making the ati radeon work on ubuntu (sort of)

a very nice looking ubuntu wallpaper if you ask meLast week I was trying out the latest Ubuntu release and noticed it didn’t handle my ATI Radeon X1600 graphics card as it should.
The latest hardware can always be a problem on any *nix distro, but it sort of sucks when the GUI gives you the feeling you’re running a Pentium I machine. After googling for a solution I came across a number of entries telling me what to do to fix the issue, but unfortunately those didn’t quite do the trick for me.

So if you are having similar issues, and the guides/support forum posts aren’t helping you either, you can try the following steps:

1. Backup your X. Always do this before messing with the config file. I know, cause I had to reinstall Ubuntu a second time after screwing it up bad enough I couldn’t get in anymore, and I didn’t have a clue how to fix it afterwards.

sudo cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.original

(sudo is a “do stuff as a super user” thingy btw, which allows you to run administative commands on your machine, without having to be the root user.
If things get screwed up in the process, you can copy the original back over the new file to restore your system.
2. Now that we have that, let’s install the necessary packages for our ATI card.
You can do this by using the Synaptic Package Manager which is in your top menu under System > Administration.
Use the search to locate the xorg-driver-fglrx package, and install it.

3. Edit your xorg.config file to use the fglrx driver.

sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Then change the driver section to use the fglrx drivers. It was saying “vesa” in my case.

Driver “fglrx”

Now in almost all guides I kept finding things about having to add an extentions section in the X config files to disable the composite option. (e.g. this one). When I added this section, my windows didn’t render when I dragged them around. They sort of disappeared when I dragged them around, which isn’t really handy to say the least. So if that’s what you are getting, remove that section if you’ve added it, and see if it works then.

4. Reboot to make X load the new config and drivers.

Now I have a minimal working card on Ubuntu. If you’d happen to know why shit ain’t working as it should, feel free to let me know, but for now, this will do as I don’t intend to do any heavy 3D rendering on it anyway, and I’m kinda fed up with rebooting X constantly…

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