It's that time of the month again where we get to share with you all of the details on the latest ATI/AMD Linux driver release. This month, the ATI Catalyst 7.12 Linux driver (formally, what is known as fglrx 8.44) brings a host of new changes, mostly in the form of bug fixes. In total, there are just under a dozen noteworthy bug fixes in this release -- including addressing 3D acceleration issues on AGP graphics cards and the well-known OpenGL memory leak that was introduced with the new driver code-base. In addition, the FireGL graphics cards are now supported on this new driver code-base.
One of the largest problems that have continued with fglrx 8.41, 8.42, and 8.43 drivers has been a memory leak. This issue has affected a variety of ATI Linux users and was summarized by Hakan Bayindir in ATI's New Drivers: Did The Paradise Come? This OpenGL memory leak has also been brought up in the Phoronix Forums with the driver leaking globs of memory and being hoped for as a fix for Catalyst 7.12. Fortunately, the AMD software engineers have addressed the OpenGL memory leak in Catalyst 7.12, so be sure to upgrade.
There have been some fixes in past driver releases for those using an AGP graphics card with a Rialto bridge chip and the proprietary Linux driver, while this release is also reported to fix an issue with 3D not working on some AGP cards. In addition, a CMMQS initialization issue on the Lenovo ThinkPad T43p has been addressed as well as a corruption problem with the RS690 IGP. Some of the other bugs that were fixed in this release include the wrong libGL soname, OpenGL overlay fixes, and fixing a server crash in X -configure.
For the packaging scripts that are included with the ATI Catalyst installer, there is now Red Flag DT 6.0 support and script updates for some of the other distributions. One of the noteworthy updates is to for Ubuntu as there is now listed support for Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" and Dell's DKMS (Dynamic Kernel Module Support) is used for automatically rebuilding the kernel module with kernel upgrades, which comes to replace module-assistant for the fglrx driver. This is also the first ATI/AMD Linux driver release where the packaging scripts are being pulled from the Phorogit repository at Phorogit.com. If you are interested in checking out the scripts at Phoroit, there is a "7.12" branch for this driver. As you can see from viewing the repository, work on the ATI/AMD Catalyst 8.1 Linux packaging scripts is already underway with the Ubuntu scripts beginning to use LSB (Linux Standards Base) detection for the distribution/version.
Since AMD had rolled out their new Linux driver code-base in September, the ATI FireGL series hasn't been supported. Finally, however, with Catalyst 7.12 this workstation support has reappeared. If you are a FireGL owner, you can finally experience this new driver code-base finally, with its AIGLX support and heightened performance. On the topic of card support, the Catalyst 7.12 Linux driver properly identifies the Radeon HD 3850 and Radeon HD 3870, and benchmarks using this new driver can be found in our ASUS EAH3850 TOP / EAH3870 TOP review.
It has been a while since talking about the AMD Catalyst Control Center Linux Edition (AMDCCCLE) and the 7.12 driver does bump the version to 1.7, but there are no apparent end-user changes in this release.
Overall, the Catalyst 7.12 Linux driver is just a big bug-fix release. There isn't too much exciting news coming out of this driver release aside from fixes for the OpenGL memory leak, AGP 3D, and the re-appended FireGL workstation support. You can check out this new driver from the ATI website and be sure to share your thoughts on it in the Phoronix Forums. Next week we will be publishing our annual ATI AYiR (A Year in Review) article.