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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Mon, 20 Oct 2014

Catalyst/fglrx trouble in Debian (and not just in Fedora)

My AMD Catalyst (aka fglrx) trouble in Fedora is well-documented. Biggest of the big at this point is that the proprietary AMD driver DOES NOT work with GNOME 3.

The reason for this incompatibility seems to be that GNOME is getting ready for the Wayland display server, and code associated with that move makes GNOME crash when you try to run it under Catalyst/fglrx, which appears to know nothing about the imminent arrival of Wayland. (Note: You can play with Wayland today in Fedora 21. I did so briefly before the whole thing fell apart on me.)

The lack of an easy-to-install (i.e RPM-packaged) proprietary AMD driver has been a problem since the release of Fedora 20 and no doubt is a major factor in why nobody has packaged Catalyst for a Fedora/RHEL-derived distro since.

Yep, there is no RPM-packaged Catalyst for Fedora 20, and it looks like the situation will continue through the Fedora 21 cycle. There is also no Catalyst RPM -- from RPM Fusion or anybody else -- for RHEL/CentOS 7.

Read the rest of this post

Thu, 29 May 2014

AMD Catalyst 14.6 for Linux is out

AMD released a new beta of its proprietary Catalyst driver for Linux, version 14.6.

You can download it directly from AMD, or wait for it to enter your distribution's packaging system.

For the past week or so, I've been using RPM Fusion's Catalyst packages for Fedora 19 on my Fedora 20 system, and this update hasn't come through that channel just yet.

If/when this particular method blows up, I could always go back to using the upstream AMD .run installer.

There's also a good chance that I will move to a distribution that regularly packages Catalyst and isn't as aggressive in offering kernel updates so I don't have to deal with this on a continuing basis.

Wed, 25 Dec 2013

Read the excellent year-end proprietary AMD Catalyst and free Radeon driver roundup from Phoronix and find out why I'm recommending against buying AMD hardware for Linux

I got a lot out of reading Michael Larabel's AMD Catalyst 2013 Linux Graphics Driver Year-In-Review on his Phoronix site.

He's been following all of the Linux video drivers for years, and his perspective is very valuable, especially in his assessment that it's been a horrible year for the proprietary Catalyst driver and a great one for the open Radeon driver.

I can confirm that I finally have 3D acceleration in the open Radeon driver on the 3.12.x Linux kernel but that the performance isn't what it is with the Catalyst driver. That Fedora users might no longer have a choice between the two when it comes to a pre-packaged driver is troubling.

But thanks, Michael, for a thorough look at AMD graphics and Linux.

Of course things are going better for Nvidia, Michael reports.

That's cold comfort for me with my AMD hardware, and while desktop users can generally chose to shove an AMD or Nvidia card into the box, there aren't all that many laptops with Nvidia chips on them. No, AMD is a whole lot more common, especially if you're trying to save a few dollars over an Intel-based laptop.

So overall, it's pretty much AMD vs. Intel when it comes to laptop graphics, and AMD's extremely lackluster performance in 2013 is leading to me recommend against buying AMD hardware. While the open Radeon driver project is going from strength to strength, sometimes you need (and/or want) the proprietary driver.

And in 2013, there appears to be no contest when it comes to graphics for Linux. Intel and Nvidia are doing a lot. AMD is doing a whole lot less.

If you want to delve further into the rabbit hole that is Linux graphics, start at this part of Phoronix. Good luck. I really appreciate Michael Larabel's testing and writing, but I'd rather things just worked (and wish I had opted for an Intel-based laptop when I needed one on short notice in March of this year).

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.

Wed, 16 Oct 2013

New link at AMD for latest Catalyst driver for Linux

For reasons that escape me, AMD has changed the structure of its web site -- and changed the link where we all can find out about its latest Catalyst proprietary video driver for Linux:

Here is the new link.

From the bottom of that page, you can drill down to the specs on the latest beta driver.

As always, you can (and should) follow RPM Fusion's latest Catalyst (and Nvidia) packages.

Wed, 09 Oct 2013

AMD releases Catalyst 13.11 beta driver for Linux

The releases are popping out of AMD in hot/heavy fashion. Just about a week after the proprietary AMD Catalyst 13.10 beta video driver for Linux was released, today AMD's Web site is pushing the 13.11 beta.

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Wed, 02 Oct 2013

AMD quietly releases Catalyst 13.10 beta for Linux

Update on Oct. 8, 2013: In the past day or so, AMD has revised its Radeon/Linux page to reflect that the Catalyst beta it is offering for download is version 13.10. Hopefully this means we are closer to a new stable release of the proprietary video driver as well as a new package from RPM Fusion (which you can watch for here).

