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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Mon, 08 Jul 2013

The AMD Catalyst 13.6 proprietary video driver will support the latest AMD APUs -- and I really need it

Given that my still-shiny, still-new HP Pavilion G6-2210-us laptop with an AMD A4-4300M APU that features AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics is not well-supported in Linux's current open-source Radeon driver, I've been looking to AMD's proprietary Catalyst video driver for help.

I've tried the current version -- 13.4. X won't even start.

That's because my APU is so new, even the Catalyst driver doesn't support it.

But help is on the way. Version 13.6 of Catalyst does support the Radeon HD 7420G, according to the release notes.

However, I'm not going to run the beta driver. I'm also not going to run a non-packaged version. My last experience running fglrx/Catalyst, back when I was having trouble with video with my then-new Lenovo G555 in early 2010 didn't end well. I settled on the distro that did the best -- then Fedora (versions 13 and 14) as now.

Back with Fedora 13, I grabbed fglrx/Catalyst directly from AMD. Every time the kernel was updated, which is often in Fedora, I had trouble. Eventually I had no video at all. Later that year I returned to Debian (first Squeeze, then Wheezy) with the open Radeon driver and never looked back.

So I know for sure I'm not going to pull an unpackaged fglrx/Catalyst from AMD -- either stable or beta version.

But I am going to install Catalyst 13.6 when it is packaged for Fedora by RPM Fusion. Presumably that will happen after the beta is promoted to stable. Judging from past Catalyst releases, that should happen at the end of this month -- about three weeks from now.

Right now, with this APU and its GPU, I have occasional artifacts in 2D environments (currently that means Xfce), a manageable amount of artifacts in the Compiz-driven Unity of Ubuntu, and a deal-breaking number of artifacts in the 3D world of GNOME 3.8 as shipped in Fedora 19. I have the same problem in any 3D-required version of GNOME, which includes 3.everything. Now that there is no 2D fallback for GNOME Classic, there really is no GNOME option for me at all.

Not that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed using Xfce, because I have. It's super fast and reliable, and I have none of the problems with tracker-miner, or whatever that tracker crap is in GNOME, eating tons of CPU and I/O.

Just the same, I'd like a 3D-enabled, aftifact-free experience. I'd love for that to happen in the free Radeon driver, but I'd settle for it in fglrx.