Monday, February 08, 2010

Ubuntu Lucid on a very old Dell -- not so good

I have a Dell 4550 Desktop with a GeForce4 MX 420 graphics card, 1 GB of RAM and a single-core Pentium IV 2.53 GHz processor.
I bought this towards the end of 2002 and it's been in light use since then and has never had a single problem.
The 80GB HDD has been partitioned and re-partitioned countless times without displaying any distress.
It's been running with Ubuntu Jaunty and Windows XP (which was installed on it when I got it) in recent times.
So, I thought I'd step things up a gear and install Ubuntu Lucid Alpha 2.
The install went without problems (re-formatted / but left /home untouched).
Everything seemed just fine until I tried to get Compiz-Fusion working. Nothing doing despite the appropriate driver (nvidia_96 equivalent to NVIDIA-Linux-x86-96.43.14) being available in the repos.
Just couldn't get 3D effects or even AWN working as this latter needs a composited screen.
Then I found this which seems to indicate that nVidia card owners are not going to have 3D effects in Lucid. Good to know that it wasn't just because of my very old legacy graphics card.
The most perplexing thing about this episode is that the nvidia_96 driver was detected and listed as "activated but not in use". What the hell does that mean?
Anyway, as a last resort I tried the nouveau driver from the same link but this didn't provide any improvements whatsoever,
Interestingly though, after installing nouveau, the nVidia X Server Settings utility now showed TWO drivers (the new one was called something like nVidia Riva TNT) both of which were activated but not in use.
At this stage I gave up and installed Karmic instead.
Although this went reasonably well and 3D effects were readily available, it's still giving some minor problems such as very jerky motion when I rotate the Desktop cube.
A key to getting 3D effects working troublefree was to include the line

Option "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "True"

to the graphics card section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf

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