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The State of ATI Drivers on GNU/Linux 173

Posted by timothy
from the all-I-want-is-some-hot-3d-action dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After 50 days of the Phoronix editor-in-chief exclusively using ATI Radeon hardware in his system, he has issued his final blog post dubbed The State of ATI Linux. Topics covered include the very low frame-rate performance, image quality, overclocking X.Org 7.1 support, Big Desktop/Dual Head, Linux CrossFire, and other relevant items to gamers and Linux enthusiasts. From the article 'While discussing this trial with a colleague that was not familiar with the quality of ATI's Linux drivers he immediately classified ATI Technologies as attempting to fine-tune a hull on a ship while there is a giant hole in the side. However, is this truly the case?'."
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The State of ATI Drivers on GNU/Linux

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  • Not good (Score:3, Informative)

    by Data Link Layer (743774) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:26AM (#15750108)
    From my experience not good. I run gentoo and updating to xorg-7.1 has been somewhat of a hassle with a ati card. Ati has yet to offer drivers with xorg-7.1 support and as a result I have had to downgrade and mask many packages to make it so ati drivers will work. Maybe once xorg-7.2 is released we will get suport for 7.1.
    • Re:Not good (Score:3, Informative)

      by VP (32928)
      What part of "Binary drivers are not yet compatible with X.Org 7.1." did you not understand? Nether nVidia, nor ATI drivers work yet, so this is not a fair asssessment of ATI's driver support. Here is the Gentoo X.org update information [gentoo.org].
      • Re:Not good (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Arker (91948) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:46AM (#15750810) Homepage
        I'll go you one better. Binary drivers aren't compatible with Free Software, period.

        It's amazing to me the author of the article can put out as much verbiage as he did about this issue without ever once mentioning the real problem here - ATIs refusal to document the card interface so that the hardware can be properly supported.

        Until they do, their customers that use Linux, *BSD, etc. remain broadly unsupported. Only a small subset of free systems even have the option of using the mushware they want to substitute for documentation, and at a cost many will not pay. They're making themselves irrelevant in what is probably the fastest growing segment of the computer market. Why would a free software user shell out big bucks for the latest ATI *or* Nvidious card only to face the choice of running it without accelleration for the same performance as a much cheaper card, or with buggy opaque mushware that that doesn't perform that much better and taints your system, assuming it will even run on it, which it often won't?
        • There are essentially only two graphics card companies that count in the world: ATi and NVidia. If ATi documents their card interfaces well enough that open-source drivers can be written, NVidia WILL steal their technology, and vice-versa.

          This isn't so much a threat to business models in the software business because there is WAY more competition and charging for support is a valid way to make cash.

          What do you want them to do? Give away the hardware and charge for support? Yeah. Good luck with that.
          • by Arker (91948) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @02:10PM (#15751834) Homepage

            If ATi documents their card interfaces well enough that open-source drivers can be written, NVidia WILL steal their technology, and vice-versa.

            The hidden premise here is that somehow documenting the interface will make it easier for competitors to 'steal' some advantage. That's so obviously wrong in so many ways it's shocking someone would assert it in good faith.

            What are they going to do? Copy the interface so their card will be compatible with the other cards drivers? Well, yes, I suppose someone could do that. Wouldn't necessarily even be a bad thing (standard interfaces are generally considered a good thing, even ad hoc standards.) But this is a far cry from somehow "stealing" the actual video card technology. That technology is, in many cases, patented, rather than protected as a trade secret, so the competition can (and you can bet, has) gone and read the patents right off anyway. They just can't legally imitate it too closely. And to the extent there are things in hardware that *are* trade-secrets, a disection of one of the cards would be a much better way to get at them. Looking at the external interface is the last method one would use to try to disect the inner workings of a device. Note that refusing to disclose the interface doesn't do jack to stop the competitors from disecting the hardware.

            No, I'm sorry, that whole line of argument is utter nonsense.

