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Monday, March 16, 2009

xorg.conf file for vostro 1000 using compiz in Ubuntu 9.04

I'm sure most people aren't interested in this, but I finally got my laptop (a Dell Vostro 1000) to work nicely with Compiz under Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty). I think the key steps were removing every fglrx package on the computer (apt-get remove fglrx*), switching to the "ati" driver in the xorg.conf, and getting the BusID right (I tried copying it from my earlier xorg.conf file, but the value seems to have changed.) However, I added a lot of other things along the way, which sees to have helped the performance, so, for those who are interested, this is the Ubuntu 9.04, jaunty alpha 5 xorg.conf file for the vostro 1000:

Section "Device"
Identifier "Configured Video Device"
Driver "ati"
BusID "PCI:1:5:0"
Option "DRI" "true"
Option "ColorTiling" "on"
Option "EnablePageFlip" "true"
Option "AccelMethod" "EXA"
Option "RenderAccel" "true"


Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Configured Monitor"

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Monitor "Configured Monitor"
Device "Configured Video Device"
Defaultdepth 24
Option "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "True"
SubSection "Display"
Modes "1280x800"

Section "Module"
Load "glx"
Load "dri"

Section "DRI"
Group "video"
Mode 0660

Section "ServerFlags"
Option "DontZap" "false"

Section "Extensions"
Option "Composite" "Enable"

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ubuntu Jaunty Alpha

Wow. Really, wow. I upgraded to Jaunty (Ubuntu 9.04 Alpha) over the weekend on my work computer. It wasn't flawless, and I wouldn't recommend anyone else do it yet since it's far from a trivial process, but I'm very impressed with the results. The computer is more responsive, several bugs that were annoying me have disappeared, and the monitor just looks nice.

But, since I had problems, I figured I should leave a trail for those who are following in my footsteps.

I had problems installing the nvidia drivers. My old xorg.conf failed miserably on the new configuration, and no end of tweaking seemed to fix it. In the end, I settled for using the standby:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

You'll note that without using -phigh, the command no longer works. Either way, this fixed several issues (multiple instances of X trying to start, bad configurations, inability to install new nvidia drivers, etc), and left me with a much cleaner xorg.conf file.

Once the new xorg.conf file was installed, I was able to install the new nvidia drivers, which had to be done manually (drop to terminal by pressing "ctl-alt-F1", stop the current gdm with the command "sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop", and then running the nvidia binary with "sudo sh". Substitute your appropriate version/file name as necessary.)

You'll have to enable the nvidia driver as well, which can be done with the command:
sudo nvidia-xconfig

From that point on, I had to manually add back a couple of things:

To the end of the file, I put the following, to re-enable the control-alt-backspace combination, which is, for no discernable reason, removed from Jaunty.
Section "ServerFlags"
Option "DontZap" "false"

At one point, I also tried adding dontzap from the repositories, which didn't help, but may have been necessary for that code to work:
 sudo apt-get install dontzap

To the Screen section, I had to add back
    Option  "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "true"

in order to use compiz again, which seems to require this flag.

To get my monitor showing the right resolution, I also had to edit the "Modes" line in the Screen section:
Modes      "1920x1200" "1600x1200" "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

as my monitor's native resolution (1920x1200) wasn't included in the list. Putting it to the front makes it the default mode.

Compiz itself required several libraries which weren't installed:
sudo apt-get install compiz compiz-core compiz-fusion-plugins-extra
compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-gnome compiz-plugins compiz-wrapper
compizconfig-backend-gconf compizconfig-settings-manager libcompizconfig0

Some of which were present, others weren't, so I asked it to reinstall the whole stack.

Java, for some reason, became really slow - probably because it changed the default away from Sun's version 1.6 to something else. That should be switched back with:
sudo update-alternatives --config java

Firefox was upgraded at one point, to version 3.0.7, which seems not to be backwards compatible. (it was no longer able to go back a page, or remember previous pages or bookmarks.) Blowing away the ~/.mozilla/firefox directory fixed it, but lost all my bookmarks and settings. I also had to remove the lock files, but if you're blowing away the firefox directory, that will be included as part of it.

I'm leaving out several other steps I did that shouldn't be necessary for anyone else: the computer hung midway through the install, and had to be recovered at the command line, several repositories were tested out, as well as multiple rounds of update/upgrade/autoremove from the command line were also used, and a bit of tweaking of other features.

I would also give a couple of points to people who are considering doing this upgrade: backup everything you value. config settings, xorg files, your compiz settings, etc. Several config files were reset back to default or had to be blown away to get things working again, and, although minor, took some time to recover.

