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Problems With OEM ATI Cards And ATI's Linux Driver 248

Doug Bostrom writes "Over at FlightGear.org, Andy Ross describes how ATI's new Linux drivers only seem to work with "official" ATI cards (made by ATI), why that does not make sense, and a possible fix that unfortunately would mean booting Windows, if only for a few minutes."
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Problems With OEM ATI Cards And ATI's Linux Driver

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  • Summary is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by awptic ( 211411 ) <infinite@[ ]plex.com ['com' in gap]> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @09:53PM (#4777764)
    According to the message posted, the utility used to reflash the BIOS runs in DOS, not Windows, and will work in FreeDOS [freedos.org]
    • FreeDos Rules, w00t, w00t with out it we could never user proprietery BOIS updates.
    • You can't even flash a BIOS from within Windows, even if you wanted to. Curiously, I have never needed to do this with linux, is the only option to get ahold of a DOS boot disk for this?
      • I've flashed a Abit board using their windows based web utility.

        I've flashed a Ricoh DVD/CDRW using their Windows flashing utility.
    • According to the message posted, the utility used to reflash the BIOS runs in DOS, not Windows, and will work in FreeDOS

      Yes, FreeDOS is perfect for this. Just boot the system disk, break out to the shell, and delete CONFIG.SYS so you won't get the install menu any more. Empty out AUTOEXEC.BAT so you won't get prompted for a date, while you're at it. Heh, don't you just love DOS.

      Then clear off a few more files/directories (obvious install cruft) to make room for the reflashing utility, a copy of the new bios, and space to save the old one. Now you've got a single-floppy, instant-booting bios flashing tool.

      Clearly, DOS isn't quite dead yet, neither are floppies.
      • by Anonymous Bullard ( 62082 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @05:19AM (#4778958) Homepage
        Instead of all the jumping-through-hoops to build a bootable DOS floppy etc., why aren't the hardware manufacturers starting to build Linux-based tools?

        The GPL'd FreeDOS project deserves kudos for providing legacy support alright, but Linux also provides additional reliability (no lockups during BIOS flashing...), choices between CLI or various GUIs, continued cutting-edge development of the environment with support for USB, FireWire or whatever media peripherals might be available and even support for hardware platforms other than x86 (e.g. Mac peripherals have BIOSes as well), to mention some advantages off the top of my head.

        Since hardware manufacturers can't continue relying on DOS much longer now that MS is pulling the plug, the obvious choice for boot-time tools is really the freely-distributable Linux. It would be a tragedy for everyone but Microsoft if Windows became the successor of DOS as the *required* hardware maintenance platform.
        • Sound nice, but this kind of tools need direct access to the hardware. Linux provides a (abstraction) shield for this. More obvious is that the supplier that have such boot tme tools make some links too freedos images for cd & floppy.
          • ...but if the programs run in kernel space they can get past this abstraction. Anyway, can't you make the BIOS appear as a device under /dev like everything else?
          • Public support for FreeDOS [freedos.org] would provide relief in the short term, but Linux is capable [google.com] of doing it too.

            Heck, Gigabyte has a Microsoft® Windows-only(TM) tool that updates the BIOS on their latest motherboards over the internet! [216.239.33.100] (that's Google's html translation of Gigabyte's pfd file)

            Some Linux developers have already been dabbling with such a "hardware update" (aka BIOS flasher) tool but perhaps there should be a concerted effort to build a development kit that the OEMs would find simple to tailor for their purposes. Opening direct hardware access under Microsoft® Windows(TM) over the internet sounds like the thing for gonzos to do, but at least under Linux it could be done relatively securely and by root only.
        • Partition Magic, among others, has been using DRDOS as its boot OS for years. M$DOS is not the only flavour out there, and who cares if M$ "supports" DOS or not? What possible difference could official "support" make to someone who uses DOS (M$ or others) for boot and maintenance utility disks? Besides, M$DOS has been essentially bug-free for many years, and there's not much that can go wrong with it.

          Just because something is "unsupported" doesn't mean it magically stops working. It'll continue to work just as well as it ever did.

          What would be a problem is if hardware manufacturers only provided Windows-flashable BIOSs.. but I don't think that will happen, if not because of the obvious technical issues, simply because of the hassle factor -- their own techs will scream bloody murder, along with the rest of the clone system world (40% of all PC sales in the U.S.)

      • Empty out AUTOEXEC.BAT so you won't get prompted for a date, while you're at it.

        Hey, if I did that I'd never get asked for a date at all!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Are you saying that OEM ATI cards are not made by ATI?
    • If you go into a computer store and ask for an OEM ATI chances are you'll get a white box made by some unknown company that just took the ATIs chips and slapped them on the board , even though technicly OEM meens its made by ATI. this isn't a bad thig as 99% of the time "OEM" stuff works just as well as retail. this is more of a case of bad ATI drivers doing poor bios checking
      • Actually a good percentage of 'powered by' ATI 3rd party boards are built on the same assembly lines as 'built by' ATI boards, using the exact same PCBs & parts. Just the printed label & stickers are different, & maybe the PCB colour too.

        Mind you some OEMs do manufacture their own 'built by' ATI boards on their own lines using their own designs
    • by lendude ( 620139 )
      There are two 'types' of ATI cards (at least for the 97xx series) - cards made by ATI itself which are stickered as 'made by ATI', and cards made by other manufacturers which may be using the exact ATI reference card design or the manufacturer's permutation thereof, and with enhanced features and which are stickered as 'powered by ATI'.
    • Apple uses ATI chips in its Power and other Books. With various level of a success in Linux/PPC and Xfree86, though - most of people complain about DRI. But it's out of the box - nothing was downloaded from ATI, although ATI people say they help Xfree86 hackers with the code and consulting.
  • "...a possible fix that unfortunately would mean booting Windows, if only for a few minutes."

