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Linux Display Settings

How to configure video settings in Linux

After Linux is installed, you usually discover that your display comes up in a low resolution mode. If you were installing Windows instead of Linux, you would then simply install the proper driver for your video card and use the Control Panel's Display utility to switch to a higher resolution. But with Linux things aren't this simple.

Linux uses a free version of X Windows called Xfree86 to control your video display. Xfree86 supports VGA, Super VGA, and a few accelerated video cards. If you have a new video adapter, or a new motherboard with integrated video circuitry, you may want to download the latest Linux version of Xfree86, which is available at www.xfree86.org.

Xfree86's configuration is found in a file named XF86Config which is located in /usr/X11R6/lib/X11. This file is created and edited by a Linux program called Xconfigurator.

In Windows, the display is viewed as simply a "dumb box" that is driven by a video adapter which is controlled by a video driver. Xconfigurator seems to think that video adapters do not exist, so it makes you enter all kinds of obtuse information about your display, including the amount of video memory, horizontal sync range, vertical sync range, and which clock chip you have.

If you use a no-name display like I do, you probably don't know all of these parameters. Consequently, you may get stuck in the display configuration step of your Linux installation. This is one of the reasons why I like to say "Linux isn't ready for prime time".

It should work like this: Linux detects your video adapter and configures itself accordingly.

In rare instances, Xconfigurator does indeed detect your "monitor", or you can select your monitor from Xconfigurator's list, in which case your Linux installation should go smoothly.

In most cases you can complete the Linux installation by simply selecting "Generic VGA, 640 x 480 @ 60 Hz". Then after the installation is complete, you can use Xconfigurator to try to set a higher screen resolution in Linux.

To open the Xconfigurator utility, log in as root and click the "Terminal emulation program" button that is located on the task bar. In the window that appears, type Xconfigurator. Xconfigurator will search for your video adapter. If that search fails, you'll be given a list of monitors. If you can't find your particular monitor in the list, choose one of the "Generic" options.

Next, you will have to choose a "color depth" and "video mode". After making these selections, Xconfigurator will display: "Can you see this message?" If you don't click on the "Yes" button within 10 seconds, you'll be sent back to Xconfigurator's starting screen. Then you can select different settings and try again.

If you can't get any of the Generic options to work, choose "Custom" and enter some horizontal sync and vertical sync settings. You should be able to find a setting that works. You may have to adjust your monitor's resize, reposition, or remove pin cushion settings.

About the author:

Stephen Bucaro is the owner of Bucaro TecHelp. To learn how to maintain your computer and use it more effectively to design a website and make money on the web visit http://bucarotechelp.com.

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