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A Look at the State of ATI Linux Drivers

timothy posted about 9 years ago | from the better-than-nothing dept.

Graphics 43

Linux PaPa writes " has just posted a great new review on the current state of ATI drivers under Linux. The review is specifically a look at the Connect3D's Radeon X800 and it exposes many of ATI's current problems in their latest drivers. While the drivers seem to have plenty of speed to them now, some stuff still just doesn't work."

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well, (3, Funny)

Keruo (771880) | about 9 years ago | (#13203570)

if it does 80x24, it's enough for me, everything beyond that is just bonus

Re:well, (1)

HTD (568757) | about 9 years ago | (#13203639)

You are buying a multi-hundred-dollar graphicscard to display the console?

Re:well, (1)

keesh (202812) | about 9 years ago | (#13203705)

You'd be surprised how badly some *cough* nvidia *cough* graphics cards do at straight text. They're so 'optimised' for high benchmark framerates that the 2d quality becomes utter shite. Compare an older Matrox with a current gaming graphics card and be surprised.

Re:well, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13204273)

no, it's really not 'utter shite'. it's actually fine and more than acceptable to my eyes. maybe not as good as an older matrox, but who cares? why compare the two? the nvidia cards are targeted at gamers. if you want a card that does text better than nvidia, buy one.

Re:well, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13204795)

No, it's shite. Compare any modern card to a 12 year old Sun to see what I mean. That's why I still have a Sun!

It's not too suprising though. Windows users never see anything but a brief look at a 80x24 console.

NVIDIA text mode (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 9 years ago | (#13204619)

No kidding. I've a GF2MX-200 that is ridiculously slow rendering a BIOS setup screen. Paired with this card, a machine with an Athlon 2600+ will render that screen more slowly than my old 486SX-25 with Paradise SVGA accelerator did.

It's not this machine, BTW. I replaced that card with a Radeon 9600XT and the BIOS screen just flies.

Re:well, (1)

vga_init (589198) | about 9 years ago | (#13206200)

Yes. []

I can tell you the state... (4, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 years ago | (#13203681)

On a laptop, the state is that you go to ATI's website, dig around for a bit, find a page for downloading the drivers, get a note saying that there are no laptop drivers and that you should contact your laptop OEM (and exactly how many of them are distributing LINUX drivers for their system even for OS-less laptops like my own?), search the web, find a websit with a guy who says he modified the ATI linux drivers to operate on a number of cards, including the Mobility Radeon 9700 128MB, take the guy at his word and trust that they're fine, download and recompile your laptop's kernel, download the source for the ATI driver, download another source bundle, compile the two along with your new kernel, say a prayer and hope that everything works.

For the life of me, I don't know why everyone isn't running linux already. Hmm...!

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

John Nowak (872479) | about 9 years ago | (#13203750)

Because... ATI is really bad at releasing drivers?

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 years ago | (#13203875)

Actually, that's why I walked away from ATI in the first place. I believe the last time I had an ATI card was in 1998 or 2000. They released this attrocious videocard and it took forever to release ANY udpated drivers. A number of games (including Vampire: The Masquarade) were completley unplayable because of it. Their released driver (which only came after about six months) brought more problems.

After that, I've been NVIDIA ever since.

But they do seem to have cleaned up their act at ATI and I would not hesitate to buy another desktop card of theirs if the performance and price was comparable to NVIDIA (which it usually is - sometimes better). But, of course, that's on Windows and I haven't used Windows in eons.

I might try the flg drivers like the other poster mentioned. I got frustrated after a bit because there is no clear solution to getting the laptop ATI cards to work under linux (from what I could find at least) and it was driving me nuts. The laptop is just for my friend to use in college and she wanted me to put linux on it (I used Ubuntu) instead of Windows.

