Linux compatibility and performance have not traditionally been strengths of ATI's graphics products. Indeed, even in the glory days of the Radeon 9700 PRO
and its offspring, it was quite common to see grizzled Linux geeks advising noob wannabees that sticking with NVIDIA's products was the only reasonable way to go --anything else was just asking for pain and heartache. Hell, it's still not what you'd call a strength now, even after all these years of consumer 3D acceleration.
But, a new sensibility has begun to be perceived, and it started when AMD took over the company. AMD had learned the hard way, because of its perpetual underdog status to the mighty Intel, just how much it sucked to be locked out of goodies by the powerful just because they can. The result is that the company is inherently more simpatico to Linux and the Open Source crowd in general than ATI by itself had ever been.
Close observers began to notice a bit more emphasis on Linux with the Radeon driver crew. For example, when we talked to Andrew Dodd
in January of 2007 he informed us that AMD intended that the Radeon family's Linux drivers would catch up to the Windows drivers in features and useability by the end of the year. This was music to our ears at the time, though of course we wanted to see the reality come to pass before getting too fulsome in our praise.
But AMD wasn't done on the Linux bombshell front. As we reported in September,
the company publicly committed itself to supporting an Open Source version of the Radeon drivers and began to provide the hitherto closely guarded secrets of its product's internals necessary to make such a project a reality.
Clearly it's a new day for Linux and Open Source in the ATI Radeon world. Beyond3D, intrigued by what's going on, asked to have a chat about it. AMD graciously provided John Bridgman of the Software Development Engineering Group, to answer our questions.
Following are the results of our chat with John...