Home > Linux, Ubuntu > Compiz Fusion and Dell Inspiron 700m with Intel 855GM Video Chipset

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:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/X/Bugs/Mavericki8xxStatus

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:

sudo reboot

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:

http://www.webupd8.org/2011/05/how-to-downgrade-to-compiz-086-in.html

Good luck with your Compiz adventure!

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Categories: Linux, Ubuntu Tags: ,
  1. Leisure Suit Larry
    March 13, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Good article; thanks for the information. After 17+ years of avoiding them, I finally bought my first laptop, a Dell 700M. Seems like a fairly good system for my (modest) needs…

    Can you recommend a suitable KDE distro for the Dell 700M? I dislike Gnome; I bought the 700M with a friend who had installed Ubuntu 8.10. I am new to Linux and would appreciate some advice. I’m very curious about trying Mint Linux KDE on the 700M, but I don’t know how well it would work. Other distros I’m considering are PCLinuxOS, Anti-X, SimplyMepis, and similar “user-friendly” versions while I learn more about Linux.

    Thanks in advance for your advice; I strongly dislike the integrated stupidity of Windows and want to make the switch to Linux exclusively during the summer.

    • chefbaja
      June 28, 2012 at 3:45 am

      Mint 12 LXDE is a clean install and beginner friendly. I could run the Mint 13 MATE and Ubuntu 12.04 live cds but had problems with the non pae kernel when I tried to intall. I like it way better than windows and am curious to witness the performance when I upgrade to 2gig of ram from the current 512.

      I’d like to find out why MATE would not install because it supposedly does not need pae.

  2. bradleyknows
    November 30, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Same laptop here (700m). Have to say after all these years it STILL works ok.! Currently I employ ubuntu 11.10 with enlightenment. No compiz but it does look good and gives lots of room for personalization of your desktop experience. Not as fancy pants as what else is out but, such is my life in general. Had kernel issues with latest Bodhi and PCLinuxOS. I think I have maxed out with current config unless someone decides to do some inventive retro work on mid 2000’s tech. Cheers!

  1. September 8, 2011 at 5:56 am

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