Skip to main content

Google Earth on Ubuntu: the real problem

I had to find out why Google Earth was so slow on my Ubuntu machine. Every other application works flawlessly (or nearly so) except Google Earth. I should have figure it out and not blamed Ubuntu, but I have a bad habit of 'ready, shoot, aim'. And it got me again this time.

When I came home I booted up Ubuntu, made a safe copy of xorg.conf, and then fired up the Restricted Drivers applet (System | Administration | Restricted Drivers Manager):

There's only one entry, for the ATI accelerated graphics driver. After clicking the Enable button, Ubuntu, through the synaptic tools, installs the drivers and configures the system to use them. You're then asked to reboot the system to finish enabling the drivers.

When the system came back up it was in 1024 x 768 and 60Hz refresh. There was no higher resolution. I knew then it was coming out, since the non-ATI drivers produce a reasonable 1600 x 1200 resolution. But while it was in that mode I fired up Google Earth, and found it was every bit as responsive as the installation on the big Athlon 64 based system at work. I zoomed, I panned, I flew all around the globe with nary a dropped frame or hesitation. So I zeroed in on New Orleans, turned on 3D Buildings, and captured an elevated perspective.

Ubuntu 7.04 had nothing to do with Google Earth's initial poor performance. Instead it had to do with the selection of video drivers. I have an nVidia FX 450 video card on the Athlon 64 system and it's using the nVidia 64-bit drivers under SLED 10. A key to Google Earth's good visual performance is hardware acceleration provided by the vendor's proprietary video drivers.

Right now the Ubuntu system is back under the Xorg Radeon driver so I can enjoy the greater screen resolution. Later this week, if I have more time, I'll investigate how to use the ATI proprietary driver and have 1600 x 1200 resolution. Otherwise, I might just break down and get an AGP GeForce 7600 GS video card from Newegg and quit messing with it.


  1. you should be able to add the resolution you want to xorg.conf. under the "screen" section, just add your resolution after modes. i removed all of the resolutions that i don't use.

    SubSection "Display"
    Depth 24
    Modes "1280x800"


Post a Comment

All comments are checked. Comment SPAM will be blocked and deleted.

Popular posts from this blog

cat-in-a-box channels greta garbo

So I'm sitting at my computer, when I start to notice a racket in back. I ignore it for a while until I hear a load "thump!", as if something had been dropped on the floor, followed by a lot of loud rattling. I turn around and see Lucy in the box just having a grand old time, rolling around and rattling that box a good one. I grab the GX1 and snap a few shots before she notices me and the camera, then leaps out and back into her chair (which used to be my chair before she decided it was her chair).

Just like caring for Katie my black Lab taught me about dogs, caring for Lucy is teaching me about cats. She finds me fascinating, as I do her. And she expresses great affection and love toward me without coaxing. I try to return the affection and love, but she is a cat, and she takes a bat at me on occasion, although I think that's just her being playful. She always has her claws in when she does that.

She sits next to me during the evening in her chair while I sit in mi…

vm networking problem fixed

Over the weekend I upgraded to Windows 8.1, then discovered that networking for the virtual machines wouldn't work. Then I tried something incredibly simple and fixed the problem.

Checking the system I noticed that three VMware Windows services weren't running; VMnetDHCP, VMUSBArbService, and VMwareNatService. VMware Player allows you to install, remove, or fix an existing installation. I chose to try fixing the installation, and that fixed the problem. The services were re-installed/restarted, and the virtual machines had networking again.

Once network connectivity was established there was exactly one updated file for Ubuntu 13.10, a data file. This underscores how solid and finished the release was this time. Every other version of every other Linux installation I've ever dealt with has always been succeeded by boatloads of updates after the initial installation. But not this time.

Everything is working properly on my notebook. All's right with the world.

sony's pivotal mirrorless move

I'm a died-in-the-wool technologist, even when it comes to photography. I have always been fascinated with the technology that goes into manufacturing any camera, from the lenses (optics) through the mechanical construction, the electronics involved, and especially the chemistry of the film and the sophistication of the digital sensor. It's amazing that the camera can do all it's asked of it, regardless of manufacturer.

Of all the types of cameras that I've really taken an interest in, contemporary mirrorless (again, regardless of manufacturer) are the most interesting because of the challenging problems the scientists and engineers have had to solve in order to build a compact but highly functional camera. In particular I've followed the sensor advances over the years and watched image quality climb (especially with μ4:3rds) to exceed film and rival one another such that there's very little difference any more as you move from the smaller sensors such as 4:3r…