    Now, I did click on the "fix" link, but the website was not responding, so the only thing I'm going off of is that line. The author says that windows needs to be booted, and so I'm assuming that this windows is going to be on the same system, right? If so, this could present a problem since though many linux users also have windows installed on their computer, it's a good guess that many do not. So, what do these people do then, hmm?

    *dual boot, referring to two or more operating systems (as many people have many more than just two)

  • that drivers for ATI cards does work for ATI cards.
    They are by default not guaranteed to be able to work for anything else.
    • Re:Isn't it right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Morgahastu ( 522162 ) < ... egorREZEEW> <ta>> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @10:03PM (#4777804) Journal
      They are not drivers for the ATI Card itself, they are drivers for the ATI CHIPSET.

      ATI makes cards with its own Chipset but they also let other companies (such as Sapphire) makes their own boards with ATI GPU's, and they are supposed to use the same drivers.

      Incase anyone is wondering, Sapphires cards are way cheaper and sometimes (in the 8500's case) they outperform ati's own cards.
      • They are not drivers for the ATI Card itself, they are drivers for the ATI CHIPSET

        Really - I don't read it that way at all. Looking at the notes about LINUX and XFree86 support [ati.com] It just refers to product families.

        Now granted that ATI tends to sell a "RADEON 8500" and so there is confusion between the chipset and the product. But nowhere can I see and assertion that the drivers in question are either for or not for ATI Chipsets.

        Now if they were released (to the public, reference drivers are almost always released to OEMs under NDAs) as reference drivers then that is a different thing. Reference drivers are for the chipset, if the OEM has correctly implemented the hardware, they will work, these drivers are used for reference, hence the name. The downside is that these may not use all the optional features of the chipset. Remember that one chipset can support a number of functions, and some of these are dependant on the OEM fitting the right support chips, the right speed memmory, the right connectors. If they differentiate in price the may choose not to do this.

        If it doesn't say reference driver, then its not. Its made some assumptions about the hardware above and beyond the chipset. Depending on how close this is to the original reference drivers it might work, it might be flakey, it might just lock up.

        So if you want performance you will need to look for a driver for the specific hardware, if you want stability then you should try and obtain reference drivers - thats why NVidia stuff is reasonably stable.

        Remember the OEM manufactures the card for its own reasons - if it doesn't say 'supported by ' when you buy it you have no right to expect it to. Many cars are powered by Ford engines, I would not expect Ford to be able to fix the crash damage on my non-Ford car, but I would expect them to be able to service the engine. If you buy a Sapphire card for your Linux system, then make sure Sapphire provide the driver you need.

        At what level does company X have an obligation to support its product sold through the OEM channel - after all you choose it, your supplier sold it, the distributer shipped it - all of these people all 'added value' to the supply chain. Many video card memory chips are made by Samsung, but clearly they will not be expected to provide a driver.

        Yes the ATI logo is used - but it says 'Powered by ATI' - it does not say 'Compatible with ATI' although that is the assumption many consumers will make. Perhaps the fault there is shared.

        Now be clear I'm not defending ATI here - this discussion is applicable to any hardware drivers. ATI is at fault here for the whole confusion about what this driver does and doesn't do, and what its logos do and don't mean. NVidia are much clearer, and feel it better to provide wider ranging support.

        But it is important to understand that just becase hardware X uses chipset Y, then its not reasonable to expect a driver for Y to work with X - there is more differences between hardware than the name on the front of the box.
  • Explanations... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by l33t-gu3lph1t3 ( 567059 ) <{arch_angel16} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @09:56PM (#4777779) Homepage
    There are a few possible explanations for this rather odd driver situation...

    I know this is rumor-mongering, but I can't help but notice that the *Windows* drivers dont' perform such a check, and neither do the Linux Retail drivers...

    Consider this: Microsoft or some other party requests unofficially that ATi *not* support Linux in its OEM hardware, just for the sake of not having OEM desktop vidcard support for Linux...this could explain things like the OEM/Retail check that occurs in Linux, but not Windows. Interesting stuff..I want to see what ATI's reaction on this is.
    • Naw (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Niadh ( 468443 )
      I think it was just a programer doing a standard check (helo vidocard. who are you?) and a QA department with every and only ATI cards.
    • how about, ati isn't making as much money off the oem cards as their own
    • Sorta conspiracy-theorish, but its plausible. I'd guess that ATI wants to control the high-end Linux 3D market by forcing people to use their Built by ATI hardware, though.
    • Re:Explanations... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by imr ( 106517 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @11:14PM (#4778008)
      It seems there is a little more there than pr, but i'm no specialist in hardware. Here what i read in a french news site speaking of the same subject:

      From: Roman Stepanov
      Subject: [Dri-devel] Re: New ATI FireGL drivers announced
      To: Alexander Stohr
      Cc: dri-devel@lists.sourceforge.net
      Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 15:02:31 +0300

      Hi, Alexander!
      [ snip ]

      At first I attempted to set up SuSE's xfglrx package to get 3D acceleration
      for my Gigabyte AP64D board (actually it is a R200 QL with 64 Mb DDR RAM).
      After generating XF86Config and typing startx in command prompt X server
      failed to start. I found in system logs that 2D driver refused to
      work with third party boards. It's nearly impossible to buy "build by ATI"
      board in Moscow, so I was forced to apply my assembly skills to modify board
      vendor id in 2D driver (fglrx_drv.o). After replacing ATI's id (0x1002) with
      Gigabyte (0x1458) I was able to start XFree but I saw my text consoles
      (vga=791) broken. Next thing I've tried is to start Tux Racer game. After 2
      minutes of pretty smooth gameplay it hung and my box locked up completely.
      I decided it's enough to uninstall this package and I started to look around
      for any alternative driver. I've downloaded official ATI driver version
      2.4.0 and tried to install it. After install script built kernel drm modules
      installation stopped because depmod complained about unresolved symbols in
      module fglrx.o That was my last attempt to use official ATI drivers :(

      Now I have installed driver from dri trunk, it works pretty well, but I have
      very slow gameplay with Loki's Rune. Maybe today I will try to install
      official ATI driver again, this time version 2.4.3. I hope it finally going
      to work.

