An Outcry For Improved ATI Linux Drivers
Written by Hakan Bayindir in Display Drivers on 14 April 2007. Page 5 of 5. 7 Comments

Distribution Packaging Issues

This is the last issue that bothers me about AMD/ATI Drivers. Since ATI drivers are not completely closed source due to some reasons and some people from the community maintain these open source parts, things do not always go smoothly in every distribution. As I mentioned before, I'm using a Debian testing/unstable combination, which I find better than many distributions out there. Since Debian is one of the "major" distributions out there, somebody from ATI or the community is maintaining these scripts [Editor's Note: The Debian fglrx script maintainer is Aric Cyr (a community member)]. But there is a major drawback. The scripts are always somewhat flawed so many people and I are using official Debian fglrx package maintainer's packages. While this solves problems, this means we are waiting a bit more for a patch and sometimes-important releases can be skipped due to feature freeze or some real world issues (since he's a voluntary community member and has real work this to do, I cannot blame him for that).

Also it's worth mentioning that until 8.27 or 8.28 things were not that bad. I was able to do download and use regular packaging scripts to build packages and use my computer just fine, as it should be, but for a long time ATI control panel was not compiled as a package. The source was here but I was unable to build and use it. Some time later the control panel appeared but a worse problem surfaced: X cannot be shut down. When you want to restart the X server or just shut down computer, KDM (or X) freezes. Flavio Stanchina (the official package manager of Debian-fglrx) was addressing this issue and I was using the 8.29 drivers packaged by him but after I upgraded to the X1650XT (since 8.29 does not support the X1650 series), this problem has reappeared due to stock and nearly unmaintained build scripts of the Debian driver. Therefore, when I want to turn my computer off, I shut it down, wait 30 seconds after screen goes blank and force a turn-off with power button hoping every important service has saved its data or not accessing the disk. Also I'm sure that this problem is not Debian related since I've copied my disk to my office PC and running the same system with a green GeForce 7600GT work just fine. Also when you uninstall ATI drivers and shut down your PC, it just shuts down without any freeze.

As a result, AMD/ATI has some disturbing driver issues that should be fixed in a fast manner. When I ask myself which must be fixed first, I order it like scripts, stability, extensions, performance and noise. While this is an imaginary order I'm well aware of some problems may be tied to each other or just some problems are side effects of the others. I hope that ATI listens the Linux customers like their other customers who use some Redmond software and build some dependable and good drivers. Because if they don't and the gap widens, unfortunately more and more people will move the side where the grass is greener.

Hakan Bayindir is a regular Linux user, programmer and administrator who develops some in house programs and maintains some grid-computing clusters in a governmental agency which runs on GNU/Linux operating systems. He can be contacted over <hbayindir [at] gmail [dot] com>.

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