And yeah... I know - that's hot. A cute chick who WANTS you to install linux on her laptop... *drool*

Re:I can tell you the state... (2, Informative)

elleomea (749084) | about 9 years ago | (#13203820)

Ignore what ATI tells you on their website. Download the fglrx package from them anyway, they work with mobility products about as well as they do with desktop products.

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

ZsoL (902409) | about 9 years ago | (#13203839)

Yes, it's just that little word, 'about'. I've been wanting to install some sort of 3D acceleration on my laptop for nearly a year now. Tried a lot of things but nothing worked. I would be really excited to get ATI's official slant on linux drivers.

...the whole truth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13204106)

Download the fglrx package from them anyway, they work with mobility products about as well as they do with desktop products.
You forgot to add "After requiring a patch to the binary so it reconizes and tries to use your chip".
//stuck on a Radeon IGP 345M with no 3D under *nix

Re:I can tell you the state... (2, Informative)

Aeiri (713218) | about 9 years ago | (#13204279)

Ignore what ATI tells you on their website. Download the fglrx package from them anyway, they work with mobility products about as well as they do with desktop products.

With my ATI Radeon X300 PCI Express Mobility, they don't. I didn't even know about the "no laptop" thing.

I'm currently running generic Mesa GLX drivers, running at ~500 FPS in glxgears. Good enough for what I do on this partition (separate Windows partition for games), but I would love to see what this thing can do with real drivers... those generic drivers give out about 50 FPS on my desktop PC!

Which is to say, not at all. (4, Insightful)

Inoshiro (71693) | about 9 years ago | (#13204351)

I spent days trying to get stupid ATI 64-bit drivers working on AMD64 Linux. Don't bother. Just buy an nVidia card and be done with it.

Re:Which is to say, not at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13204394)

After checking out your website...i really want to make you bleed. Fuckin' pansy ass jerkoff.

Re:Which is to say, not at all. (1)

toad3k (882007) | about 9 years ago | (#13213491)

Hmm I had some resolution problems initially, but eventually got the 64 bit drivers working without too much trouble.

Of course, I can't upgrade my kernel or else they will break again. Naturally.

ok, now how do I plug it in... (1)

phorm (591458) | about 9 years ago | (#13222211)

OK, I'll go out and buy an NVidia video card, now can you show me how to install it in my laptop?

Actually, I've got a laptop with an NVidia card, and it's pretty powerful stuff... but the newer models are mostly carrying ATI. Also, the newer/better brands/models seem to have more compatible components (soundcard, modem, wireles, etc) for Linux... but lack the NVidia card.

Personally I'd just like to see ATI release some good drivers, but I guess that's still hoping for too much.

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

Karora (214807) | about 9 years ago | (#13206499)

about as well as they do with desktop products

Yeah, except that desktop systems aren't asked to suspend very often.

Suspend is broken in the ATI fglrx drivers [] , and has been for the eighteen months that I have owned my current laptop. For this reason I use the 2D drivers in the standard X.Org release, although I am hopeful that the r300 project [] is showing some real traction now.

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

Metasquares (555685) | about 9 years ago | (#13210549)

I don't know if this helps anyone who can't get the drivers working, but fglx 8.13.4 worked for me where 8.14.13 did not. Still no DRI, but at least I can load the driver. I'm running on AMD64 with a Radeon Xpress 200M.

If you're considering purchasing a laptop with that chipset for use with Linux, I would advise against it. It's not fun to get working, and there are strange bugs like the system clock running twice as fast as it should be (I think that the APIC was generating twice as many interrupts as it should have been - there's a kernel parameter that you can pass to fix this without patching).

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

BillyBlaze (746775) | about 9 years ago | (#13205115)

Actually, that doesn't make me wonder why people aren't running Linux, it makes me wonder why people are running ATI (even a few Linux people!).

On my laptop, in Linux (AMD64 even) the NVidia drivers work just fine with one special setting in xorg.conf so the full width of the screen is used. In Windows, the stock nVidia drivers don't even believe I have an nVidia chip, and I'm stuck waiting for Compaq to update their drivers to work around a bug when scaling while preserving aspect ratio.

