28 01 | 2012

Debian with AMD graphic cards

Written by Tanguy

Classified in : Homepage, Debian, Grumble

If you install Debian on a computer with an AMD graphic card (an integrated Radeon HD 6310 in my case), you will only get garbage on your screen. Even without X.Org.

This is because these graphic card require a non-free firmware to work, even in 2D with free drivers. So, boot with the kernel option radeon.modeset=0 to get a working console, then install the non-free package linux-firmware-nonfree.

After that, do not forget to complain to AMD, because that really sucks hard. At the beginning there were microwave network cards unusable without non-free firmware, then wired network cards, and they are even invading graphic cards!


saturday 28 january 2012 à 12:26 Philipp Kern said : #1

You mean instead the firmware should be burned into ROM? Like the stupid "do comply with FSF's guidelines we need to add another CPU to this phone to load the firmware from ROM". (Yes, I understand that you mean that it should be usable without non-free firmware. And hey, it is. It's just the kernel that requires non-free firmware by default. Maybe that's the bug.)

(And yes, I'm unhappy about this whole situation with firmware where everybody needs to enable non-free because of firmware.)

saturday 28 january 2012 à 14:25 Erbureth said : #2

Why not just use something like

if (firmware_not_loaded) {

saturday 28 january 2012 à 15:42 Paul Menzel said : #3

Unfortunately I had to experience similar issues.

1. On a Lenovo G555(?) it kind of worked but resuming from suspend took minutes because there seems to be a timeout looking for the firmware [1].

2. Using the mainboard ASUS M2V-MA with Radeon X1250 resume did not work at all without the firmware [2, 3]. The upstream bug was closed at `WONTFIX`.

3. Furthermore I was disappointed that the free graphics stack does not use hardware acceleration at all. This is due to patents and legal issues I was told. So I cannot use the full capacity of the hardware I paid money for and have to get a more powerful processor to watch 1080 HD videos.

And on top of it all even if I wanted to use their proprietary driver Catalyst/fglrx I cannot since they drop support for older devices after two(?) years.

So AMD/ATI lost quite a bit of my respect lately when I tried out their graphics solution. They earned it with their coreboot [4] commitment.

So Intel pushes UEFI but offers quite decent graphics stack with hardware acceleration I was told.

AMD supports coreboot but their free graphics driver do not use hardware acceleration and their proprietary drivers cannot be used with older graphics hardware.

Nvidia does not care about coreboot and free graphics drivers at all. But their proprietary drivers at least supports older graphics hardware with hardware acceleration.

So it’s quite difficult to decide from which vendor to buy hardware from.

[1] http://lists.freedesktop.org/archives/dri-devel/2011-July/012878.html
[2] https://bugzilla.kernel.org/show_bug.cgi?id=42580
[3] http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=655934
[4] http://www.coreboot.org/

saturday 28 january 2012 à 17:05 Ben Hutchings said : #4

Erbureth wrote:
> Why not just use something like
> if (firmware_not_loaded) {
> disable_modeset;
> }
> ?

Well, that's not correct in general. For the recent GPUs, there are quite a few different blobs of firmware for different blocks, and some do seem to be necessary for proper operation of the drivers. Older GPUs only need firmware for 3D acceleration. Unfortunately the upstream developers seem to be confused as to exactly which features on which chips need to be disabled when the firmware is missing.

sunday 29 january 2012 à 06:01 foo said : #5

Pushing the non-freeness into the card itself is just hiding the problem. Pretty much all hardware (including the CPU itself) has non-free firmware either embedded in The only solution to this is OSHW:


sunday 29 january 2012 à 13:01 Marvin said : #6

This has been really annoying. Ati/amd, qualcomm and to an lesser extend hp printer firmware has caused me some real pain lately. If the firmware is freely distributable I don't have a problem with it. Don't understand why some manufacturers don't even let the firmware be freely distributed, seems really stupid. I'd also happily pay a few euros more if the firmware was on a flash or some rom.

wednesday 01 february 2012 à 01:25 michael said : #7

Radeon 5770, no problems like this. Radeon 4200 series onboard graphics, no problems either. I'm just a lucky guy I guess.

monday 30 july 2012 à 19:49 marc said : #8

thank you man

20 asus eeepc seashell to install. they work with kernel 2.6 but not with 3.2 (debian wheezy).
only garbage as you say.


tuesday 17 february 2015 à 13:01 G A Craig Carey said : #9

In the last 2 years I saw that AMD ATI drivers for Windows 98 had gone bad at their website with their website actually concealing that. (Modem makers instead delete old drivers). I guess that the New York spy agency is extending its empire of harassments good enough for a little newsletter going into NY city.

tuesday 17 february 2015 à 13:08 Tanguy said : #10

@G A Craig Carey : AMD, Windows 98, New York spy agency: WTF‽

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