Intel Linux Driver Kills The Netbook Experience
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 22 April 2009 at 02:43 AM EDT. 57 Comments
As I alluded to earlier, I am out of the office this week. With me to Italy I took a Samsung NC10 that is loaded with an Intel Atom processor, Intel integrated graphics, an OCZ solid-state drive, and 2GB of DDR2 RAM. Prior to leaving I loaded it up with a clean install of the Ubuntu 9.04 release candidate, but what a mistake that was. As was pointed out in the days prior to that, there are a number of regressions present within the Intel Linux graphics stack due to the switch to the Graphics Execution Manager, DRI2, and other work. While the benchmarks showed there is indeed a drop (a large drop in some), this performance drop nearly renders the system useless.

Using this Intel Atom netbook with Ubuntu 9.04 RC with X Server 1.6 and xf86-video-intel 2.6.3, I would have rather just brought a bulky notebook with ATI or NVIDIA graphics than to put up with this graphics mess (or just downgraded to Ubuntu 8.10). I generally just use Firefox, Thunderbird, and Pidgin while away on business, but with Ubuntu 9.04 RC the Intel netbook experience is ridiculous. Among the issues are the system becoming unresponsive when opening up a large email or web-page and when typing there is quite the delay at times before the text appears on the screen. Sadly, there is no proper fix in time for Ubuntu 9.04. Enabling greedy migration heuristics and some other driver options can help alleviate the situation for some, but the default experience is far from pleasant and telling a novice Linux user to edit their xorg.conf is not friendly either.

This Intel Linux graphics driver situation should be settled in time for Ubuntu 9.10, but for now this really will hamper the "out of the box" experience with those installing a brand new Linux distribution to their Intel-powered netbooks.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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