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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Mon, 13 Jan 2014

I succeed installing AMD Catalyst in Fedora 20, and that means I don't have to dump the distro

Thanks to the help of a few, proud Fedora users, I was able to install the AMD Catalyst 13.11 beta (version 9.95 to be exact) driver on my Xfce-running Fedora 20 system.

And thus the long local (as opposed to national) nightmare of poor video performance and a CPU running 30 to 40 degrees hotter is over.

I would love to stick around and wait for the open-source Radeon drive to get better, and I'll continue to keep an eye on it. But my test of the 3.13.rc7 Linux kernel -- which is supposed to include some key Radeon patches -- showed that it is no better on my machine than 3.12.x. That means it's not time to wait on the open driver but instead time to get serious about putting Catalyst -- direct from AMD -- on the laptop.

Today I was successful, and the CPU on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us is running at a cool 80 degrees as opposed to the not-as-cool 120 degrees under Radeon. And I can watch full-screen video in VLC (and any player other than MPlayer) without a) that video stuttering and b) both CPU cores jumping to 100 percent.

Victory!

Briefly, here is what I did:

Installing AMD Catalyst 13.11 in Fedora 20

  1. Get the AMD Catalyst 13.11 beta from AMD, unzip it and make it executable:

# wget http://www2.ati.com/drivers/beta/amd-catalyst-13.11-betav9.95-linux-x86.x86_64.zip

# unzip amd-catalyst-13.11-betav9.95-linux-x86.x86_64.zip

# chmod a+x amd-catalyst-13.11-betaV9.95-linux-x86.x86_64.run

  1. Install gcc, binutils make, kernel-devel and kernel-headers and dkms using your favorite package manager. I recommend Yum (or the graphical Yumex):

# yum install gcc binutils make kernel-devel kernel-headers dkms

  1. According to those who helped me, GNOME has somehow made provisions for the Wayland display server, and that code conflicts with AMD Catalyst, so in order to successfully install the proprietary driver with AMD's script, you have to first remove GNOME. I'd like to offer an easy command-line way to do this, but I just started up Yumex and got rid of gnome-shell and anything else-GNOMEish while making sure I didn't get rid of anything I might have wanted to keep (in my case things like Gedit, Nautilus, Evince, etc.).

  2. In a terminal as root, navigate to the directory containing the unzipped Catalyst .run file and run the script from the console using ./ and the script name:

# ./amd-catalyst-13.11-betaV9.95-linux-x86.x86_64.run

The driver should now install. Reboot and you should have Catalyst. Check for it by running fglrxinfo:

$ fglrxinfo

If the output recognizes your card, it worked. Here is what my output looks like:

$ fglrxinfo
display: :0.0  screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: AMD Radeon HD 7420G
OpenGL version string: 4.3.12615 Compatibility Profile Context 13.25.18

Do you have to re-run the AMD Catalyst installer every time you get a new kernel?

Someone suggested that installing the dkms package would allow for automatic configuration of new kernels to use the Catalyst driver just like the akmod-catalyst package from RPM Fusion does for those versions of Fedora still "lucky" enough to have it.

Update: The answer might be "no," or "sometimes." Today (Jan. 20, 2014) I installed the 3.12.8-300.fc20.x86_64 kernel update and didn't have to reinstall Catalyst. I'll report again when I update to 3.13.x.

Previously: The answer seems to be "sometimes." I heard that installing dkms would allow the system to automatically incorporate Catalyst into new kernels, but that didn't work for me. After the last kernel update from Fedora, I had to run the .run script again to enable the new kernel for Catalyst use.

I think that what's happening is that the Catalyst driver direct from AMD can get old rather quickly, and if you get the next version of the Linux kernel, you also need a new AMD Catalyst driver to go with it.

All of this can and should be solved with the return of a packaged Catalyst to RPM Fusion. Until then, we'll just have to install our own dependencies (as detailed above) and re-install Catalyst from AMD when needed.