      ******** FIN du premier mail ********
      Reponse:
      From: Alexander Stohr
      Subject: RE: [Dri-devel] Re: New ATI FireGL drivers announced
      To: Roman Stepanov
      Cc: dri-devel@lists.sourceforge.net
      Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 13:43:31 +0100

      [snip]
      for completeness its: R200/RV250/R300/some-Mobility
      [snip les quotes qui parle du drivers qui se lance pas]
      That's Intentional. On the list you can find several references to
      problems with the multiple OEM BIOS variants even with the DRI drivers.
      Since this must be considered as third party software and hardware,
      you should consider calling the respective vendor for support.
      (Having a broken BIOS checksum is the least problem in that area...)
      [snip quotes qui parlent du changement du code hexa]
      This might be a BIOS problem. Current drivers are using the
      XFre86 Int10 module for doing mode switches. Thanks for another
      reason for not letting that drivers run on third party boards.
      [snip]

      Stability of a specifc grafics board is mainly due to its
      clock rate, its RAM bus interface clock an signal quality
      plus misc power supply parameters (mainboard abilities to
      drive that board, PCB design to ensure the voltage does not
      drop critical in any operation thermal and electrical condtion).

      I know that ATI is ensuring this for the "Built by ATI" boards
      with much effort, but i have no idea how intense those third
      party vendors do that. The second unknown thing is your hosting
      PC system. You should verify it with a secondary operating system.

      [snip]
      > Now I have installed driver from dri trunk, it works pretty
      > well, but I have very slow gameplay with Loki's Rune.

      Thats the best and only drivers that should use for your adapter.

      > Maybe today I will try to install official ATI driver again,
      > this time version 2.4.3. I hope it finally going to work.

      What you were doing is "unsupported" and "not recommended".
      This is meaning that it is on your own risk if you do it.
      Maybe there are legal reasons why you shouldn't be allowed
      to do that, but i dont know this myselves.

      -Alex.
    • Are you sure? Try installing the stock ATI drivers on a Dell OEM ATI card. I haven't tried it since the 64MB DDR Radeons, but back then, ATI's own drivers would not install at all with the OEM card.
  • Source Drivers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcdrewski42 ( 623680 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @09:58PM (#4777787)
    This is probably a very good argument [slashdot.org] for non-binary [slashdot.org], truly open-source drivers...

  • I've been hearing about bad ATI drivers since the days of the 80386. I've had some severe problems with ATI drivers myself, and needed to call ATI tech support. My impression is that the company should not allow receptionists to write drivers when they are not answering phones.

    My answer: For business use, buy Matrox.
    • ATI has really cleaned up lately. It seems that they realized their driver crapiness problems and began to fix things up. They are now approaching being as good as Nvidia drivers. I have no problems under windows or linux with the ATI drivers. I'm into 3D and games though ... and i don't use matrox at all. So i guess it's whatever floats your boat.
    • I've been hearing about bad ATI drivers since the days of the 80386. I've had some severe problems with ATI drivers myself, and needed to call ATI tech support. My impression is that the company should not allow receptionists to write drivers when they are not answering phones.
      I've had countless problems with ATI drivers, to the point where I'll generally do everything possible to avoid installing the drivers that come on retail and/or OEM CDs, and instead download the latest drivers from their website. Heck, with some of their TV tuner cards they don't even seem to come with drivers but only the "MultiMedia Cent(er|re)" software, or if they do have drivers they're an absolute nightmare to find and install.

      If cheapy-generic video chip makers like SiS, S3, and Trident can make drivers that are easily installed - and don't make the system as stable as a house built on a swamp - why in the Eff can't ATI manage to do the same?

      Granted, nVidia's beta drivers have made a fair share of Win'** systems unstable, but again, they're beta drivers. ATI manages to press and ship a million CDs of unstable drivers.

    • by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <r_j_prahad@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @10:51PM (#4777926)
      My answer: For business use, buy Matrox.

      I was wondering how far down I'd have to scroll before I found another Matrox supporter. My G400 has run flawlessly on three different distros, and about 5 different XFree86 versions. It may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but I still haven't found a compelling reason to upgrade, and especially not to change GPU sets. I had an Nvidia system sitting alongside the Matrox box for several months, and both had identical monitors. The Matrox box was very easy on the eyes while the Nvidia always looked fuzzy. The Matrox white backgrounds were solid white while the Nvidia painted rainbows and shifting Moire patterns.

      As to gaming, I'm playing X-Plane on the Matrox box using the latest Wine RPM. The frame rates are the same as they are on the Nvidia in Linux - I don't know how the two cards compare under Windows since I don't use Windows for anything else other than to supply Wine some DLLs. So with frame rates being equal, the Matrox wins for clarity of display, better drivers, and a more open philosophy. One possible drawback for some - Matrox's OpenGL drivers for Windows are not very good, but that doesn't affect me. YMMV and all that....
      • [laughing] I've got a dozen Matrox G200 (various PCI and AGP cards, having found no real reason to be fussy as to the exact model) and bought 'em all off ebay. I like the stability, the *genuine* VESA 2.0 support in hardware (which BTW the G400 lacks, and needs a driver to provide), the crisp true colour, the legible DOS screen font (that's critical for me), and the good price/performance ratio. Only drawback being that a P3-500 is the fastest machine a G200 can keep up with (on a faster system, the G200 becomes the bottleneck). But for P3-500 and below, the Matrox G200 has become my card of choice. (And you should see the *wonderful* native driver Win2K has for it.)

