AMD and ATI weren't fibbing. The graphics company, now part of Advanced Micro Devices, has released high-end Catalyst 7.10 graphics drivers for the Linux desktop.
ATI, once AMD bought it, promised to be more friendly to Linux desktop users. While this release still contains some proprietary bits, it does offer advanced 3D features for Linux users who are willing to use proprietary drivers.
The most important of these improvements is that this release of Catalyst includes the first preview release of AIGLX (Accelerated Indirect GLX) support for ATI Radeon graphics processors for consumer Linux use. In particular, it should enable Linux users to enjoy a richer visual three-dimensional user interface with the 3D Compiz Linux desktop. AIGLX also enables OpenGL accelerated desktop effects for supported Linux distributions.
The AIGLX support isn't quite ready for prime time. "We've still have to do a bit more testing before we officially support AIGLX in Catalyst, but in the meantime we wanted to provide the Linux community with a preview, to let everyone know that it is coming soon," said a developer for ATI, headquartered in Markham, Ontario.
This release of Catalyst also includes significant OpenGL performance improvements for a variety of ATI Radeon graphics accelerators for consumer games such as Doom 3 and Quake 4. It also includes support for dual displays and TV output for those cards with the necessary ports.
This version also introduces support for X.org Version 7.3. This is the newest version, which was released in September, of this fundamental Linux graphical desktop foundation. In addition, Catalyst 7.10 includes numerous bug fixes.
The new Catalyst also introduces a new 3D user page within the Catalyst Control Center - Linux Edition. The 3D page allows users to adjust Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering and VSync with the help of a static preview that shows the benefit of adjusting the various settings.
According to ATI, performance benefits will be seen in the ATI Radeon X1000, X800, X700, X550/X300, 9800, 9700, 9600 and 9500 Series.
In other words, the Catalyst 7.10 supports Radeon 8500 and later AGP or PCI Express graphics products, as well as ATI FireGL 8700 and later products. ATI does not currently plan to include support for any earlier products.
The Linux drivers are available in RPM format as well as a GUI installer, which operates in both text and X-Windows modes. ATI is also in discussions with various distribution maintainers to provide Linux drivers in their formats using their repositories and delivery systems.
The new driver family is available for systems using 32-bit processors from Intel (Pentium III and later) and AMD (Athlon and later). 64-bit drivers are also available for EM64T/AMD64 based systems. The new proprietary Catalyst drivers can be downloaded from the ATI driver Web site.