XRandR, etc.), e.g. no nightmare "nvidia-settings" program as in the case for "the other" manufacturer.

And yes, for most models the drivers are open source, IIRC.

Theater 300+ for linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30990804)

It seems nobody wanted to talk about the fact that [Rage] Theater 300 and later families (including Theater 550, 650, 750) have ZERO SUPPORT IN LINUX! Not free driver, not proprietary driver, not even documentation!! It is used on various All-in-wonder cards and standalone PCI[E]/USB tuner cards, and would be a great product ($39 for Theater 650 Pro TV card) for Linux if only THE LOBBYISTS AND DEVELOPERS START PAYING ATTENTION!!!

Very happy with the Open Driver (3, Informative)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 4 years ago | (#30991418)

I've had a R600 based radeon HD3870 on linux for a while. I used to go with the fglrx proprietary drivers, but I've recently switched to the radeon (ddx) driver.

I have to say I'm extremely happy with the Open driver. Now is it Free Software? I'm not sure, I mean *most* of the driver seems to be, but you still need to load microcode firmware.

As far as the quality of the driver though, it seems very bug free and the kernel mode setting is awesome. Switching from vt-1 to an Xorg session for example is instantaneous. Mesa seems to need some work on the 3d side, but you can play quakelive on it and run the kde version of compiz.

It's really great that ATI has both released documentation and paid developers to work on getting these drivers up and running, they should consider both sponsoring some 3d work on the mesa side and also figuring out a way around the microcode situation.

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