        I'm curious as to what Matrox card (if any) folks would recommend for P4-class systems??

        For my business clients who wanted to save a buck and only needed a decent 2D card, I used to buy S3 cards (pre-Diamond merger), because they had good performance for the price and had good stable drivers. Nothing fancy but perfectly fine for office work. But at the time we were talking $25 for an S3 and $200 for a Matrox. :)

      • The Matrox box was very easy on the eyes while the Nvidia always looked fuzzy. The Matrox white backgrounds were solid white while the Nvidia painted rainbows and shifting Moire patterns.

        I wish more people complained about this, something might get done about it then. The prime reason for this difference is that the Matrox uses a nice filter after their DAC(s) while Nvidia doesn't, in the reference design. Any of the graphics card manufacturers using nVidia chipset in their cards could add a filter for less than $1 in components and a few days of an analog engineer's time. None do, even though I have to recommend Matrox cards to all my non-gamer friends and have overheard computer neophites talk about nVidia cards as inferior because of the fuzzys. It's just baffling, I can only think they want to hide aliasing with blur, but then nVidia must realize people use the same video card to read text, esp with their GeForce series.
    • Funny this thread should pop up... I just pulled out my trusty Matrox Millennium PCI video card to while doing the post turkey day PC support work that happens on every major holiday.

      Anyhow, the Matrox stuff was rock solid for business apps. Had a mystique, then millennium, added a rainbow runner, then a G400 Marvel and a RT2000 at work. Yup, an early adopter... the trusting kind...

      The Marvel is what really what blew my faith in Matrox. Spent $300 when that was a serious amount of cash for a PC video card, found out there were no win2k or nt capture drivers... Dropped a box back to win98se and waited for the glorious 'over 2g' files and a bit more stability. Years pass, they release a new version of the card (the G450 without hardware acceleration) before a win2k driver was released. Finally, they delivered something. They turned the win2k version into nothing more than a TV tuner card! No capture.

      Insult to injury, Matrox offered to give me $50 off a G450 if I bought it direct - not even enough to let them compete with other vendors selling the retail box with the 'rebate'.

      The RT2000 was ok once it worked, the RT2500 much more forgiving.... but the trust is gone for me. (not including my trusty millennium card, that is...)
  • ...had wonky drivers. Especially on their more recent cards (radeon forward). I'm guessing they get their cards so cheap by not paying their driver team.

    For instance, on my mulitmonitor system I used to have the Radeon VE (Win2k). I installed Wolfenstein and Jedi Knight. Wolfenstein would crash all the time, but Jedi Knight was okay. So I upgraded drivers. Then Jedi Knight didn't work, and Wolfenstein did. Bah.

    Not to mention going from TV out to Monitor out and back again was a terrifying ordeal because their saveable settings "themes" don't work. Or at least didn't work up until the time I took out my *last* ATI card.

    mmmmmm Parhelia....
  • I was under the (mistaken?) impression that the ATI drivers were released as open source? If so, wouldn't it make sense to produce a 3rd party patch against them to remove the check rather than get into flashing the bios on the card itself?
  • by USC-MBA ( 629057 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @10:13PM (#4777831) Homepage
    The technical decision to cut off perfectly working hardware is pure idiocy,

    Not so, not so, not so. ATI has a reason for ensuring that their drivers function properly only with authorized hardware. ATI's marketing strategy centers around the company being recognized for making the top-quality graphics cards on the market. This definition includes all components from circuit boards to microchips. ATI's primary market is those consumers who need or want top-of-the-line video cards for personal or professional reasons. The ATI brand's image of exclusivity and quality plays a viutal role in the company's marketing strategy.

    Having taken this into account, consider the Linux user community's reputation for using "hacked" or "modded" hardware for all sorts of reasons from saving money to illegally circumventing copyright restrictions. It follows that it is totally in ATI's interest to release drivers that work with their hardware exculsively. To do otherwise would be to associate the ATI brand with all matter of hacked, downscale, and jerry-rigged hardware, a move which would ultimately prove a detriment to ATI's profits.

    • by ywwg ( 20925 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @11:29PM (#4778081) Homepage
      so why do their windows drivers work with "powered by" hardware?
      • ATI makes two different sets of drivers for Windows.

        One set for the Built by ATI, the other set for the Powered by ATI.

        They've apparently chosen not to build a Reference driver for Linux.
    • by rugger ( 61955 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @12:27AM (#4778320)
      WTF are you smoking. Whatever it is, you should stop posting to slashdot while under the influence.

      The boards the drivers don't work with are boards built by 3rd party board manufacturers, using chips that ATI sold to them. (ie not reverse engineered, not stolen, not illegal or immoral in any way) These boards, while not made by ATI themselves, are as legal and sanctioned as the ones made by ATI. They are not jerry-ridded, hacked or downscaled in any way. In fact, ATI lets these manufacturers use the logo "powered by ATI". If any manufacturer was making cards that ATI was not happy with, ATI would simply refuse to sell the Radeon chipsets to them.

      This driver incomaptibility is a silly restriction, probably due to a rushed release schedual or poor foresight from the driver writers. It could be simply because the driver has not been tested with "powered by ATI" hardware yet. I expect that this will be fixed.
      • Not to mention that if somebody sees a card that says ATI, runs it, and it sucks (due to drivers or whatever)... they'll probably just get the impression that ATI sucks anyways.

        Oh yes, and I run a true ATI Radeon, and a OEM GeForce... guess which one ran better out of the box (or ever with driver updates, for that matter) :-)
      • It may be ATI's policy that the OEMs are responsible for modifying (if needed), testing, and distributing the drivers for their cards. The presence of an ATI video chip does not mean that the board is compatible with an ATI video board. Many OEMs make minor or major tweaks to the reference designs that their cards are based on. They may even design their card from scratch. It is the OEM's responsibility to provide drivers for the cards that they sell. Unfortunately, many OEMs are unwilling or unable to properly support their products, that costs money, which could help pay for the CEO's new airplane.
      • Actually a good percentage of 'powered by' ATI 3rd party boards are built on the same assembly lines as 'built by' ATI boards, using the exact same PCBs & parts. Just the printed label & stickers are different, or the PCB colour.

