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AMD Linux

AMD Publishes Open-Source "ATI Evergreen" Driver 159

Several readers have written to tell us that AMD has published their code to support the Radeon HD 5000 "Evergreen" graphics cards on Linux in an open-source driver. Unfortunately the driver isn't quite as complete as some might hope. The current offering doesn't promise 2D (EXA) acceleration or 3D support. "The DDX driver supports mode-setting on the Evergreen/R800 series GPUs with VGA and DVI connectors while the DisplayPort connectivity is still not working right, according to AMD's Alex Deucher who had written most of this code. These new AMD graphics cards have been around since September while there was no open-source support at that time. In December just before Christmas there was Evergreen Shader documentation that was made publicly available and around that time it was confirmed via our forums that initial VGA mode-setting was working with Evergreen internally on unreleased code. Since then the digital connector support has been added in and this code has finally cleared AMD's legal review. The revised target was to publish this code by FOSDEM, which is this weekend so AMD did hit the target this time."
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AMD Publishes Open-Source "ATI Evergreen" Driver

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  • Baby Steps (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mystikkman ( 1487801 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:30PM (#30989088)

    Atleast they have released the specs out to OSS developers and are working towards a accelerated solution. There used to be a time when only Nvidia cards used to run at full power on Linux. Go AMD!

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:37PM (#30989192)

    The current offering doesn't promise 2D (EXA) acceleration or 3D support.

    So if it doesn't offer 2D acceleration or 3D support... what does it do? Framebuffer mode? Seriously why would ATI even release a driver in this pathetic of state, at least when I can buy an nVidia card for the same amount and have 100% of features work just fine.

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@g m a i l . com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:42PM (#30989254)

    why would ATI even release a driver in this pathetic of state

    To gather developer attention. At this stage, it's not about the features, it's about the mindshare.

  • by Jorl17 ( 1716772 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:44PM (#30989280)
    More than that, it's about manipulation of the media. It's about image. It's about making stupid people like some of us believe that this actually is a great leap forward. Even if this ever goes somewhere, it will always have started with this objective and this purpose.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:45PM (#30989290)

    Well they have a working proprietary driver. This is just the OSS one. ATi is attempting to make nice with the "OSS only" crowd. The problem is they can't just open up their normal driver, it contains licensed, patented code from other companies they can't hand out. As such you get a very different, stripped down, driver for the OSS community to work on. How useful this is is something up for debate.

    nVidia's approach is that they only want to release the proprietary, fully working driver. They aren't interested in releasing a semi-broken driver just to be OSS. As such you only get their binary download.

    Now in either case, the nVidia drivers are superior quality wise. They've always been good at drivers on Windows, and it translates over to Linux it seems. However ATi does have an open option that nVidia doesn't. For some people, this is important as they won't run closed code at all, even if it means a better experience.

  • by zyklone ( 8959 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:46PM (#30989304) Homepage

    Please tell me where nVidia has an open source driver with 100% features working?
    This is about the AMD open source driver, not about the AMD closed source drivers, which supports Evergreen just fine.

  • by Yaa 101 ( 664725 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:50PM (#30989364) Journal

    Please tell me where AMD has any good Linux driver? Their closed source driver is such a piece of crap.

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:15PM (#30989648)

    Well they have a working proprietary driver.

    For varying definitions of "working". As an ATI user I must say, the propietary driver is the single worst piece of software I've ever had the displeasure to run on my Linux system, and the only thing besides faulty RAM and a dying HDD to ever cause Linux (yes, the kernel, not just X) lock up on me. It sucks so badly that ArchLinux even removed it [] from their repositories, prefering to not give it as even an option rather than deal with the support nightmares it causes.

    The Open Source driver on the other hand is excellent, stable and completely hassle-free (something I can't quite say of NVidia's propietary driver, though it wasn't nearly as bad as ATI's), and even supports 3D acceleration on older chipsets. My guess is that it won't be long until 3D is also supported on the HD5x00 series as well, development is quite fast on it.

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:16PM (#30989656) Journal

    Good point. Let's take this opportunity of AMD doing something for the open source community to bitch about all the stuff they didn't do yet. Way to play right into nVidia's hands, smart guy.

