Edit: Don’t read this. It’s just an angry rant. Read this instead, as it has actual information in it.
When I was contemplating upgrading from Ubuntu 7.10, the thing I was most worried about was the new PulseAudio subsystem being integrated into the system this release cycle. I know how much pain this caused a lot of people in the Fedora community, and I was a little apprehensive about it.
Turns out that PulseAudio actually works better than the old ESD/ALSA crap. It works way better, in fact. I installed padevchooser and it just worked. Still not the most user-friendly tool ever, but good enough for my purposes. All my applications seem to work with PulseAudio just as well as with the old and busted.
What I hadn’t been expecting, and what blind-sided me, was the X.org changes. I had heard rumblings about the auto-whatever, the new screen choosing/cloning applet, et cetera. Upon install X detected my two primary monitors (and nvidia-settings stitched them together with TwinView), which is fine and dandy, but that’s not all that I have connected to my computer. I have two X screens, not just one. Two monitors are connected to one screen, one monitor and a TV output are connected to the other. I can move between the two with my mouse, and I had learned xorg.conf-speak in order to be able to do this.
8.04 just destroyed that setup. The stupid, useless, craptacular, utterly functionality-bare Screen Resolution tool won’t detect my two primary monitors on videocard0, much less actually stitch them together to make one giant monitor like it should. Very much less detect the other two screens on videocard1. It won’t do this with the nv driver, it won’t do this with the nvidia driver from the repos, it won’t do this with the beta driver from Nvidia.com, it just doesn’t work. Period. Ubuntu’s default install still lacks all the tools needed to operate with two monitors, something that quite a few people I know are fond of and even find indispensable.
I’m so utterly frustrated with the whole fiddling with configurations thing. I recognize that Ubuntu, so far, is the best in breed of distributions, and when setting this computer up from scratch, I have no other complaint except for displays. That’s it. But this has been a thorn in the side of the Linux Desktop for many, many years now. I don’t know if the blame lies in using what seems to be an antiquated display system or binary drivers or whatever, but I simply can’t stand how this goes on and on and on.
I booted into Ubuntu just now with my two monitors and Twinview seemed to work fine. The splash page, at least, did that annoying thing where it centered the login prompt in the middle of the 2880 x 900 screen, right in the middle of the gap between two monitors, so that half my login is on one monitor and half on the other. This is okay with me; I’ve grown used to sort of glancing from one to the other. It lets me know that Twinview is working and that when Gnome starts up, I’ll be able to use all that screen real estate.
Nope! Gnome decides to switch one of my monitors off! Wonderful, thank you Gnome. It turns out that I have two metamodes in my xorg.conf, one for both monitors one, one for one monitor off and the other on, and that Gnome decided in its inexplicable wisdom to choose the second. Before you ask me why I don’t just eliminate one metamode, I’ll tell you that I play UrbanTerror, and if I don’t have that second metamode, when it plays fullscreen it does that annoying center-of-the-screen thing (like the Gnome splash), and while I can tolerate that elsewhere, playing a game is different. I want it on one screen. So I need both metamodes.
So I surf the web trying to find an answer. There is none. Most people seem rather confused as to why xorg.conf is just a stub these days, and I keep hearing rumblings about something called xrandr whose manpage is — in typical UNIX fashion — complete and utter gibberish to anyone who doesn’t already understand the tool. So I’m left to figure out on my own why X can’t initialize two screens with four monitors, using a perfectly good xorg.conf that worked just fine on Ubuntu 7.10 and the three releases before that. Finally, I decide to fire up displayconfig-gtk, which I’m told can hose my display configuration (couldn’t get more hosed, thank you!), and I find to my utter surprise that while X, nvidia-settings, and Screen Resolution cannot detect my monitors, displayconfig-gtk can… just not all four. Only two. One on each videocard. Hooray! So I set the second (on videocard1) to the primary display and find to my great astonishment that it works just fine. But only it works, and nothing else. Just the one monitor. And though nvidia-settings says the TV-out is working, it is not. So I have just the one monitor now.
I say to myself, okay, this sucks, I’ll go back to the original settings. I do this, and lo and behold I log out and log back in to find that Gnome has magically decided to use the first metamode and not the second. The second metamode is still there — I checked — but Gnome is using the first now. Why? I have no idea. I’m afraid to restart the computer now, as if I do, I might never be able to use Twinview properly again.
I absolutely cannot believe this. I know I’m a edge use case. Not a lot of people are running this many screens and monitors. But for the love of all that is good, why does my old xorg.conf not work? Has Hardy introduced a regression that causes dual videocard motherboards to ignore the second card unless a live chicken is sacrificed and something goes horribly wrong?
Gah. I’m going back to Gutsy, I really am. I can install PulseAudio myself, and install FF3 myself, thankyouverymuch. I can’t see any other big changes — except for, you know, the bad ones — that would compel me to do otherwise. I just hope that torrent is still alive somewhere.