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 9 years ago | (#13205229)

In my case, I'm running ATI because that's what the laptop came with. It was originally intended to be a quick and dirty Windows laptop for watching videos remotely and doing a little surfing and music listening. But now its purposes has been shifted a bit and I've put Ubuntu on it for my friend (she wanted linux, I love Debian and had never tried Ubuntu before).

I've had lots of problems in the past, which I've mentioned on Slashdot, getting videocards that are identified and in the select list of a linux install to work with my large (and now several years old) Apple Cinema Display, which is itself also identified and in the select list of the same linux installer.. to work together. No such luck.

But I think with more typical cards and more generic monitors, it shouldn't be a problem. I've been really frustrated with that aspect of linux and that's why the only linux systems I have running (other than that laptop, which I'm giving to my friend) are headless systems (like my production server across the country).

And no, I'm not saying that companies should be forced to build drivers for an operating system that can't possibly be profitable for them - but who what where and why doesn't matter. Either it works or it doesn't.

Re:I can tell you the state... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13206671)

Actually, that doesn't make me wonder why people aren't running Nvidia, it makes me wonder why people are running Compaq (even a few Linux people!).

If you're savvy enough to be running a self-installed copy of Linux, why are you running it on a piece of shit prebuilt PC? :P

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

BillyBlaze (746775) | about 9 years ago | (#13208274)

It was a laptop; I couldn't very easily have rolled my own. Heck, it was hard enough to even find an nVidia laptop. And as far as I know, all laptop manufacturers do the same crap with Windows drivers. I wish they could just make their hardware conformant enough that first-party drivers could handle it. Unfortunately, most consumers don't care, so there's no reason not to just connect the chips together randomly, tweak the BIOS tables with trial-and-error until no magic smoke issues forth, hack together enough unstable drivers that Windows boots, then call it a day.

Re:I can tell you the state... (1)

Metasquares (555685) | about 9 years ago | (#13210489)

And that's an improvement from a few years ago. I had one of those Radeon Mobility 7500 IGPs; I waited over a year (probably two; I forget how long exactly) for driver support in Linux, and even then, there were strange problems like holes in textures.

Really. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13203766)

From the article: The ATI proprietary drivers are easy to install under almost any distribution and the setup is not too painful using their X configuration utility. Really. Any laptops as example?

fglrx is getting better (2, Interesting)

objorkum (695401) | about 9 years ago | (#13203890)

fglrx is getting better and better. We can't it to suddenly become perfect. fglrx today is much better than flgrx a year ago. As far as I know, fglrx supports the graphic cards on laptops aswell. Read the release notes to see which cards are supported: ml#172394 []

Re:fglrx is getting better (1)

someone300 (891284) | about 9 years ago | (#13203981)

From release notes
These release notes provide information on the latest posting of ATI's Proprietary Linux driver version 8.14.13 (IIRC)

IIRC? Um... wonder if that's for "If I Remember Correctly"

Re:fglrx is getting better (1)

madscientist003 (857924) | about 9 years ago | (#13206297)

I would have to second this opinion. I recently used the fglrx driver in the Ubuntu distribution on a desktop, and I was extremely pleased with the performance.

Granted, I don't push the graphics too hard, but I had nothing to complain about from the standpoint of usability.

ATI's development cycle (3, Insightful)

someone300 (891284) | about 9 years ago | (#13203931)

ATI's development cycle is far too slow for linux. They develop for it to work on the current *stable* kernel, rather than the mm kernel or the development kernel. Naturally when it comes out, the development kernel is the stable kernel by that time, and it doesn't work any more. This wouldn't be as bad a problem if they didn't use heavily deprecated kernel features when they're developing (if you can make it build, look at the amount of deprecated errors).

