Just like with MS Windows Aero interface that uses the Directx API that shows transparent & 3D windows, etc … GNU/Linux also has a 3D graphics rendering library of its own called OpenGL (which is open source of course).
Not just for gaming but OpenGL is now being used by default many desktop environment by default, such as Ubuntu’s own desktop module called Unity (kinda, I mean it still uses a lot of Gnome’s apps) for instance.
I won’t go over these details again since I’ve written these things over and over again. But to make it short (for all the newbies), Ubuntu Unity desktop has two versions. One is the 3D rendering version that uses the Compiz composting manager and the other is the Unit 2D version (no need of OpenGL here :D).
From the start, Unity had her issues with GPU cards and their drivers (mainly due to incompatibility issues with Compiz actually). System crashes, weird non intentional “effects”, display going total blank (errrr), etc. The main reason behind these “effects” are most of the time due to incompatibility or “wrong” communication with your GPU because of an improper driver (usually the case with free, opensource drivers).
Or even if your computer can run Unity decently yet did you know that sometimes these reversed engineered GPU drivers are somewhat less efficient than their proprietary versions thus can slow down the PC since the GPU cannot run its optimum environment. So in simple terms, if you use a laptop for instance, then this can even lead you toward a shorter battery life as well.
Concerning AMD (which own the ATI now), starting with few years ago, they started a new proprietary driver that usual outperforms the open-source ones, which was later called the Catalyst. So if you have a never AMD/ATI GPU and want to get the best out of your Ubuntu Unity desktop then you can easily install the latest (11.9) proprietary Catalyst driver in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot by following the below procedure.
If you have already installed a previous version of AMD Catalyst version (for instance, by default Ubuntu do let you install proprietary ATI/AMD drivers using a “restricted drivers” window. So if you have installed one of them… ), in that case, use the below procedure to remove it.
A. Open your Terminal window and enter the below commands.
sudo sh /usr/share/ati/fglrx-uninstall.sh
sudo apt-get remove --purge fglrx fglrx_* fglrx-amdcccle* fglrx-dev* xorg-driver-fglrx
But sometimes, even after running the above commands Ubuntu might “complain” about it still having the drivers installed (what!). In that case follow the steps laid out in this official Ubuntu Wiki page.
Alright, cool, now we we’re ready to install the latest 11.9 Catalyst driver!.
1. Again open your Terminal window and enter the below commands.
cd ~/; mkdir catalyst11.9; cd catalyst11.9/
Now this should open up the official AMD/ATI Catalyst installer (both 32 and 64 bit are embedded into the installer). Just follow on screen details and everything should be pretty automatic from now on. And for the GPU driver to work properly, make sure to reboot your PC.
Although this may not be necessary most of the time. But by default the GPU uses a file called xorg.conf for getting its “instructions”. By default the installer should update it but if you’ve having troubles running the proprietary driver, then you can try the below command as a fix.
sudo aticonfig --initial -f
So if everything went well, then from now on your GPU should be able to (assuming that it’s powerful enough) handle the 3D OpenGL graphics rendering in Ubuntu 11.10.
Gayan, wait a minute here!. So if Ubuntu lets us install the proprietary drivers with ease (with a GUI window and all that) then why the heck we should follow this method?
Well, the one that Ubuntu “offers” is usually old and not the latest version. So if you want the latest versions (with all the bug fixes, etc) then you gotta do it all by yourself (kinda 😉 ) using this method. Enjoy!.