Linux Display Settings

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Linux Display Settings

By Stephen Bucaro

After you install Linux you usually find your display in
a low resolution mode. If you were installing Windows,
you would then install the driver for your video card and
use the Display utility in Control Panel to change to a
higher resolution. Unfortunately, with Linux things are
not so easy.

Linux uses a free version of the X Window System called
Xfree86 to control your display. Xfree86 supports VGA,
Super VGA, and some accelerated video adapters. If you
have a new video card, or new motherboard with on-board
video, you may want to download the latest version of
Xfree86 from

The configuration for Xfree86 is in a file named
XF86Config located in /usr/X11R6/lib/X11. This file is
created and edited by a program called Xconfigurator.

In Windows, the monitor is viewed as a “dumb box” driven
by a video card which is controlled by a video driver
program. Xconfigurator seems to think that video cards
don’t exist and it requires you enter all kinds of obtuse
information about your monitor such as horizontal sync
range, vertical sync range, the amount of video memory,
and which clock chip you have.

If you have a no-name monitor like I do, you may not
know all of these parameters. You may get stuck in the
display configuration step of Linux installation. This is
one reason why I say “Linux is not ready for prime time”.

This is how it should work: Linux detects your video card
and configures itself.

On rare occasion, Xconfigurator does detect your “monitor”,
or you can select your monitor in Xconfigurator’s list.
In most cases you can get through the installation by
selecting “Generic VGA, 640 x 480 @ 60 Hz”. Then after
completing the installation, you can use Xconfigurator to
try to set a higher resolution.

To open Xconfigurator, log in as root and click on the
“Terminal emulation program” button on the task bar. In
the terminal window that appears, type Xconfigurator.
Xconfigurator will probe for your video card. If that
fails, you will be presented with a list of monitors. If
you can’t find your monitor in the list, select one of
the “Generic” options.

You will then have to select a “color depth” and “video
mode”. After making the required selections, Xconfigurator
will display the message “Can you see this message?” If
you do not click on the “Yes” button within ten seconds,
you will be sent back to Xconfigurator’s starting screen.
Then you can select different settings and try again.

If none of the Generic options work, select “Custom” and
enter some horizontal sync and vertical sync numbers.
Ultimately you should find a setting that works. You may
have to make some adjustments to your monitor to resize,
reposition, or remove pin cushion.

Sometimes changing your display setting is not as easy in
Linux as it is in Windows, but the alternative is to
continue to use Windows and beg for Bill Gates’ permission
to upgrade your hardware (XP product activation).
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