failing like never before


Fglrx Driver Issues

My greatest regret is that I ever bought an ATI graphics card. Back when I was young, carefree, and ignorant of the Linux way, I built my first computer. At the time, an ATI Radeon X800xl seemed liked a solid graphics card; decent performance at a decent price. But a few months after I assembled my computer, I learned about Linux and decided to try it out. I got a a Mandriva CD from a friend, and tried to install it on my spare partition. The installation itself went perfectly fine but when I tried to start X, I found it wouldn't start because of my ATI graphics card. I ended up blundering around a bit and trying to install ATI's proprietary fglrx drivers, to no avail. Eventually, I ended up dumping Mandriva and trying out Fedora Core because I had been told that Fedora had better hardware support.

Fedora ended up working right out of the box for me, and I even managed to get Beryl running after a while. Over the past few years, I've tried out quite a few different Linux distros. Most have been able to get my graphics card configured for me and the rest I've been able to fix with a little tweaking. The Linux Vesa drivers are nowhere near as good as ATI's fglrx drivers, which is why I've always just used fglrx whenever possible.

About a month ago I installed Debian Lenny on my computer. Debian, unlike Ubuntu or Fedora, requires a stronger knowledge of Linux since it doesn't auto-configure everything for the user. So I was pretty much expecting to get an error the first time I tried to start X, and of course I did. As soon as I got the error, I fetched the fglrx driver from ATI/AMD's site and installed it. After that everything seemed to be working fine. Until I tried to open a virtual console and everything went black.

It turned out that this was a known bug, found here, and that most people found it could be fixed by using a VGA cable instead DVI. However, from what I can see, this bug has been known for at least two years! And still, AMD/ATI hasn't done a thing to fix it. I don't think they even recognize it as a bug!

The system doesn't lock up just when you try to open a virtual console, it happens whenever the system tries to drop to a shell. And since shutting down, logging out, or restarting a computer in Linux requires dropping to a shell, I can't do any of these things without my computer locking up. In order to avoid this problem, I haven't shut down or logged out of my computer for close to three weeks now. When I'm feeling more productive I'm going to try to find a while around this issue. Now I know that using VGA may very well resolve this issue,but I payed a fair sum of money to get a nice big high quality LCD monitor, and I really don't feel like wasting my money by switching back down to an analog VGA connector.

I really cannot understand why ATI has offered such horrible support for the Linux community. Although last year ATI/AMD announced that they were going to start opening up the source code for their drivers, their Linux drivers still continue to be quite disappointing.

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