Some handy tweaks for "legacy" notebooks

Liam Proven lproven at
Fri Oct 29 02:24:25 UTC 2010

On Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 2:38 AM, Liam Proven <lproven at> wrote:
> I was just playing around with my Maverick install on my Thinkpad X31.
> It worked fine but the Unity netbook launcher won't run, probably
> because my "ATI Mobility Radeon" isn't /really/ a Radeon, it's a sort
> of old 16MB Rage card and it doesn't support full 3D compositing.
> Aside from that, it ran OK. Performance wasn't stunning, but acceptable.
> The 2 annoying things were that the colour palette for the Plymouth
> graphical loading screen was all corrupted, with fringing around the
> logo and the activity bullets. If the warning about fscking my disks
> appeared, it was almost illegible, as the antialiasing on the letters
> turns into fringes of glowing colour.
> I seemed to recall reading that the "nomodeset" kernel parameter might
> help with this, so I tried it.
> Not only did it work perfectly, but also, unlike in 10.04, X.11 works
> perfectly afterwards, as well. In 10.04 X started at about half
> brightness, making it almost unusable - everything was very dim. When
> X starts on 10.x, it fades in gradually, and this never completed
> fading up to full brightness on my machine.
> Secondly, and a /very/ agreeable bonus, suspend and resume now works
> fine. Before, the machine would suspend but not resume.
> However, the loading screen was now an ugly red & white text-mode one
> in 640*480 on my 1024*768 LCD.
> So I tried the old "vga=791" kernel parameter to set the graphics
> mode. This worked fine, even in association with "nomodeset", and not
> only did it reset my loading screen into graphics mode and get me a
> graphical boot sequence again, it also reset my text console to
> 1024*768, so now I have about 130 columns by 40 lines of crisp sharp
> text instead of a grainy, aliases 80*25.
> OK, so, there is a long, pregnant pause before the loading screen
> appears, and the screen blanks and blinks between the loading screen &
> the X.11 login screen appearing, but it /works/.
> Then I had to navigate the complexities of GRUB2 to make it permanent.
> I found some helpful instructions here:
> Emboldened by this, I also set the GRUB menu to 1024*768, which looks
> much sharper than the default. It's a shame Ubuntu does not have a
> graphical theme for Grub, though. Mint does and it looks much smarter
> and more professional.
> But then, I thought, my startup sequence is in 1024*768 in 16-bit
> colour, but the desktop is in 1024*768 in 24-bit colour, which looks
> nice but is slow and means I can't run dual-head with a higher-res
> external monitor - not enough VRAM.
> So I reapplied my own tweak from when I was experimenting with 10.04
> back in June, documented here:
> ... To drop back down to 16 thousand colours in X.
> Result, blazing GUI performance once again. Terminal windows scroll
> smoothly at full speed & I can drag windows around, quickly, without
> lag or shearing.
> Hope this might help someone. I'm impressed by the improvement. I
> might try disabling DRI in xorg.conf as well - on older versions of
> Ubuntu this also gave a serious graphical speed-up.
> But mostly, apart from the cosmetics, I am delighted to have suspend &
> resume working again. That hasn't worked for me since about Ubuntu
> 9.04 or 9.10. I just learned to live without it & shutdown & rebooted
> a lot.
> Hope these tips may be helpful for anyone with graphics or
> suspend/resume problems on machines more than 2-3 years old. Mine is a
> Pentium-M 1.6GHz from 2004.

Yep, DRI tweak helped, too. I think I can see a few more flickers &
flashes but my notebook now feels more like a 3.2GHz machine than a
1.6! On the other hand, it's crippled OpenGL - GLXgears now gets
65-70fps instead of ~300 before.

But anyway, if you want to try...

To disable DRI, edit your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file.  In the "Device"
section, add the following line:
Option "DRI" "off"

Liam Proven • Info & profile:
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