At the end of our ATI Year in Review for 2006, we had stated, "next year will be a very interesting time for ATI/AMD Linux users." Looking back upon that statement, it has certainly turned out to be true, but perhaps an understatement for all of the AMD Linux work that has actually went on this year. The Catalyst Control Center was finally ported to Linux; there is now AIGLX support for use with Compiz, and the most substantial improvement being a brand new code-base for their proprietary Linux driver. Aside from their binary driver, they have developed a strong interest in better enabling the open-source community through releasing GPU documentation to the public (without NDAs!) and collaborating with Novell on the development of the RadeonHD driver. It has been one hell of a year for AMD, and in this article, we are going to look back at their twelve major driver releases from the year as well as re-benchmark all of these different versions.
Since 2005, ATI/AMD has been delivering updated Linux display drivers on the same monthly schedule as their Windows Catalyst driver. If you are interested in the details and planning behind AMD's monthly driver releases, we have details and slides from AMD's Graphics Product Group in this article. The 12 major driver releases this year were 8.33.6, 8.34.8, 8.35.5, 8.36.5, 8.37.6, 8.38.6, 8.39.4, 8.40.4, 8.41.7, 8.42.3, 8.43.2, and 8.44.3. The two latter driver releases, 8.43.2 and 8.44.3, are actually known to the public as Catalyst 7.11 and Catalyst 7.12, respectively, since AMD has recently adopted the Catalyst branding for their Linux drivers.
Starting with the fglrx 8.33.6 driver from January, it had introduced compatibility with X.Org 7.2 final and other minor bug fixes, though there was noticeable work going on "under the hood" with the firegl_public code gaining a bit of weight. This driver had also shipped with support for the Radeon X1550 and a few other ATI R500 parts.
Like the 8.33.6 driver, the 8.34.8 Linux driver had also served more or less as a maintenance release. This release, however, had corrected a serious bug with X-Video playback for x86_64 Linux users as well as appending Radeon Xpress X1250 support, preliminary support for Fedora 7, and more "under the hood" changes.