Solved: Ubuntu 16, Mint 18, no driver for AMD video (Radeon 8400 R3 series)

I’m including this stuff on my site because I haven’t found good answers out on the Internet. I may need to be reminded of how I did various things, or maybe you’ll do a search that turns it up…in which case I hope it helps. Incidentally, I have published a book on privacy and internet security. If you’d like to leave me a tip, feel free to buy it from one of the links posted on that page. Or download it for free (same page), and then consider buying something else…maybe fiction? If your mind is twirled pleasurably by sf/fantasy/crime/thriller stuff. Regardless, welcome to the site!

Okay, this one was extremely irritating. I ran the Linux Mint 18 LiveCD, and it didn’t immediately boot on my system. So I edited a grub configuration on the fly to include nomodeselect (since I was previously using a proprietary video driver) and it worked.

So I read about that a little bit. Found out Ubuntu 16 discontinued support for proprietary AMD drivers. I read a bit about that, grumbled…decided to upgrade.

Didn’t work at all.

My system wouldn’t boot, with or without nomodeselect.

I’ll spare you a lot of pain and explanation here. I did try some alternate drivers, with no joy. It turned out that although Ubuntu 16 (thus Linux Mint 18) was supposed to include open-source drivers, and I had in fact used the open-source drivers in previous versions of the operating system…the versions in Ubuntu no longer supported my video card. At all. AND I had a further problem: I was using full-disk encryption, and the graphical “Please decrypt” screen didn’t work at all. I would hit keys, and no password would be entered. Hmm.

The short-term fix was to edit grub, change “quiet splash” to “nomodeselect nosplash” and then later to edit /etc/default/grub to uncomment #GRUB_TERMINAL=console and run update-grub.That let me boot reliably, but I still would see “Device unclaimed” when I tried lshw -c video to check my video driver. And get somewhat crappy performance when watching videos. And so forth.

Okay. I’d had trouble previously with a different machine, that would get into a kernel panic for no apparent reason. The solution, then and now? To upgrade the Linux kernel. I’m not including instructions for that, because you ought to read about it elsewhere for lots of reasons. But I did run across a claim that version 4.9 included support for older Radeon crap. I verified that it did! I’m currently running 4.10.0-35-generic, though I can’t claim that’s the ideal in any way. It works for me.

General note: when you run into “the version of the kernel we distribute doesn’t do X,” it’s sometimes helpful to consider other, more recent kernels. Not that they don’t come with their own issues. But Linux is far more user-configurable than most people seem to realize…me included, as I keep finding out.

Have fun out there!

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