Will Your Graphic Card Let You Run Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Smoothly?

I always had troubles with Ubuntu (started around 10.04 I think) with my ATI GPU, which is an old one actually - Raedon Express 200m. But the same VGA or the Laptop, had no problems whatsoever with Fedora or Debian in general. This was due to the fact that Ubuntu heavily depends on a OpenGL widow render manager called Compiz

Is it that important?...

If you don't know what the heck that means, then Compiz is the one behind all these fancy effects that you get in Ubuntu, you know things like transparency window borders, various effects such as minimizing effect/fading effects and other various "fancy" VGA related 3D effects.

Here's the "thing"...

All the VGA cards that are manufactured by ATI and Nvidia are closed sourced ones (although Intel seems to approach a bit open minded). Meaning that if you want to get the best 3D effects then you have currently have two options.

1. Use the proprietary drivers (which usually come with major GNU/Linux distros... but with Ubuntu, you can easily install then via the "Software Center". So it's easily fixable in Ubuntu.


2. You can use the free and true GNU VGA drivers that are written by developers by figuring out the hardware and how it works all by themselves called reverse engineering. Both ATI and Nvidia refuse to give away how their GPU (graphic processor in VGA cards) work... thus the GNU developers have to figure it out all by themselves.

Not to say the truth that even though most of the time they "just" work, but... the never the graphic card is the more time it's gonna take for these poor developers to figure out how it work :(. Although, impressively, some of these drivers actually work better than the original drivers written by the vendors them selves!. But they could be buggy under heavy/complex usage such as with Compiz window manger.

So most of the time you'll be better off with the official drivers. But if you use something other than Ubuntu the installation might be a bit difficult.

Back to the story...

Weird things that you can do with Compiz ;-)...

There are certain hardware which Compiz does not work or tends to be very buggy :(. But according to Compiz, Canonical no longer uses the original code written by Compiz developers, they've created a lot of bug fixes and have added better compability of Compiz with Ubuntu by changing the code. So this buggy driver list of original Compiz utility may not be applicable with the Ubuntu due to those changes.

But you should still consider about your VGA card and its compability with Compiz before running Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal since the Unity desktop now runs as a plugin on top of Compiz!. So a buggy VGA driver can do some serious annoyance for the PC + most importantly for the users as well.

If you own a Laptop or a Desktop PC directly from HP, Dell or other manufactures... then you can read this official Ubuntu certified hardware list first. Although the 11.04 version is not there, but if your hardware is there, you're good to go.

Secondly you can read this Compiz hardware page which addresses few of the known problems that can occur with certain Nvidia, ATI, Intel... graphic cards and how to resolve them. Again remember, some of these "issues" may not be applicable with Ubuntu, yet it's well worth the read.

Finally, after or to prior to the Ubuntu 11.04 Natty installation, if you're having problems or questions, you can ask them from this ask Ubuntu community maintained web site. Before posting your question, try searching it first. Who knows... maybe it's already been answered (oh you lucky geek :P).

"One of the best 2D/3D graphic "creators"... competing with Microsoft's DirectX..."

As mentioned before, in Ubuntu, using the "Software Center" or the "property hardware drivers" wizard, most of the time you should be able to install the official GPU drivers.

In that case, simply open the "Software Center" and enter Ati or Nvidia and do a search. Then follow the instructions on the screen. Also try to read few of recommendations/feedback given by others as well (usually appears below the "description" section).   

Good luck.


fyrul said...

thanks on the info..
my first boot after updated to natty with the latest kernel(-pae), got blank screen, cant start X..
so choose the older kernel, it boot successfully to X.
uninstall the ati catalyst driver via additional drivers, reboot with older kernel. youtube can play smoothly.. no system lag.
but after i installed the latest ati catalyst (proprietary driver), reboot, choose the latest -pae kernel, it can boot now (without the blank screen), but systems & youtube become laggy...

still searching solutions on this...

Gayan said...


Sorry to hear that pal.... I may sound silly, but have you tried completely uninstalling Adobe Flash and then installing it again?

Also try booting into Ubuntu (using the Kernel that you're currently using) using the "recovery mode".

Sometimes when you boot your PC using this to the desktop... it helps to "update" some of the graphic card related drivers properly.

Anyhow hope you'd find your answer soon :).

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