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An Outcry For Improved ATI Linux Drivers

Hakan Bayindir

Published on 14 April 2007
Written by Hakan Bayindir
Page 1 of 5 - 7 Comments

A Phoronix reader, Hakan Bayindir, who wished to share his thoughts with the community on the fglrx binary drivers wrote this article. You may share your thoughts on the fglrx drivers in the Phoronix Forums. Phoronix also accepts editorials and pieces written by the community, for more information contact us.

When I heard a sharp and continuous beeping sound, I had just grabbed my mug to enjoy my evening tea with the movie I was trying to watch. Without asking any questions to my computer (implicitly or explicitly), I had put down the mug and reached for the reset button on my PC. This was the third time in 45 minutes and it had never happened before. After I had upgraded to a ATI Radeon X1650XT, things started to go awry in a very annoying fashion.

I have been using and addicted to ATI Technologies' cards since 1998, and under GNU/Linux for approximately 2 years. I started with a 9600XT, and with rush to PCI Express, I switched to a X1600PRO. When it came to my annual computer revision season, I upgraded to an X1650XT. While I was satisfied with first two, the last one started to annoy me -- not because of the hardware but the issues of the GNU/Linux driver itself. At a glance, I had the following problems with the fglrx driver:

- Cards run hotter and noisier than windows.
- OpenGL performance is slow.
- Some overlay modes are missing from X Video implementation.
- X-Video implementation is not stable.
- Some popular extensions, required functionality is missing.
- Distribution specific packaging issues.

Before getting in detail about these problems I want to highlight an interesting issue. While AMD/ATI's driver reports that the X1650XT Chipset is supported during the driver initialization, the driver release notes do not mention any official support for neither X1950 nor X1650. Maybe this is because they think X1x50 series are members of X1x00 series (but they had written 9550, X550 and X850 separately) or they simply forgot/don't care or they really don't have official support for these cards yet. I prefer the first two to the third and hope that the case is not the third at all. Also it is worth mentioning that I'm using the latest official, unmodified driver (8.35.5 for the time being) on Debian/Lenny while writing this piece and reporting problems that can be simply reproduced with an X1650XT on a Debian 4.0 stable. Now onto the details.

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