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AMD Linux Catalyst: Hardware Owners Screwed?

AMD

Published on 31 May 2012 02:32 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in AMD
183 Comments

Word is breaking today on the Windows-focused web-sites that AMD's Catalyst driver program has fundamentally changed. How does this impact Linux Catalyst users? Unfortunately, it will likely prove to be in a bad way.

The common phrase crossing Windows enthusiast web-sites today is that there will be "No More Monthly AMD Catalyst WHQL Drivers." Going forward, AMD won't be putting out monthly Catalyst driver updates as they have been used to doing for so many years, but now they will be putting out updates when warranted by "new games." Until Valve begins releasing their Linux games, this could be bad news for AMD Linux customers. New Catalyst updates aren't now on a definitive schedule; there is no Catalyst 12.5 to report on today and it's end of month.

AMD PR doesn't seem to care much about Linux these days so they haven't communicated much of these changes from a public/press perspective, where as Windows users are reporting the fundamental shift away from the monthly Catalyst releases to basically whenever new releases are warranted based upon new games and needing to address those issues. But in my fiduciary duty to inform Linux hardware customers and in what should be their right to know, here's some random details I'll now publicly share:

- What was to be known as "Catalyst 12.5" was re-based from fglrx 8.97 series to fglrx 8.98 series. So the next Catalyst update will carry more changes than what it would have otherwise. For new hardware owners, this at least means seeing more changes sooner.

- The re-basing of the next Catalyst release to the 8.98 series is actually bad news for older hardware owners... The 8.97 series was the last to support the now-dropped Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000 series. In other words, Catalyst 12.4 from last month is now the last driver to support the pre-Evergreen Radeon graphics hardware. With this timing, this "older" hardware won't even handle X.Org Server 1.12 on Catalyst.

- AMD has internally reaffirmed at this point they don't plan to support newer versions of the X.Org Server or the Linux kernel with the dropped R600/700 series support.

- For what it's worth, Dariusz Tomaszewski at AMD remains their manager for Linux and Android graphics drivers. However, an increasing number of the Linux driver team seems to be based out of AMD China these days.

- Besides the new driver supporting xorg-server 1.12 that won't be seen for HD 2000/3000/4000 series owners, there's also some other features that will be introduced very soon that these users will not see unless buying the HD 5000/6000/7000 series goods.

- I haven't heard anything at all whether the new (random) Window release schedule will be paired with Linux driver updates.

- Other Windows publications are reporting that there will be an increasing number of preview/beta drivers, but there's no indications of that on the Linux front. AMD still keeps their Linux driver program under NDA.

Overall, things aren't looking too good today for the AMD Catalyst Linux driver.

This news also comes coincidentally at really weird timing:

- Tomorrow is the six-year anniversary of the creation of my "ATI Redblog" about the trial of ATI graphics on Linux.

- This news is being typed from the birthday party of Luc Verhaegen at Samsa in Nurnberg while here with three of the four former open-source RadeonHD driver developers from SUSE.

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