Saturday, 7 December 2013

AMD Catalyst fglrx driver and Open Source Radeon driver: Enjoy both on Gentoo Linux- Part 1


This guide is applicable for the owners of ATI Radeon R600 Series(Radeon HD 2XXX/3XXX/4XXX series). Last year AMD dropped support for these cards and moved it under legacy product category. So if you are upgrading your Linux distro, you are left with no choice than to use Open Source Radeon Driver.

The good news is that the gap between the open source and catalyst drivers are becoming narrow thanks to the recent Kernels and updated Mesa graphics stack.

Starting from kernel 3.11 which brings DPM(Dynamic power management) support for open source radeon driver. This feature is not enabled by default and you need to enable it from the grub command line or as a module parameter by passing this parameter "radeon.dpm=1".

Still the dynamic power management is not as good as compared to the Catalyst PowerPlay. The heat issue is still there and the gpu seems to work in high frequency even with light graphics intensive application and gets warm very soon. I've seen no difference even with Kernel 3.12.x series. The thermal management is still very poor with radeon open source driver.

Due to this I had kept my Ubuntu 12.04 LTS edition as it is, and not updating it any further while the other distribution Gentoo is more up to date(off course using with open source driver). I was wondering if at all there is possibility that both open source driver and catalyst binary driver can co-exist. Finally I came across this very good Gentoo Wiki which explains co-existence of both binary and open source driver. I thought to give it a try with my existing Gentoo distro.

Gentoo is very powerful and highly customizable distro and I've started liking it over my long term stable Slackware ever since I replaced it with Gentoo.

Over the next post I'll be explaining how to get it working on a 64-bit distro from a safe chroot environment! Gentoo wiki is for 32 bit version and I still had compilation issues while building the kernel module for fglrx but in the end I managed to get it working.

Now I've Gentoo running on AMD Catalyst binary driver with fully functional Gnome Shell(3.8) & KDE 4.10 with all the eye candy features supported ! What's more, I can also boot to the latest kernel with open source driver, and enjoy best of both open source and closed source Catalyst!

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