AMD Linux 2008 Year in Review
Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 15 December 2008. Page 2 of 11. 27 Comments

Nearly halfway into 2008, there finally was an AMD Linux release worth talking about. Catalyst 8.5 had brought support for Catalyst AI, DKMS support for the generic installer, and improved 2D performance. Catalyst AI is a feature that has long been available in the ATI Windows driver for optimizing the performance of some select games. With this driver release the support had finally arrived for Linux, but with the minimal selection of native Linux games available, Catalyst AI really only benefits the id Software games (Doom 3, Quake 4, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars) on Linux. The DKMS, or Dynamic Kernel Module Support, within the generic Linux installer makes it much easier for those not using one of the integrated packaging scripts to install the driver and then maintain that installation even when you upgrade your kernel the module will be automatically rebuilt (permitting nothing breaks compatibility with the fglrx driver). Lastly, Catalyst 8.5 had dramatically better 2D performance.

As the last release prior to the introduction of the RV770 series of graphics processors was Catalyst 8.6. This release brought a horde of more fixes along with an updated API for the driver installation packaging scripts. Of interest to some users was also the UYVY and YUV2 video format support for the driver. This driver also secretly had support for the RV770 GPUs, but we couldn't tell you that when the driver launched.

In late June, AMD had then launched the RV770 GPU with the introduction of the Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870. With past generations, Linux customers would often need to wait six months or more (it was painstakingly slow with the initial R500 and R600 series) for any level of support. With the RV770 and now going forward into all future generations, this wait has been eliminated. The Catalyst 8.6 driver worked with these new graphics cards as we were fortunate to be able to have our hands on launch day. With this Linux support we were also at AMD's launch event for these new graphics cards. Check out AMD Makes An Evolutionary Leap In Linux Support for more information about this significant change. We were also privileged to be able to exclusively share that CrossFire would be coming to Linux in a driver release in the coming months.

Catalyst 8.7 in July was a significant milestone for AMD in that it ratified their Radeon HD 4800 series support. These new graphics cards performed very well on Linux and were very competitive against NVIDIA's graphics cards and its Linux driver. A few bug fixes could also be found in this release.

Not only were AMD's software engineers busy working on the RV770 Catalyst support for the first half of the year, but they were also hacking away at CrossFire support, OverDrive support, and adaptive anti-aliasing. All three of these features were delivered in Catalyst 8.8. Check out the linked articles above for more information on those compelling features.

September of 2008 was another memorable month for AMD. Catalyst 8.9 had brought WINE fixes and RandR 1.2 support. Support for the Radeon HD 4600 series was also introduced in this release. The RandR 1.2 support makes it easier for users to configure multiple displays and makes this driver compatible with many of the open-source monitor management programs that are written around the X Resize and Rotate extension. NVIDIA in fact is now also aiming for RandR 1.2 support. This driver also brought MultiView support for configuring displays across multiple graphics cards and is primarily geared for the workstation customers, but as we shared, it can be easily hacked for enabling support on Radeon ASICs.


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