        Mind you some OEMs do manufacture their own 'built by' ATI boards on their own lines using their own designs.
    • nonsense (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spitzak ( 4019 )
      That argument makes zero sense.

      1. Nobody, Linux hacker or otherwise, builds cards in their basement with modern surface mounted chips, it would cost dozens of times more than the card itself does.

      2, They still have to buy the chips from ATI (if they have some other chips that ATI's drivers are useful for then ATI is in much worse trouble that from from your fantasy Linux hardware builder.)

      3. The fix for the other cards was simple enough to be totally trivial for anybody capable of building the card from scratch.

      You have to do better than this nonsense to try to insult Linux users. Go back to school.
  • will wine save me from booting that twisted os?
  • by EverDense ( 575518 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @10:26PM (#4777861) Homepage
    I have an Excalibur (ATI 9000 Pro based card), and have to run through a series of installs
    to stop the video card locking up my Win2K system. The original drivers seem to be buggy.

    When it is working fine (like now), it is a damned fine graphics card, its just such a
    bitch to get going.
    • It's possible the original drivers are buggy. It certainly isn't *impossible* (and it won't be impossible for NV either, you might note. GFFX is not a rehashed GF3 core like the GF4 was, and it is likely that NV will run into the occasional driver hiccup with their new series as well). FWIW, the 9700pro driver launch has been ATI's smoothest to date.

      In any case, in Windows at least, you could benefit from downloading the latest drivers. Of all the things I own, video cards is the one category where upgrading the drivers can improve things...a lot.

      While ATI has been known to have shitty drivers in the past (r128, R100, and early R200 days mostly), they have been working hard to fix this problem. The latest driver set is CATALYST 02.4 (win2k and xp [instacontent.net] win9x [instacontent.net] required control panel [instacontent.net]). ATI's even gone as far as producing a PDF that describes exactly what was fixed [instacontent.net] in the release.

      1st Party support for linux drivers have been new to them (this is only their first official release) so give them some time before they mature.

      • Thank you for all the info. I am using the latest version of the drivers.
        I downloaded the PDF file (twice now), but got an error when trying to view the PDF.
        I'll try again later

        :-) LOL, I shouldn't have spoken out publicly.
  • Clueless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buserror ( 115301 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @10:36PM (#4777896)
    Sure, buy a crap card (LE means it didn't pass the "non LE" test, it's underclocked).
    Then flash it with an ATI firmware. FYI the GPU & RAM clock speed are... in the firmware.

    That means his card is "overclocked" an probably instable as well, else they wouldn't sell it a LE.

    Then, test some drivers, and make a flame report about it, and then get it posted on /.

    So, instead of encouraring the company to make competitive drivers (binary, not binary, who cares: we want drivers THIS YEAR) lets do the contrary and flame them.
    • More to the point, LE and OEM underpower the Memory and Core. Take a look at the articles on the second site. The reason LE & OEM cards don't clock as well is that they are running less voltage then the retail "Built by ATI" cards. The likely scenario is that the code monkey that built the drivers did a video card check and made a stupid mistake of only making sure it ran with "built by ati" cards, which likely was what all was available. Pretty much the old "Works on my machine" scenario.
    • Very interesting (yours and your first reply). So -- are there any OEM ATI cards that aren't "LE" models? if so, how would one ID them? or is the only safe route to stick to the retail-boxed models? I haven't bought an ATI card in years, but would be good to know for future reference.

      Come to think of it.. I have an older ATI card (PCI, OEM) that has the weirdest problem: even with NO driver loaded (in plain DOS and regardless of motherboard) it continually makes system speed go up and down by about 50% (and yes, you can see it happen with a realtime benchmark util like QAPlus). ATI scratched their heads and pronounced themselves clueless. But on reading your post and its first reply, I begin to wonder if it simply has an unstable clock -- internal voltage fluctuation or some such causing the issue??

  • by puto ( 533470 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @10:51PM (#4777928) Homepage
    That said.

    I have been in the computer game for a long time and have been threw every component and its manufacturer under the sun.

    ATI gets a bad rap because it sold a buncha crappy cards with crappy drivers a while back. But they hired the Apple PR team to pimp them and a lotta people bought these cards and got screwed. The ads were better than the actual performance.

    NVIDIA came along with a couple of nice 16 meg cards that worked well with Open GL and Direct X, and were fairly cheap.

    ATI retaliates and does the Original Radeon. Pretty much junk except for the 3d performance. But ATI had been a traditionally OEM supplier anyway. Not a lot of experience for the high end commercial product. Remember the day of 3d cards? You would see STB and VooDoo, and that was about it.

    The Geforce is a great product, sold a helluva lot, did the job become popular. But ATI revamped and started with the 8500, cleaned its driver act up and their cards kick ass.

    I have an 8500 64 meg I grabbed from NewEGg and am perfectly happy with it, all 3d games in windows and it works well in Linux. My other box has a geforce 3 and it works well two. Though for web stuff, 2d, the ATI hands it its ass.

    Problem with most people is they buy the bargain basement, OEM, close out, and it doesn't work to expectations. Well, GEE, musta been a reason for the closeout sale for all that white box shit. Oh yeah, paid 74 bucks 2 months ago for the 8500, tv out and all.

    AS for those drivers from ATI, there are for ATI cards. In the day there were many problems with NVIDIAs reference drivers not working with third party manufacturers.