Was all that worth the 6 hours of tweaking? So far, I think so!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ubuntu Intrepid Beta

I just upgraded my laptop from Ubuntu 8.04 to Ubuntu 8.10, and I have to say it was - by far - the easiest OS upgrade I have ever done in my life. I had been waiting for the new fglrx driver for my video card, as I use compiz heavily on this notebook for application switching... but now that it's here, I just gave the command to upgrade "update-manager -d" and off it went.

Going from 7.04 to 7.10 and then to 8.04 gave me all sorts of weird, but entertaining problems - wireless died, or the monitor changed resolutions or whatever. This time - Nothing! I didn't even see the usual set of weird errors (such as incompatible fonts and locale settings) in the upgrade terminal.

It asked a few relevant questions - kde vs gnome (gnome), if I want to install the proprietary fwcutter for my wireless card (yes) and a password for mysql-5, which it later uninstalled (strange...). And off it went.

It took about an hour and a half, of which most of it was entirely unsupervised. (A couple config file changes were offered for my approval, where I had changed system settings.) Otherwise, it took care of all those things I would normally do, such as uninstalling old kernel versions and clearing out unused packages. All in all, a very pleasant experience. (I even had my IM programs running throughout the process, and continued talking with people throughout.)

On reboot, I instantly noticed a speedup to the boot - there were fewer pauses, and the process seemed somewhat quicker because of it.

Once back into Gnome, you'll notice not much has changed - nothing broke during the install! That's a nice change.

When things do change unexpectedly, menus pop up to warn you. (eg. converting my exit Ubuntu icon to a user switcher/msn status combined icon.) Information was offered right away with the lightbulb icon, and the option to retain the old icon was provided as well. Very considerate of a new OS to give you a choice!

Finally, one of the things I though would break would be my previous hack to get the screen brightness keys working, which I deliberately overwrite during the upgrade. Instead, the screen brightness buttons now work even better than before. Where my previous solution had given uneven increments of brightness, which were hard to adjust, it now actually goes from light to dark in pretty even steps. Very nice!

All this in the first 5 minutes after the install... Anyhow, now it's time to get back to work and actually enjoy Ubuntu 8.10!


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hardy Heron, Ubuntu 8.04 beta

So I took the bait. I can't refuse Beta operating systems. I've always enjoyed living on the bleeding edge when it comes to new and shiny OSes, so I upgraded my laptop just to see what would happen.

Well, no surprise, I broke a few things, though surprisingly, it's a pretty small list. Going from Gutsy Gibbon to Hardy Heron on my Vostro 1000 was very smooth, and required very little effort to get it up and running again, for the most part.

Compiz (3d graphics): Well, no surprise, It was somewhat of a hack to get it going on my laptop, originally, but the only thing that broke during the upgrade was a weird error about gnome-settings-daemon not being able to start. The fix:

sudo apt-get remove xserver-xgl

Unfortunately, I'd tried someone else's fix of blowing away all of the .gconf, .gconf2, etc settings in my home directory, which obviously didn't help, but now has me reconfiguring all of my settings... oh well. Just use the line above, and save yourself some of the pain.

However, removing xserver-xgl will probably kill your ability to run Compiz, and you may need to turn composite on in your xorg.conf file (/etc/X11/xorg.conf). That can be done by finding the lines:

Section "Extensions"
    Option "Composite" "0"

and changing the "0" to "1". Tada, Compiz works again!

Wireless: This one was interesting: there's a new driver for the wireless card, so it tries to install that over what you've already got going. The new driver is much better than the old, so its a good thing, but you still need the (not-open-source) firmware from broadcom. Installing it couldn't be easier.

Follow the first 3 lines here to uninstall ndiswrapper, if you had it running before. (You don't want the new driver running at the same time as the old: this may mean you might want to take the out any lines saying ndiswrapper or bwcml43, or similar from /etc/modules.)

Follow the instructions here, to install the b43 driver firmware, although my simplified version would be:

sudo apt-get install b43-fwcutter
tar xjf broadcom-wl-
cd broadcom-wl-
b43-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware wl_apsta.o

You'll notice I've skipped a few steps compared to what's on the linked page. "b43-fwcutter" can be installed through apt-get, so there's no point in building it yourself, and /lib/firmware is the right place to put the firmware in Ubuntu, so you don't need to be fancy about exporting it and then using a shell variable. And that did it for me.

You may also need to go to System->Administration->Hardware Drivers to tell Ubuntu to use the b43 driver. After that, my FN+F2 key works again, and I was able to connect to my wireless network.

All is good again with my laptop.

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