A Major Open-Source ATI Linux Driver Update
Written by Michael Larabel in AMD on 3 February 2011 at 08:10 PM EST. 35 Comments
If you use the open-source ATI Linux graphics driver, there's a major stable update available. At long last, xf86-video-ati 6.14.0 has been released. This open-source X.Org driver brings official support for the Radeon HD 5000 series, Radeon HD 6000 series, and AMD Fusion Ontario hardware. This release also has a plethora of bug-fixes and flips on the KMS page-flipping support.

Up to this point if you are an owner of ATI Radeon HD 5000, AMD Radeon HD 6000, or AMD Fusion hardware and prefer to use the open-source driver to the closed-source Catalyst Linux driver, you have had to rely upon source-code only found in Git. With today's xf86-video-ati 6.14.0 release, the Radeon HD 5000 "Evergreen", Radeon HD 6000 "Northern Islands", and Fusion "Ontario" support is stable. In the xf86-video-ati driver it means the kernel mode-setting support, 2D EXA acceleration, and video playback acceleration via X-Video. The Fusion support provided in this driver update also offers user-space mode-setting for anyone faced by issues with KMS.

For the Radeon HD 5000/6000 and Fusion hardware there's also open-source 3D support available that lives within the Mesa stack. Ideally you should be using the Gallium3D "R600g" driver for the best and fastest open-source ATI driver.

If you're looking to utilize a Radeon HD 5000 series GPU with the xf86-video-ati 6.14.0 driver you will need the Linux 2.6.36 kernel or later. To use the Radeon HD 6000 or Fusion hardware you will need to be using the Linux 2.6.38 kernel, which won't be released as stable for a number of weeks so until then you're left using Git or one of the weekly release candidates.

Taking advantage of ATI KMS page-flipping also requires using the unreleased Linux 2.6.38 kernel. Best about KMS page-flipping is that it dramatically speeds up the performance in OpenGL applications and games.

Also to enjoy in xf86-video-ati 6.14.0 are lots of bug-fixes and a major manual page clean-up. The list of bugs fixed can be found in the release announcement for the xf86-video-ati 6.14.0 driver.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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