(or, “If I only had a nickel…”)
I needed a permanent Linux machine to do some recent bugs; I have a Mac Mini here that’s been a champion for the past few months, triple-booting between Linux, OSX, and Windows XP. But, lately, I’ve been needing to switch between Windows XP and Linux quickly, so I decided to fire up this Dell Dimension 8100 I’ve had sitting next to me (powered off) for a while. I figure it was old enough (over a year, maybe more?) that there should be no problems. Alas, it wasn’t to be. I installed Ubuntu 7.10; I got some display corruption in the installer, but that went away when I rebooted the installer in “safe graphics mode”. That really should’ve been a warning to stay away, but I figured that it was just some quirk of the installer and it’ll fix itself.
So. Things install and boot up. The display is in 1680×1050 instead of 1920×1200, but I don’t care. This machine has a Radeon X300 SE in it, nowhere near the latest and greatest. I figure, ok, I’ll install fglrx; people have been telling me how things are looking up for ATI’s driver since AMD took them over. (Which isn’t hard — it’s not hard to improve when you’ve been releasing a terrifyingly awful driver for years.) Enable restricted drivers in ubuntu, fglrx gets installed, I reboot, great! Everything looks good.
But there’s a twist. (Ahem.) My monitor is rotated 90 degrees; this is my secondary monitor that sits to the left of my main one. On the Mac Mini (using Intel’s drivers), a simple “xrandr -o left” fixed things up nicely. Not so much here. fglrx hasn’t heard of XRandR. Okay, let’s give up on fuglyrx; clearly there’s been loads of hype and very little substance there. I don’t care about 3D accel at this point, I just want something that works, so I can get on with my work. I go back to the radeon driver. Woo, xrandr shows multiple supported rotations! Ok, a simple “xrandr -o left” and…. well, the display gets rotated. Half of it gets corrupted. Moving windows around is measured in seconds per frame. This isn’t going to work.
Then I proceed to fiddle with Xorg configs, thinking how could this possibly not work, there must at least be a simple way to force a rotation in xorg.conf.. but after about 20 minutes of going through random wiki pages, mailing list archives, etc., I realize I have better things to do.
So, instead, I’m going to go back to either running Linux in a VM, or setting up Xvnc and using that as my X server (which, of course, means I don’t get RENDER… hmm, maybe I’ll have to use Xephyr and xserver-vnc or something). If anyone wants to know why working with Linux on the desktop is a pain in the ass, here’s a good start.
Oh, and sound doesn’t work.