ATI x1xxx card owners will have to try various ATi OpenGL file versions to find the one that is right for them if they want Shaders and Normal Maps. Hopefully there is a Vista variant (possible pre-7.1) that will work there or a prior linux kernel driver package.
Why? Because they didn't bother making their **** to spec. These shaders are fully SM3.0 qualified _even by ATi's own Render Monkey_. Because they decided to shortcut things by special extensions and call it "Fully Capable" instead of "Marginally Compatible", it does not process SM3 like it should. x3xx/x6xx cards are in an even worse boat, then only have HDR capabililty, and even _that_ is broken.
"But I have other SM 3.0 games, and they run FINE!" Yeah. And how many of them are running in OpenGL and how many of them are running in DX? So far as I can determine, FSO is _the_ only game that is OpenGL First and Foremost _and_ is using SM 3.0. Every other game that _could_ have OpenGL in it (Far Cry, broken especially with HDR on, Serious Sam 2, ugly in anything BUT DX Mode), does it at second best if it even bothers to do it at all.
Having stressed through the hardware (I obtained several ATi cards for free from a PC recycle center from a friend of mine) I can tell you that very little is going to change in the shaders from here on out for those cards, unless some sort of compatible code branch can be written in to the engine (which is a headache and a half times ten from what I gather). And given how much work would have to go in to making ATi specific copies of the shaders that at best won't do much for the performance on these cards because of a total lack of support for Vertex Texture Fetch, -no_glsl seems the better option all the way around.
And for the idea of SM 2. Potentially, a lot of the shader stuff could be SM2 and the higher end stuff could be SM 3. But you would still be in the same boat, because guess which of the two controls the normals and the ability to have the env acting on them? SM 3. And what could be converted to run SM 2 would see no benefit to it on SM3 capable systems and in fact could even slow it down.
I am still keeping the idea and options open. Because, by and large, I hate being defeated. But if you can't find an ATi opengl file to work things for you, then -no_glsl is the only other option.