            • I agree completely with the parent, and add to that a reminder that the open-source process has proven to be a better development model than the proprietary model. If hardware makers would publish interface specs and leave the software -- the drivers -- to the FOSS community, the result would be far better than what the manufacturers could do themselves. Better drivers mean more sales. esr makes this point in "The Cathedral and the Bazaar."
            • If they make the specs public then people will know when the company hacks the drivers to cheat at benchmarks. I'm sure most companies, to some extent, mess with the card to make the benchmark programs happy. It's just too important for them not to manage that kind of publicity. So if the specks were public then they might get caught by someone saying. "HEY your card doesn't do what the benchmarks say it does".
          • How is documenting "register F7C0 does foo" going to reveal how the chip is actually architected?

            How is not documenting the registers going to prevent NVidia from putting an ATI chip under an electron microscope to analyze their circuits?

            Face it. If you're one chip fab competing against another one, documenting the externally-exposed registers for programmers is NOT going to deter your competitors in the slightest, nor is releasing binary-only drivers. Remember, decompiling code for reverse engineering IS l
      • Nvidia's drivers are working well with Xorg 7.1 on my system. I had to modify the ebuild to allow it to be installed, but I have had no problems.
    • Re:Not good (Score:4, Informative)

      by gerddie (173963) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:49AM (#15750307)
      One might also point out that the current NVidia drivers (8xxx) also do not support xorg-7.1; version 9xxx is supposed to fill that gap.
      • Re:Not good (Score:3, Informative)

        by JThundley (631154)
        That's not true. My friend told me this too, so I proved him wrong. I'm using Nvidia 8762 and xorg 1:7.0.22 (debian testing). The trick to it is running the Nvidia script like this: sh NVIDIA-Linux-x86-1.0-8762-pkg1.run --x-module-path=/usr/lib/xorg/modules -n -N

        I also compile it with gcc 4, not 4.1 because that's what I built my kernel with and patched it for suspend. The nvidia driver even behaves with hibernating.
    • I've had a laptop with an ATI card for a few years now and run gentoo on it. If there's one thing I learned pretty quickly, it was not to update xorg until gentoo moved it to stable. Kind of a pain in the neck, but ATI has horrible driver support. Even though both manufacturers (nvidia and ati) don't have support yet for 7.1, I can tell you right now that even if they did, ATI still would have crappy drivers. It's almost as if they have 2 interns and a group of monkeys coding in a back room somewhere.
  • by AndyS (655) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:28AM (#15750125)
    Having had good experiences with my Radeon with the DRI drivers, I decided to purchase a computer with integrated radeon graphics.

    And I really really truly regret it.

    The main purpose of this computer was TV-Out, a feature only supported by the proprietary firegl drivers. The version I first got (8.16.20) didn't feature any overscan controls, so it sat in the middle of our television. After a couple of releases of this, we got 8.21.something which broke it even more - in fact, now you could only see the top third of any video you were watching with XV. At the same time of course, there was no 3d support at all.

    Since then, I got a VGA->RGB Scart cable, and I've been able to switch back to the free drivers. The quality is significantly better - working 3d, a full screen picture and snappier menus. I plan to be very very careful when buying ATI again.
    • When I first started working with linux back in 1998 I was setting up a machine with a old ATI card. No matter what I did I couldn't even get the system to display properly. When I eventually bought another ATI card for use in my desktop (A Rage II) it worked ok in Windows, but when I started to dual boot my box for Linux, again the card wouldn't work right. Right now that box is my linux firewall, and I have standard VGA console issues with the display, and sometimes X.org flips. It is just a standard
    • by Inoshiro (71693) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @07:08PM (#15753736) Homepage
      "I plan to be very very careful when buying ATI again."

      After learning exactly how "awesome" ATI's driver support was when I tried to setup 3D with my Radeon 8500 (and also Xinerama, etc) to play WoW under Cedega, in both 32-bit and 64-bit modes, I switched to nVidia and haven't looked back (yes, nVidia's drivers ran with Cedega and WoW in both 32-bit and 64-bit Linux installs perfectly well).

      So, I suggest to you, to never buy ATI again. Saying you'll be careful when buying ATI again, is like saying you'll be careful when shoving a live scorpion into your pants again. ATI is shit. Regardless of what their hardware might do, if you don't have drivers to make it do it, it's the same as not having the card!
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:28AM (#15750126) Homepage Journal
    From the article 'While discussing this trial with a colleague that was not familiar with the quality of ATI's Linux drivers he immediately classified ATI Technologies as attempting to fine-tune a hull on a ship while there is a giant hole in the side. However, is this truly the case?'."

    Yes.

    The state of ATI drivers on Windows is pure crap. It's even worse on Linux.

    • I have an Eich Pee notebook whit ATI chipset and graphics card. I use Windows XP everyday and usually play from SNES emulated games too full 3D games (Hitman Contracts was the last one). THe best resoulution I can get with the LCD is 1280x1024 and something like 45fps. For me at least the drivers do not suck.

      However, I have tried with a hell of a lot different Linux/bsd distributions [freebsd, gentoo, fedora, Mandriva (full powerpack DD illegaly bittorrented version), Ubuntu 6.06, DSL are the ones I rememb
      • by Criffer (842645) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:55AM (#15750375)
        Which 3D graphics card would you recommend if I wanted to make a top noch "open" gaming machine?. I would like a card whose drivers could exploit all the hardware properties

        The Open Graphics Project [opengraphics.org] is your friend.
        • Lol no way you are serious.
          From the linked link:

          It is a project to produce a PCI graphics card with fully specified programming interfaces. This card will be optimised to be fast for current and next generation GUI environments. This means it is mostly designed for 3D operations, specifically those that are used to render GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces). It will accelerate games to varying degrees, but that is not its primary purpose. It is intended to be a well-documented card that can be easily _
          • As crappy as they are, your best bet is Intel's Extreme Graphics.

            Intel actively supports the DRI drivers. It's really too bad that the performance is so amazingly bad.

            As far as I'm concerned, your best bet is Nvidia, followed by Intel Extreme Graphics for non-gaming.
          • You must not have a clue. Do you know what the ONLY difference is concerning PCI, AGP, and PCI-E? Bandwidth. That's it. A friend of mine has a GeForce FX 5700 PCI, and runs Doom 3 at 1024x768 at 40 fps at medium settings. PLAIN PCI. Guess what my AGP GeForce FX 6200 (both cards hav 256 megs) pulls? 52 fps at the same settings, same computer with maybe minor differences in motherboards and memory brands. Does it render polygons, indeed. It renders them just fine, TYVM.
      • On a slightly different but related note, I can't remember of anything similar (on any Linux distro) to the steps available on windows that ask you where are your hardware drivers located. Does that exists? is there a way to install some kind of card (like for example if I want to install a specialized medical heart rate data input card) and then I have the Linux drivers in a CD, how the heck do I install it without needing to recompile the kernel or any other esotheric things? (yeah I did installed gentoo

        • One more reason to love Gentoo:

          emerge nvidia-kernel

          Done. There may be configuration required later, but the point is, drivers which aren't part of the kernel, or which you want a newer version than the kernel supports, can be distributed as "packages" on Gentoo.

          Only thing left is to make a script that rebuilds them all when you install a new kernel. That's simple enough, every time you find one of these packages, add it to a file, one line per package -- say, /etc/rebuild_on_new_kernel. Then you can

          • Yeah, I finally gave up on Gentoo and went to Ubuntu. It took quite a while because the first version of gentoo wouldn't even boot on like three of four machines I tried it on, but dapper is quite nice. I think I'd probably still consider Gentoo for servers, if I were really wanting to milk them for all possible capacity, but that's about it. If you have a cluster, or at least a bunch of gentoo systems, you can use distcc and make packages that will install everywhere, and the overhead of compiling everythi
            • Maybe you were using Gentoo for the wrong reasons?

              I never got distcc working properly -- that and ccache, and every other solution I tried to speed up compilation, simply didn't work well, or didn't work at all. After my latest round of hardware purchases, I figured out that nothing was going to take too long to compile anymore. Longer than I'd like, but not too long.

              Any speed boost you get is nullified by the amount of time you spend compiling the system. Not to mention, both of my main Linux boxes are
              • Maybe you were using Gentoo for the wrong reasons? I never got distcc working properly -- that and ccache, and every other solution I tried to speed up compilation

                I got distcc working properly not only for x86, but also for cross-compiling MIPS. (I ran another distcc on a different port for that.) My Indy died though, so I haven't messed with that in a while. ccache will only help you recompile the same exact object file with the same flags faster, it's meant for people doing maintenance, where make wi

      • > is there a way to install some kind of card (like for example if I want to install a specialized medical heart rate data input card) and then I have the Linux drivers in a CD, how the heck do I install it without needing to recompile the kernel or any other esotheric things? (yeah I did installed gentoo you nitpicking slashdotter ;)

        There is no simple install script for this, but if you want to build modules in isolation without going through a kernel compile cycle, I believe you're looking for module-a
      • Which 3D graphics card would you recommend if I wanted to make a top noch "open" gaming machine?. I would like a card whose drivers could exploit all the hardware properties...

        One of these [matrox.com] would fit the bill, I think.

  • by everphilski (877346) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:31AM (#15750156) Journal
    However, is this truly the case?'."

    yes.

    Use nVidia if you want performance. They use a standard code base between all OS's. 95%+ of the code that is in your Linux driver is in your windows driver. The drivers are stable and have great performance. This has been hashed out many times on various OpenGL forums...
    • Except for 8 months people playing The Sims 2 couldn't update their nvidia drivers due to a problem introduced last fall that took nvidia forever to correct. Everything has its drawbacks depending on what you do with it.
  • horrible drivers (Score:2, Informative)

    by xshader (201678)
    Yes, my experience is the same... fine tune a ship with a huge hole on its side.

    Using dualhead is just unusable because the driver fucks up X and requires a full restart of the system each time I want to change users. Opengl apps crash randomly. It's just sad...

    Nvidia all the way guys! Don't fall for the cheap ATI cards!
    • OK, you've talked me out of it. I was planning on buying ATI X1300 cards for my planned multi-screen setup, but it sounds as if that solution is likely to be unreliable.

      Does anyone know of any nVidia-based PCIe 1x cards on the market?
  • I sold my ATI on craigslist because of the SAD state of the drivers. In simple terms "they are just flat out crap drivers", all my XGL and Compiz problems were related to the ATI drivers. But as soon as I through in my Nvidia card (TI4600) XGL+Compiz has not crashed on me since and every thing is butter smooth. I should of known better to even try an ATI card (it was free) as I have been using Nvidia and Linux for awhile with out any issues for awhile now.
  • Gaming? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DarkSarin (651985) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:40AM (#15750224) Homepage Journal
    He completely discounts the gaming aspect. Folks, I can't get the drivers to do jack for 3d acceleration, and that's a deal-breaker in my mind. Short of fixing this, there is nothing that will convince me to buy another ATI-based laptop. I have an AMD 3400+ with 1GB of RAM and an ATI 9700 Mobility Radeon. The thing has amazing performance for windows and gaming, handling the native resolution of 1280x800 for almost every game that I've tried without much trouble (no it doesn't do 180 fps, but it is solid). I can't get more than just a few fps (say 10) under linux (Ubuntu 6.x), and installing the drivers also screwed up my resolution settings. I plan to reinstall in a few weeks, and will, at that time, try out Gentoo to see if I can get any further. Maybe I'll try Fedora as well.

    The point is, without solid support for gaming, I don't care much about the drivers as long as I get a good display and reasonable 2d performance. But when I start gaming, I need the performance to just be there. There is no excuse for it not to be really freaking easy!
  • poor (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:46AM (#15750281) Homepage Journal
    "poor"

    Oh, the article was longer than that? Weird, there isn't much to say. I know this: If I had been able to see into the driver future two years ago, I would've bought a different notebook, one with an NVidia card.
  • by toby (759) * on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:49AM (#15750306) Homepage Journal
    A possible explanation given at the Linux Kernel Summit:

    Speaker David Airlie started with a review of the current state of free graphics drivers. Intel chipsets are relatively well supported, thanks to an enlightened position being taken by that company. ATI is a "former leading light" in the free software world, but is no longer cooperating. Even so, the free R200 driver is feature-complete and, at this point, faster than the binary-only fglrx driver. ...

    Why do vendors refuse to support the free software community? David noted, with amusement, that both ATI and Nvidia withdrew support at about the same time that they got Xbox contracts. Let's hope, he says, that Intel never works an Xbox deal.

    (via the always excellent LWN [lwn.net])
    • Of course that doesn't really matter much since the level of support the Intel chips provide is about the same as you get from the XFree Radeon driver. It's only when you start asking for fast 3D or multihead or any of those other features that the ATI drivers really look bad. Try running any modern game on an Intel graphics chip and you'll see why people prefer ATI and nVidia. I shudder at the thought of trying to use the Secondlife Linux client on an Intel graphics chip.
      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:22AM (#15750620)
        The rumours are that the next generation of intel graphics chips will be closer to competitive with whatever ATI and Nvidia have by then than the current ones. Presuming that is true, it sure would be nice if they maintain their current policy about open-source / open-specs for the chips.
        • closer to competitive

          They'll have to do better than that to get me off Nvidia. Yes, Nvidia is proprietary, closed, and does have some problems. They also are rarely more than one minor version behind either kernel or X, and I haven't yet run into something that I can do on Windows that I can't do on Linux with these cards.

          It is exciting, yes. I would buy Intel graphics if they were as good as or better than that generation of ATI or Nvidia -- especially if they were willing to work with the community,

    • There are huge problems with Intel's video chipsets:

      - Every Intel video solution I've seen uses solely 'shared memory' - e.g., your system's main memory rather than dedicated RAM
      - Intel likes to offload everything to the CPU
      - Performance is not up to par compared to Nvidia, ATI, or even S3.

      The software support for Intel's solution is VERY good, but until the above drawbacks are addressed, I'll choose Nvidia's free/proprietary solution over Intel's Free/Free solution.
      • To me, it depends entirely on the use. For my wife's PC (no real 3D required), I went with Intel since I knew 3d would go straight out of the box, no fussing with un-user-friendly driver installs and X configs. For my own desktop usage, it'd be ATI or nVidia, leaning slightly toward ATI for their prior Linux Free driver support. For notebooks, however, 3d is much less important to me than reliable suspend/resume, which I'm unable to get with ATI and which I get in spades from Intel.
  • by pyros (61399) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:51AM (#15750323) Journal
    I have an HP nw8240 laptop with a FireGL v5000. I've been running Ubuntu since I got it in November. I can't recall if I started with Breezy or a Dapper beta, but I've been using the fglrx drivers the whole time, and it's been fine for me. The only time I had to download the drivers from ati.com was to get an ACPI related fix that wasn't in the Ubuntu packaged version. Once that was included, I've been using the fglrx from the restricted repo, and that was during the Dapper beta, back in November/December. I was running Xgl during the beta, too, and still am. It did crash at first, but again it took less than a month to get an update pushed out to the repos that fixed it. I don't do any gaming, though.
    • I have an HP nw8240 laptop with a FireGL v5000.