They also use CRAP 2d drivers .. 6x slower in my experience. I think it was based off of really old XFree radeon drivers or something and they haven't changed it.

Their state with windows and linux laptop drivers confused me at first, but their linux drivers work on mobility products, and windows drivers require a hack. My laptop manufacturer doesn't release drivers so I needed to get them to get the updated drivers.

I don't understand why they don't have a nightly driver release.. and they could help by releasing everything that they possibly can opensource and a binary module (see the madwifi drivers for an example), then get a load of OSS developers who know X really well to maintain them. The madwifi drivers work really well for most parts, ATI should learn from them and nvidia.

Re:ATI's development cycle (1)

snorklewacker (836663) | about 9 years ago | (#13206059)

ATI's development cycle is far too slow for linux. They develop for it to work on the current *stable* kernel, rather than the mm kernel or the development kernel.

God forbid that a hardware company should develop a driver on a stable target, rather than one that gratuitously changes the AGP and PCI API's in a 0.0.x (what the rest of the world calls a patchlevel) revision in what is supposed to be the STABLE kernel. I hold ATI absolutely blameless for that mess.

The fglrx driver is quite solid now, and blender is screaming fast, but I don't bother with 3d games, because I know I'm going to find them lacking. However, there is an open source 3d accellerated driver for the r300 series cards (which includes the X800) that's picking up steam.

Still, my next card will probably be nvidia, thanks to the pitiful linux support of ATI. Hell, they even have drivers for OpenSolaris (not sure if that means 3d accellerated or not though)

ATI just doesn't care (1)

aCapitalist (552761) | about 9 years ago | (#13204036)

Once linux on the desktop is relevant, they'll care, but until then they're putting all their resources into their windows drivers.

My main machine is a desktop replacement (pre-upgradeable video cards), and is an ATI 9600. Nice card on windows. Plays FarCry and Counterstrike pretty well, but quake3 on linux is another story.

Next time I'll be sure to get Nvidia. Of course, by that time ATI will probably the good guys again.

Re:ATI just doesn't care (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | about 9 years ago | (#13204152)

Ok when you say they put ALL their resources to the windows drivers, it's a sad statement. Because the windows Catalyst drivers are still an abolute mess. Nvidia is better, but by a mighty small margin.

Re:ATI just doesn't care (1)

KillShill (877105) | about 9 years ago | (#13210766)

ati are the good guys... compared to nvidia.

both companies are pretty much bastards but for different reasons.

nvidia cannot be trusted with their drivers and they put forth far more development into cheating at benchmarks then making a good hardware product in the first place.

ati has cheated in the past but not to any degree that nvidia has.

the fact that both companies do this just means the customers lose.

for me, i'm an ati user now. it is possible for me to go back to nvidia (owned gf2 and 3) would require them to behave and i don't see that happening. plus their hardware is a lot more expensive for usually inferior products (equivalent to ati).

now maybe if videologic and some other companies still were around to compete, then ati/nvidia wouldn't pull off a lot of the stuff they do.

i haven't even touched on a lot of other things but you can search for them if interested.

close-sourcing their drivers and not even providing specs for their cards says a lot to me... they care more about their dealings with macrovision than they do their real customers.

if only we could have an open-source (libre) video processor that could compete with the likes of these two.

Pity they didn't try the free drivers (3, Informative)

anth (2631) | about 9 years ago | (#13204405)

It seems odd to write a review of hardware for linux and only consider proprietary, binary-only drivers. The R300 [] project has progressed to the point that they now list what is left to do, and its shorter than the list of what is already done. Many games are playable, and it looks like they could use some testers who have a wider range of cards.

Dual Headed Displays (2, Interesting)

rimu guy (665008) | about 9 years ago | (#13205134)

After a few hours of messing around with xorg.conf, I managed to get my CRT/LCD display up and running in dual headed/Xinerama mode on my Radeon9600pro.

