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  • AMD/ATI lost another Linux customer

    I was going through some old mails in my account and I realized that I bought my ATI HD4850 over a year ago, and it hit me: In this year I've never had decent support for my card in Linux. Neither the proprietary driver nor the OSS one managed to provide even a tiny fraction of the features I enjoyed when I was an NVIDIA user (or an Intel user).

    What drove me to buy an ATI card was the news that they were going to publish the specifications and I thought that maybe for once a manufacturer understood how to interact with the community and that they were actually going to make some positive change in the Linux driver scene. Right then, I earned an appearance on the cover of "Incredibly Naive People" magazine.

    After reading a couple of blog posts about how developers and users felt betrayed by the treatment Apple is giving them I realized I was in a similar position: I have a very good piece of hardware, but the company that makes it couldn't care less about me. I belong to a minority of people who actually enjoys having a choice in the matter of operating systems, and that makes me a LOUSY customer.

    After this horrible year, I now understand the reasons for ATI/AMD's decision: they can't (won't) support Linux so they'll handle the responsibility to the community. Let them carry the weight of developing and maintaining the drivers. I'm not judging the company's morals on this, it IS a corporation after all, and they can do whatever the hell they want with they're products and their drivers.

    NVIDIA won't be releasing their specifications anytime soon, but...guess what? It seems they actually give a crap about Linux users! Back when I was an NVIDIA customer, the longest time I went without support from their drivers was just a month (with the release of Fedora 8 or 9). On top of this, we now have Nouveau, that might not be in good shape yet, but if I was to switch to NVIDIA right now, I would have basically the same features I "enjoy" from the AMD/ATI hydra of drivers (catalyst, ati, radeonhd, etc.).

    So, this is me saying "Adios AMD", I won't get suckered again into your bullshit anytime soon.

  • #2
    AMD *does* care about Linux; that's why they released documentation. After all, isn't that what the Linux world always demands? When it comes to Linux the best driver choice is and open source driver, and AMD has been playing ball by allowing the development of such a driver. Even better, they provide a driver themselves for those customers that don't want to go the open source route.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Melcar View Post
      AMD *does* care about Linux; that's why they released documentation. After all, isn't that what the Linux world always demands? When it comes to Linux the best driver choice is and open source driver, and AMD has been playing ball by allowing the development of such a driver. Even better, they provide a driver themselves for those customers that don't want to go the open source route.
      AMD does not "care" about anything, it is a company, and it has an agenda and a business plan Nothing wrong about that, btw.

      Anyway, I forgot to divulge that I'm a Fedora user, so there's no choice for me, the proprietary driver doesn't work and the OSS ones only provide the very basics for the latest chipsets (like the one on my HD4850).

      With NVIDIA I DO have a choice, their proprietary driver works, and there's the OSS one that basically will give what I have right now with ATI.

      I also have an Intel card on my laptop. Although the current driver is somewhat buggy, that's because of the radical changes it suffered. I don't have choice here either (I can't even change the hardware but at least the driver is shown constant improvement. From ATI all I got was the occasional "maybe next year, if all planets align, you'll be able to play accelerated video on last year's hardware".

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Melcar View Post
        When it comes to Linux the best driver choice is and open source driver,
        That's a very vague comment. In performance, the foss driver is not the best choice, in development time, again not the best choice, feature wise again not the best choice. Really all you can say is "In theory, when it comes to Linux the best driver choice should be the open source driver."

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        • #5
          Originally posted by deanjo View Post
          That's a very vague comment. In performance, the foss driver is not the best choice, in development time, again not the best choice, feature wise again not the best choice. Really all you can say is "In theory, when it comes to Linux the best driver choice should be the open source driver."
          GPL opensource drivers stay working easier on Linux than closed drivers though since they can be integrated to the kernel tree which means features they need probably won't get dropped. Just takes a looong time to get them to the working state in the first place.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by m4rgin4l View Post
            I also have an Intel card on my laptop. Although the current driver is somewhat buggy, that's because of the radical changes it suffered. I don't have choice here either (I can't even change the hardware but at least the driver is shown constant improvement. From ATI all I got was the occasional "maybe next year, if all planets align, you'll be able to play accelerated video on last year's hardware".
            Opensource drivers for Intel, ATi, and nVidia chips are planned to have video acceleration over Gallium. Just takes a while to get the infrastructure up, things are very much progressing for most people. (apparently excluding some AGP users regardless of the chip)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by nanonyme View Post
              Opensource drivers for Intel, ATi, and nVidia chips are planned to have video acceleration over Gallium. Just takes a while to get the infrastructure up, things are very much progressing for most people. (apparently excluding some AGP users regardless of the chip)
              Planning is one thing, executing is quite another.

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              • #8
                the hilarious thing is:
                in the past people complained (very loudly, constantly and everywhere). 'Give us the doc' they yelled. 'if you release the docs, we will create kickass drivers in no time'. 'Stop fglrx and give the docs' and of course 'as soon as we have the docs, fglrx will be superflous'.

                AMD releases docs - and people still complain. Funny. Or sad. Depends on POV.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by energyman View Post
                  the hilarious thing is:
                  in the past people complained (very loudly, constantly and everywhere). 'Give us the doc' they yelled. 'if you release the docs, we will create kickass drivers in no time'. 'Stop fglrx and give the docs' and of course 'as soon as we have the docs, fglrx will be superflous'.

                  AMD releases docs - and people still complain. Funny. Or sad. Depends on POV.
                  Although I wasn't among those yelling, I surely thought that the release of the documentation would have had a positive effect on the free drivers in a timely manner.