      Well, duh -- that's because you're using an expensive-ass professional card, where ATI put actual effort into the drivers! Those of us with the normal consumer cards, on the other hand, are screwed.

  • Way back when, I had my old box set up as a dual-screen, dual-boot (linux/win98). 1 ATI card, 1 integrated video card. Both linux and Windows had no problem using both cards.

    Now - upgrade to a better box, throw in a Radeon 9200, and nothing works properly except under SUSE. Ubuntu, for example, insists on using only the PCI card (doesn't matter which one you have configured as the primary in the bios, PCI or AGP).

    So, throw on a copy of Windows. Ha - the situation is worse. W2003 uses the 9200, but in 4-bit "colour", 800x600 res. The other ATI card is invisible to the system. Installing the drivers - oh joy - they refuse to install. XP Pro? No real diff.

    SuSE 10.0, on the other hand, saw and configured both cards. However, trying to install ATI's drivers under both Ubuntu and SUSE failed - the install program craps out.

    When it comes to video cards, from now on ATI means "All Time Ignore". I didn't have these problems with the old GeForce 2 with TV-out that worked perfectly.

  • From their support site [ati.com].
    "Linux is a clone of the operating system UNIX"
    If they don't even know what Linux is, how well do you think they can support it?
  • My Sony VGN-S150 has an ATI graphics chip. Whether I'm using the free driver bundled with X.org or the closed-source driver from ATI, I'm afraid to run OpenGL apps on the thing, since there is a significant non-zero chance the app will lock up. This can and does happen with something as complicated as Celestia or Stellarium, or as simple as GLGears.

    It's darned frustrating. I've written a fair number of graphics drivers in my day (all for BeOS, I'm afraid), so I have plenty of sympathy for driver writer

    • Re:OpenGL Lockups (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomstdenis (446163)
      It'd be less of a problem if they

      1. Spent more time to document the damn hardware

      2. Opened the interface to the public.

      The problem is the hardware is always in a state of flux and just incremental improvements. Your GeForce 7800 is probably based on the same HDL source as the 6600 with appropriate changes. This means that legacy symbol names from one project creep up into the new space. You get odd names, combined with lack of comments and documentation [compliance] leads to hardware with "oops" that t
      • I tolerate Nvidia solely because their kernel modules work decently [well not anymore as they're not keeping pace with xorg development].

        Except that Nvidia is certainly the faster of the two, and tends to keep pace with development better than some open source projects.

        I wouldn't be surprised to see this fixed in a week or so. Certainly not more than a month.

        • Well it could be the gentoo/xorg combo but afaik I'm still locked into the xorg-nv driver right now.

          Which is ok because I'm too busy writing my book to miss the 3D accel. :-( (that and I have consoles for gaming).

          Mostly I like my cards (NV43 iirc) because they were decently priced, work over PCI-E (a must for PCI TV tuner owners), don't need fans and provide good performance. Most of the time I'm in 2D mode anyways so it doesn't matter. But accelerated bitblts are nice and handy (specially for overlays)
          • I'm on Gentoo/xorg, on amd64, full closed/binary nvidia drivers, PCI Express, and everything works, out of the box.

            I really don't know what's wrong with your setup. I might be able to help you over at irc.freenode.net#gentoo
    • What chipset is your laptop using? On my R200 based desktop, I can run Q3, UT2k3, SpecViewPerf, Stellarium, etc. All with the DRI driver, stable as a rock.

      The only time I encountered serious problems was when I reflashed the bios of my motherboard with the wrong firmware version, and AGP disappeared.
      • It's a Radeon Mobility 9200 (M9+) 5C61 (X.org 7.0, kernel 2.6.15). Not long after I bought the machine, Sony switched the S-series to use NVidia chips. sigh...

