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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Mon, 25 Nov 2013

Why I'm using the closed Catalyst driver for Linux instead of the open Radeon driver

I've been using Fedora Linux for the greater part of this year, starting with F18 and upgrading via Fedup to F19. For most of that time, I've used the closed-source AMD Catalyst driver as packaged by RPM Fusion instead of the open Radeon driver that ships by default with Fedora and most every other Linux distribution.

I'm not proud of it. But the differences in performance are too big to ignore.

Things that stink with both drivers: Neither the open- nor the closed-source driver will resume my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop after suspend. (The machine uses the AMD A4-4300M APU with AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics.)

Things that stink with the open driver: Only the Catalyst driver delivers working 3D acceleration, meaning without it I can't run GNOME 3 at all, most games look like hell, and a certain wonkiness crops up here and there on various web pages.

With Catalyst, my glxgears frames per second are 100 times greater than with the open driver. I don't know what glxgears fps numbers really mean, but 5,200 has got to be better than 50.

Things that stink with the closed driver: In Xfce, many application windows have lost the borders on the left and right sides. I can't explain it.

I also cannot successfuly use UEFI secure boot with the Catalyst-enabled kernel, though I can do so without Catalyst installed. It's not Secure Boot itself that is stopping the boot. It just hangs at some point -- after some IP tables lines in the dmesg, I think. The solution is keeping EFI but turning off Secure Boot.