Monday, June 06, 2011

Unity (3D) with nVidia GeForce 7300 LE

I've been using Ubuntu 11.04 on my Dell E520 with Unity-2D for some time simply because choosing the Unity session at login, although it did provide a visible Desktop, it was completely non-functional.
I attributed this to an incompatibility of the 3D driver for the nVidia-GeForce-7300 LE card but never looked any further............until today.
A little googling confirmed that there is a problem with the GeForce 7300 LE as far as Unity is concerned such as mentioned here and here.
This thread was also useful.
Now I had been using the nVidia driver 270.29.something and today I installed the upgraded driver 270.41.19 but, on choosing Unity on login, the resulting Desktop was once again non-functional.
So, back to the Unity-2d session and I ran this "unity-compatibility" tool which is no more than issuing this command in a terminal:

sudo /usr/lib/nux/unity_support_test -p

This told me that my system was supported by Unity.
Many threads and posts on this topic recommend the nvidia-173 driver.
So, I installed this from Synaptic and rebooted. No change when I chose the Unity session.
Then I uninstalled nvidia-current (270.41.19) and rebooted. However, this time it didn't boot at all but froze eraly on in the boot.
The only way I could get it to boot again was to boot to a Ubuntu 11.04 live CD, mount the installed Ubuntu root partition and then chroot to this.
Now I could re-install nvidia-current with this command
# apt-get install nvidia-current

Back to the Unity-2D session and ready for one last attempt with the 173 driver.
This time I went to the nVidia driver download site and downloaded
To install this I hit Ctrl-Alt-F2 to get to a TTY.
Here I logged in and typed "sudo su" to get to a root prompt.
Then I stopped X with the command
# service gdm stop

Next I installed the driver with this command
# sh

This went fine although it told me that the nvidia driver already was compiled for 270.41.19 which it uninstalled.
Without any further changes, I rebooted and chose Unity and, this time yes, a fully functional Desktop appeared with Conky working perfectly.
The only thing I had to do was open CompizConfigurationSettingsManager and chose Wobbly Windows (but not Rotating Cube which is incompatible with the Unity plugin).


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Your experiences with the GeForce 7300 LE mirror my own. I used your method (more or less) on my Ubuntu 11.04 amd64 system and eventually got the 173.14.30 drivers installed and working. Like you, I installed the 173 drivers the "proper" way, using Synaptic and Jocky, and they locked up my machine.

    Sadly, while the 173 drivers are now installed, they work very, very slowly. Unity works, but other software relying on 3D is broken. For example, "glxgears" does not work very well at all on my system with the 173 drivers. Does it work on your system?

    I have found no good solution to the broken video drivers yet. All of the available proprietary nVidia drivers and the open source Nouveau drivers have problems. My current solution is to use the nvidia-current drivers and run either Unity-2D or Lubuntu. I do this because when I get Unity working, too many other things are broken, and the nvidia-current drivers work well enough, except for Unity.

    I hope this problem gets sorted out sooner rather than later.

    Cheers from Skokie, IL USA! (Near Chicago.)

  2. Hi Mike
    Thanks for your comment and sorry I didn't reply sooner.
    Yes, glxgears works reasonably on my system.
    At the small window size which you get when you launch the app, I get about 1500 fps.
    At full screen size (1920x1080) this goes down to around 100 fps.
    All-in-all my card works fine in 3D mode with the 173.14.30 driver