fglrx on the desktop -- nowhere near as bad as it used to be
Color me impressed. After several tries with ATI and Linux in the past (I'm not very smart and apparently unable to learn) I'm giving it another shot with a pair of 5830s. They were so cheap I couldn't refuse.
Initial impression is very, very positive. The open source driver ran the fans at full blast which was a bit horrifying. But after installing fglrx the system quieted down, the desktop came up with no fuss (well, after aticonfig --initial of course), and everything I've tried seems to work well enough including a few light windows games, watching youtube, suspend/resume and exiting X. Crossfire and multi-monitor is next.
This is a far cry from the previous fglrx user experience. I know AMD seems to be making little to no progress month to month, but compared to just a few years ago (my last try was with an X1800XT in 2006, before that an X850XT, before that an 9600XT, before that a 7200...) they've advanced by leaps an bounds. From what I've seen so far I'd say they're at least at the same level as NVidia was in 2004, possibly further. That's tremendous progress in just a few short years for the binary blob.
I'm excited and cautiously optimistic about having a choice of desktop video hardware. And maybe some day even a functional, fully open source system!