One of the new things in Ubuntu 7.10 is the one-click enabling of restricted drivers (a.k.a. proprietary drivers). This is important because it will give users the best experience possible, and I’ve received several inquiries in our Ubuntu 7.10 from people wondering how they are supposed to enable these drivers in Ubuntu.

After you install Ubuntu 7.10 it will check to see if there is any hardware on your computer that has a corresponding restricted driver. If a match is found, you should see a little icon and balloon pop up in the tray notifying you of the available drivers:

Ubuntu Restricted Drivers Balloon

If you happen to close out of the balloon, or you lose the icon there is still an easy way for you to get it back. You’ll find a menu option for enabling the drivers by going to System -> Administration -> Restricted Drivers Manager:

Ubuntu Restricted Drivers

From there you can enable restricted drivers in Ubuntu, or you can also disable them by using the checkbox next to the respective device. When I tried to do this for my ATI X1400 graphics card I got hung up with an error message saying “xorg-driver-fglrx is not enabled“. I didn’t really have any idea what this meant, but I quickly found out that I had to enable a few more settings before I would be able to proceed. If you go to System -> Administration -> Software Sources you will see a checkbox that you can tick for “proprietary drivers for devices (restricted)“. I checked that box, and then I started receive an error “Could not apply changes, Please fix broken packages first“. So out of desperation I checked all of these boxes:

  • Canonical-supported Open Source software (main)
  • Community-maintained Open Source software (universe)
  • Proprietary drivers for devices (restricted)
  • Software restricted by copyright or legal issues (multiverse)

Ubuntu Software Sources Proprietary Drivers

Low and behold I was able to go back to the Restricted Drivers Manager, and enable the proper drivers for my ATI graphics card (click screenshot to enlarge):

Enable Restricted Drivers

There were multiple reasons that I wanted to get the proprietary drivers installed, but the biggest one was that Ubuntu doesn’t recognize my native widescreen resolution without them. The other reason was to get the 3D support so that I could have some fun with Compiz Fusion, but that opened up another can of worms! I ended up getting Compiz Fusion to work, but I’ll save that story for another day.

Hopefully this solves any issues you may be having with trying to install the restricted drivers on Ubuntu. I was hoping that it would be a one-click solution, but it didn’t quite turn out to be that way. Luckily the workarounds necessary were not all that tedious.