    I understand we are all cheap computer people, and we conserve where we can. Between pricewatch and EBAY. But I learned a long time ago. Spend that extra 20 dollars for the retail CPU, get the 3 year warranty. Get that name brand motherboard. Cause it never fails, you buy something cheap and it burns out and you gotta buy again.

    I think ATI and NVIDIA are par with each other and I am glad. Good competition. I understand the loyalty to NVIDIA, they were the reigning champions. ATI is kicking ass too. IT is better for all of us. And as for you guys who bought that 64 meg 20 dollar Radeon 7000(cause it said 64 meg) sorry dudes, shoulda ponied up some more cash/

    Puto
    • But ATI revamped and started with the 8500, cleaned its driver act up and their cards kick ass.

      This is misleading. Yes, ATI's drivers and cards got much better with the 8500, but it was still a far cry from GeForce 4. Nvidia's drivers are simply superior to ATI's. If you don't believe me look at how well the Geforce 4 performs against the 9700. It is a testament to its drivers and architecture that it hangs as close as it does (if you look at the hardware of both). Now ATI is in the lead with th 9700. Is it faster than what nvidia has? Yeah. Are it's drivers better? Hello no. Not to bash ATI. They have done a great job getting back frame game, but they still lack in an important area!
  • by Lhadatt ( 221863 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @10:55PM (#4777943)

    There is a difference between "Built by ATI" and "Powered by ATI". The problem you're seeing with OEM and non-ATI manufactured cards (aka "Powered by ATI") is in the BIOS -- the driver expects an official ATI BIOS (which would be a on "Built by ATI" card) and doesn't see it, so it won't work. The "Powered by" cards use reference drivers which aren't tweaked to any particular iteration of the card. "Built by" drivers won't install on non-ATI cards.

    Solutions: Flash the BIOS as some have been suggesting, or buy an official card. Or just yell at ATI enough until they release a reference driver.

  • Almost reminds me of the "Quake III" [tech-report.com] optimized drivers.

    For those who don't remember. ATI released drivers that gave high frame per second scores in Quake III. QIII being a common bench mark this made their cards appear to run very fast. It turns out that the driver looked for the Quake3.exe file and reduced the video quality to up the frame rate. If you changed the name of the file to something like Quack3.exe and ran it. The video quality improved while the frame rate dropped.

    It's not that ATI has bad hardware, just horrible drivers and poor judgement.
  • I have a "powered by ATI" card that I bought on the cheap, and I remember reading at rage3d.com that one particular release of the windows drivers for XP did a similar check for "OEM vs Retail". This was back in the day when the retail drivers and OEM drivers were different. Funnily enough though, my OEM card had a retail bios so I didn't experience this problem.

    This problem in the older driver sets was removed (aain I cna't confirm) when ATI went to the unified driver "Catalyst series"

    Maybe this set of drivers has been ported from the old code base? Now according to the press release the Linux build is a "unified driver". So I expect it is ported from the newer code base...

    If you go to the ati site and click on the "powered by ATI" drivers, there is no option for a linux driver. It only appears under the "Built by ATI" drivers section. This would suggest to me that it is very deliberate. All of us can assume why... but none of us know for sure.

    My gut feeling is they can't be sure how the OEM cards are set up (eg mem speed etc) and therefore can't guarantee the driver will work. ATI don't have the resources to field calls from every man and his dog world wide for 100 variants of the same card. Then again like I said this is only speculation. We should probably find out the reason before everyone shoots off at the hip and accuse ATI of all sorts of things.

    Back to windows for a second. The solution to work around the windows install was a simple modify of an inf file....

    Mybe it is just as simple for the linux xfree drivers, but I don't want to start pulling rpm's apart and looking at whats inside.

  • My brother got a Gateway computer that was suppose to have an AGP Rage Pro II. For weeks it didn't work with X windows. One day he picked the old Mach64 X server by mistake and low and behold it worked. The OEM was selling what was essentially a Mach64 (it had more ram than a stock Mach64) and calling it a Rage Pro II (yes, I know the cards where probably simular, but there are sufficent differences to matter. Especially for 3-D games). You can imagine the problems this would cause. If your Wiz bang Radeon 9000 is really a first gen Rage 128 with 64 megs of DDR slapped on, but still reports itself as being a, so t Radeon The driver takes the card at it's word and nothing works.
    As a side note, the "SoundBlaster Live!" that was suppose to be included has an Ensonique Audio PCI chipset instead of the EMU10K chips it was suppose to have. OEMs suck.
  • OEM's not happy (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @11:45PM (#4778157) Homepage
    I've been in touch with tech support at the OEM for my Radeon 9000 Pro, Power Color. They are not happy with the situation and the pressure is on for ATI to get a fix out ASAP. Latest email estimated sometime next week for drivers that work on all of the OEM cards.

    I also get the impression that this was not a conspiracy. The drivers use the INT10 support in the card's video BIOS. The OEM video BIOS's vary slightly from card to card depending on what features they implemented (2 DAC vs 1, etc). The driver needs to be adjusted for each of the various BIOS. That's why flashing the ATI BIOS works. ATI just made it work on their cards first and will be filling in support for OEM cards ASAP.
  • It's great that ATI released a binary driver (it would have been better if they had released a Free driver or at least something portable and fixable). Why do I say this? It adds to Linux credibility! If more hardware manufacturers start to support their hardware under Linux thats good. However I feel stung personally. I can't try their drivers but they don't build laptops so I couldn't have gotten a "built by ATI" solution. I have a Radeon M9 (RV250) so I should be able to get some support from the DVI CVS but it would be much nicer if I could get a supported driver (and not the no Xv $179 Xi one) and compare the DRI one. I asked ATI what the situation was, for any pointers, told them I would try to use their driver anyway and told them that I had supported a commercial Linux distro. I asked them if they would supply Dell with a "source" for the drivers as they would with the Windows version so Dell could supply a driver for their configuration (and ATI support could pass me off to Dell). Their reply? A stock letter telling me to go to the manufacturer of my product. My next move? A call to ATI customer services tomorrow, until I at least get an email address to a human and a human reply that answers my questions!
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @03:13AM (#4778764)
    This is one of the many reasons you shouldn't buy cards with closed source drivers:

    Except their Linux drivers. For reasons unknown, the recently released drivers do an explicit check to see that they are running on "built by" hardware, and exit if they find a "powered by" card.

