Poor Intel graphics performance in Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope, and a fix for it

Update: read second comment

I recently upgraded to [[Ubuntu]] Jaunty Jackalope, and have experienced a much slower response of my desktop since. The problem seems to be with [[Intel GMA]] chips, as my computer has. The reason for the poor performance is that Canonical Ltd. decided not to include the [[UXA]] acceleration in Jaunty, for stability reasons (read more at Phoronix).

The issue is discussed at the Ubuntu wiki, along with some solutions. For me, the fix involved just making [[X.Org Server|X.org]] use UXA, by including the following in the xorg.conf file, as they recommend in the wiki:

Section "Device"
        Identifier    "Configured Video Device"
        # ...
        Option        "AccelMethod" "uxa"


  1. Super Jamie said,

    April 30, 2009 @ 2:57 am

    There’s also this forum thread: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1130582 which details installing a new kernel and the latest Xorg drivers.

    Just switching to UXA as you described above is good enough for me on my work PC. I only need compositing (with xcompmgr) to work well.

  2. isilanes said,

    April 30, 2009 @ 10:00 am

    Thanks Super Jamie.

    I actually moved back to EXA, because UXA seems very unstable. Well, I can’t say my problems are due to UXA, but it seems so. Ever since the switch to UXA, I get random I/O locks, that is: the computer halts to a crawl, the CPU led showing the I/O activity flickers like mad, cracking noises come from the HD (mine is particularly noisy, and these sounds are normal when doing e.g. large file copies), and top (if I manage to run it) shows no high-CPU or high-RAM usage. Any action (moving the mouse, keystrokes) is acknowledged by the computer painstakingly slow. It happens specially when running Amarok, and killing it (which can take 10 minutes to do) seems to alleviate the problem. Then, 10 seconds later, the history repeats itself and Firefox seems to be the culprit. Maybe if I close all the applications I will be fine?

    Now, back to EXA, I have a generally less responsive desktop, but at least I have no freezes (crosses fingers). It is worth mentioning that I added the Driver "intel" line to xorg.conf, which seems to make for a faster responsiveness of the desktop (this could be just my imagination, since I think that driver is loaded and used even if not mentioned explicitly in xorg.conf).

  3. Super Jamie said,

    May 20, 2009 @ 1:56 am

    I’m getting the same IO wait quite often, for me, it’s memory being copied out to swap. Check the Resources tab in gnome-system-monitor, I have a little CPU graph applet running in gnome-panel to keep an eye on it. It seems to only happen since the upgrade to Firefox 3.0.9 and 3.0.10. However, this PC does only have 1Gb RAM, I haven’t upgraded my main PC with 2Gb RAM to Jaunty yet (and I don’t think I will be).

    You can tune swap performance, google “swappiness”, make the changes to your /etc/sysctl.conf and reboot. I’ve set mine to 5 for now.

    I don’t know a way under Ubuntu to move all swap back into RAM on a live system. Under Arch I’ve been able to use “swapoff” and “swapon”, but Ubuntu seems to intercept these and turn swap back on for you before it pages all the swap back into RAM.

    You can check your X video driver loading process in /var/log/Xorg.0.log, the Driver line in xorg.conf may make booting a bit quicker, but it will always load the “intel” driver regardless. I get X crashes in fullscreen 3D apps under UXA with the as-released driver and kernel, however I don’t really use 3D much on this machine.

    The thread I originally linked to has changed from new-kernel-only instructions, to adding the xorg.conf changes you made, to a quite complete guide with several varying options. Check it out again now, there seems to be a new driver you can use with the original kernel which may improve things?

  4. isilanes said,

    May 20, 2009 @ 8:50 am

    Thanks again, Super Jamie. I did know about the swappiness thing, and I have fiddled with it some times. In this case it makes no difference to me :^( Anyway, interesting comment (as usual).

  5. Super Jamie said,

    May 20, 2009 @ 9:35 am

    Try the X-Updates PPA drivers, they made a huge difference to me. Perhaps the swap issue is related to the “intel” driver’s memory management?

  6. kleth said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 8:05 am

    I did the UXA change in my 11org.conf on my Shuttle K48 (GMA950) and WOW!
    Overlays works flawless, so I can use Google Earth, Open Video Editor, Manslide, SMILE ect.
    Desktop seems about the same but video is much much faster and I have yet so see issues with stability.

  7. isilanes said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 9:21 am

    It’s good to know, kleth! Thanks for your input.

  8. intel driver said,

    October 19, 2010 @ 14:57 pm

    thx for the post, though i’m still a little confused of the drivers.

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