X-Plane is marketed as the "most thorough, flexible, and realistic flight simulator available for personal computers" and ships not only for Windows and Macintosh platforms but also for Linux. Laminar Research produces X-Plane and while it's currently not part of our testing suite, we recently took X-Plane v9 Beta 18 for a test flight. Previously their community leader had classified using ATI Linux drivers with X-Plane as an "unusable disaster" with "insurmountable problems", but is that really the case? We explored the situation in this article.
X-Plane has been around since 1994 and is highly regarded as being a very accurate flight simulator, and has even received the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration for training purposes. There are some limited benchmarking capabilities with this flight simulator software, but for the most part X-Plane has flown beneath our radar at Phoronix. This month though there were some interesting comments generated by Ben Supnik, a developer and community leader for Laminar Research, which had caught our attention. As was relayed by Svartalf in the Phoronix Forums, Ben Supnik had the following to say:
To those of you running v9 on ATI...we do not support v9 ATI. If you use v9 on your ATI hw and it catches on fire we will merely laugh derisively and say "We told you so". The illusion that it looks like it works does NOT mean that it works. We do not give it our stamp of approval. If you buy X-plane 9 and it becomes a coaster because you have ATI and not NV hw, we won't even buy you a cup of tea to put it on.
Sorry, had to get that out there...seriously, our initial internal assessment of v9 on ATI hw is that it's an unusable disaster. We can't spend any of our time supporting it given how badly we have seen it work.
With that in mind, once we get more centralized facilities for supporting Linux (read: a Wiki) maybe we can collect some info on people's results of ATI and make a more narrow "blacklist" (e.g. ATI is supported in certain conditions) rather than our blanket "it doesn't work". I am surprised to hear any positive results, so please stand by to help gather information later!
But we have to start skeptical. I can't sign LR on to supporting ATI Linux when it looks right now like there are insurmountable problems that we can't fix.
Ben had said that earlier this month on the X-Plane.Org Forums. Of course, once reading that message, we immediately began downloading the latest X-Plane Beta (at the time, 9.00 Beta 18 for Linux) to test this for ourselves. Since AMD introduced their new OpenGL driver, we hadn't run into any major compatibility problems with the Linux software we had tested so this would be a first. After the X-Plane 9 beta for Linux had finished downloading, it was installed on a system running Ubuntu 7.10 with the fresh Catalyst 8.01 Linux driver and paired with a Radeon HD 3870 512MB graphics card.