Last month with the Catalyst 8.8 Linux driver we finally experienced CrossFire support on Linux as well as OverDrive support. This was one of the most significant driver releases of the year, but it's now time to move on as Catalyst 8.9 has just been released. This new driver update does bring a few exciting changes: the long-awaited WINE fixes, what appears to be RandR 1.2 with accelerated rotation support, and a horde of bug-fixes.
Before getting to the major changes, some of the minor fixes include artifacts when moving or resizing windows using TexturedVideo, HDMI audio output failure with R600/RS780 GPUs, hard hang on logging out of the X session for a non-root user in SuSE 11, screen hang when logging out one of two logged-in users in GDM, desktop corruption on SuSE 11.0 KDE 4 when RandR 1.2 support is enabled, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.4 demo running very slowly with corruption, X Server failing to start with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Update 6 with the RV770PRO, desktop corruption when toggling between virtual desktops after changing the resolution, CRT displays only half-screen in DFP+CRT horizontal mode with 1600x600 resolution, and RPM installation fails with libdrm.so.2. Additionally, the driver now ships with its own libdri binary for MultiView uniformly across all distributions.
Catalyst 8.9 also brings support for the Radeon HD 4600 series. You can expect a review of the Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 512MB at Phoronix next week.
When it comes to WINE, AMD has fixed the screen corruption issue that has plagued users for a number of months now. However, AMD is continuing to address problems with WINE as well as delivering performance optimizations, which should be in the pipeline shortly.
While nothing official is shared in the change-log, it does appear from a few hints within the binary driver and from our testing that there is full RandR 1.2 support. Yes, most open-source drivers have had RandR 1.2 support for some time now, but this AMD support seems to even extend to accelerated rotation support with RandR 1.2. In other words, you could rotate the display image and have it be hardware-accelerated, which is something most of the open-source drivers currently lack. Since nothing official has been mentioned in the release notes, we aren't aware of the current limitations of this Resize and Rotate support. We imagine though that this will work best on the Radeon X1000 "R500" series and later.
With this yet-to-be-announced feature, the support must be enabled manually. Running aticonfig --set-pcs-str="DDX,EnableRandr12,TRUE" seems to do the trick with the AMD Persistent Configuration Store Data-Base.
In our testing of enabling this RandR 1.2 with rotation support, the RENDER extension looks to be dramatically improved. We previously talked about the hidden TexturedXRenderer feature, but there appears to be a few more improvements to the X RENDER extension beyond that in accelerating more of the operations. For more information on how to use this Resize and Rotate extension, checkout A Newbie's Guide To RandR 1.2.
Most notably what this release lacks is support for X.Org 7.4 / X Server 1.5.0. That support is expected to arrive next month. If it doesn't arrive, it will leave a lot of unhappy users with Ubuntu 8.10 and the other distributions being released this fall. Likewise, support for the Linux 2.6.27 will also need to come next month in Catalyst 8.10 since Ubuntu switched to this newer kernel otherwise it will leave a lot of ATI customers in the dark. Perhaps next month we'll also see the rumored official UVD2 support. There is a UVD switch present in this release, but it doesn't appear to be properly hooked in yet.
To download the Catalyst 8.9 driver for Linux, head on over to the AMD's driver download page. Stop by the Phoronix Forums to share your thoughts on this driver release. We will have more on the latest ATI Linux advancements in future articles.