I could just hug Karmic Koala!

koala babyYesterday, 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.


  1. hi Roytanck.
    Do you have an example for /etc/X11/ xorg.conf by which configure better resolution than 1024×768@75?
    With a Dell Opteron Gx520 (chipset Intel 945 Express, GMA 950 for video) I’m sticked to such resolution, when in live mode the 9.10 was able to reach 1280×1024 at least.
    GMA 950 should go up to 2048×1536@75
    tnks, diego

    Comment by diego — December 1, 2009 @ 1:00 am

    • Hi Diego. No I don’t I’m afraid. As far as I know, xorg.conf files are specific to your hardware, and I don’t have a similar machine. There are lots of threads about this on the Ubuntu forums though.

      Comment by Roy — December 1, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  2. I’m use karmic koala too..

    Comment by Miftahgeek — December 10, 2009 @ 8:19 am

  3. Hi, I came here following a link in http://www.linuxboricua.com/?p=173 and then following another link from your home url.

    Did you notice that 9.10 do not have xorg.conf file? All is autodetected, the problem is that graphical tools in System->Preferences only allow you to configure the screen resolution and refresh, no color bit depth. And yes, sometimes the options are not the maximum possible your onboard graphic card and monitor can support.

    Anyway, I like your posts. Thank you.

    Comment by JH — December 17, 2009 @ 3:42 am