Introduction & Brief History
Scared to use an ATI card in Linux? Had a horrible experience with ATI in Linux that resulted in 2 smashed keyboards, a broken Ubuntu 8.04 LiveCD, and three trips to your family psychiatrist? Well I did, well maybe not THAT bad, but really close. Since I started using Linux roughly two years ago, I always ran it without 3D video drivers because ATIs drivers were so hard to install and configure. I started out using Ubuntu, I believe it was 8.04, with my brand spankin’ new ATI 4870 and it was tearing it up in Windows, but as soon as I started dual booting Windows and Ubuntu, it all came crashing down. So this article is dedicated to all those broken keyboards and LiveCDs.
Over the last two years ATI has really stepped up it’s game and has vastly improved it’s Linux drivers. ATI still has almost no support for Linux drivers from the company itself, but you can find quite a bit of information elsewhere on the net. ATI has made their driver installation much more user friendly with a more streamlined and simple GUI. It’s really straightforward and just requires a few simple commands.
Catalyst Control Center (CCC) has probably had the biggest change. It now actually resembles the Windows version, minus some features, of course, but has a similar layout and has the basic options. The biggest option it’s missing is the Overdrive tab with overclocking and fan settings. I’ll go over some quick tips on fan speed control at the end of the article. Overclocking and other more advanced features of the Linux driver variant that aren’t in CCC but are available via the command line and are outside the scope of this article.
- Remove old ATI drivers (if installed)
- sudo sh fglrx-uninstall.sh
- Reboot your system
- Download the latest ATI drivers for Linux in your architecture
- Download the drivers from HERE
- Select your system type (Desktop in my case)
- Select your family of card (HD series for me)
- Select your card (4xxx Series PCIe here)
- Finally select your operating system/architecture (Linux x86 or x86_64)
- I suggest reading the Release Notes and Installation instructions on the site as well. They provide some nice tips with troubleshooting X start failures and other video driver related issues.
- Once downloaded open your terminal and make the download directory your current working directory (Desktop in my case): cd ~/Desktop
- Now that your in the correct directory, execute the following command:
- sudo sh ati-driver-installer-xx-x-x86.x86_64.run (In this case it’s sudo sh ati-driver-installer-10-6-x86.x86_64.run)
- This will open the ATI driver installer (similar to the Windows version).
- There are two options here, ‘Install Driver’ and ‘Generate Distribution Specific Package’. We’re just going to Install the driver, so select the first option then hit ‘Continue’.
- Read the License Agreement and select ‘I Agree’.
- The next screen will allow you to choose ‘Automatic’ or ‘Custom installation’. I choose the Automatic Installation, as the custom only allows you to not install CCC if you don’t want it. I rarely ever use it myself, but it’s nice to have if your having screen resolution problems and your default Window Manager options aren’t working. So select ‘Automatic’ and ‘Continue’.
- The driver will now install and you’ll get an Installation Complete window and you then Exit the window. (Notice the command at the bottom of the window in case X fails to start next reboot [aticonfig –initial -f], write this down in case you need to use it.)
- Open a terminal and run:
- /usr/bin/aticonfig –initial
(Whenever I’ve run this before a system reboot, it says it cannot be found. So, I reboot first and let it create a default configuration. If it gives you the same message, reboot then try it.)
- Now restart your system your good to go. (Remember to execute the command in step 12 if you got the error and had to reboot first.)
- If you have a 4xxx series like I do, you may have an early model that doesn’t have a fan that’s speed scales with temperature and you manually set your speed, or you just like a set fan speed. You can se that fan speed using the following command:
- aticonfig –pplib-cmd “set fanspeed x yy”
Where x is the card number, 0 – 1, and yy is the fan speed percentage you want, 0 – 100. Mine looks like this: aticonfig –pplib-cmd “set fanspeed 0 30”
- If you want this fan speed set at the beginning of each boot up, open ‘Startup Applications’, click ‘Add’, name it whatever you’d like, put the command with your card number and speed in the command line, then add comments if you’d like and click ‘Add’ to finish.
So hopefully after reading this you’ll be a little more inclined to give ATI another chance in Linux. Although many people still believe Nvidia’s Linux drivers to be far superior, I think ATI deserves some recognition for their vast improvements in their Linux drivers. It really shows that they do support their Linux users, maybe not quite as much as their Windows users, but with things like Steam hopefully in the works for Linux, I hope we can expect even better support in Linux in the near future.