In our ATI Year in Review 2006 we had found some notable advancements when it came to new features in the ATI Linux drivers last year, but there were minimal gains made when it came to improving the performance of these drivers. We did make it known, however, that 2007 would likely become a very interesting time for ATI/AMD Linux users. Now today AMD is releasing their first display drivers for 2007. Coming out on the Linux side is fglrx 8.33.6 while on the Windows side is Catalyst 7.1. Featured in this month's fglrx 8.33.6 driver is some very noteworthy changes, which is what we have detailed in this article along with our usual set of graphics benchmarks.
Being released on November 29, 2006 was the Linux 2.6.19 kernel. However, neither the November 8.31.5 or December 8.32.5 display drivers had appended official support for this kernel. Distribution package maintainers have independently included patches for the 2.6.19 kernel, but finally with the 8.33.6 display drivers had AMD developers patched the mainstream code. The fglrx 8.33.6 display driver should now work out-of-the-box with the Linux 2.6.19 kernel. The major change required for Linux 2.6.19 kernel support was linux/config.h being changed to linux/autoconf.h.
In the 8.32.5 display driver we had also seen preliminary X.Org 7.2 support. However, due to a last minute change in X11R72 between the second and third release candidate with DRM caused fglrx 8.32.5 to only support X11R72 RC2. Now with 8.33.6 the fglrx drivers should work fine with X.Org 7.2 RC3 and final.
Among the bug fixes making their way into this release is addressing corruption when stereo is enabled, fireglcontrolpanel being installed even after un-selecting the option, ATI installer button fix, SuSE text mode installation showing garbage and corruption, and running aticonfig --ovon=1 causing a segmentation fault. A few other miscellaneous changes have also been worked into the 8.33.6 release. Unfortunately, the x86_64 issue with X-Video still has not been addressed. However, now it is time to go beyond the release notes to share some of the juicy details about the 8.33.6 driver.
In the past we were very pleased when NVIDIA had delivered same-day GeForce 7800GTX and 8800GTX Linux support. On the ATI side, there was the whole debacle of belated Radeon X1000 (R500 series) support for nearly half a year. In the past we have also seen ATI Linux support come a month or two after the hardware launch, but ATI has fortunately learned its lesson. ATI/AMD will be providing timely Linux support for the Radeon X2000 (R600) series. In fact, the 8.33.6 display drivers have listed support (available in the Xorg.0.log) for the Radeon X2300HD as well as the Mobility Radeon X2300HD (M71). It is important, however, to keep in mind that it is only preliminary support, but it exists in the driver and in the coming releases will improve. Much adoration goes out to ATI/AMD for providing timely Linux support, which is a first in recent history for them. More on the Radeon X2000 family will come at Phoronix on a later date.
However, the hidden fun is not over as additional work has been going on under the hood. In fglrx 8.32.5 the firegl_public.c file was 4182 lines long where as today's release is now approximately 4495 lines -- with this additional code being largely attributed to adding Kernel Abstraction Services (KAS) with Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) support. Driver support for the Radeon X1550 series and a few other products were also bundled into the 8.33.6 release.