So evidently, ATI has released the 9.10 driver, even before 9.9 is released – but only for Ubuntu Karmic Koala users!  Way to go ATI!  I saw the article at Phoronix yesterday and said to myself “Hell yes, I’m going to try this!”

I was originally going to show everyone how to patch or install the 9.9 drivers onto 2.6.31 kernel as soon as they were released but I guess now that becomes unnecessary.

So, armed with the new knowledge of an ATI driver floating around out there and my new Gaming System with Karmic Koala Alpha 4 on it, I went ahead and performed a full apt-get upgrade of my system.

It was a little over 260 packages needed upgrading, which I learned is because I was going to Alpha 5 :).  When it finished doing all it needed to I completely removed my previously installed ati drivers and rebooted my system.

Luckily, I came back up to a login prompt, so the lack of fglrx driver didn’t prevent my desktop from showing (must have default to open source drivers).  Then, using the GUI system to make sure it worked, I went to the appropriate System -> Administration -> Hardware Drivers application.

It of course told me I had an ATI card and needed proprietary drivers, but no where on it did I see what version it is.  Previously, trying to activate it this way would fail on 2.6.31 because compilation failed on that kernel on older drivers, so the test for 9.10 is of course to see if it “just works”.

I then hit the “Activate” button and waited for it to download and activate my new driver.  Once it finished, it told me it was temporarily disabled until I rebooted.  Usually you can start this stuff without rebooting by popping over to a terminal (ctrl+alt+f1), ensuring that drm and radeon modules are removed, and modprobe fglrx – but in this case it wouldn’t work, so I did as I was told and rebooted.

Sure enough, once my desktop came back I had full 3D acceleration and the driver showed as activated in the Hardware Drivers application.  Awesome – it worked!

So, some pre-release of 9.10 is out before 9.9 and the community over at phoronix has already gotten it to build and work under various other distributions  (which, lets be honest: we knew THAT would happen).

I didn’t see a huge increase in performance in any of the 3D games I tested, and I compared some results to my reviews numbers, but for the most part it seems to be pretty close, but more stable and doesn’t flood my log files with error messages anymore.  To see what they say is officially the new features you can read the change request here.

ATI really has started to kick ass with their Linux support over the past year, but 9.8 and higher are the only drivers that were able to satisfy a good majority of the people on the phoronix forums.  I was looking through some threads there and people were seriously ripping into ATI something fierce up to that point.  But, 9.8 and it appears 9.10, seem to finally be decent drivers for people who want full use of their system (Desktop Effects and the like) as well as the 3D gaming experience on Linux.  There is still complaints, issues with Xv and other HD video playback, but the majority seem to find at least some use for these newer drivers now.

And for once, ATI is at least partially keeping up with the “bleeding edge” kernel releases seen in Fedora and Arch.  There is still a slight lag of course, since it took 5 alpha releases before the new driver appeared, but the driver is now out before the operating system it officially will support is released as stable.  HUGE improvement there.

Although it took a decade for ATI to step up and give the Linux community a choice in graphics cards again, they have finally done it in my opinion – and that, quite frankly, is awesome.

Look out Nvidia, little brother is approaching fast!