Yesterday the kids/family’s computer’s hard drive took a dive. (It’s a very old desktop machine which my wife bought from her employers for something like $10 when they upgraded all the machines; that was two or three years ago. It has always run Ubuntu Linux in our house.) Wouldn’t boot, couldn’t even hit the grub menu. Wouldn’t be so bad but the hard drive was big and I’d been using it as a backup drive for a lot of stuff. I have a new backup system (a portable HD that I back my macbook up to) but I still had a lot of old stuff on there that I would like back. I haven’t yet looked into whether it can be resurrected. I took it out and swapped in an old small drive.
Since there’s a spanking new version of Ubuntu available, Hardy Heron, I burned a CD of that and installed it. Install went smoothly but the graphics have been killing me.
There were two problems, one now solved:
- There is no way to get past 800×600 resolution even though I know that it’s capable of much better
- The graphics were *weird* — when you moved the mouse pointer you’d get little messed up squares on the screen where the mouse went. (Now solved.)
The problem at the root of all this is that they have kicked autoconfiguration of X11 into overdrive. It is no longer possible to manually configure your graphics card and monitor set up by any straightforward means. It autoconfigures, and the configuration file which it was once possible to tweak is now a nigh-empty stub. (It’ll still respect what you put in there, but I don’t know enough off the top of my head to do anything with it.)
The causes of the two above-mentioned problems come from this autoconfiguration:
- The autoconfigurator doesn’t seem to know what my monitor is capable of, and assumes the worst (800×600)
- The autoconfigurator is smart enough to be able to take advantage of my card’s hardware acceleration, and so tries to run a cool whizzbangy hardware-accelerated desktop. Problem: my card is old and crappy. Its hardware acceleration is bad. I do not want a cool whizzbangy hardware-accelerated desktop, because of that.
I was able to turn off the whizzbangy desktop effects which ruined the desktop, through the Appearance item in the Settings menu. I haven’t yet figured out what to do about the resolution. We’ll see how that goes tonight.
On the upside, everything else about the machine is Just Working.