Fglrx

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Fglrx is a proprietary, Linux binary-only driver for ATI graphic chips with support for 3D acceleration.

Packages

The ATI drivers have explicit permission for repackaging and redistribution of the Linux drivers. Many distributions are supported within the installer, and many more repackaged by external developers. Please visit the Distribution Page at the Unofficial ATI driver Wiki

# pacman -S catalyst (kernel module for the stock kernel)
# pacman -S catalyst-utils (xorg7 stuff and tools)

Building for Xorg 7.0

To compile fglrx versions <= 8.24.8 for Xorg 7.0.0, fake Xorg 6.9.0 by

# export X_VERSION=x690; sh ati-driver-installer-8.24.8-x86.run

Next, move the various resulting libraries and modules from /usr/X11R6 to /usr/lib/xorg

In /usr/src/ATI additional sources are installed for fireglcontrol and fgl_glxgears

Status

Current version: 8.1 (8.454) (18st January 2008). Major changes:

  • 8.4 compilable on 2.6.25 using this patch
  • 8.1: Fixed suspending on kernel version 2.6.23 or later. Custom code in xorg.conf will no longer be ignored.
  • 7-12: FireGL support, fixed memory leak when running OpenGL applications, X -configure no longer results in a segmentation fault. Connecting a display device that supports 1680x1050 may result in a maximum display resolution of 1280x1024 only being available.
  • 7-11: new versioning scheme, kernel 2.6.23 support. Required for Xorg server 1.4, but does not support FireGL cards. So don't upgrade to Xorg 1.4 if you have one!
  • 8.42.3: Composite support added enabling AIGLX and Beryl/Compiz on the desktop. Support for (most?) FireGl cards dropped (should be restored in upcoming versions)
  • 8.41.7: increased OpenGL performance on some Radeon Cards, size/position TV-out adjustments work for Radeon X1900 or higher, X crash when connecting external DFP display fixed
  • 8.40.4: some new TV out control options in CCC, another (non-exciting) maintenance release (see Phoronix)
  • 8.39.4: kernel 2.6.22 support, TexturedVideo fix, aticonfig segfault fix (see 8.38.7 hotfix), to get rid of the "AMD Testing use only" logo, use this workaround.
  • 8.38.7: hotfix release for "Using aticonfig --initial segfaults destroying xorg.conf file when run in X with Vesa driver.", search for "737-28261" on the ATI website.
  • 8.38.6: RedHat Enterprise Linux 5 support, Xserver crashes on moving video window between two monitors fixed, corruption when playing multiple vodeps with textured video fixed
  • 8.37.6: Xorg Server 1.3 support, CCC 1.0, crash when logging off from X fixed, Xv cropping bug fixed
  • 8.36.5: Kernel 2.6.20 support, CCC Beta 0.9 with localization
  • 8.35.5: Beta AMD Catalyst Control Center, X-Server termination from console does not result in a blank screen. Kernel 2.6.20 requires some patching (see fglrx patches section).
  • 8.34.8: Radeon Xpress 1250 support, X-Video on x86_64 fix, hibernation mode fix. Kernel 2.6.20 requires some patching (see fglrx patches section).

Known problems and solutions

See Problems with fglrx.

User experience

Speed

How much is the speed gain versus the opensource drivers?

Compared to the old drivers, approximately 40% speed gain have been noticed with fglrx. However, there are issues with freezing/garbage after suspend, garbage when resizing desktop (via ctrlaltplus, ctrlaltminus), and garbage while using VMware. The current 8.14.13 has shown 400% improvement over using the open source radeon driver: 1200 FPS for glxgears1!

However the situation seems to be changing significantly as time goes on. With recent x11-drm-20060608 driver (gentoo) and thinkpad t42 (ati 9600) the speed is confirmed as 1900fps and stable. As of October 2007 there is dramatic improvement in the open source 3d drivers in speed and stability.

3D acceleration

According to Flavio's page you need these options:

 Section "Module"
   ...
   Load "GLcore"
   Load "glx"
   Load "dri"
   ...
 EndSection
 # Of course you need to activate the driver
 Section "Device"
   ...
   Driver     "fglrx"
 EndSection

Don't forget to load the module fglrx (modprobe fglrx). Under Debian the module can be placed in /etc/modules.

With fglrx drivers prior to 8.42.3 will need to disable composite to enable 3D DRI acceleration. To do this, add an extra Extensions section (if necessary) containing:

 Section "Extensions"
    Option  "Composite" "Disable"  #make DRI work with fglrx.
 EndSection

If you are unsure whether you have DRI running, issue glxinfo | grep -i direct after disabling composite. Note, this

NOTE!
Video overlay acceleration may be disabled when 3D acceleration is enabled. The following comment from the xorg.conf file bundled with the fglrx driver indicates that:
  # === OpenGL Overlay ===
  # Note: When OpenGL Overlay is enabled, Video Overlay
  #       will be disabled automatically
      Option "OpenGLOverlay"              "1"

However, you can use either regular Xv video overlay or make the video an opengl texture and let the OpenGL engine scale your video. This has nothing to do with the acceleration of 2D drawing primitives. Further, your mileage on performance may vary depending on what card you have. The open source drivers don't support newer cards, while the ATI drivers don't support older cards.

You may be able to preserve VideoOverlay acceleration if you explicitly remove the OpenGLOverlay using:

Option "VideoOverlay" "True" and Option "OpenGLOverlay" "False". See Flavio's page for detail.

Power saving

Power saving is much better than with the radeon driver, but doesn't work in dual-screen configuration (see How to make use of Graphics Chips Power Management features).

Suspending with fglrx

On a ThinkPad T42 with Kernel 2.6.19 with Software Suspend 2 and R60 with Kernel 2.6.18-suspend2-r1 (Gentoo) , the following addition to /etc/hibernate/suspend2.conf is required:

 # For fglrx
 ProcSetting extra_pages_allowance 20000

Display Switching (Dynamic Display Management)

Version 8.25.18 introduces a new feature: Dynamic Display Management. It allows display switching on-the-fly.

To list all connected and enabled monitors:

# aticonfig --query-monitor

To switch displays:

# aticonfig --enable-monitor=STRING,STRING, where STRING can be: none, lvds, crt1, crt2, tv, tdms1, tdms2

Only 2 displays can be enabled at the same time. Any displays that are not on the list will be disabled.

Using an ACPI script, aticonfig can be used to switch displays on a key press.

The Catalyst Control Center, which comes with the driver (at least from Livna in Fedora Core 6) can be used to do this switching. It also does various other kinds of display managements. However, the version that comes with 8.39.4 doesn't seem to handle switching into Big Desktop mode, does anyone know how to get this to work? The control center also complains a lot about rebooting, but rebooting doesn't seem to be required. Does anyone have decent documentation for the control center?

Useful links

ThinkPads that may be supported

Supported chips, as found in select IBM ThinkPads:

NOTE!
fglrx version 8.29.6 discontinued support for Radeon 9200 and earlier.

ThinkPads that are NOT supported by fglrx

Unsupported chips, as found in select IBM ThinkPads:


FOOTNOTES [Δ]
  1. Note that glxgears isn't a benchmark tool, it's so simple that its FPS values is without any meaning... you can only compare glxgears using the same drivers/machine, if you change any of then you can have higher/lower values and in real life programs/games happen to have the opposite effects. Think in terms of a car engines rpms: higher rpms in the same car usually means a faster car, change anything and it's meaningless, ie: gears, truck, wheel size, etc. make it useless.

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