    What are some of the other reasons?

    • Closed source drivers inhibit innovation. 3D graphics cards are really powerful computers--if the software to drive them were open, people could modify it to do other interesting things, not just one particular model of 3D graphics.
    • Closed source drivers won't work with non-mainstream open source operating systems. I want people to be able to experiment with new GUIs and new kernels, not just keep building on top of a handful "mainstream" systems.
    • Binary-only drivers tend to stop working sooner or later. You end up having to upgrade a perfectly working piece of hardware just because it isn't supported with the latest Linux/X11 versions.
    • If you keep buying cards with binary-only drivers, you remove the incentive for people to ship cards with open source drivers.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @04:14AM (#4778859)
      3D graphics cards are really powerful computers

      True, but they are not general purpose computers. They are designed to do one thing only - perform operations relevant to rendering 3D scenes. More than that, in fact - they are built to accelerate Direct3D and OpenGL operations specifically. Modifying the drivers might well allow you to do other cool things, but you'd almost certainly be better off doing those things with a normal CPU.

      Other than that, while I sympathise with your sentiments, and to some extent agree with them, we don't really have much choice. The only fully working Linux drivers for modern graphics cards are closed source. By "fully working", I mean with complete, stable, fast suppot for all of the card's features. I'm pragmatic; if I've spent £200 on a new card, I want it to work properly. If that means using a close-source driver, so be it.

      Finally, you seem not to realise that it isn't always up to the card/chipset manufacturers to open their driver source. NVidia, for example, is under NDA with several third parties over technology used in their cards and drivers. That means that they can't open the source to their drivers.
      • True, but they are not general purpose computers. They are designed to do one thing only - perform operations relevant to rendering 3D scenes.

        I didn't say that they were "general purpose" computers. But there are plenty of operations that occur in scientific computing that they can speed up. And people may well want to try building alternative 3D graphics systems.

        Other than that, while I sympathise with your sentiments, and to some extent agree with them, we don't really have much choice. The only fully working Linux drivers for modern graphics cards are closed source. By "fully working", I mean with complete, stable, fast suppot for all of the card's features.

        Sure, we do. Not everything needs the absolute latest features.

        Finally, you seem not to realise that it isn't always up to the card/chipset manufacturers to open their driver source. NVidia, for example, is under NDA with several third parties over technology used in their cards and drivers. That means that they can't open the source to their drivers.

        It is completely irrelevant what the reason is for keeping the driver source closed, the consequences of it being closed remain the same.

    • Closed source drivers inhibit innovation.

      Oh, puhleeeze, can we please be done with that one now? Do you think if nVidia or ATI were forced to open source their chip designs we'd get anything like the rate of progress we've seen over the last three years?

      C'mon. The drivers have a lot of intellectual property in them, nVidia ones in particular (ironically, considering how much better they run under Linux).

      Dave
      • Oh, puhleeeze, can we please be done with that one now? Do you think if nVidia or ATI were forced to open source their chip designs

        Who says anything about "forcing"? All I'm saying is: don't use closed source drivers. In fact, most people get ATI or nVidia cards and don't even use the 3D features.

        we'd get anything like the rate of progress we've seen over the last three years?

        Open sourcing their drivers would not slow down the development of their current Direct3D or OpenGL implementations. But it would enable and encourage the development of alternative graphics systems, as well as other applications for those cards. You have fallen into the Microsoft trap of thinking that "innovation" just means doing the same old stuff a little better. Sorry, but there are other kinds of innovation.

        C'mon. The drivers have a lot of intellectual property in them, nVidia ones in particular (ironically, considering how much better they run under Linux).

        What's your point? Bell Labs UNIX or Solaris also had a lot of intellectual property in them, and that didn't keep people from creating open source equivalents that work better than the original. There is nothing that makes graphics drivers any different.

        Besides, the graphics cards manufacturers don't need to open source their drivers; a full documentation of the hardware and GPU would be sufficient. Open source developers can and will do the rest, probably better than the original proprietary drivers.

      • Do you think if nVidia or ATI were forced to open source their chip designs we'd get anything like the rate of progress we've seen over the last three years?

        You actually seem to be suggesting that the progress would have been slower! What on Earth makes you think that?

        The drivers have a lot of intellectual property in them, nVidia ones in particular

        So? Why would third party drivers prevent me from buying an nvidia card? Is it not more likely to encourage me to buy an nvidia card, especially if I'm not using an intel chip?

        TWW

  • Bitten by that (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fstanchina ( 564024 )

    That's funny, yesterday I've been bitten by this f**ing thing and now I see it on Slashdot.

    I saw the hype about new driver and since I needed a new graphics card I thought it would be nice to show appreciation. I was a little disappointed that it took several hours to debianize their crappy RPM packages, but I guess that's the price of using the best distribution [debian.org]. And then when I'm done I get this stupid message about my non-cheap, non-no-name 8500 card being unsupported. I was about to kill someone. If the computer case wasn't closed already, I would probably have ripped the card off and thrown it out of the window.