  • by WeatherGod ( 1726770 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:23PM (#30989716)

    It gives a basis for the community to work around. The entire issue with NVidia has been that developers have been asking for at least some sort of documentation so that they don't have to reverse-engineer everything. Companies have said that they don't want to support Linux or handle bugs, and we reply "you don't have to!". With documentation and a core set of code to work around, AMD has done exactly what we have asked for. Now, it is up to us to take that code and build it up to be a full-fledge graphic driver.

    AMD/ATI has nothing but my fullest appreciation for what they have done.

  • by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:43PM (#30989924) Homepage Journal

    Your post is either erroneous or misleading - ATI has closed source Catalyst drivers [] that support Evergreen cards with 2D and 3D acceleration. What the Evergreen cards haven't had up until now is the open source driver support. However, the open source driver support for NVidia cards is much worse because the developers are having to reverse engineer functionality from NVidia's closed source drivers because NVidia hasn't made any open hardware specs available. When it comes to open source driver support for 2D and 3D acceleration, NVidia lags far behind AMD/ATI and Intel. As a post in the above link indicates, in the long run the shared open source code base eventually will be a significant competitive advantage for Intel and AMD and a disadvantage for NVidia.

    I have switched over to the open source AMD R600 drivers because, even though the 3D support is not yet quite as good as the closed source drivers, it should catch up and it's already good enough for what I do. In the meantime I won't have to worry about waiting a number of months for the closed source drivers to become available when a new distro/kernel release requires new binary blobs from the vendor. That also means that my graphics hardware investment is protected and not dependent on the continued support of the hardware vendor if I want to continue to upgrade the O/S in the future.

  • by TJamieson ( 218336 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:45PM (#30989948)

    Also important: it supports userland mode-setting, *not* kernel-based mode-setting yet.

  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:46PM (#30989952) Homepage Journal

    No it doesn't. Try using a WinXP video driver on 7. Won't work.

    I've tried this with the i855 laptop-video driver, because 7 doesn't even include a driver, even one that's limited to 2D accel.

    I guarantee you it wouldn't work with an ATI or Nvidia driver either.

    Now, I /have/ gotten a 3Com 3C905B to work on 7 with a WinXP driver (out of necessity), but only in the 32-bit version.

  • by nxtw ( 866177 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:46PM (#30989954)

    No it doesn't. Not in real world anyways.

    In "real world" you can just install an old graphics driver in Windows 7. You can even use the XP drivers for GPUs that have native Windows 7 drivers; of course you are then limited to the features of the old interface.

  • Re:Baby Steps (Score:2, Insightful)

    by babblefrog ( 1013127 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:59PM (#30990084)
    You kids with your fancy-schmancy hardware. In our day, we had 8250s and we liked it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:11PM (#30990188)

    A new graphics driver interface was added to enable Aero, but the old "XPDM" interface still works. This is why non-Aero compatible GPUs like the GMA 900 continue to work with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

    True enough... the old interfaces are still there for now. I may have misinterpreted your point as "the driver interfaces have not changed since Windows 2000"... which is different.

    Microsoft does have a vested interest in compatibility. This is both a blessing and a boon at times

    Why do you think NVidia had such struggles getting a stable driver at Vista release time?

    Intel certainly didn't have as many struggles compared to ATI or NVIDIA. In August 2006 (four months before Vista's retail release), Intel WDDM Aero-capable drivers had better performance than ATI's drivers at the time, even though all of the ATI GPUs were faster...

    This may just mean that Intel has better access to information than ATI or NVIDIA... or better developers, or much less complex graphics cards. In fact, I suspect it is a combination of the three.

    My point was that the new driver interfaces were not necessarily simple to get right... but it doesn't refute your first point.

  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:33PM (#30991264) Journal
    I'd say the relevant section is here:

    ... and this code has finally cleared AMD's legal review.

    If they released open drivers the same as they release closed source drivers, they would get their asses sued to oblivion. Everything else flows from that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @01:36AM (#30991908)

    here here! My name is Anonymous Coward, and I thank you for your work on the drivers Alex! My computer wouldn't work the same without you.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry