Ubuntu? Laptop? Intel Graphics? Speed Boost!

If you’re using the latest version of Ubuntu, Jaunty Jackalope, or version 9.04 and you use a laptop with an Intel graphics chip like I do in my Dell D630 you may have gotten used to to the God awful video performance since you upgraded from the previous release.

I had. I had forgotten that windows aren’t supposed to tear when you drag them, and that yes, the underpowered chipset in my laptop can sort of handle the special effects in Compiz. What changed? The new drivers in 9.04 did. Intel are apparently reshaping how their drivers work but while they do it performance has taken a back seat and is cheerfully swilling on beer while the computer does the heavy lifting up front. (errr)

Anyway, simple way to fix it? Revert to the driver in the previous version of Ubuntu! It’s horribly easy to do. Just follow this guide, update your apt sources, install the old driver and restart X. I did and now I have fancy windows bouncing here, there and everywhere! In fact, my wife used her online O2 account to send a few texts and the confirmation popup window hopped around the screen all on it’s own! Oh how we laughed!

Oh, and for anyone who uses a browser, there’s a really simple way to get a CPU upgrade for free. Download Chrome or Chromium (or for Ubuntu .debs) and give it a whirl. After using Firefox for many years it’s like a breath of fresh air, fast moving air that is as it zips along! OK, it’s not completely bug free. The latest builds have a problem with the “default browser” setting (grab a build from around Sep 4 but the fix will be available soon) but it’s the main browser on my Linux desktop and I love the thing!

Apple Linux Open-Source

More Linux eye candy: CGWD Themes

If you’ve seen my desktop machine at home you’ll realise I’m a big fan of the Xgl and compiz stuff and now thanks to a Linux Journal article I’ve discovered the CGWD Themer.

Installing it in Ubuntu is as easy as adding a new site to your apt-get repository list and firing up apt-get in the usual way and grabbing the binaries from their repository. Then either launch it from the command line using the command “gcompizthemer” or go to System->Preferences where a new menu item called “CGWD Themer” can be found. The themer does nice things to the borders of and bars of your windows. I love the glow of the min/max/close buttons that spills over the side of the window!
Oh, and just because I bought a Mac laptop doesn’t mean I’m abandoning Linux. I fell in love with my Gnome+Xgl desktop once again when I came home from San Francisco!

Later – two articles features on digg and delicious which might be of interest:

  1. An Overview of modern fancy Unix desktops – good summary of the competing technologies that make the 3d and special visual effects possible
  2. The Linux Desktop Myth – a long essay on one man’s experience with switching to Linux and GPLed software.
  3. Suse Compiz page – has lots more info and lists all the options and configurable bits! (via)

Xgl on a live CD

If you want to try Xgl to see what all the fuss is about, then you should download the Kororaa live CD. I downloaded the 441MB iso, burned it on CD and rebooted into Xgl.

Wow. All the eye candy looks great, the cube revolved when I switched desktops or dragged the background with CTRL pressed. Dragging windows from one side of the cube to another desktop was really cool, but not as much fun as watching a sticky window bend and deform as I dragged it!

As someone pointed out on digg, it’s not just eye candy. The openGL powered desktop uses my video card to move pixels around and feels responsive. I’m very tempted to upgrade to Ubuntu Dapper so I can install the Xgl binaries! (via)
Later… I updated my Ubuntu install to the latest Dapper release using apt-get dist-upgrade and after some minor fighting with a customized xorg.conf and following the instructions I have an Xgl powered desktop! Nice.
Slightly Later… I found a showstopper bug. It doesn’t do full screen image viewing. At least as far as gthumb or f-spot is concerned anyway. Gthumb just dies and F-spot displays a thumbnail in the corner of a grey screen.

Some people had the same problem playing movies and the solution was to use openGL as the full screen driver but I don’t think the same can be done with an image viewer, can it?
It’s alpha software so hopefully this will be worked around sooner or later!