The Greatest Linux Innovations Of 2007

Written by Michael Larabel in Software on 11 December 2007. Page 4 of 5. 5 Comments

ATI Linux v2.0

On the Linux graphics front, a topic so near and dear to our hearts, ATI/AMD had completely revolutionized their stance on Linux graphics drivers this year. In years past, there's no arguing that ATI has been at the end of many jokes for their lackluster performance, slow turn-around time for correcting bugs, and belated product support. However, this year ATI has acknowledged these problems and have been working vigorously to better enable its free software customers. ATI had introduced a brand-new Linux driver code-base that had addressed the performance issues but it had also brought Radeon HD 2900XT support and a month later had AIGLX support. The dust from this new driver is still settling, but what has revolutionized ATI/AMD this year has been their commitment to the open-source community (AMD's Open-Source Strategy Explained). ATI has gone from being a company of hatred by many in the Linux and open-source communities to being one of adoration.

A very bold move was made this year by ATI/AMD of not only supporting an official open-source driver, but also releasing their GPU documentation to the public at large -- without ANY form of a Non-Disclosure Agreement. To date AMD has released over 900 pages of GPU documentation that consist of register reference guides for the RV630 and M56 GPUs, but they will be releasing more R500/600 documentation in the near future that will begin to foster the growth of RadeonHD 3D support. They will also go back and release information on earlier ATI Radeon products. We have confirmation that two more documentation drops (RS690 and M76) are imminent and could happen by the end of the year, if not then Q1'08. One of the drops at least will also contain DRM sample code.

This open-source support has led AMD to bring on new staff and preparing for great things to come. While the RadeonHD driver has only been around for only a few months now, it's excelling at a phenomenal rate (already at v1.0) and is gaining traction within the open-source community. This move by AMD not only demonstrated that a company once criticized to no end about their closed-source driver can rethink their views and do what is best for them and the open-source community, but that a company competing in a triopoloy market can release their design specifications for the world to see while remaining competitive as a publicly-traded company.

Since the 2006 ATI Year in Review, we have been dropping hints that 2007 would be a very interesting time for ATI/AMD Linux users. It has certainly turned out to be interesting with the new driver code-base as expected, but it wasn't until the middle half of this year that this radical transformation began to take shape internally and the first bits of this work being publicly shown in September. AMD has stunned us all and we expect they continue moving forward cherishing this open-source package.

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