                  It is obvious by know that the release of documentation is only the first step in having oss drivers of acceptable quality. We cannot hope to achive that when only a handful of developers are trying to cope with constant architectural changes on the X side, and hardware changes on AMD/ATI side.

                  I know that eventually the devs are going to achieve some success, but my guess is that we're still a few months away from it (over a year maybe). This would mean that I would get acceptable drivers for my card TWO years after the purchase date.

                  I think the worst part of all this is that the card is actually a fantastic piece of hardware and it leaves the comparable NVIDIA products eating dust, both in price and performance.

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                  • #10
                    well, I am lucky that the fglrx driver is good enough for me. I don't have any use for composite (I usually only turn it on, if I have a desire for eye candy - after a few hours that is satisfied - and the games I play work perfectly fine (ut2004, vegastrike, wesnoth, triplea, xskat, widelands).

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                    • #11
                      Cut AMD some slack. They definitely did the right thing in releasing documentation, which means that those cards will probably end up being supported virtually indefinitely.

                      Open source driver development is slow, I grant you that, but AMD are even paying developers to work on the open source driver, even though they have no obligation at all to do that (after all, why should they put resources into two different drivers).

                      To be honest, I have not much experience with fglrx, but it does seem to me like AMD are definitely on the right track - which can't really be said about NVidia. (Of course, Intel is still king of the hill in that respect, even if you account for the desaster that is Poulsbo.)

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by nhaehnle View Post
                        Cut AMD some slack. They definitely did the right thing in releasing documentation, which means that those cards will probably end up being supported virtually indefinitely.

                        Open source driver development is slow, I grant you that, but AMD are even paying developers to work on the open source driver, even though they have no obligation at all to do that (after all, why should they put resources into two different drivers).

                        To be honest, I have not much experience with fglrx, but it does seem to me like AMD are definitely on the right track - which can't really be said about NVidia. (Of course, Intel is still king of the hill in that respect, even if you account for the desaster that is Poulsbo.)
                        I'm not implying that what AMD did was in any way wrong. Quite the opposite. I think what they did is great!

                        What I'm saying is that I took the risk of switch to AMD/ATI after having a pretty good experience with NVIDIA, and that backfired big time.

                        What I'm also saying is that if the current trend continues, I will never be able to use a latest generation AMD card with the latest of what Linux has to offer. I CAN do that with Intel and NVIDIA (at least for the time being). It would seem that AMD is always a couple of steps behind.

                        Who knows? Maybe the situation changes in the coming months (I doesn't look like it's going to), and I will be able to switch back. I sincerely hope so. As I said before, I still think that AMD's hardware it pretty good, maybe even the best.

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                        • #13
                          Just curious, why do you say it doesn't look like things are going to change ? We started the open source graphics work from scratch less than two years ago, working from oldest unsupported chips to newest, and have pretty much caught up already. All shipping GPUs have open source driver support with 2D and Xv acceleration, 5xx/690 and earlier have 3D acceleration, and 3D accel for 6xx/7xx is in a public repo and getting close to being ready for use.

                          On the fglrx side we started supporting consumer use cases in late 2007, and have been gradually adding consumer-oriented features and distro support since then. "Bleeding edge" distros like Fedora are only being supported with the open source drivers today -- sounds like that is your main complaint ?

                          Anyways, if you look at where we were two years ago vs where we are today I think you would have to agree the situation is hardly "steady state" or "unlikely to change".
                          Last edited by bridgman; 07-31-2009, 12:57 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Have to agree with one thing. It's taking a way too long! "New" catalyst driver was released almost 2 years a ago and it still can't handle something as "usual" as video playback properly (GL slow and crashy. XV washed out colors and tearing like hell). Also what the hell are those lockups introduced by 9.6?

                            Free drivers 1st release was too almost 2 years ago and still it hardly supports OpenGL 1.3 with up to r500 and r600+ support second to useless if you consider the amount of money one puts to those cards and it's still going to take at least a year for any proper OpenGL 2 support through gallium.

                            Quoting billoreilly "******* thing sucks"

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bridgman View Post
                              Just curious, why do you say it doesn't look like things are going to change ? We started the open source graphics work from scratch less than two years ago, working from oldest unsupported chips to newest, and have pretty much caught up already. All shipping GPUs have open source driver support with 2D and Xv acceleration, 5xx/690 and earlier have 3D acceleration, and 3D accel for 6xx/7xx is in a public repo and getting close to being ready for use.

                              On the fglrx side we started supporting consumer use cases in late 2007, and have been gradually adding consumer-oriented features and distro support since then. "Bleeding edge" distros like Fedora are only being supported with the open source drivers today -- sounds like that is your main complaint ?

                              Anyways, if you look at where we were two years ago vs where we are today I think you would have to agree the situation is hardly "steady state" or "unlikely to change".
                              I said that it doesn't look like it's going to change because:

                              a) The software keeps changing (kernel, mesa, X, etc.),
                              b) New hardware is being released

                              If you start working from the oldest architecture to the newest, what you do is making the new customers pay for the support of the old ones. Kinda like a Ponzi scheme

                              The support for distros like Fedora is my main concern. If none of the hardware manufacturer provided "support" for it, I would have kept my mouth shut. But this isn't the case. The latest Intel cards are supported, the latest NVIDIA cards are supported. My 1 year old HD4850 isn't. I don't mean official support from the manufacturer. I would settle for decent set of features, even if the driver is provided with an as-is disclaimer.

                              I thought about where was I two years ago and I realized that I had a working NVIDIA card back then.

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