Yesterday, one week to the day after the release of Windows 7, Ubuntu released version 9.10 of their Linux distribution. It’s got all sorts of new features that have been talked about extensively all over the web, but I just found out it also fixes a bug that’s been bothering me ever since I first got into Ubuntu. Under ‘Karmic Koala’, the video tearing on Intel graphics adapters is finally gone.
Intel’s integrated video adapters have long been recommended for Ubuntu users with modest graphical needs. If you’re not into games and don’t need the absolute best possible video playback, going with an onboard video adapter from Intel was a safe bet. I have two machines that use Intel’s GMA 950 chip, and I found them to work quite well, except for this one issue.
Tearing is what happens when the graphics chip doesn’t keep track of the display frequency of the screen. This means the top part of the screen could already be showing the newest frame when the bottom part hasn’t yet been updated. The edge between the two parts shows as a ‘tear’. The effect is visible in scenes with lots of movement. Under 8.10 and 9.04, all video players would suffer from tearing, and the numerous potential fixes I tried did not help.
‘Koala’ doesn’t just address the tearing issue, the Intel video driver has been updated significantly, and now uses a new, faster acceleration mode. This is what’s so great about open source software. Things get fixed. Of course it would have been better if the previous driver had worked better, but considering how Linux isn’t a priority (yet!) with hardware vendors, this is not bad.