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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Karmic Koala doesn't like my display

Yesterday I installed Karmic Koala on my office PC. I had a Jaunty installation before that I did not used/customize much so I figured there's not much for me to gain in an upgrade. Thus, I did a fresh install from a 4GB USB stick. The installation went very well, taking less than 15 minutes boot-to-reboot. Another thing I liked is that there was no need to unplug & replug the USB stick during the installation (this was required by Jaunty and earlier versions).
The first things I noticed is that overall the system is much nicer than Jaunty:
  • the icon theme has greater details and nicer design,
  • it has up-to-date packages not available in Jaunty (like Octave 3.2),
  • start up time has lowered (not at much as others say, but then again, my PC is not cutting edge),
  • the new IM client is empathy (I'm using it right now, but I'm not sure I like it better than Pidgin).
This means that upgrading my home PC will be a step forward (that I can't do right now because of other work).
One thing that I then noticed as annoying was the slow resolution (800x600) and the incapacity to make it larger. I then realized this happens in Xubuntu 9.10, too. Therefore it's not related to Xubuntu (as I thought before).
I spend some time on forums, trying to find a direct solution for this problem only to find out that something changed in X and something else changed in the kernel, and one is using the other, and there's another link point to another 5 pages discussion and then another link, and so on.
One thing that I got by browsing though all these forum posts was this: X in Ubuntu Karmic Koala comes with no xorg.conf because it's suppose to autodetect the video card and display settings. It does not happen in my case. I blamed the video card.
Next thing I found useful is that I can make X write a configuration for me using the command:
X -configure
This is new stuff for me, because I used x86cfg (or something similar) to do this way back (like 2-3 years ago). Anyway, this creates a file called in my home directory which I then moved into /etc/X11, renamed it to xorg.cfg, and restarted the Gnome Display Manager (gdm) service.

This did not solve the problem either. So I went and looked into /var/log/Xorg.0.log to see if I get some pointers on whats happening. I saw a lot of messages like this:
(II) intel(0): EDID for output VGA1
(II) intel(0): Not using default mode "640x350" (vrefresh out of range)
(II) intel(0): Not using default mode "640x400" (vrefresh out of range)
(II) intel(0): Not using default mode "720x400" (vrefresh out of range)
... and so on

Then I realized that it's not the video card, but the display that is not being detected correctly. So I added the following lines to my /etc/X11/xorg.conf (I found something similar on forums) inside the "Monitor" section:
HorizSync 28-64
VertRefresh 43-75

This did the trick and after restarting gdm, I got a wonderful big resolution (which I trimmed down to 1024x768).

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