        I think there may be a BIOS upgrade available, but I long since blew Windows completely off the machine. I might be able to re-flash the BIOS under BartPE, but that's a research project...

        Schwab

  • by VP (32928) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:07AM (#15750488)
    I have a Dell Latitude D610, with the ATI R300 chipset. While the older drivers worked, the latest one, together with kernel 2.6.16.x, does provide good performance for a laptop. The frame rate reported by glxgears jumped from less than 200 to about 1000, 3d screensavers look very nice, and hooking up external monitors or projectors is a breeze.

    I don't know what the support is for desktop cards, but for laptops ATI is now a viable option to consider.

    A lot of the negativity in previous comments seem to be based on past experiences - try the latest driver if you have a chance, you may be pleasantly surprised...
    • I'm interested in your setup, then. I have a Dell Inspiron 6000, but it also has an ATI Radeon Mobility M300. Currently, I am running Xorg 6.9 (haven't upgraded to 7.x yet) on Gentoo Linux with the fglrx driver v8.25.18 with the 2.6.16-suspend2-r8 kernel. In order to even get X to work, I have to disable hardware acceleration or it freezes about 10 seconds after starting X (I think that is related to using the radeonfb module for a high-res terminal, but I use the terminal too much to use a kernel without t
  • by Theovon (109752) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @12:41PM (#15751200)
    One thing that pisses me off is that so many people keep bitching about lack of proper open source drivers, but they don't actually try to DO anything about it. If you don't have the technical expertise, then how about financial support or donating resources for the various efforts trying to correct the problem? Either you work to reverse-engineer current products (or support the reverse engineers financially), or you get hooked up with the Open Graphics Project [opengraphics.org] and help fix the problem once and for all.

    The Open Graphics Project comes up pretty high in google searches. When someone writes an article like this, it tells me that they didn't even TRY to do their homework. From reading the article (yeah, I read it!), it would appear that the author isn't seriously looking for alternatives. It's reasonable enough to evaluate ATI and nVidia drivers. What's unreasonable is to make everything totally one-sided by not mentioning the alternatives.

    • Their are wonderful OSS drivers for 2D features, it is hardware-accelerated 3D where things fall short. HA3D means AGP or PCI-Express, not PCI. Even with support there is no way the OGP is going to release anything usable on that front for YEARS.

      On the other hand, Intel has been providing specs and source code for their integrated graphics chipsets. This includes hardware accelerated 3D, though the chips aren't up to the nVidia and ATI top or upper-mid range. Hardware T&L is missing, for one thing.
      • The OGP's goal is to release USABLE 3D for 3D desktop support. It won't be YEARS for that. Most Linux users just want the 3D features supported for relatively basic stuff, like 3D desktops with transparent windows and the like. Not games. This sort of thing is WELL within the capacity of the OGP in the short term.

        Besides, the long term goal of the OGP is to have open hardware. Wouldn't you like that? Don't kill them based on their short-term goals. Think about the future, lest you never end up with o
    • You know, Matrox [matrox.com] doesn't have the fastest cards, but they do have Free drivers that support 3D. Since you've failed to mention them, perhaps you've failed to do your homework as well!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2006 @01:22PM (#15751473)
    There are people that keep pushing the myth that ATI is pro-open source and the nVidia is not. The truth is that ATI is more like nVidia but ATI's marketing keeps pointing to Gatos. In reality, ATI does almost worse than nothing to support Gatos development.

    On of the first attempts by ATI to provide an actual ATI supported package for Linux was the VHA Kit. This was supposed to be a library/SDK made by ATI and Loki Games to allow Linux access to the Rage chipset support for hardware assisted decompression of MPEG2 so that iDCT did not need to be done in software. When I have asked ATI about the VHA kit and if they have any commitment to providing on-going support for hardware assisted iDCT for Linux, they claimed that the kit was never distributed because of lack of interested in the community. This seems really fishy since release of the kit even made it on Slashdot and there where several comments at the time expressing interest. Later, a former developer from Loki stated that do to limitations in the Rage chipset implimentation of moving data back and forth, it was faster just to do iDCT in software.

