Compiz Fusion and Dell Inspiron 700m with Intel 855GM Video Chipset
The Dell Inspiron 700m is a mid 2000′s vintage laptop with a Pentium M 1.6Ghz CPU and an Intel 855GM video adapter. While antiquated by today’s standards I have one as a spare and I find it still works reasonably well for basic web surfing and word processing. One downside with the age of the hardware is that the Intel graphics adapter is not supported for many graphics capabilities of modern OS’s such as Aero with Windows Vista/7. For me Windows 7 is not very pretty without Aero.
However, with a few minor issues I have found that the 700m is capable of supporting 3D acceleration and Compiz Fusion under Linux. For many laptops there have been issues with the Intel 855 adapter and the current development of the Intel graphics driver on Linux. As a result with Linux distros such as Ubuntu 10.04/10.10 the intel driver is not used by default and the fbdev driver is loaded instead. See the Ubuntu wiki for details on these issues and some possible resolutions:
In the case of the Inspiron 700m I have found that these workarounds were not needed with several Linux distributions. In particular, Fedora 14 seems to load the Intel driver and Compiz can be enabled without any tweaking after performing a standard GNOME based desktop install. One caveat is that I have not tested Fedora extensively, so there may be issues still that I am not aware of.
In addition, Ubuntu 10.10 is capable of Compiz desktop effects on the 700m. However, it will not work immediately after the initial GNOME desktop install. Here are the steps I needed to get Compiz working on Ubuntu 10.10:
Run a full system update. At the time of this writing the the system is updated to Linux kernel version 2.6.35-28 and the Intel driver (xserver-xorg-video-intel) version is 2:2.12.0-1. When completed reboot the system.
Create an xorg.conf file. By default this is not present on Ubuntu. However, it seems to be necessary for Compiz desktop effects to activate successfully even though no modifications to the file are necessary. To make the xorg.conf:
At the GNOME desktop press Ctrl-Alt-F1.
Login with your standard user account.
Shutdown the display manager, enter the user password again when prompted:
sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop
Run X with configure switch to create the xorg.conf file:
sudo X -configure
Now copy the the X11 directory:
sudo cp xorg.conf.new /etc/X11/xorg.conf
Now reboot the system:
After the reboot log back in and go to System > Preferences > Appearance, Visual Effects tab and choose Normal or Extra. Hopefully your Compiz effects should activate.
One issue I have seen is that there are some small artifacts on the window borders of inactivate windows occasionally inside GNOME. I have found that under the XFCE desktop environment these visual defects are not present. I have not tried using Emerald as the window decorator so perhaps that could solve the issue as well.
At the moment I have not found any way to get Compiz to work with the Intel 855GM under Ubuntu 11.04. It is my understanding that the version of Compiz in Ubuntu 11.04 requires OpenGL 1.4 and the Intel 855GM is only capable of OpenGL 1.3. I have tried downgrading the Compiz version on Ubuntu 11.04 but I was still not able to get compositing to work correctly, all kinds of visually artifacts would appear. Please note that this will also disable the Unity interface. If you’d like to give the downgrade a try, please see this guide:
Good luck with your Compiz adventure!