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ATI 8.25.18 Display Drivers

Michael Larabel

Published on 24 May 2006
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 5 - Comment On This Article

After months of negative scrutiny by the Linux community, on April 12 of this year ATI Technologies had finally delivered its Radeon X1000 series Linux support. Shipping in the fglrx v8.24.8 display drivers was complete support for the Radeon X1000 series -- including the various Mobility chips. While the Linux support had come months after the Windows CATALYST announcement, ATI had done a suitable job implementing such support, compared against NVIDIA's same-day 7800GTX drivers that had initially contained performance-limiting problems. Missing, however, was support for TV-out on these new X1000 Linux solutions. Today the tides have turned yet again as ATI prepares to deliver its 8.25.18 fglrx Linux display driver, which is part of the ATI CATALYST suite, and was two weeks later than its usual release time-frame. On top of correcting the Radeon 512MB issue that we had reported last month, the red Linux developers have appended a slew of exciting new features and fixes for this release. We at Phoronix have already spent some time with many of these new items for this 8.25.18 release, and now again we have our usual driver examination. While the changes for this release are extensive, it is more along the lines of a cleanup release, rather than strictly a implementation of new features. The 8.25.18 driver should hopefully be the basis for many good fortunes to come from ATI in the near future.

As a reminder, XFree86 4.1 and 4.2 server support were depreciated with the fglrx 8.24.8 release, and coming next month with the 8.26 drivers the support will be eliminated. Some of the 8.25.18 changes include the new ati-initial-message, changes to the section identifiers in the X configuration, and installer improvements to allow package maintainers to easily test and create custom generatable packages (more information in README.distro). In addition, the ATI installer now properly detects X.Org v7.0 and installs appropriately. Another change is DPMS (Display Power Management Signaling) being enabled by default in the X configuration when running aticonfig --initial. Another change with aticonfig is now adding a Screen# parameter so that --resolution=Screen#,W1xH1,W2xH2,... now changes correctly according to the screen number. Both vrefresh and hsync have also been updated similarly with Screen#, and --resolution2 has been depreciated. The aticonfig options of --iagp/--internal-agp have also been removed, while --agpl/--agp-locked-userpages are replaced by --locked-userpages. Another issue has been resolved with user page locks only available on PCI Express systems.

Another fix in the 8.25.18 release includes ATI Linux Control Panel now being able to configure desktop setup. With the control panel, the "unknown" portion of the title has been removed, and the information page is also updated. The ability has also been added to the installer to mark packaging scripts as verified for a distribution by their respective maintainers. The ATI installer option of --get-supported has been replaced with --listpkg. Continuing on with all of the aticonfig changes, --tv-format-type=STRING parameter is now properly accepted. Another notable issue to have been resolved is X now being able to start with R360 GPUs. Yet another change is external AGPGART is no longer provided. A render string issue has also been corrected in fglrxinfo. Finally, packaging scripts for SuSE/Ubuntu/Debian/Mandriva have all been updated.

Outside of all the changes, one of the new features includes the aticonfig --lsp option for listing all of the available PowerPlay states with indicating the current power-state by an asterisk at that level.

The new products supported in this release include the recently announced ATI FireGL V3300 / V3400 / V5200 / V7200 / V7300 / V7350. The PCI Express FireMV 2200 has also been added in the 8.25.18 release. The recently released Radeon X1900GT also boasts compatibility with this latest 8.25 driver. In preparation for the AMD AM2 launch yesterday, last week ATI had launched the Radeon Xpress 1100 Chipset designed primarily for AMD notebook computers. The Xpress 1100 RS485 should also be supported by these drivers with the X300 graphics core. As mentioned earlier, the X1k 512MB issue that had affected the 8.24.8 drivers with certain motherboards/Chipsets has now been resolved.

Outside of the minor adjustments, one of the featuress implemented in the 8.25.18 release, but fails to be mentioned in the release notes (as the feature is still being stabilized), is dynamic display management. ATI's dynamic display management is the real-time enabling of display heads. Simply specify the appropriate parameter to aticonfig, and then the display will be enabled/disabled within a matter of seconds -- there is no need to restart the system or take any other measures to reconfigure X. The current dynamic display aticonfig options are --enable-monitor=STRING,STRING and --query-monitor. The query monitor command will list all connected display devices, whether they are enabled or not. Below is an example output.

$ aticonfig --query-monitor

Connected monitors: crt1, crt2
Enabled monitors: crt1

The aticonfig help states the following on the dynamic display options.


Dynamic Display Management Options:
  Following options will not change the config file. They are
  used for querying driver, controller and apdator information.
  These options will be effective immediately. Other options on
  the same command line will be ignored.
  --enable-monitor=STRING,STRING
        Setting current monitor to be enabled. Only 2 displays
        can be enabled at the same time. Any displays
        that are not on the list will be disabled.
        STRING can be one of the following set, separated
        by commas:
            none
            crt1
            crt2
            lvds
            tv
            tmds1
            tmds2
  --query-monitor
        This will return connected and enabled monitor information

Meanwhile, --enable-monitor handles the enabling/disabling of the displays. Of the connected monitors from --query-monitor, the enable monitor command can handle the strings of none, crt1, crt2, lvds, tv, tmds1, and tmds2. At this time, only two displays can be running simultaneously and a single ATI graphics card. In upcoming driver releases, we do anticipate that ATI will further develop its dynamic display management support. We have already spent quite a few hours investigating these capabilities, and to say the least we have been quite impressed. This feature can prove to be very beneficial when instantly activating a video output from a laptop for presentations. Currently NVIDIA has no similar option within their Linux display drivers. Keep in mind, this is ATI's initial release with this dynamic display support, thus there are still a few bugs that are left to be worked out, etc... We do welcome those of you who have experimented with this feature to report your experience and thoughts to Phoronix.

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