Update, 18 Mar 2009: Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope 9.04 and later now support R600/R700 hardware out of the box. Make sure you update to at least xserver-xorg-video-radeon 1:6.12.1-0ubuntu1, libdrm2 2.4.5-0ubuntu2, and linux-image-generic 184.108.40.206.11. If you have done so, you can stop reading this page now.
Update, 5 Mar 2009: fixed the instructions for the DRM modules. You need to build from the origin/r6xx-r7xx-support branch.
I got a new computer with an ATI Radeon 3450 graphics card (R600 series). Here are the steps I took to configure it on Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope 9.04 using free software (open source) drivers. The instructions below might also be useful for other Radeon hardware, in particular, R700-series cards.
Happily, Ubuntu 9.04 does drive the 3450 out-of-the-box (it boots into X and is usable, using the free radeon driver). Its performance was, however, kind of poor on my machine. I noticed "wiping" and flickering when scrolling (e.g. in firefox or gnome-terminal) or moving windows around.
Building the development versions of the radeonhd and drm drivers fixed these issues and significantly improved desktop performance. Everything is quite slick-looking now, even while driving a 1900x1080 display. Kudos to the driver developers, and to AMD/ATI for cooperating with driver development. Ubuntu does package radeonhd, so sooner or later, after this code gets released, an out-of-the-box installation will provide this level of performance as well.
For historical reasons there are two free drivers for ATI Radeon devices: radeon and radeonhd. They have approximate feature-parity these days. I used radeonhd because I found instructions for it first. :) Instructions are adapted from these sources: radeonhd r600-r700 instructions, Ubuntu community documentation for RadeonHD. (For your reference, the Radeon feature matrix describes what features are supported on what models.)
Download the build prerequisites:
$ sudo aptitude install git-core build-essential $ sudo aptitude build-dep xserver-xorg-video-radeonhd
Clone the repos for radeonhd and drm:
$ git clone git://anongit.freedesktop.org/git/xorg/driver/xf86-video-radeonhd $ git clone git://anongit.freedesktop.org/mesa/drm
Build and install radeonhd:
$ cd xf86-video-radeonhd $ ./autogen.sh --prefix=/usr $ make $ sudo make install $ cd ..
Build and install the drm modules:
$ cd drm/linux-core $ git checkout origin/r6xx-r7xx-support $ make radeon.o drm.o $ sudo cp radeon.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/gpu/drm/radeon/ $ sudo cp drm.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/gpu/drm/
Now we'll configure X to use the new drivers. If you don't have an xorg.conf file with stuff in it, auto-generate one:
# X -configure # mv /root/xorg.conf.new /etc/X11/xorg.conf
Change the Device section. I modified the Driver line and added the following options:
Section "Device" Driver "radeonhd" Option "AccelMethod" "exa" Option "DRI" "on" Option "VideoOverlay" "off" Option "OpenGLOverlay" "on" Option "TexturedVideo" "off" [...] EndSection
Verify that the DRI module is loaded and that non-root applications can access it:
Section "Module" Load "dri" [...] EndSection Section "DRI" Mode 0666 EndSection
Then reboot your computer. That should do it.