ATI's New Drivers: Did The Paradise Come?
Written by Hakan Bayindir in Display Drivers on 13 November 2007. Page 3 of 3. 32 Comments

3D Acceleration & AIGLX Related Issues

As I said in the beginning of the article, this month's driver is extremely important since it contains the new OpenGL driver code along with AIGLX support. Nice, isn't it? At least for me these improvements are, unfortunately, not working very well.

First, I must admit that the new OpenGL driver is working extremely well. It's fast and supporting OpenGL 2.0 (and I can assure you, all benchmark results you read in Phoronix are real) but, it has a major problem (at least with me). It's leaking memory like its infinite. Again, like other flaws I found this bug by luck. I was playing OpenArena at home and it suddenly crashed with a segmentation fault. Yes, segmentation faults happen, this is possible but more interestingly, I noticed that I've run out of my 2GB of RAM and 2GB of SWAP (and after some seconds my RAM was magically freed and PC started to load the SWAP to RAM again). This is impossible under normal conditions because neither OpenArena uses this much memory nor I open many programs that use that amount of memory. After restarting the PC, I had run glxgears and started to watch its memory usage. Unfortunately I was right on my guess. Glxgears was increasing its memory usage periodically with 20MB/period. More interestingly, when you close the application, you get all the hijacked memory back. It was definitely a memory leak and was present in all 3D applications, Xmoto, glxgears, OpenArena, flurry (OpenGL screensaver). While leaks change from 10KBytes to 20MBytes per iteration (which is a fixed constant per application in terms of time), the presence of a problem like that definitely makes your PC unreliable because after some point you cannot avoid OpenGL (even Amarok uses it).

The second problem is with AIGLX support. After this months driver release, folks around the globe were dancing happily because the latest drivers were successful in initializing Compiz, Beryl, and friends. I'm an eye-candy lover but I believe that it should be subtle and should be used to increase the productivity of the end user. In my opinion's light, I find KDE's internal composition is sufficient and neat so, I enabled them but, unfortunately, if I understand it correctly, while AIGLX is implemented and working, it's lacking composition support and hence, all of the KDE desktop was rendered by my CPU with the expense of extreme CPU usage and slowness. As a result, I turned it off and my eye-candy quest has ended even before starting, again...

Except the aforementioned problems, a small glitch prevents stopping/restarting KDE from virtual consoles, which doesn't classify as a showstopper. Nonetheless, it's a bit annoying if you are geek and using VTs regularly to accomplish tasks.

As a result, while ATI's drivers have improved greatly it didn't make the cut for me. I've bit the bullet and waited for 7 months for drivers to become better but at the end of that time period, all I got is an improved, memory leaking OpenGL driver, a stuttering 2D acceleration, a video playback which works by luck (on the other hand, if the video playback works, it really makes the video look good but I wished that it worked all the time) and a lot of noise coupled with heat...

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 at <hbayindir [at] gmail [dot] com>. His previous Phoronix article is entitled An Outcry For Improved ATI Linux Drivers.

How have the new ATI Linux drivers worked for you? Tell us in the ATI Linux Forum.

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