What's The Problem?
If you're new to the Linux scene or just have been out of the hardware loop for a while, you may want to check out some of our past Phoronix articles such as An Outcry For Improved ATI Linux Drivers, ATI Has Open-Source Drivers Too, and our ATI 2006 Year in Review to see where the ATI/AMD fglrx driver is coming from and where it's going. If you've been an ATI Linux customer for years, you may recall the times when just installing the driver was difficult and for many people their installation just turned into a frustrating failure at the hands of ATI. If you were one of the lucky ones to get the driver loaded, you then had a basically useless graphical control panel and were forced to modify all of the driver settings yourself through the xorg.conf. After all of the hardship to get the drivers installed and configured you then usually found out that the ATI Radeon graphics card you spent several hundred dollars on would perform about the same speed of a sub-$100 NVIDIA graphics card.
Today when it comes to binary display drivers in Linux, the ATI/AMD Linux installer surpasses that of NVIDIA's and the text-based aticonfig utility and the graphically pleasing AMD Catalyst Control Center make it a breeze for configuring your system whether it be a notebook or a multi-headed workstation. However, as was mentioned earlier, the ATI/AMD driver still has a number of issues that need to be (and will be) addressed when it comes to the driver's performance, AIGLX support, and a number of other different "gotchas". In the past year to two years ATI/AMD has made great progress in improving the quality of their Linux software through pushing out monthly driver updates and with what we have seen from AMD proves their dedication to the Linux customer base.