    Then the Radeon came out which should have addressed the limitations in the Rage. And nVidea released their closed source drivers with iDCT. While it is possible to do iDCT in software for the 480i resolution of DVDs, for HDTV tuners such as pcHDTV, a nVidea card is almost a requirement to view 720p and 1080i MPEG2 streams. ATI got so many requests for iDCT support that they put online a FAQ on their support site claiming that Gatos was working on the issue. In reality, the Gatos mailing list had posted multiple times that they where not working on iDCT at all. When I contacted ATI requesting to get the Radeon specs needed to support the iDCT support myself, they stated that such information is *NEVER* released outside of ATI. They went to explain that even if the developer signs a NDA, they still will never release the specs to do iDCT support.

    Then the All-in-Wonder 8500 which was supported by Gatos was discontinued so I contacted ATI to offer my help to work on Gatos support of the All-in-Wonder 9700. They ask me to be patient and they would be getting back to me. A couple *YEARS* later and they still haven't gotten back to me. According to Gatos, they have gotten around to providing the specs and example hardware to one of the developers. But while Gatos is "open source" in the fact it is GPL, no one else can be much help to the project since the Gatos developers can't legally give the specs to any potental developers. All they can do is tell potental developers to contact ATI which result again with a request to be patient for *YEARS*.

    The All-in-Windows 9700 is now discontinued and the new mainstream AIW card is the AIW 2006. Gatos doesn't even claim to have been provided any specs for this newer card. The ATI prioritary drivers provide no support for the tuner at all. And ATI continue to blow off requests from any potental developers except for the ones they already have an established relationship.

    And for some reason that eludes me, people still claim that ATI does a better job of supporting the Linux community than nVidia! Does ATI's drivers provide iDCT support for Linux? nVidia's drivers do. If you call ATI right now asking for driver programming specs for any shipping Radeon chipset, do they actually provide it or tell you to just wait (and wait and wait and wait)? nVidia is at least honest about what programming specs they will openly release and what they won't.

    • In reality, ATI does almost worse than nothing to support Gatos development.


      Bite your tongue! If you check out the Gatos project web site, you'll note that ATI actually sent the Gatos folks a couple of video cards. How dare you say ATI doesn't care about supporting a growing market segment? ;)
  • by TLouden (677335) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @01:47PM (#15751667)
    I've got an Acer Aspire 5670 with CoreDuo 1.66Ghz, 1GB ram, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 (128 ram, 512 hypermem), 15.4" WXGA and I've had not trouble with graphics. I can do dual desktop (though, as a college student I find it hard to make space for a second monitor), graphics editing, video, gaming. I haven't said once "gee, I wish these drivers were better so I could do that". So, where did I go wrong?
  • I am for open source drivers. After all, I bought a video card I would like to use that piece of hardware anyway I see fit (not necessarily with Windows or Linux).

    But I can't place all the blame on ATI or NVidia for the state of drivers. Some blame lies with the Kernel Developers.

    Before you start sending me hate mail, hear me out...

    The kernel developers went with ideology rather than reliability when it came to the driver API. They purposely manipulate their API and hope that this will give ATI and NVidia
  • by deAtog (987710)
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ATI has long since had issues of creating stable and viable drivers for its products. I'm sure you all remember the ATI Rage Fury Maxx which debuted some six or seven years ago. It not only came with two onboard video processing units, but also promised to be the fastest video card on the market for its time in its price range, $150 USD. So what happened to this card, you say? As it turns out ATI was only capable of providing drivers that were compatible with Windows
  • I've said it before, Nvidia Makes a Linux Desktop and ATi Breaks it.

    I'm immune, All AMD and Nvidia for years now. Haven't seen a thing to change my attitude to date.

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