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[How-To] Easily install the latest ATI open source video drivers under Ubuntu

11289 Views 11 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Melcar
This is a little guide on how to get development (unstable) versions of your drivers so you can enjoy more advanced functionality and system breakage. This guide will work for all open source drivers (ATI, Intel, nvidia, VIA, mesa, etc.) as well. The guide targets (K)(X)Ubuntu; it won't work for other distros (Ubuntu children should be fine, but be careful).

The following install "experimental" software, meaning that you *will* encounter problems.


Step 1
Make sure the open source driver is working correctly for your device. If you need to, check my respective guide on my sig.

Step 2
Get yourself the latest kernel available (don't fear using the RC kernels either). You can either compile it on your own, or you can simply use pre-compiled packages from here.
You will need the headers (amd64 for 64bit and i386 for 32bit) and image packages. You also need the linux-headers-all package. Download the 3 packages to a folder somewhere and install them:


sudo dpgk -i *.deb
If you get complaints during installation about missing firmware you may need to install additional files. Download the R600_rlc.bin and R700_rlc.bin files from the bottom of this page and copy then to the appropriate folder:


sudo cp R600_rlc.bin /lib/firmware/2.6.33xxxxx/radeon && sudo cp R700_rlc.bin /lib/firmware/2.6.33xxxxx/radeon
2.6.33xxxxx corresponds to the name of the kernel you installed. To check you can navigate to /lib/firmware with Dolphin/Konqueror/Nautilus.
After you copy the files, because of a weird bug/quirk, you will have to reinstall the kernel packages. If you compiled your own kernel you don't need to do this.

Step 3
Get updated drivers from xorg-edgers. These are already compiled packages using the latest snapshot from git (so they are rather current). Add the repository and key:


sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa
Open up your Update Manager, reload, and update everything.

Step 4
Reboot your machine. From the grub2 menu select the new kernel. Ubuntu should load by default the radeon driver. Once inside your session, confirm that you got 3D acceleration:


glxinfo | grep "renderer string"
The above command should return with a confirmation on the driver being used. If it says something like software rasterizer then the driver failed to load and you should check your /var/log/Xorg.0.log for clues as to why it's not working.

Reverting to default drivers
If you get scared, you may revert to your original distro driver versions. Simply install the following package:


sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
... and run the following command:


sudo ppa-purge xorg-edgers
Answer 'yes' to everything and the system will roll back the drivers. This will also disable the xorg-edgers repositories in Synaptic, so make sure to enable them again if you want to try these drivers in the future. It would be prudent if you install this package before doing anything on this guide and learn the purge command, just in case you totally axe your system.

Oibaf ppa:

This is another ppa based on the xorg-edgers one. The main differences are that it only provides drivers for certain devices (ATI, Intel, and Nvidia), it has several performance tweaks compared to the more "vanilla" drivers in the xorg-edgers ppa (manly for the radeon driver), and that mesa isn't updated that frequently. In my experience they work a bit better as far as rendering bugs are concerned.

Step 1 & 2
The same as the previous method.

Step 3
Add the repository and key to your system:


sudo add-apt-repository ppa:oibaf/graphics-drivers
Open your update manager, reload, and update everything.

Step 4
Reboot and confirm that you got working drivers. Note that if using this ppa you will have a custom string in glxinfo to let you know that you are using these specific drivers.

Reverting to default drivers
Same as the previous method:


sudo ppa-purge ppa:oibaf/graphics-drivers

Other Notes

1) I recommend you start your own xorg.conf file. This is mainly to ease manipulation of the driver and for troubleshooting. Check my guide on how to install the open source driver for details. Do this *before* updating your drivers.

2) Always check the driver wiki (linked to below) so you know what your driver supports. Since you will be using bleeding edge code, new features may be available for your card.

Updated and optimized graphics drivers ppa
Radeon wiki
Radeon Feature Matrix
Radeon Program Matrix
*Comparison benchmarks coming soon...
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Reactions: 3
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I'm downloading all the tests right now. Plan to do a 2D/3D comparison between the two. Just waiting for the ati guys to get back to me on my question about frequencies. Since the open drivers lack any sort of power management and dynamic frequency scaling one would assume that they stay at "3D clocks" all the time, but the kernel reports the boot-up clocks (ATI BIOS have boot-up, 2D, 3D, and UVD frequency presets) and I'm being told that the driver keeps the card at those frequencies. I'm going to wait for confirmation because I want to remain consistent during the testing.


Out of all the gaming test available, only those could run with no errors. The latest PTS is giving me issues with 2D tests so none of that for now. From my own game collection these are the results I got:

- Nexuiz
Runs at Normal settings

- Warsow
Crashes at startup

- Urban Terror
Runs at max settings

- Tremulous
Runs, but very slowly, making it unplayable

- Doom 3
Runs very slowly and eventually freezes the system

- The Dark Mod
Same as Doom 3

- Freedroid
Crashes while loading the menu

- Scourge
Runs fine at max settings

- Neverwinter Nights
Runs rather slow; barely playable

- Eschalon Book 1
Runs very slow making the game unplayable for the most part

- Vega Strike
Runs at Medium detail level and with shaders off

- SuperTuxKart
Runs perfectly

- Mame
Runs and plays

- Astromenace
Runs perfectly at highest settings; turn off AA, AF, and GLSL

As you can see, the drivers are not "gaming" drivers. However, keep in mind that the PTS game presets are set to a rather high graphics quality, so even if the numbers are low it's very possible to get playable framerates by tweaking individual games. Things like post processing filters, bloom, GLSL, are a big no-no with these drivers, so by turning them off you can improve performance drastically.
Where these drivers do shine though, are in 2D environments and under composition managers. Kwin effects work beautifully with radeon and it doesn't suffer from many of the problems fglrx does (mainly the incredibly slow window transformation issue).
This is experimental 3D, so the driver will only improve. Eventually we will get Gallium3D, which to put it simple, will allow for OpenGL2.x and above. Performance will really kick into high gear. Until then, it will be fun to test these drivers.
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Update the guide. Added optional steps for using KMS with the driver.
Updated guide with some changes.
nice guide for the stupid new integrated ati cards!! i had a hell of a time in gentoo trying to get the 3d hardware acceleration working....pretty much everyone with get 2d acceleration as long as the driver is installed and also gets 3d software acceleration...but until we actually get mesa to release a non beta/alpha 3d hardware acceleration is limited...

if you are in like gentoo, arch, or any other more configuration file based *nix distro i suggest you just run the latest testing build...like i run gentoo ~amd64 and i have the latest radeonhd/radeon driver with xorg and mesa.... it sucks because of the bugs but it is better than using fglrx that every time there is an update fglrx seems to break xorg!!!

+rep for the good guide...
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All cards excluding Evergreen have 2d and 3d accel (Evergreen has modesetting with initial 2d going in already). Lots of stuff going on in mesa so it's always good to be current. Rolling releases get most of those updates automatically, so it's just the fixed release distros that tend to be "outdated". Building your own drivers from git is easy enough and the best way to keep current. Thankfully some of the more popular distros now offer official and unofficial ways of getting all this code in a fast and easy manner (Fedora with their experimental packages, Ubuntu with ppa repos, and OpenSuse with their build service), so now nearly anyone can enjoy functional and up to date video drivers.
Cleaned/updated the guide.
Updated guide with an alternate source for updated drivers.
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