Practical Technology

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The Ubuntu and ATI Blues


I like Ubuntu 9.04 a lot, but ATI graphic drivers don’t work and play well with it. This is especially annoying since, for a while there, ATI was working hand-in-glove with Linux and even ATI’s proprietary drivers worked well with Linux. ATI has stopped keeping up with Linux though and the result is mediocre graphics performance.

This has happened because of two changes and a lack of co-ordination between ATI and Linux developers. The first change is that many desktop Linuxes, including Ubuntu 9.04 and Mandriva 2009 Spring are now using the latest X.Server, version 1.6.. X.Server provides the basic framework, or primitives, that Linux and Unix computers use to display their graphics. Everything else you think of as the Linux desktop, such as GNOME 2.26 and KDE 4.2.2, runs on top of X.Server.

X.Server 1.6 has been available since February of this year. ATI didn’t support it immediately. And, this is where the second change came in. The graphics branch of AMD finally got around to supporting X.Server 1.6 with the ATI Catalyst 9.4 driver (aka fglrx 9.4) release in late March. There’s only one problem with these new drivers: They don’t work worth a darn.

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