I'm delighted to find this version of StackExchange as I normally lurk in the GIS board. I would greatly appreciate help with the following problem (which seems to be quite common - but I am just starting to wean myself off Windows so I don't fully understand how to achieve what should be a simple task as every solution I find seems to raise another problem):

I have an old PC which I want to set up as a 'lab-rat' to learn Linux. I have Debian Wheezy installed (as the only operating system) but GNOME 3 fails to load and I get the fall-back GUI. I have an old ATI Radeon 9250 graphics card and believe I need to install drivers for this. I have read and attempted to follow the Debian AtiHowTo but when I get to the bit about editing the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, things fall apart because I don't have this file. I read here that this file no longer exists by default and must be created although that advice is on a Ubuntu forum, though I believe Ubuntu is based on Debian so could that be my issue here? The 'offical' Debian site mentioned previously makes no reference of needing to create the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, however, I attempted to create the file as directed on the Ubuntu site anyway but that also fails.

I'm sure this is a simple problem for seasoned Linux users and I would appreciate supplementary directions of how to install the ATI Radeon driver mentioned in the AtiHowTo as I have no idea how to proceed.

I followed the instructions in the accepted answer on Ubuntu site mentioned above (I didn't understand this initially but now do). I now have an xorg.conf file and it includes a section for DEVICE radeon, which pretty much matches the simple definition in the AtiHowTo page. I suspect I now need to restart GNOME. I found this advice on this board, but when I follow this advice I got a message "Stopping GNOME" and then the log-in screen again but I still have no GNOME and don't know whether the driver is installed. What do I do now?

Result of $glxinfo | grep render:

direct rendering: Yes
OpenGL renderer string: Gallium 0.4 on llvmpipe (LLVM 0x209)
    GL_NV_conditional_render, GL_AMD_draw_buffers_blend,
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    Hello and welcome to U&L! Ubuntu derives from Debian and so you should be able to do most things in Deb that you do in Ubuntu and vice versa. I believe you're correct in your summary that you'll need to create the xorg.conf file manually.
    – slm
    Nov 9, 2013 at 8:59
  • @sim Thanks - I've created the xorg.conf file but am still struggling (please see my edits) as the restart command for GNOME actually stops it! Nov 9, 2013 at 10:16
  • @sim - please ignore my last comment and just see my re-edited edit (I wrote the above comment out of incompetence!). So, I think I've installed the driver, told xorg.conf I have a radeon GPU, restarted GNOME but nothing has changed. Any idea what I'm doing wrong? My graphics card is definitely listed in the Radeon manual pages. Nov 9, 2013 at 10:37
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    It looks like the x.org 'radeon' driver will support it. However, from what I can tell, the 9250 is ancient (all Google searches turn up PCI cards; graphics cards haven't used original PCI since 1998 or so). It may simply be that some OpenGL acceleration features that GNOME 3 wants simply aren't available on the 9250. -- It might be useful to see the output of /var/log/Xorg.0.log and look for hiccups in there.
    – ewhac
    Nov 15, 2013 at 22:23
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    What is the output of glxinfo | grep render?
    – Braiam
    Nov 16, 2013 at 23:05

3 Answers 3


There is a bug in the drivers. You have the correct driver info loaded. You need to go to /etc/modprobe.d/radeon-kms.conf and set it to this:


Shut down and add the PCI card then go to BIOS and select the correct video adapter and save and reboot.

Bug: https://bugzilla.kernel.org/show_bug.cgi?id=58981


Install firmware-linux-nonfree. It contains the driver for ATI

  • Thanks for the suggestion. I tried this but it didn't help Nov 20, 2013 at 9:35

recent versions of gnome require a video card with hardware acceleration. this unfortunate situation seems to only have three answers: new video card, old gnome (gnome2), no gnome (something like xfce, lxde or kde). sorry. on the bright side xfce is built on gnome libraries so if you go that way it is not too much work.

  • Thanks for the reply. The ATI 9250 is supposed to have hardware acceleration so in theory, it ought to work with the gnome3. The card used to work under Windows so it must be that the Linux driver support for this card is flaky (because the driver in question claims to work for my card). I'm not sold on gnome3 entirely and could live with kde but that still means my graphics card doesn't work, so the problem isn't solved. Nov 20, 2013 at 9:40

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