Original entry from Oct. 2, 2013:

AMD has released a new beta of its Catalyst video driver for Linux.

You wouldn't know it by looking at AMD's Catalyst for Linux driver page (though the 13.8 beta link points to the 13.10 beta zip file).

But you would know it by looking at the separate page announcing the 13.10 beta.

Read the rest of this post

Thu, 19 Sep 2013

AMD releases Catalyst 13.9 video driver for Linux -- or does it?

Warning: The AMD Catalyst 13.9 Linux video driver was on the site this morning but has disappeared since then. As of 4 p.m. Pacific time on Sept. 19, 2013, it has not yet reappeared. AMD, it's your move.

Before the driver disappeared, here is what I wrote:

Now that the 3.11 version of the Linux kernel is available on my Fedora 19 system, AMD has released a new version of its closed-source, stable driver, version 13.9, that brings support to ... the 3.10 kernel.

Not that I haven't been running the 13.6 (suspend/resume worked) and 13.8 betas (suspend/resume didn't work in 13.8 beta 1, not sure about beta 2), because I have.

You can download the new driver here, though I recommend NEVER installing from what AMD provides and always, ALWAYS using a version packaged for your distribution, which for Fedora means the packages provided by RPM Fusion.

Running Fedora and needing AMD Catalyst for working 3D graphics means willfully ignoring new kernels that aren't yet supported and accompanied by a new kmod-catalyst package. That's what I'm doing with the new 3.11.1 kernel that moved into Fedora 19 today. I won't install a 3.11 kernel until there's a corresponding kmod-catalyst package from RPM Fusion to go with it. And given that this new 13.9 release of AMD Catalyst only supports the 3.10 kernel and isn't yet in the RPM Fusion repository (which, given the fact that it was just released, I totally understand), I'll wait for the next kmod-catalyst to roll onto my machine and once again test suspend-resume. If it works (like it did during the brief 13.6 beta window), I'll be of a mind to stick with the 3.10 kernel for a good long while.

But if suspend-resume doesn't work with the combination of Linux kernel 3.10.x and Catalyst 13.9, it'll be back on the beta train until AMD decides to better-support the GPUs it makes, including my AMD Radeon HD 7420g.

Potential problem: I just checked the AMD page, and the new driver is (hopefully temporarily) gone.

Thu, 29 Aug 2013

Watching for new AMD Linux video drivers -- open and closed

I'm watching for new AMD video drivers for Linux, both the open-source driver that ships with most Linux distributions and the closed-source Catalyst driver from AMD that you can install with between a little and a lot of difficulty (and potential heartache).

Since I'm running Fedora, mainly because its developers are very pro-active in pushing new code, here's where I'm looking in the Koji Build System for the latest xorg-x11-drv-ati:


Right now there's a version 7.1.0-5 in Fedora 19, and a 7.2.0-0 built for the in-the-future Fedora 21.

It might be better to follow the driver upstream:


As far as the closed Catalyst driver, keep an eye on this AMD page:


The stable driver remains version 13.4, released on May 29, 2013. The current 13.8 beta, released on Aug. 19, 2013, works well enough on my system but doesn't support successful suspend/resume, though the previous beta version 13.6 did. I'm hoping for better suspend/resume results in the next release.

What I'm really hoping for is a open-source driver that supports both 3D acceleration and suspend/resume. Maybe it'll happen at some point in the future. That it hasn't happened yet is what is making me rethink AMD in favor of Intel graphics.

(My AMD APU's GPU is part of the Trinity series and is categorized as such in Wikipedia.)

Sun, 18 Aug 2013

AMD Catalyst 13.8 beta driver for Linux working again in my Fedora 19 system, but suspend/resume isn't

Possibly (and in all likelihood probably) because of an error in the RPM Fusion package, when the 13.8 beta of the AMD Catalyst video driver for Linux replaced version 13.6 beta on my Fedora 19 system, it pretty much broke video and led me to remove kmod-catalyst and its associates and go back to the open Radeon driver.

X was dying when I ran most apps. That's bad.

So I waited for an updated Catalyst driver from RPM Fusion, and one finally arrived.

I installed the new 13.8 beta via the RPM Fusion package, and while video does work again, suspend/resume does not. This all worked on my AMD Radeon HD 7420g video chip in the 13.6 beta.

At least I have 3D acceleration back. Here's hoping for the return of working suspend/resume in the next Catalyst-for-Linux release from AMD. Better than that would be working 3D and suspend/resume from the free-software driver that ships with Fedora (and every damn other version of Linux).

But a working proprietary driver is better than nothing, so I'll take it.