New Linux ATI Drivers ā€“ wow!

Recently I bought a new hard drive - finally getting a half-decent speed SATA drive, upgrading from my quartet of 80gb IDE drives. I had a few woes trying to tie it all in, so I ended up reinstalling my PC. At first I stuck with Gentoo, then got sick of trying to work out its annoying bugs and went to SUSE.

As I tend to have a load of windows open at the one time, and I like to see them all at once having dual monitors is a must for me. The ATI 9600 card I have supports this, being dual head, and I’d had it running (kinda) on Gentoo just before I went through the reinstall process.

After a few hiccups I got it working on GNOME and then got sick of problems with Xinerama not working properly (who wants to hit maximise and have the program fill BOTH monitors? hello?) and some issues with GIMP turning my half-decent PC into a complete slug when loading a bunch of photos from my Canon 350D.

I’d seen KDE 3.x, and at the time, I’d hated it - I guess it was the early revisions, but it just didn’t seem like the window manager for me. Seeing as GNOME was giving me problems, I decided to try it again - SUSE made this easy because it’s actually the default. I installed the packages, played around a bit to change the window manager and then restarted to get it going. So far I’ve had it running for three days, and it’s fast - a lot faster than GNOME, and most of my applications are GNOME based.

GIMP doesn’t give me the pc-is-a-slug programs (though it crashed and disappeared a few times today) and the machine seems a bit snappier to use all ‘round. Because of my newfound love for SUSE, my good friend and housemate Robert decided to try linux again - his last attempt was in 2004 with Gentoo - a bad time to have an ATI card and no spare PC when you’re trying to learn Linux. The drivers and support SUCKED at that time, but have grown a lot better since.

He’s got a new PC since those days, but he’s still running an ATI based graphics card. His only real requirement for dumping windows finally was that he could play all his games - so he’d have to have full 3D hardware support and his windows games would have to work properly. I thought that the first one would be enough of a hiccup, but I was wrong - very wrong.

It seems in the week or so since I installed the ATI drivers, another version had come out with a graphical installer that actually worked properly. I was amazed. He’d gotten it working in an hour or two, where it’d taken me two days of messing around on the commandline - and I’m one of those nutty ex-Gentoo users that knows their way around recompiling chunks of the system to get things working!

I had to try them out - I downloaded the drivers from the ATI x86 Linux display driver page, uninstalled the current drivers and then ran the file. A little dialogue popped up, and I selected the option to install the drivers. Not long after, it told me that it was finished, and I restarted to find that everything was working fine. Colour me amazed - for the first time an ATI driver hadn’t busted X into pieces with a new driver release šŸ™‚

Xinerama still wasn’t working properly, and Bob mentioned that when he created his config file using the aticonfig utility - worlds ahead in ease-of-use compared to the old fglrxconfig - that he’d specified the resolution on his single-monitor system. I gave it a go, using “aticonfig -initial=dual-head -resolution=0,1024×768 -resolution=1,1024×768” to specify a dual head system with two 1024×768 screens. This is basically how it was already setup, so aticonfig didn’t do anything. I knew that it wasn’t actually working properly, so I set the -f flag to force it to rewrite the file, and it did.

I restarted X and it was working! Maximising a window would keep it to one monitor, something that I’d been missing ever since I’d gotten dual monitors to work on linux (a month or so ago) and had been a serious pain in the butt. The only thing that isn’t working for me is 3D DRI support, the system doesn’t have 3D hardware acceleration. It’s working on Bob’s single-monitor setup, so I hope that I can get it working too - though Xinerama might be a cause of my woes. I really want to play my win32 games on linux with the help of Cedega - I’m sure there will be a few posts about my experiments with that in the near future šŸ˜‰

#Linux #Programming