Improved Video with Ubuntu
Desktop Training - Ubuntu 8.04

Improved Video with Ubuntu

by Donnie Tevault

Ubuntu is the world's most popular desktop GNU/Linux distro. But, you have to admit, their productHardy Heron quality can sometimes be hit-and-miss.








When Ubuntu 7.10--aka "Gutsy Gibbon"--came out, one of the major complaints from the masses was about video problems. Some video problems were so bad, that the machines were all but unusable. To their credit, the Ubuntu folk heard their cries, and quickly released a raft-load of bug-fixes. However, that didn't fix all of the problems.

Here, I attempted to install Gutsy on several machines. Two of my newer machines--both Athlon64's with ATI video--refused to even boot from the live CD. So, I gave up on them. I did get it to install on three older machines, and on my Extreme Edition Quad-Core machine when I built it. Ironically, the only machine on which video worked completely right--meaning, the only one with which the proprietary drivers and desktop visual effects worked--was my old home-brew Pentium III 667, with a several-year-old PCI-bus nVidia video card. (And no, applying updates didn't help the others.)

The worst problem was with the Intel Quad Core. Gutsy installed okay, and the proprietary ATI video driver seemed to install okay, as well. But, when I rebooted the machine, I got an error message that it couldn't recognize the video card, and it booted me into 640 x 480 resolution mode. Disabling the proprietary driver via the graphical utility didn't help, and neither did manually restoring the original X configuration file. So, I ended up having to re-install Gutsy. Then, with the standard open-source driver installed, the only resolution I could get to work was the super-high 1600 x 1200. (I normally like to run at 1024 x 768.) Each time I tried to change it, the video would just get all screwed-up, and I would have to reboot to get it back.

Proprietary Drivers

So far, though, Hardy Heron seems to be a different story. I've upgraded four Gutsy machines, and the proprietary drivers and desktop effects work properly on all but one of them. (The one exception has an el-cheapo video card, so I can't expect anything better with it.)

I haven't had a chance to put Hardy Heron through its paces otherwise, but at least it seems that the video problems are finally all ironed out. Good thing, too, since the Ubuntu team have to support this release for the next three years.

Visual Effects

But, why?

You're probably wondering, with the major video problems that my Quad-Core machine had with Gutsy Gibbon, why did I stick with Gutsy on that machine? Actually, I wanted to give something else a try when I built that machine. But, other distros that I tried had problems that were even worse. Video wouldn't work at all with BlueWhite64, and several other distros that I tried didn't have a driver for my Pioneer optical drive. So, it turned out, Gutsy Gibbon was the only one that I tried that I could even get to install. (One point, at least, in Gutsty Gibbon's favor.)