  • here [sourceforge.net] on the DRI web site is a little explianation about ATI naming
    specificaly:
    The difference between the 8500, 8500 LE, and the 8800 is clockspeed. The 8500 LE is made by third party manufacturers.
    I have always used ATI cards, but at the moment I only have a ATI Radeon, so I can't try ATI's new drivers. I will probably upgrade for ut2003 and DeusEx 2. But any way I have a lot of confidence in the DRI people.
  • by Lev_Arris ( 60782 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @06:43AM (#4779124) Homepage
    Here's a thread where people asked the same question on running 'powered by' cards and it contains a link that we found which seems to solve the problem. (Requires hex editing a file and the 'powered by' restriction is gone)

    http://www.rage3d.com/board/showthread.php?s=&th re adid=33648944&perpage=20&pagenumber=4
  • by Wiz ( 6870 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @06:51AM (#4779145) Homepage
    I've got a OEM 9000 PRO from ATi and it refused to work initially:

    (--) fglrx(0): Chipset: "Radeon RV250 If" (Chipset = 0x4966)
    (--) fglrx(0): (PciSubVendor = 0x148c, PciSubDevice = 0x2039)
    (--) fglrx(0): board vendor info: third party grafics adapter - NOT original ATI
    (--) fglrx(0): Linear framebuffer (phys) at 0xd8000000
    (--) fglrx(0): MMIO registers at 0xe9000000
    (--) fglrx(0): ChipRevID = 0x00
    (--) fglrx(0): VideoRAM: 131072 kByte (64-bit DDR SDRAM)
    (EE) fglrx(0): board/chipset is not supported by this driver (third party board)

    I quickly came to the conclusion that the ATi drivers don't like non-ATi cards. I did a bit of searching and I found a solution - I did not find this myself!

    Install and configure the drivers as per normal. Also, I suggest you download "hexedit" from freshmeat.net as you'll need it. You'll then need to hexedit this file: /usr/X11R6/lib/modules/drivers/fglrx_drv.o

    To let it accept non-ATi boards, hexedit the file at offset 0x626e and alter "74 44" to "90 90" and save changes and away you go. Since making this change only, my 9000 PRO now works fine under RH 8.

    This means no Vesa drivers! It means no more 60Hz screen refreshes! It means for GL acceleration. Run "glxinfo" for some information on the status of OpenGL and maybe "glx_gears" to actually test it. It should run very quickly.

    Enjoy!

  • I have a 64MB DDR VIVO Radeon. I bought it because nVidia's drivers would lock my system after a few hours of surfing the net (I checked with my brother's Geforce 2 the other day and found that they still haven't fixed this yet).
    ATI's support of Linux users is half-arsed at best.
    Their own binary-only drivers only work on newer boards (8x00 and 9x00) so I can't use them. They're not interested in covering the DRI drivers to use S3 Texture Compression (which is patented) so I can't play UT-2003 (hence my brother's Geforce). The have requested that people not work on the TV-out features of the Radeons because it is patented, so I am stuck with VESA framebuffer tv-out or a very buggy hack of a thing for X that hasn't been developed for a year.
    They aren't giving out information to the DRI team on how to use the more advanced features of the Radeons so the DRI drivers will fall further behind soon their closed source drivers (in feature set anyway).
    I don't think I'll be buying another ATI card. I'll go back to nVidia and hope they stabalise their drivers. But at least the features are there and they 'just work'. ATI are starting to remind be of 3dfx ... to full of themselves to realise they have customers...
  • From: http://www.linuxfocus.org/English/January2002/arti cle222.shtml#222lfindex3 [linuxfocus.org]

    Currently most Linux graphic card drivers (X servers) do not support hardware-accelerated GLX/OpenGL for remote applications. They do support hardware acceleration for local applications. The effect is that remotely started OpenGL applications are hardly starting at all and are really slow. An exception are the closed source NVidia drivers. They have a direct rendering interface which supports indirect rendering for remote applications.

    I use a central server to run my applications and then use X to display them remotely. Is the above excerpt out of date or do any other board manufacturers plan to incorporate the ability to run OpenGL apps from a server?

    Brian.
  • Do they work anyway? (Score:2, Informative)

    by HeX86 ( 536126 )
    I got a boxed ati radeon 8500, and the drivers don't work anyway for me. The DRI module won't load into the kernel, nor will it recompile.

    The xfree86 firegl side drivers leave the console looking like it went through a potato masher.

    It's really sad that I bought an ATI card specifically because I knew ATI had open source drivers for their Radeon cards. Well, I waited over a year for drivers for the 8500 that don't work...

    Wow, what loyalty to the linux community.

    Closed source drivers maybe just PR, but at least nVidia has a reason why their closed source (The SGI contract or whatever). AFAIK (and corect me if I'm wrong) ATI has no real reason for closed source drivers.
  • Wait, shock horror, you mean you don't get source code with DRI drivers? Of course you don't and some of us have known this all along despite the FUD from it's proponents. Can we now dispense with the unfair criticism of NVIDIA for not having "open source) graphics drivers?
  • For the record, I'm the author (but not the submitter!) of the original report. It was really just intended for the FlightGear folks who might be interested in the story. I didn't mean to be the poster child for ATI compatibility problems, nor the last word on their solutions. Regardless, I just received the following from ATI. The slashdot posting seems to have had the appropriate effect. I haven't had a chance to insall the new driver version for myself yet; perhaps others can comment. Certainly ATI needs to be commended on their fast turnaround.
    Please use the following communication as you desire!


    Hi there,

    Last week we posted a set of unified Linux drivers. These drivers were only loading up on "Built by ATI" cards. Through our various feedback mechanisms we have determined that there is a large community of "Powered by ATI" Linux users that did not benefit from our Linux drivers. At this point we are happy to announce an update to our Linux driver (ver. 2.5.1) which will work on both "Powered by" and "Built by". ATI's driver and software strategy is firmly based on responsiveness and we greatly appreciate the feedback our Linux users have provided. Please use http://apps.ati.com/linuxDfeedback/ for a direct feedback line to ATI.

    Thanks again for the feedback,

    Terry Makedon
    Sr. Product Manager - Software
    ATI Technologies

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