Fast foward a few months and I upgrade from FC3 to 4. X performance is now not even usable. I grab the latest ati drivers. After a few hours more in xorg.conf I get X starting up, but no matter what I try dual headed displays elude me.

The solution I eventually found was a cheap nvidia card purchase on trademe. I still needed a few more hours in xorg.conf, but ultimately I did get that dual headed setup back.

Until there is some change to the driver status quo I'll be buying nvidia over ati on my Linux systems.

Want better Linux driver support? Vote for Linux friendly vendors using your checkbook at your local computer store.

Linux Friendly VPS Hosting []

ATi = demonic possession (1)

setagllib (753300) | about 9 years ago | (#13205369)

No really. I have a Dell Latitude D600 with (what is labelled as) a Radeon 9000 Mobility, and although ATi's drivers *sort*of* work, inasmuch as having a completely mangled screen which just barely shows wdm's login prompt is working. Of course this is after a few re-boots trying to figure out exactly which kernel options they want in and out. And using *THEIR* X.Org configuration script, which is more confusing and only slightly more useful (only for ATi cards), which means nothing because the end result is worse than just SVGA.

Fortunately, between Linux 2.6 and X.Org I get DRM and OpenGL and all of that, so it's not a huge loss. But the performance (glxgears) on this card compared to a non-mobile R9000 is roughly 1/3rd. It renders nedit and aterm so I'm satisfied. I don't need to keep re-emerging the nVidia drivers with each kernel install either.

However, with or without the ATi drivers, xv output doesn't work at all on an external monitor (laptop screen works). Blank screen. I have to use vo=x11 in MPlayer to get any imagery, which means expensive software scaling and more broken frames. Somebody really messed something up there. Well let's be fair, in ATi's drivers it claims it HAS no xv support, so in that respect XOrg is doing much better (half support is better than none).

Still, I'd rather have a card that is supported in-tree in all my favorite operating systems (Linux and Net/Free/DFly BSD), than one I have to find and apply drivers to as is the case with nVidia. None of this would matter if I had an unusual architecture where hardware is well supported and relatively non-volatile. Mm. non-x86. *begins accepting donations*

Re:ATi = demonic possession (1)

S. Traaken (28509) | about 9 years ago | (#13206682)


        Option "VideoOverlay"
        Option "OverlayOnCRTC2"

in the Device section for the _primary_ screen.

The linux driver forum on at [] and the unofficial bugzilla at [] are both worth a look.

Don't blame Linux or ATI, Blame Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13206006)

If you look at how M$ has put the stranglehold in the past to OEMs, you'll appreciate why the development cycle tends to be slower, if not prehistoric for proprietory drivers under the Linux Kernel or any OSS based OS. That's why currently you often need to find developers willing to take on the task of porting drivers in OSS, but that also needs the cooperation (and openness) of the OEM's in releasing their source..see the conflict?

2.6.12 (1)

Tom (822) | about 9 years ago | (#13206530)

"some stuff" ???

Yeah, like support for the 2.6.12 kernel, which is not exactly new anymore, and despite claims to the opposite is still largely non-existent. There's a patch to at least compile the module, but it locks some systems (including mine) up.

As much as I dislike NVidia's close-mindedness, but their drivers at least work, work reliably, and with a fraction of the hassle.

Re:2.6.12 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13222936)

Newest ATI drivers work fine for me, Gentoo kernel 2.6.12-r2. If you googled I'd bet you could find a way to get them to work..

Of course I'm not saying this is an entirely acceptable solution. It'd be better if they just "worked", but friends of mine with NVidia also have problems too.

In conclusion, stop whining on /. and get them to work nancyboy! ;)

Cards are from different price ranges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13209272)

Not sure why the comparison is being done between two cards in different prices ranges. The 6800 Ultra is 30-40% more expensive than the x800 XL. And as seen in results it's at least that much faster. Subpar review.
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