ATI: still making horrible linux drivers, 5830 included

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All these years I was using nVidia video cards in home computer. Well, lately nVidia has been slacking — no DirectX 11 for a loooong time, and when they finally got one on the market, the price is about the cost of a small vacation in Europe. I mean, it’s almost 80% of the computer cost, CPU and all.
So, I thought “well, maybe after all these years ATI changed its game, maybe AMD finally kicked the booty of driver guys to not make sucky drivers”. A-ha-ha-ha. How naive of me.

First horror Linux experience happened many years ago. I had something like TNT video card, and drivers were always complaining about incompatible this and unable to do that. I think it was RedHat version.
Anyways, at the time I just gave up, bought an equivalent nVidia card and it just started to work, fast, pretty, no problems.
Ever since then I’ve had no problem in both RedHat varieties and then later with Ubuntu.
But no, I can’t lead a simple life with outdated but working equipment. I want something fast and fantastic. So… I ordered Sapphire 5830 on newEgg. $200 for DirectX 11 capable, sufficiently fast, very quite card the size of a subway sandwich with geek girl on cooler cover and enough holes to use up couple extra power connectors from the CPU.
Windows complained, didn’t want to work, and I had to download the driver. Which, unsurprisingly, already made me choose between “X patch” and “Normal” driver without an easy choice (nVidia has that “download an applet, we’ll find your driver and install it” easieness). Here it wasn’t clear which one I needed. But Windows is forgiving, so the latest “non-X patch” worked, things are fine.

So, I decided to bring aboard a new installation of Ubuntu 10.04 64Bit. Bad idea. First thing freshly installed system suggested, was to install proprietary driver. “It was tested by the gurus and provided by hardware manufacturer”. Sounds good and reliable. Except driver died on install. Cryptic error didn’t say anything useful, but after reboot Xserver decided to remind me that there was a time where 640×480 was good enough for anybody, so I need to reconfigure.
Downloaded binary driver refused to “build platform specific packages” because, according to the forums, “building ati driver on 64bit linux never worked”. Ugh.

I tried three different versions (specific 5830 driver, generic 5×00 series driver, whatever crummy “open” driver was available) and results are discouraging. I was able to finally make it work after three-four rounds of shamanic ceremonies, a sacrifice of three blank disks and a nervous breakdown of my cat.
I had to choose between having kinda-working environment, but with half-transparent banner that said that I didn’t have supported hardware (yet everything suddenly became very-very fast, with extra fancy effects being available), similar banner that said “For testing only” (this outcome happened only once, with no chance to recreate it), regular open driver, that paints the screen so slow, you can actually see the order in which background fills empty space.

Which makes me think — if after all these years Linux community still didn’t get ATI/AMD to get off their behinds and write something that works, installs correctly, without claiming “supported hardware is not present”, or doing other weird things, or just refusing install with canonic “-1 error” (I thought those were limited to old Mac OS 9 — Mac users know that errors are negative things, hence they have to be designated by negative numbers). How come something that system suggests as “tested” is just broken? Why thing like that doesn’t get immediately flagged for removal and/or fix? Can you roll back the versions to the previous one without user’s involvement, reading of 50 pages of forum posts along the lines of “try this, while wearing a fruit cap and pressing mouse exactly three times against a book on evils of Visual Basic”?

As soon as “normal” user encounters something like this, there will be no coming back to Linux for another 10 years. You claim that Linux is just as good as Windows, yet it just “doesn’t work”. Yes, windows is bad, full of holes and viruses, but all of those things happen afterwards. For several months user will lead a happy existence, with everything being sufficiently fast (thank you, 4 core CPU) pretty (a videocard with a gig of memory and enough power to make Pentagon of 80s howl in envy) and with all familiar applications working properly.

So, fix it. Please. I like Ubuntu, and would like to use it.

3 Responses to “ATI: still making horrible linux drivers, 5830 included”

  1. naskah

    Hello, i feel exactly like you! i bought a 5830 just to experiment something fast and fantastic with dx11
    it works fine on windows (even in xp) but when i change to ubuntu 10.04… got the damn error window =)
    did you find some solution? the ati driver just dont install. thats great… all my friends talking about the fantastic visual effects of the Lucid version and me have to thank to, at least, use the browser.
    tell me what you find out =)

    • Max Smolev

      I reinstalled the binary version from ATI’s web site. But it was still relatively slow, up to the point where standard driver was better than proprietary (yet still did not allow me to run all effects). So I gave up.

      End result – I sold my 5830 and bought EVGA GeForce GTX460 1024 MB which installed without any issues on the 10.04 64x with their binary driver. Everything is extra fast, no errors so far and both Windows 7 and Ubuntu are happy. ATI’s video cards are definitely on my “never again” list for another 2-3 years, which is kinda sad.


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