Updating a system with i8xx graphics hardware
When updating your system with Update Manager, you will see a warning if your machine has Intel i8xx graphics hardware.
The exact wording if this warning may differ depending on the version of Ubuntu you are upgrading to. This page contains more information on what this warning means, along with some approaches you can take to improve the chances that your system will successfully upgrade. This text was originally published as a comment to Launchpad bug 941172.
There are basically three families of chips in 8xx: i810 (810, 815), i830 (830, 845), and i855 (855, 865). These chips were manufactured early on in Intel's integrated graphics history. They were used in a wide variety of different laptops and motherboards by a wide number of vendors, and the way the chips were wired / integrated into the vendor's board could vary quite a bit. This also preceded Intel's open source graphics lab, so support for 8xx is very low priority.
Bugs tend to be very hardware-specific, and often fixing a lockup bug on one person's laptop will cause a regression on someone else's with exactly the same 8xx chip in some other laptop. Compounding the trouble is that few upstream developers have access to a wide enough variety of 8xx boxes to ensure their code changes have been sufficiently tested. Additionally by now the 8xx hardware line is quite old. It's likely many systems suffer from hardware problems - power supply irregularities, loose/corroded soldering, loose wiring, etc. - which often have very similar symptoms to graphics issues.
Despite these troubles, upstream does still accept 8xx bug reports, and they do try to fix them as time and resources allow. The current -intel driver should still operate on the i830 and i855 families (i810 is considered a lost cause now).
Ubuntu however does not accept 8xx bug reports for any 8xx chips, but instead directs people to discuss problems directly with upstream. All the problems that make supporting 8xx difficult for upstream affect us as well. Indeed, in the past we used to pull fixes from upstream, but they invariably broke other people's systems. We found we were expending a lot of developer and bug triager time chasing bugs, with little gain except just to annoy 8xx users who didn't know if their systems would work one week to the next. :-)
Ubuntu now ships just what upstream provides. If it works and lets you run Ubuntu on your 8xx, that's great. If not, please go to bugs.freedesktop.org to provide upstream with feedback.
As of Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin), if you've had Ubuntu installed on your hardware previously then theoretically it should continue to work.
Since Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) there has been a fair amount of work upstream to solve issues and provide more stable support for 8xx. However a lot of features are disabled, missing, or buggy. This may include 3D, Xv video, TV output, and more. Also observed are reports of gpu lockups, corruption, and other serious issues, although these might only affect specific laptops or chipsets, or even just be hardware failures, but we don't really have a reliable way to know for sure.
In any case, Ubuntu will not accept bug reports at Launchpad for 8xx issues, nor will we be backporting patches.
So, Ubuntu might boot and run on your 8xx system just fine, but Ubuntu engineers are not actively supporting that chipset in terms of development work. If it does not work there won't be fixes from the Ubuntu developer community. You'll need to work directly with upstream at freedesktop.org or Intel to get development support.
The best advice to 8xx owners is, ALWAYS test a livecd image thoroughly before even considering upgrading. If the livecd of the version you want to upgrade to works for you, then upgrade success is more likely.