AMD plans major strides with Linux graphics drivers

After suffering a reputation for poor Linux driver support for years, AMD is about to pull out the big guns in order to cater to the Linux community. The red-and-green team has announced that it plans to introduce a host of performance and compatibility improvements in its upcoming Linux Catalyst drivers. AMD claims it intends to “accelerate efforts to address the needs of the open source community,” as well.

Due out in the coming days, the Linux Catalyst 7.9 driver release will include support for Radeon HD 2000-series graphics processors and will offer “major performance improvements across the board.” Quoting numbers from the folks at Phoronix, AMD says users can expect frame rate increases of as much as 90% in titles like Doom 3 and Quake 4. Aside from hardware compatibility and game performance enhancements, AMD plans to bring support for Accelerated Indirect GLX in another Catalyst driver release scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2007. AIGLX is used to enable fully hardware accelerated desktop and window compositing in Linux.

AMD’s official announcement doesn’t elaborate the company’s desire to “address the needs of the open source community.” However, a report by LWN from the 2007 Linux Kernel Summit suggests the company will enable the development of open-source graphics drivers, too:

A quick report from the kernel summit: AMD’s representative at the summit has announced that the company has made a decision to enable the development of open source drivers for all of its (ATI) graphics processors from the R500 going forward. There will be specifications available and a skeleton driver as well; a free 2D driver is anticipated by the end of the year. The rest will have to be written; freeing of the existing binary-only driver is not in the cards, and “that is better for everybody.”

Such a move wouldn’t come out of the blue. Back in May, AMD Chief Sales and Marketing Officier Henri Richard stated at the Red Hat Summit that AMD was “committed to fixing the ATI problems with open source.”

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